The "real" story of how I became a pro....

June 30, 2010

Looking back at it now, it all seems like just yesterday. It’s actually surrealistic to think that I participated in the Aussie Millions presented by Full Tilt Poker over 2 years ago.
I was going to write about my most recent life altering event, and how so much has changed for me because of the big win at the WSOP. But winning my second bracelet in the 2010, $250,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, isn’t what’s changed me. My new life began thanks to the charity of the fine folks at Full Tilt. That, and the valuable lessons learned from playing against some of the finest players in the world down under that year.

I remember putting our carry-on stuff up in the overhead, and then taking our seats on the plane. “Visiting family?” came from under the hat in the seat next to me. “No,” I said, “We’re on the trip of a lifetime. Going down under to play some poker.” After a little settling in and grabbing my beloved Pebbles hand to hold, I took the time to see whom the comment had come from. I offered my typically Canadian, “Nice to meet you, I’m Bam-Bam and this is my wife Pebbles, and you are?” “Chris.” was the reply.
“Jesus!” I exclaimed. “Yeah, I’ve been known to go by that one too.” he offered with a chuckle. And so started the amazing journey that would eventually change my life for the better. Back there in January of 2008, Pebbles and I were headed on the ultimate ‘free roll,’ and on a plane ride with ‘Jesus.’ Talk about an epic journey and with the co-pilot seemingly from heaven, what a way to go.

Chris, (*note* even after two years, it still seems peculiar to call him that) was perfect for the job of getting me acclimated to my future surroundings. Not just the poker, I’d played enough at various levels that the poker could be considered a no-brainer. But to the media circus, the scheduling nightmares, the parties and the pitfalls that can break down even the calmest of demeanors if you let them. We discussed every step to be taken, right up to the start of the event. It was advice and help that I will never forget and probably more so, never be able to properly pay back. He even went as far as to not only introduce Pebbles to Jennifer(Harman), but he put us in a cab-pool with her to the hotel. He knew she was staying at the luxurious Crown Casino Resort as well. That was where we were being put up in style by those fine people at Full Tilt. “They’ve got a lot in common and well, Jenn’s a good person.” Said Chris, as he shut the cab door. “Jenn’s been here a few times too. She’ll help your wife settle down and get comfortable around these parts.” were his parting words as we began to pull away.

Truer words were probably never spoken. To say they hit it off instantly, would be like saying poker’s popularity has grown a little over the last few years. The discussions between Jennifer and Pebbles were brilliant. Let me make this perfectly clear, Pebbles is no ‘ shop-a-palooza let the man play for money and bring it home’ kind of girl. Once Jennifer started picking up on Pebbles ‘player-speak,’ they were two peas in a pod. Inseparable and sometimes, (sorry girls) insufferable. For a while there even though the ride to the Crown was short, I thought they were going to break out a game right then and there to discuss strategies. Jenn’s early departure from the Aussie Millions by way of a case card suck-out, would have normally caused any sane player to get an earlier flight home to get away from such a brutal defeat. Not our Jenn. She stayed and kept us company for the remainder of the week. Her being there with Pebbles on the rail was not just a calming influence for my lovely wife, but a sentiment that means as much to me and is as greatly appreciated, as almost anything that has ever happened in my poker career. To this day Jennifer, Marco, Pebbles and I all stay in touch on a regular basis. Some of my favorite times are during the Canadian Poker Challenge, where Jenn and Marco represent team Full Tilt in the event. They have stayed with us up north for the week preceding the event and it’s during that time that we try our best to pay back Jennifer’s Aussie Millions generosity, by taking them out to do whatever they want. Fishing! Of all the available activities there are to do in the most beautiful part of God’s green earth, Jennifer and Marco just want to go fishing. There are many, many stories here from the last two years we’ve made these trips. They however, will have to wait for another day. (and I might need special permission from Marco to tell a couple!)
I’d better get back to the meat of the story though.

The knowledge I gained during day #1 of the 2008 Aussie Millions was incredible. I fully expected what I think we all would have expected in the same situation. Consummate professionals making amazing plays. I actually remember my last sober thought before the cards hit the felt for the very first time, “Just like on T,V. Bam-Bam. Just like you see on T.V.” I also remember very quickly coming to the conclusion that there’s a really good reason why, you don’t see every hand from an event on T.V. Actually there were two good reasons.
1) It’s ridiculously boring watching fold, fold, call, raise, fold, fold, fold and chip stacking.
2) There are also players starting in these events, that are not very um…. T.V. friendly shall we say. Some of them can put on quite a bad beat show in the very early stages.

