08/15/2006 11:00PM

Reality comes crashing in on Day 2 of main event


Dov Markowich won a seat in the World Series of Poker in a heads-up duel with me on Pokerstars in June. As promised in my last column, here is what happened to him in the main event.

Markowich's first experience at the World Series of Poker was memorable, but it also taught him a crucial lesson in humility.

Somewhat awed by the $87,730,000 up for grabs and the 8,733 people who were in the main event, he was forced to wait out two groups of Day 1 players before his turn to play his first hand at the Rio.

"Everyone I spoke to that had played on Day 1A or 1B had not made it past the first day," he said. "That alone made me nervous."

His day finally arrived and he proved up to the task, playing some of the best psychologically sound poker of his life.

"I didn't want to be thinking about the size of the tournament," he said. "I coached myself to focus on the table I was playing, to take as much control of it as I could. I wanted to be the one raising, not the one calling someone else's play. I did not want to be afraid to force other players to react."

Markowich's very first hand was a decent but not exciting A-10 off-suit, and everyone after the big blind folded until it got to him two spots nearest the button. He put in a moderate raise to test reactions and found cards folding all around the table.

"Instantly, my confidence went straight up," he said.

It took only a dozen or so more hands for Markowich to realize that everyone else was playing so tight they would be vulnerable to the opposite approach.

"An ace fell on the flop; a few checks to me and I made a feeler bet without having anything, and everybody behind me folded the pot in my lap," he said. "You can grind out a lot of chips when everybody is afraid to take the kind of risks you have to take to keep someone like me off their backs. To keep everyone honest, I revealed my cards about one third of the time."

After a few more rounds, Markowich had an experience that gave him pleasure while at the same time was tempered by the uncomfortable feeling that he had just fired someone from his Toronto market investing company: He flopped the nut flush and pulled another eager player's full stack of chips into the pot before sending him back to his room to pack his bags.

"I saw the disappointed look on his face," Markowich said, "but I felt great inside when I knew this win brought me up to around $18,500 with a nice command of the table.

"I also caught a set of 8's from a ratty 8-4 holding that I decided to play when a few players limped in, and the small blind raised the pot enough to give me 4-1 odds to call the bet and see the flop." The flop was 8-8-3 rainbow.

For the rest of the 14-hour first-day marathon, Markowich played solid and loose hands at even strength while showing no fear or emotions. He ended Day 1C with a healthy $34,475 in chips while the average holding was about $25,000.

"I survived," he said. "Not only did I feel I could play in this league, but when I met 2005 world champion Joe Hachem in the hallway he took time to compliment me for a hand I had beaten him with in a heads-up match on Pokerstars."

Markowich began Day 2 as second chip leader to a player across his new table who had $38,000.

"I had a very good run of cards and played position poker to bring my chips up to $53,000," Markowich said. "Then I looked at my two cards and saw 2-3 suited in hearts."

The blinds were $300, $600, and Markowich was on the button. The player to his right raised to $1,600. "I don't have a clue why I called, except I was a bit high on myself, I think. Anyway, the flop came my way: 7-3-2 rainbow, giving me two pair."

His opponent bet out $3,500.

"According to the way I had seen him play," Markowich said, "I was pretty sure he had an overpair, so as long as nothing significantly higher fell on the turn or river I was sure my hand would be good. So I made the call which brought the pot up to $11,000, and the turn card was a 9, a relatively safe card.

"This time he checked to me, so, I decided to make the same $3,500 bet. He called making the pot $18,100 heading to the river.

"The river was a 7, and my heart sank. If I was right in the first place, that he had an overpair, my small two pair would be counterfeited now by the pair of sevens on the board!"

"He checked again to me, and I bet the same $3,500. If my original read was wrong and he had overcards instead of an overpair, he might fold. If I was right, my bet might have convinced him that I had a 7 in the hole. A set of 7's certainly would beat whatever pair he had in his hand. He called though and showed K-K. I was rivered in the WSOP, and had just lost a $25,100 pot.

"As the hours went by, I found myself tightening up the same way the players I had been beating on Day 1. Of course, whenever I bet, I ran into bigger hands and saw my stack dwindle from $53K in chips down to $8K, when I went all in with A-8 suited and out the door.

"Getting at least one very solid day of play under my belt was something I will take back to the tournaments I play in Toronto," Markowich said. "At the same time, there is no question that my ego and confidence got too high for my own good, and with the better players involved on Day 2, I should have adjusted my style, played a more solid game without getting involved in unnecessary hands. I plan on remembering that and making it well past Day 2 next year."

Steve Davidowitz plays as "StevenLD" on various Internet poker sites and is the author of the handicapping book "Betting Thoroughbreds."