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My PPT Experience

By Jennifer Harman, December 22, 2004

Jennifer Harman

Location: Foxwoods Resort and Casino, CT

arrived at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut totally pumped and excited about the PPT. The PPT, or Professional Poker Tour was the brain child of Steve Lipscomb who also created the ever popular World Poker Tour. What's unique about the PPT is that you must qualify in order to participate. Normally a tournament is open to the public, but many great players were left off this initial elite list of 200 odd players. Much like the PGA Tour in golf, the PPT puts the best against the best.

You couldn't escape the vibe, the energy was all together different from any traditional tournament. Somehow, I think we all felt that we were on the ground floor, the pioneers, if you will, of something big. Poker has become almost a national pastime - the latest media darling, with everyone getting in on the action and yet we were participating in the first ever PPT sponsored event. A "Free Roll" Tournament with $500,000 at stake.

One of the first things that struck me was that every table was tough. Unlike most tourneys, where professionals and amateurs lumped together and the luck of the draw can work for or against you. This was a situation where the world's best players were seated around every table in the room. Oddly this created a calming effect for me, as there were no unknowns and no surprises to deal with.

The game was No Limit Texas Hold'em and the first day we played for about 10 hours or so. We finished the day with 39 players left out of a field of 134. For those lucky enough to avoid elimination would come back the next day and play until 6 players remained.

I struggled the entire first day - never building up a lot of chips - winning a pot here, losing a pot there. I tried to look at the bright side though, as the likes of Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu and others made early exits. Hey a chip and a chair right! When play ended on day one, I was left with just $8100 in chips, good for 39th place out of ... 39 remaining players. Or in other words dead last! I couldn't get much sleep that night. I tossed and turned the whole night bummed out about the fact that I'd have to play the next day with virtually no chips. I wasn't giving up by any means, but realistically, I knew it was an uphill battle to say the least. My strategy was to find a suitable hand to go all in with, and the sooner the better.

The moment of truth came with me holding the 9-7 of spades. I moved in and Brad Daughtery flat called me while the rest of the table folded. He turned over 2 Kings and I said to myself "Oh Well" I guess I can go get some sleep now. I remember looking over to the table beside me, where John Juanda sat with a mountain of chips. I asked him to touch me for luck - he did. The flop came 9 - 7 - 4. Sweet! How lucky was that? That was just the break I needed to get back in the game. I won a little over $14,000 - almost twice what I'd started with on the day, but still way behind the average.

I won a few more pots and had my stack up to somewhere around $30,000. I went all in again with Aces. I didn't need John's touch this time and that early to bed scenario was no longer an option. My Aces held up and all of a sudden, I was a contender. From dead last to in the hunt.

Later in the day we were now down to 10 players and two tables. One more elimination would bunch 9 together at the final table. As fate would have it, I was seated at the big stack table - with such notables as John Juanda, Hoyt Corkins, Ron Rose and Chris Bigler. We proceeded to play big stack poker for the next two hours. By big stack poker I mean that the blinds were relatively small which made the game less of an all in fest and more of a chess match.

Finally, the inflappable and unpredictable, Hoyt Corkins who had been the chip leader was eliminated and the remaining nine moved to one table. Although it had taken us close to 15 hours to get to that point, it took no time at all for us to reach the final 6, as 3 more players, all having come from the other table, were knocked out in a mere thirty minutes time. Not only did I survive, I finally had a mountain of chips of my own, second only to Juanda coming into the final table.

In what can be described as a daze, I rolled into the cash game section of the Foxwoods Resort. Apparently Daniel Negreanu had made a side bet with Barry Greenstein, that I would make a televised final table before Barry's friend/student Mimi Tran. Barry approached me and asked "Did I just lose One Hundred Thousand Dollars?" I smiled and nodded and he smiled back and clasped my hand, offering up his congratulations. At that moment, I was reminded of what I love about this game - we're friends, we're family and we put all our cards on the table - win, lose or draw, we wouldn't have it any other way.

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