But I did honestly learn a little bit about everything that was going on. I also learned a little about myself, and that my game is not all that bad. I didn’t have any amazing or exceptionally memorable hands on day #1. Except of course, for that first pot drag. Trying to compare dragging in your first decent pot of a major event like the Aussie Millions to anything else, is well futile, if you really love poker. There’s nothing like it. The wink the dealer gives you, because he’s seen it before and he knows that that was your major event virginity that just flew out the window. The look of disdain and horror on your opponents face, as he realizes that you just caught him making a move on your pot. Even better, you made him show everyone. The look of minimal respect, but respect still the same, from others at the table the next time you reach for chips. Every facet of that first big pot is something that will never be forgotten. I was fortunate enough to have one of the true gentlemen of the game at my table on day #1. Having Allen Cunningham smile and say, “Nice Job. I’ll take the next one OK?” made the memory even grander than it should have been.

Day #2 brought a slightly more difficult table my way. My draw was the 5 seat and on my right, I had Mike Matasow. To my immediate left, sat Howard Lederer. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, Gus also managed to get in on this “table of doom” as the good Dr. put it. Luckily, Change 100 drew the assignment of covering our table so, at least I had a friendly face around to keep me motivated. Change and Pauly were doing a lot of tournament coverage back in those days. I’m not to sure what they’re up to these days though. Ever since that book of his topped the best seller’s list for a little over a year, Pauly and Change haven’t surfaced much in the poker circles. Rumour is, they decided on a sweet little retirement destination that Hemingway used to own, somewhere down in Key West. I’ll have to see if I can find them the next time I go for my annual binge/break with Al. If anyone can find anyone in “The Key,” it’s Al. Anyhow, back to day #2. I stayed just slightly above average in chips for most of the day, and managed to avoid too many confrontations with “the big boy’s.” That changed when Clonie was moved to our table. She didn’t have much more than her original stack when she came over, and it seemed like she was going to take a run at building that stack up now that she was with us. I got a run of cards that rightfully earned me full “card-rack” status. Clonie would act and I would manage to find interesting cards everytime. The end for her and the start of a decent rise in chips for me came, when Clonie decided to make a stand with pocket king’s. I had a tough decision calling her all in but, I saw the ace–king suited and had a pretty good feeling about them. Once Clonie flipped up her kings, that feeling went away. I remember the look on her face as an ace came right in the door. It really didn’t help that the other two cards ran me a chance at both the flush and a gut shot straight draw. Hell, the queen of spades would’ve given her a straight too! It just would’ve given me the royal! She was down to any queen except, the queen of spades. Nothing else came to help her and, I’d taken out my first “big” name player. I ended day #2 pretty happy with my game and, around the top 50’ish in chips. An added bonus to the day’s events was, Chris was still in the game. He was chip leader for most of the day from what I had heard. I ran into him as we were leaving for the night so I asked him if he was hungry. We went out for a few ‘pops’ and a bite to eat. I won $150 off of him in a turbo Chinese Poker game while we waited. So, I bought dinner.

Day#3 as everyone knows, was a total disaster for me. It was my fault though. Right from the moment I saw my draw, I was down on my possibilities of going any further. I was in a bad place, and that’s not good in this world. Drawing a seat at the T.V. table alone would have been enough to send most players squirming. But to draw that group was like something out of a Stephen King horror novel for me. Picture it if you can. You are on the greatest ride of you life, and it’s all free thanks to Full Tilt. You are playing some of the best poker in your life and you want it to continue. You take your spot in the 1 seat at the T.V. table, as the TD tells the crowd that you are an “amateur, who got in by way of a writing contest.” Nice ! That’s not the end though, do you remember? Seats 2 to 9 were filled with what basically was left of Team Full Tilt.

