On Friday about noon, we checked out of the hotel in Maryland and started back for NC. Traffic was bad in several spots and we ended up not getting to the venue until two minutes before the first tournament began!
There were some preliminary events before the main event on Saturday. Michael was suffering horribly on Saturday morning. We decided to go to Walmart to buy some of the things he needed. While this wouldn’t improve his health or pain immediately, I was hoping that in the next few weeks things would get better for him.
The main event started at 2pm and he almost decided that he wouldn’t be able to play. I told him again that I was only playing for fun and it would be okay if he wanted me to take him home instead. He decided to try to play through the pain. What a decision that turned out to be!
I was virtually eliminated during the first blind level (100/200) when my AKs ran into AQo which made a pair of queens on the flop. I decided not to play on with only about 5k chips.
I was so worried about Michael, yet stunned to see him grinning widely and enjoying himself at the table. He looked better than he’d looked for two weeks!
I think I have taught Michael how to play through stress and pain well. He not only played, but continued to dominate. One thing that did change later was his body language and demeanor. He was no longer able to ignore the pain and shifted uncomfortably in his seat for hours.
Once the tourney got down to about 80 remaining players, I began to sweat Michael again. The room was not nearly as crowded and sweating was generally allowed. I tried not to get too close to him, but he has gotten so used to me sweating him that I could almost always see his cards.
He continued to play well and build his lead. Eventually there were only three tables remaining. The players were moved to a different area and redrew for seats. We were lucky he drew a seat with his back to the rail so that I could keep sweating. Then things took a turn for the best.
He must have gotten premiums hands about 50% of the time for a run. He started with about 200k, but by the time the run was over had over 500k. Since he was hurting so much, he played pure Sklansky System, which is something we have discussed many times. I have always suggested either Kill Phil or System when it comes to the times he is in such great pain that he can’t use real strategy. For the first time, he was able to follow my suggestions 100% (usually he tries to play through the pain and fails miserably because he loses his ability to THINK). This time he reverted to AIOF and it took the pressure off of him trying to outplay his competition while suffering from overwhelming pain.
Naturally his heater waxed and waned. At times he would get outdrawn or be behind even after making the correct play and have a shorter stack, but was never so short that he was in danger just by paying the blinds. This league doesn’t use antes, so that was no concern to him.
I was so proud of Michael during the entire tournament.
Eventually he made the final table. He mostly had a medium stack, but would sometimes chip up and have one of the biggest stacks. He continued to play well and I could tell when he was using the System and when he was well enough to play real strategy. He was clearly the best player at the table.
Once again, we got fortunate that his back was to the rail and I could sweat him with ease. Hours passed from a mistake I made and we had settled back into what we had been doing for months: One sweating, one playing. One encouraging, one playing well due to talent and that mentor ship. Knowing someone has your back and your best interests at heart is always an advantage.
The final table whittled down slowly because everyone was trying their best.
Michael continued to play wonderfully, some of it due to my coaching, most of it due to his inherent talent in poker.
When it got to four, the SB raised all-in to Michael’s BB. He had been playing pretty tight, due to having one of the shorter stacks and also hoping for a win. Michael looked down to find A4s. I expected a pretty fast call. Michael only had about 5 BB’s at this time and at four-handed A4s is a snap call for me.
Instead he hesitated. Later he told me that this player had been playing so tight and cautious that he feared he was very dominated. In the end, however, he did the right thing and called (the SB had A5o). He got lucky to hit a flush and eliminate the fourth man.
Three became heads-up. Then the very first hand HU the slightly shorter stacked raised with 98s. Michael re-raised all-in with QJs and that was all she wrote.
Michael won the entire thing like it was the easiest tournament he’d ever played and in such horrific pain that he couldn’t even think during most of it. In fact, his pain was so bad that he hadn’t eaten since 8am that morning and it was then 10pm! I had to literally force him to take ONE bite of a sandwich.
I know that eventually he will win big events and dominate big cash games, but at this point winning a freeroll against over 200 other players while suffering from acute pain and still playing for 12 hours almost continually is something we felt he could never do. It is a huge accomplishment and foretells of great things in his future if he strictly chooses the events and games he can play without overdoing himself.
This was the most proud moment I’ve had in coaching.