May 29, 2004

The Greatest Showdown on Earth: 2004 WSOP Championship

No Money

I had flown back to Seattle to change my underwear and returned in time to make the annual World Series of Barbecue party thrown by Steven "Z" Zolotow and Howard "Bub" (The Professor) Lederer. I won't divulge the full extent of the saturnalia that transpired therein but I will report that I won my first World Series event, croquet, shaving a full three strokes off the score of Ted "Teddy Bear" Forrest and winning the coveted pooka-shell bracelet awarded by Howard's wife Suzy. Despite my success I decided not to enter the hula-hoop event.


The next morning I got a call from Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman saying the tournament, scheduled for noon, wasn't starting till one. I had a leisurely lunch and then drove over to the Horseshoe from Caesars Palace, where I was staying because they were giving away a BMW but they gave it to somebody else. Because of the expected size of the field, the tournament had been divided into two starting days. I had drawn day two so by the time I started last year's champ Chris Moneymaker was already out. When the dust had settled a mind-boggling 2576 starters had entered the main event, about three times last year's field. Where would it end?


I drew table 74, set up outside the sports book right next to a bar where people liked to smoke cigars. The only face I recognized was that of Tomer Benvenisti, who finished fifth in this event last year. He was in seat nine and I was in seat two. Seat 10, I found out later, was Terrence Chan, one of the executives of PokerStars. The guy to my right in seat one was chain-drinking vodka tonics and when the waitress seemed miffed that he was forgetting to tip her I slipped her five bucks and told her to get him whatever he wanted. He soon realized his error and started tipping her $5 to $20 per round, tipping over his stack as he searched for money. "I know I can't win this thing sober," he said.


We were near the end of the first level when I called a raise in position from the loose aggressive player in seat seven, whom I'll call Arizona Danny, with Ace-Eight of Diamonds. The flop came Ace-Eight-Four, two Hearts. He checked and I bet 500, around the size of the pot. He called. The Deuce of Hearts came on the Turn. Danny checked and I bet 1500. He made it 3500. I had to decide if he had the Flush made or he was semi-bluffing. He had been so aggressive I decided he had the Ace of Hearts and I moved him all in. He called and turned over Six-Five of Hearts for a made Flush. I needed an Ace or and Eight but they didn't come and just like that I was down to 1400 from my starting 10,000 just an hour and a half into the competition. I felt sick. At the first break I was down to 1375.


I walked around outside to clear my head and came up with a strategy, which was to double up against drunk boy on my right. When we resumed I moved all in a couple times without getting a call and then drunk boy raised on the Small Blind. I saw Ace-King and reraised all in. He called with King-Ten and I narrowly escaped a chop when the first four cards on the board were all Diamonds, which neither of us had. The river was a black card and I doubled up to 3100. By the next break I had come back up to a third of my starting stack, 3350. It sure was easier to lose the chips than to get them back.


The blinds were up to 100-200 and when they broke the table I was down to 2550. I got moved to the other side of the room, table 25, seat three, drunk boy gone three sheets to the wind. On my left was Stan Schrier, a nice guy from Omaha who finished third in this event in 2001. The rest of the table were unknowns but I glanced over my left shoulder and saw what I had narrowly missed at the next table: David "Bubble" Plastik, Phil Ivey, and several other top pros. Brr. I had my work cut out for me without entering that hornet's nest. I got nothing and just before the dinner break I raised in middle position with Ace-Queen. I got called after some thought by seat eight on the Big Blind.. The flop came King high and he instantly moved all in. I tried to figure out what that meant but ultimately I decided my remaining chips would be better served in another pot so I mucked, down to 1675 at dinner.


Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman, who had made the final table in the WSOP Pot-Limit Omaha championship this year, had sent an advance party to Tony Roma's to secure us a table. I ordered a wimpy chicken thing while Avi and his brother Noam, also in the event, ordered Flintstones-sized portions of ribs. Avi gave me a rib out of pity but it didn't noticeably diminish the size of his stack. The rest of the party, who had earlier partaken of the Bally's Sterling Sunday Brunch, didn't eat much. As a rule I don't eat dessert but they had the Brownie Skillet Sundae so I had just one order to give me energy for the upcoming battle. We wished each other luck.


We got back from dinner and while the blinds stayed at 100-200, now there was a 25 ante. I won a few uncontested all-ins and then when three players limped to me on the Small Blind I saw Queen-Six offsuit. Since it was my lucky hand – I busted Kathy Liebert's Aces with it last week – I threw in one of my precious 100 chips and saw the flop. It checked around five ways and I caught a Six on the Turn. That checked around and so did the River and miraculously I won the pot with my Pair of Sixes. I was up to 6000.