Juanda, Gordon, Ivey, Seidel, Bloch, EDOG, Matasow and just for good measure, Chris! I had no real reason to be nervous, as I was playing pretty damn good poker to get to this point, but that didn’t matter anymore. I let it get to me and I made some pretty bad “T.V. table” moves. I was lucky my event didn’t end in the first ½ hour that day. At the first break I remember Eric asking me, “was that how you got all those chips in the first two days?” I actually broke out in laughter. I think that one comment helped get me out of the funk I was in. Eric brought me back into the game by making me feel comfortable. Like I’ve said many times before, there really is no reason to get all nervous about who your playing with. It just took me longer that particular day, to realize it for myself. Once I got comfortable and was able to get back on my game, things went a little smoother. Taking Phil Gordon out by means of a pretty well hidden straight against his TPTK, was the only big hand I actually got involved in after the first break. It was nice that the other Phil came along for part of the ride there too! That pot brought me back up to just about normal. It was going to take something pretty exciting to help me gain back all the chips I donked off in that first hour. I just couldn’t see it happening with this crew and of course, it didn’t. When we were about to be broken down to the last two tables, I was sitting in about 11th. in chips out of the 18 players that remained. A decision was made to stop the game for the night. We would re-draw for seating and resume play the next afternoon. I remember how good that break felt. I was exhausted. I don’t get too much sleep on the best of nights but you know what? I slept like a log that night.

The best thing that happened all of Day #4 for me? It was when I was announced to the crowd again. This time, it felt like I belonged. I was no longer some fantasy prize winner that knew how to put s few words down on paper. This time, This time it was differant. Johny,(the TD) introduced me as Bam-Bam the player. I shook hands with, and was standing tall along side of, 17 of the best professional poker players in the world. What a rush! Play started very frenetically because of some of the chip sizes, or lack there of. It was the other table where we kept hearing “all-in” over and over again. It was catching. Gus started it at our table and was eliminated by Phil Ivey. The other table lost two players on the very next hand. The blinds and antes were massive if you didn’t have a monster stack of chips. Every pot was worth fighting over if you could manage it. I was fortunate to have a good stack when those 9-3 off suits kept finding their way into my hands. I never will understand how those cards can dog me no matter where I am, or what year it is. I heard an announcement for a break and wanted to get outside for some fresh air. I did a quick count of my stack and took a quick glance at the other stacks on the tables. I was going to be OK for a while. It never even donned on me how many stacks it was that I counted. As I lit my smoke it hit me. “I think I just counted a total of 8 stacks plus mine” I actually said out loud. (to no one in particular) I’ll be honest, I almost fainted right then. It was close, really close. As I sat down to take in all that this had meant to me, a hand tapped my shoulder and I heard, “mind if I join you?”
It was Chris. “When you said you were coming down under to play some poker, you damn well meant it didn’t you!” he said with a grin. “I guess I did, didn’t I,” was all I could say.

We all know I didn’t win, but the next best thing that could have happened did. Having Chris beat me heads up in the end seemed….. well,….. right. He played good enough to win and I didn’t. The help and support he gave me going in to this monumental task, was paid back by justice. He had a run on me at exactly the right time, and I had no weapons to fire back at him. It was one of the longest head’s up battles in Aussie Millions history, and it seems like it made for really entertaining television. I watched that 1 hour special again, about a week before the WSOP started this year. It helps get me fired up even to this day.

About three months ago when Jake from Full Tilt stopped by and asked me about being a Full Tilt Team Member, I only had one thing to say. “December 2, 2007.” He looked at me quizzically and asked, “What?” “December 2, 2007 was the day you e-mailed me about going to the 2008 Aussie Millions.” I said. You see, Jake used to be in Full Tilt’s promotions department. I still have that e-mail up on the wall in my play room. Jake was the one that gave me the news that I had won that writing contest. Now in his new position, Jake was the one inviting me to join the team. I told him that for everything Full Tilt Poker had done for me, I would be honoured to represent them. My new goal going into 2011 is simple. I want to make them happy and proud that they decided to ask me to join the team. I want to represent Full Tilt in the best possible manner. Just like ‘Jesus’ has done.

So you see, the second bracelet isn’t so spectacular when you really think about it. I’ll put a little blurb together about that another day. But if you consider the thought that Full Tilt gave me an opportunity to live a life I otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to, by sending a poker playing writer on the free trip of a lifetime, it boggles the mind that I am where I am today. Now that’s a spectacular story. And it’s all thanks to Full Tilt Poker. (and they thought they were just sending me on a little trip)



The above was written as my entry into the Full Tilt 'write your way in' contest.

I really want to go bad................... so I tried to write good!

If you'll excuse me now, I have a Mookie to win tonight, and a Riverchasers to win tomorrow. Friday, I might just jump head first into Kat's Donkement. I won enough Monday in The TuckFard Open that I think I can afford to play in all three again this week !


My sincerest thanks for dropping by....

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