I was in San Remo, Italy twice during a five-month period. The first time was in December 2010 for an IPT series as part of my maiden voyage to Europe. I wanted to Dora it up and explore the continent in between EPT Barcelona and EPT Prague. I’d never been to Italy before, and the promise of being somewhere new with a soft tournament field and authentic Italian food was enough for me to book a cheap hotel room in a very foreign city for the week. Chopping a 1ke side event was nice, as it was my first legit accomplishment since my tournament stint. The poker on my second trip in April continued where it left off, but everything else was the opposite.
I stayed with Team Noctus for the first night at a standard Stars hotel before my luggage and my Euro friends arrived. I was stuck wearing the same clothes for three days straight, including to the Pokerstars Party! It worked out that way because I flew with those clothes, arrived at night after the local shops were closed, and was occupied until the next evening when I finally had time to buy a new outfit. Then I decided to be a trooper and saved it for 1A the next day because I was still uncertain when my luggage would find me. Again not my classiest stretch, but after the amazing poker that ensued the superstitious Asian in me sometimes wishes I would lose my bags more often.
The night before the main we moved into a charming villa Vampy and Andrew found. At a fraction of the price of a hotel room, it was also amazingly spacious and comfortable, especially since I was lucky enough to land one of the best rooms in the house. I was still jetlagged in the early morning so I went for a brisk walk along the water to the supermarket in some light rain. I absolutely love it when it drizzles in warm weather, especially if the sun is out. I felt like everything was set up for optimal performance.
Hilarity ensued when we left for a scheduled noon start time without realizing we had locked Vampy inside the giant villa! We assumed he left early since we hadn’t seen him in awhile until he called us to be let out. We RPSd to see who would go back to grab him, but luckily the tournament started three hours late anyhow so no one missed a hand.
The tournament room had great energy off the bat and it was an impressive mix of players. of international poker superstars and local amateurs. It was also very flattering to have some locals recognize me for the first time from my IPT side event win. Flattering and advantageous. I feel that because a lot of the Italian regulars knew what I was capable of, they made it harder on themselves to play optimally against me. The days progressed and I would have the same routine: wake up, blast music, eat breakfast, and take as long as I wanted to get ready and mentally prepare myself. The ~13 minute walk to the casino made for a great start to the day and Vampy did it with me through day 4. My daily finishing stacks fluctuated each day against the field, with the shorter ones being larger mental hurdles and the larger stacks making me feel invincible, but I was in bed by 1am every night and stayed on track. I also spent a very limited amount of time communicating and reading updates in social and industry media because I didn’t want to risk exposure to anything that may be distracting. I was certainly still able to feel all the positive vibes people were sending through skimming texts and e-mails, which really helped me push harder in the last stretch.
Before I knew it we were at the final table and with a good run of cards and an awesome table image. Then we were down to three. It was an interesting dynamic to play against Ruperte and Max since they had both previously bought pieces of my packages, and we had all hung out several times on the journey to the final table. The rail also consisted of many of our mutual friends, and the truth is, I lost focus. I initially played some decent-sized post-flop pots very well as I carried the momentum forward from accumulating chips quickly. Then I had a perfect opportunity to bust Max and somehow foolishly talked myself out of a call in a hand that haunted me for a while afterwards. I knew it was a mistake right away and my play deteriorated after that. It was a >$300k error I will not make again, and I’m confident I will get another opportunity to redeem myself. I really wish I had someone more experienced to drag me aside and give me the pep talk I badly needed. Instead I was asked to do an interview during the only break I endured 3-handed, and I missed out on precious time to recollect myself and readjust to set up a win. I made some preflop errors to Ruperte and was out before it hit me after talking him into calling me with a dominated hand.
I didn’t realize how heartbroken I would be when I busted, because I actually felt on some subconscious levels I didn’t even want to win. Crazy huh? Maybe I knew myself well enough and knew I couldn’t handle the pressure just yet. I could also have a fair chance of never being able to meet future expectations if I set the bar so high so soon. Unfortunately I started thinking objectively about these things after I was out, when they were no longer immediately relevant.
I was still somewhat legitimized at the next level, and I no longer felt as if it was just everyone around me who was winning.Three-hundred-and-sixty-thousand Euros. The majority of it was not mine to keep, but I now have confirmation that I am capable of making this much money doing something I love. How lucky am I?! I went on a rollercoaster of self-reflection for several weeks. Swirled through a lot of “what now” tangents and had more than a couple of anxious and antsy days at home after Madrid.
The EPT Grand Final was memorable as well. Although tournament-wise I only second-tier cashed I couldn’t complain since I thought I had awful table draws throughout and got so many table changes my reads were cuffed, and yet I somehow still made the money. It was amazing to carry through a personal triumph to such an amazing city. The casino was far and we had to shuttle every day, but our hotel was right downtown by a bustlin’ city square and there was an unlimited supply of culture and night life to absorb. I was also around Galen as he went into the final table of the High Roller being first in chips and ended up finishing in 7th after an interesting hand where his AA was outflopped by an OOP QQ after a single raise pre. He blamed himself profusely for stacking off in this situation but it wasn’t his hand analysis that was brilliant, it was his thought-process when talking about his overwhelmingly human desire to legitimize himself. It didn’t matter that he had a $2mm title under his belt, he was planning on going back to school and he believed this would be one of his last opportunities to prove he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder. He genuinely felt like he blew it and spazzed out. (He would go on to come second in the CoC freeroll and third at the WPT Championship the week after so I think he’s OK now). Anyhow, the point is, after watching him suffer, it somehow made me feel better about my incoherent ambitions.
I’ll figure it out. I just finished my first real WSOP and needless to say my results were not satisfying. I’ve also made some hefty career decisions since San Remo which at this point I’m not even completely sure of. But guess what? I had one of the best summer of my life. It wasn’t that I partied hard or got a sick sponsorship deal. Rather, I learned that I could rely on people other than myself, and I was surrounded by not just some of the best poker players, but some of the most fun and authentic people anywhere.