One of the great things about the World Series of Poker is that the organizers continue to innovate. Each year there are new variations of poker and new structures.
A few years ago, the WSOP introduced the ante-only game, and it was a hit with players. This year's $1,500 ante-only no-limit hold 'em event drew 714 players, a massive field for an event still in its infancy.
In an ante-only tournament, there are no blinds. Everyone puts in an ante to get their hole cards. Instead of the under-the-gun player being the first to act, the player who would normally be the small blind (directly to the left of the button) acts first, because there is no small blind. The player on the button acts as the big blind, making that position even more advantageous than usual.
It gets a little confusing at times, especially for observers trying to figure out what's going on, but it's a unique style of play that makes for a fun tournament. Most of the pros at the WSOP have played in hundreds of tournaments, have seen millions of hands, and have a deep reservoir of information on players and strategy. But because there are so few ante-only events, it seems as if everyone is still trying to figure out the "correct" way to play.
This year, I was particularly excited about the ante-only event. I finished 22nd in the 2013 event and knew I could improve on that.
I made it to the final table in good position. With five players left, I had about $450,000. I was well behind the two biggest stacks, but well ahead of the fourth- and fifth-place guys, who had about $200,000 each. At this stage, I was aiming to take third or maybe, with some luck, take down the event.
With antes at 12,000, I looked down at As Qd. In ante-only events, after you ante, there's a minimum "bring-in" to continue playing. The bring-in is equal to the lowest-denomination chip in play, and at this stage it was $1,000. With $60,000 already in the pot, I was getting 60-1 for my hand.
The two short stacks folded. I didn't want to open into the big stacks too much, so I made it $32,000. The player on the button, Rhys Jones, had about 1 million in chips and called.
The flop came Qc 8d Ad.
I had two pair and figured to be well ahead. I bet $55,000 into a pot of just over $120,000. Jones shoved all in. I quickly called.
He was on a flush draw with Kd 4d. Unfortunately, the turn came out 5d, the river 7d, and his flush knocked me out in fifth place.
I got unlucky. But top two pair is going to play itself there. Some people told me I could have gone all in preflop. It's a reasonable argument, and A-Q was a pretty good hand in this spot. But in ante-only, there are all kinds of hands in play that wouldn't be in a normal hold-'em event, so your strategy has to change.
Sure, I wanted to win, but it's an education. I definitely would have played some things differently, but I learned a great deal and know that I'll be able to take those lessons into next year's WSOP no-ante event.
Adam "Roothlus" Levy is a professional poker player who has had two deep runs in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 12th and 48th. He has won more than $5 million in live and online events.