Shirley Rosario
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by Shirley Rosario

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ESPN World Series of Poker CircuitI normally travel (to play in tournaments) with Steve (my mentor) or Joie (my cousin). On this particular trip, I went solo. When I arrived at the airport, it didn't take long for me to run into people I knew. I saw two poker players that were scheduled on the same flight as I was. I sat and talked with them for a few minutes and then I heard somebody else calling my name. I turned around and saw Jacqueline (a player and owner of a poker clothing line) and decided to sit with her. We all took the bumpy flight into Reno and then took the shuttle into Tahoe.

The LIPS event was scheduled for the next morning and I wanted to get a good nights rest. I decided to only take care of business and not play any poker. I checked into my room and then headed over to Caesars to meet up with Rich Korbin (the representative from PokerStars). Since I won my seat on PokerStars, I wore their merchandise while playing in the big event. I grabbed four shirts and two jackets and then headed back to my room.

I woke up the next morning and signed up for the LIPS tournament. I didn't recognize any of the women at my first table, but one woman stood out from the rest. She talked about playing at a final table recently and seemed to know what she was doing. I decided that there were eight other women at the table and I would be better off challenging them. I am not afraid to go up against any opponent, but I am always careful when I pick my battles. If I was going to challenge her, I knew I would have to have a legitimate hand.

Our table broke and I got moved to another table and Kathy Liebert was amongst the players at my new table. I never really had any hands and I struggled to keep my stack at $1000. Considering that I never had much of anything, I was pleased that I was able to maintain my stack. I finally picked up a few hands and more than doubled up. I was ready to take these women on. A few hands later, I got involved in a hand with Kathy. So much for picking my battles. I was in middle position with 65 of hearts and made a standard raise. The other players folded to Kathy in the blind and she looked over at the rest of my chips and decided to flat call. The flop was 973 giving me a double gutshot straight draw. Kathy checked to me and I checked behind her hoping to hit my straight. The turn card was a deuce of hearts. I now had a flush draw. Kathy checked again and I thought for a moment. If she had pocket queens, jacks or tens, I would have heard about it already. She was not going to give me two free cards to hit an overcard. If I moved in, she couldn't make the call with AK or AQ. The only way she would make a call is if she had a set, so I moved in. She called and I knew what she had. She had a set of nines. I needed an eight, a four, or a heart that didn't pair the board, but a six fell on the river. I was out of the tournament, but I was happy with the way I played. I finished in about 45th place. Kathy ended up finishing in ninth place.

Miami John Shirley RosarioI left the tournament and wandered around. I ran into Amir Vahedi, Mel Judah, David Levi and Miami John. Miami John invited me to go for a drive around the lake. We went to lunch and then took our drive. Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We talked about poker and he told me about his win the night before. He told me about a hand where he eliminated The Grinder's wife. I put two and two together and realized that the woman at my first table was Aidiliy (Miss Grinder). We continued our conversation and sightseeing and made one more stop. There was a place where you could park your car, observe the lake, and read about some of the history. It was nice to look at and interesting to read about, but it was too cold to linger. Our trip was about two hours long and I was glad that I took a break from the hustle and bustle of the casino.

When we got back to the casino, I decided to play in a couple satellites. The first one was wild. The players were going all-in with any two cards. I made my all-in move with five players left and the player in the big blind called my big raise. I showed him AT and he showed me K6. He managed to hit a king on the flop and I never improved. I mumbled, "Thanks for trying" and left the table. I signed up for another one after that. We started the next satellite and of the ten players, three of them were women. The three ladies were the final players at the table. I knocked out one of the women and the other proposed a deal. She asked for $500 which meant I would receive $600. I didn't think the deal was fair because I had a lot more chips than her. I told her I would give her $400 and she said she wanted $500. I said, "Let's play". It sure seems like I have screwed up every possible deal in satellites lately. I ended up leaving with nothing when I could have left with $600. I guess there was some consolation that I had the best hand every time our money went in.

