Every June, the world’s finest poker players converge in the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada for the World Series of Poker, to test their skill and try their luck.
For starters, the WSOP is like the World Series or the Super Bowl for poker players. This year alone, the tournament will crown 14 world champions across multiple variations of the mental sport. In addition, there are 78 events highlighted by the $10,000 buy-in Main Event and the $1,000,000 The Big One for One Drop No Limit Hold’em tournament.
This year, five of the country’s best poker players made the trip to Las Vegas, including two of the top local players in Mike Takayama and Lester Edoc.
Takayama, a former professional billiards player, immediately made waves by cashing in the WSOP’s 34th event of the spectacle: the $1,000 Double Stack No-Limit Hold’em tournament. The 29-year-old finished in 32nd place in a field of 5,700 hopefuls to bag a cool $17,814.
“Masarap kasi pangarap ito ng bawat poker player na makapaglaro dito,” confessed Takayama, who has a listed total winnings of $600,000 under his name.
“Hindi ko akalain na makakapunta ako rito. Basta gagawin ko lang yung best ko.”
This is his first WSOP-sanctioned tournament. Without a staker backing him, he has one person to thank – current Asian Poker Tournament general manager Lloyd Fontillas.
“Laking pasasalamat ko kay sir Lloyd dahil tinulungan niya ko makakuha ng visa,” shared Takayama, who wil be with top stars Mark Rivera, Jay Tolon, and Boyet Drilon.
Once he arrived, it was like he was in Disneyland, as he was able to meet some of his heroes like poker legend Eli Elezra.
On June 19, he immediately got down to business.
Takayama led the entire field during the Day 1B of the tournament amassing 177,400 chips.
“Sabi ko lang sa sarili ko, hindi ako matitinag. Kung ano laro ko sa Pilipinas, ganun lang din lalaruin ko dito,” recalled Takayama.
It was just the start. The biggest haul he had came during Day 3.
A player to his left, who was under the gun, shoved all-in for all of his 130,000. Takayama, who was on the UTG player’s left and had 1,650,000 in chips, snap called. The player on the dealer button immediately shoved all-in for all of his remaining stack of 430,000.
Takayama had (9c, 9d), ahead of the (6h, 6d) of the player who was on the dealer button but behind the (10s, 10c) of the initial raiser.
The flop came (Jd, 10d, 8d), giving the UTG player a set while handing Takayama an open-ended straight flush draw. The turn gave a (7c) to give Takayama a straight. The Filipino needed the board to not pair up or not deal the two remaining 9s in the deck to scoop the pot. Alas, the river was blank: (2s).
However, a few missed bluffs and a number of bad beats dropped Takayama’s stack down to just 610,000 in chips. With blinds at 25,000 and 50,000, with an ante of 5,000, Takayama made a play.
A player from just the right of the dealer button raised to 110,000. Thinking that it was a steal, Takayama raised all-in at small blind. Little did he know that the big blind had a monster. Takayama’s (Kd, 10s)was terribly behind the big blind’s (Kh, Ks). The flop came (2h, Jh, 3s, js, 8d) to send Takayama to the rails.
Still, it was a good learning experience for Takayama as he prepares for the big one: the 2018 WSOP Main Event.
“Madami ako natutunan sa first tourney ko. Hindi ganun kadali mga kalaban dito pero dahil dito, nagkakumpyansa ako na kaya natin makipagsabayan sa kanila.”