The 10 gold bracelet events of the 2014 World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific are in the books and, as someone who was there, I can tell you it was three weeks of intense poker action. From Junzhong Loo becoming Malaysia’s first bracelet winner to Jeff Lisandro capturing his sixth bracelet; from George Danzer winning his third gold bracelet of 2014 to Scott Davies taking down the AU$10,000 Main Event; there was no shortage of story lines to follow.
However, one of my favorites that was lost in the fray was Canadian Mike “SirWatts” Watson’s runner-up finish to Sam Higgs in Event #5: AU$5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha. Usually those who come in second are quickly forgotten, but I’ll always remember Watson’s performance for one reason and one reason only — he never gave up. It was the closest I’ve come to a true “chip and a chair” story in all my years reporting tournament poker.
The tournament, which attracted 80 players and created a prize pool of AU$376,000, was down to the final 16 or so players on Day 2, and, with only eight of them slated to get paid, the tension was high. In Level 13 (1,000/2000), I watched a hand begin with Brian Roberts of 2 Months $2 Million fame raising to 7,000 from the cutoff and Watson three-betting to 23,000 from the small blind. Roberts responded by four-betting all in for 30,600, and Watson called, leaving himself just 1,500 behind.
It was the old kings-versus-aces situation, and the better pair held after the board ran out . Roberts scored the double while Watson was left with less than a big blind.
“You still want to maximize whatever small chance you have of running it up, but obviously I’m not very optimistic at that point,” Watson told me when I asked him about the situation afterwards. “Even if you double it up a few times you’re not really back in contention. You certainly still want to try to give yourself any small edge you can of running it back up.”
I stuck around trying to catch Watson’s elimination, but it didn’t come as he folded the next few hands. As we take a short detour from hold’em this week to talk about pot-limit Omaha, remember there are no antes in PLO, which gave Watson a little extra space for patience with his short stack. Soon, Watson strung together a few quick doubles and, within 20 minutes, he was up to 47,000.
In the next level, Roberts got his last 17,000 or so all in preflop against Watson, and this time SirWatts would get the job done.
The flop delivered Roberts a flush draw, but he watched helplessly as the blanked on the turn followed by the on the river. Roberts took his leave in 14th place while Watson chipped up to 95,000. Watson would go on to eliminate Australian Poker Hall of Famer Jason Gray on his way to making the money, and he finished the night by making the final table.
“I guess after the third double-up I was back up to the starting stack, so at that point I have like five or six big blinds. If you play tournaments a lot you make comebacks from that stack a number of times, so at that point I thought maybe I could do this,” Watson said when I asked when did he think he had a chance making a comeback. “When I got to 25,000, I thought it could actually be something that would happen. It happened pretty quickly, pretty wild.”
As mentioned, Watson would go on to finish in second place — the third time he has in a WSOP bracelet event — for a AU$79,099 payday. Not too shabby considering he was on the verge of elimination.
“I can’t feel too bad about it. Obviously turning that small stack into a pretty big cash is a great result. I would have loved to win, but at the end of the day second is a great finish,” Watson concluded.
It goes to show you that no matter how bleak things may seem, no matter how short your stack, there’s always a chance of making a comeback. Stay strong, play your game, and it just might happen to you.
Do you have a “chip and a chair” story? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter @ChadAHolloway.