It was only about 8:00, but I was ready to go to my hotel. I wanted to make sure I had a good night's rest for the main event. I was walking toward the door and I ran into Scotty Nguyen and Captain Tom Franklin. They invited me to go with them (and a few other people) to see a band play. I knew if I declined and went to my room, I was going to stay awake for another four hours anyway, so I accepted their offer. The group of us headed off to the lounge. It took longer than it should have to get there because at least six people asked Scotty for autographs. People were pointing and saying, "There is Scotty Nguyen." It is so strange what poker has become. We got to the lounge and Tom called one of the band members over during their break time. The woman came and sat down with us and Tom explained that he normally sits in with different bands when he is traveling the tournament circuit. He asked if the woman knew who we were and she said she didn't know anything about poker. While she was sitting there, five people came over and told Scotty how they loved seeing him on television. I am sure that helped in the decision to let Tom sit in with their band. I was really impressed with the way he played and was glad I took them up on their offer. We decided to call it a night and I took off for my hotel.

I woke up the next morning and felt great about the tournament. I was ready to play and I wasn't going to let the pros push me around. I was one of the last players to sit down at my table and I took a look around. Miami John was sitting directly to my right. Chau Giang was two seats to my left and Jeff Lisandro was sitting across the table. Going in to this event, I knew I was going to face tough opponents, but having Chau (one of top players in the world) at my table was not comforting.

For the first hour, I played really tight. I normally like to get in there and mix it up, but I never had any hands that worked well together. I only needed a suited connector to play a hand, but I didn't get any. A few hands before the first break, I picked up 84 of diamonds and came in for a raise. I flopped a pair of fours (bottom pair) and led out with a pot size bet. My opponent put in a raise and I had to fold my hand. It was not an exciting round. The next round, I had a few hands, but I didn't win any chips. I was dealt AK once and put in a raise and had four callers. The flop was jack high with two clubs and I was holding the ace of clubs. After I checked, the player behind me bet $500. It was a really small bet and I decided to call one off after Jeff Lisandro made the call. I was getting five to one on the call and thought I might be able to improve my hand on the turn. The next card was a blank. Jeff checked, I checked, and the other player bet $2,000. I knew I couldn't call the bet and Jeff made sure of that when he went all-in. The player called and I was shocked to see what the "caller" had. He had KJ for top pair, king kicker and went broke with the hand. I had both players hugely dominated before the flop and if I had caught the Ace, I might have got all of the player's chips instead of them going to Jeff. I shouldn't have bothered with the hand after the flop and I am going to take that as a lesson learned.

I got mixed up in another couple of pots, but I was never able to take a big pot down. I think the only two hands I won were against Chau. On one hand, he raised and I reraised from the blind with pocket tens. He just called me. I led out on the flop of Axx and he folded his hand. On another hand, I raised with K7 from the cutoff and he called from the blind. He led out on a king high board and I raised with my top pair and he folded. Although I won both of those hands, I never accumulated chips. Both pots just made up for previous hands (losses). We started the day out with $10,000 in chips and I had about $5,800. The blinds were still small relative to the stacks, but if I found an opportunity to play for all of my chips, I was going to take it. The opportunity came a short time later.

Three players limped into the pot for $100. I was in the small blind with pocket jacks. A lot of times I will just call with that particular hand because I don't want to get too involved in the hand when I am out of position. This time, I decided to raise because there was some dead money in the pot and I thought one of the players might play with me because I hadn't shown any aggression. After I raised to $1000, the big blind folded, the original limper folded, then the second limper moved all-in. Miami John (the last limper) folded and the decision was back to me. I hadn't shown any aggression on the table and I figured the guy could be making a move for the pot. He originally just called so I didn't put him on a big hand. The hands I thought he could have were pocket nines, eights, sevens, or AK. If he had the pocket pairs, I was a huge favorite. If he had the AK, I was the favorite and could double up which was necessary to win the tournament. I made the call and was disappointed that he had the best hand he could have had of the bunch. He had AK. Miami whispered to me that he folded an ace, so I only had to escape five cards. He immediately flopped the king and I didn't catch another jack on the turn or the river.

I was really happy with the way I finished the tournament. I analyzed the hand correctly and played for all of my chips as the favorite. I could have played the hand differently, but I liked the way it turned out. I wish I hadn't made a couple of mistakes before that hand. Things might have been a lot different. But, who really knows? Most of the hands I played, I was happy about and I am taking a couple lessons away from this tournament. I told myself that if I didn't win (or place) in this event, I was at least going to use it as preparation for the main event at the World Series. I know the areas that I need to work on and I know what my strong points are. I am ready to work hard and play my heart out in the big one.