I lost a number of small pots and paid my blinds and antes and was back down under 5000 when I raised a limper in late position with pocket Nines and got a call from Simon on the Big Blind two seats to my left and from the limper. The flop came Jack high and Simon moved all in. We folded and I was down to 4250. By the next break that had dwindled to 3550. I called Shortstack and told her I was still hanging on.


After the break they moved us en bloc upstairs. Seat 10 busted out and was replaced by a kid who raised on the cutoff. I found pocket Sixes in the Big Blind. I read him for weakness so I moved all in on him, having a few more chips than he did. He called with pocket Fives and didn't improve so he was out and I was up to 7300. Then I raised on my button with Ace-Nine. Simon reraised me on the Big Blind. I should have respected his reraise but instead I moved in and he called instantly with pocket Kings. The flop came Queen-Jack-Ten, though, and when he made a Set on the Turn the King made me a Straight and I doubled up. The cameras were recording my all-in so I looked up and said, "I depend on luck to make up for my lack of skill." Simon agreed but it didn't change the fact that I was ahead of my starting stack for the first time in the tournament with 11,800. With some chips in front of me I got frisky and when they broke the table I was up to 13,350.


My new table was 106, seat seven. There were a few faces I recognized but no one I was scared of. I was up to 16,000 when five callers limped to me on the Big Blind and I saw pocket Jacks. I considered my options and decided to raise the size of the pot, about 2000. The only caller was Mike Jacobs, who had limped under the gun. The flop came King high, two Clubs. I bet the size of the pot, 5000, and Mike reraised me all in. I thought it likely he was bluffing but I wasn't willing to risk the tournament on it so I mucked. Now I was down to 8500 and the antes brought me down to 8300 at the break. It was 11:30 so I called Shortstack and said goodnight.


When we returned I pulled a reversal of the hand I lost most of my chips with this morning. I slow-played the nut flush made on the Turn against seat 10 and doubled up as he bet into me on the River. Now I was at a high of 17,950 and feeling good. I played conservatively for the remaining few minutes, chatting with Rob Boyd, brother of the infamous Russ "Dutch" Boyd, on my left in seat four. He was stealing pots right and left and I probably should have been too but I was just exhausted and didn't want to make a mistake. I finished the day with exactly 16,000 chips and I was happy about it.


I drove back to Caesars Palace and went to the swanky bar with the fish to get a Lagavulin on the rocks but they were closed so they sent me to the hooker bar. They didn't have Lagavulin so I settled for a Glenlivet while a Sharon Stone look-alike drinking Cognac with a Coke chaser tried to pick me up. I escaped with my virtue intact and crashed hard.


Flipped out

I drew table 41, seat four to begin day two. That put me back downstairs. Seat one was the table's chip leader, the very tough Gary Lent, who had won most of my stack at Foxwoods when he made a Flush on the River to beat my Set of Fours. Seat two was my old friend Allen "Double OJ" Kessler, playing in his second No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament. The first was the satellite he won to get into this one. Gary was frisky early but calmed down when one of his questionable pre-flop raises was shown down. I raised once with Ace-Queen in early position but when the very tight OJ reraised me on the button I mucked it in an instant. He later told me he had Aces.


We were nearing the end of the second level with blinds at 300-600 and a 50 ante. I was down to 13.500 when seat eight, who had been raising in early position with some frequency, did it again. I found Ace-King and pondered my options. I decided to move all in since I was getting low on chips and the blinds would soon be going up. He called with pocket Queens, making my odds just shy of a coin flip to more than double up but it was not to be. All the cards came low and I was out of the contest.


I called Alaska Airlines and changed my flight back to leave the next morning but stayed to have dinner with Andy "The Rock" Bloch at Nero's. We had delicious filet mignon and washed it down with one of the wonderful 2001 California Cabernets, the Stag's Leap Artemis. I almost overslept my flight but got to the airport in time to return the maroon Kia Optima I'd kept in Vegas for the last few weeks and settle into seat 2D for the journey back to Seattle. While I hadn't been playing poker for quite a year, this marked the end of the poker season. Erick "E-Dog" Lindgren had told me the first couple years were tough. I hoped the second would be better than the first.


May 21, 2004

Enough warm-ups already: WSOP $3000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

Table of death

The final warm-up No-Limit tournament at the Horseshoe drew an amazing 651 entrants, making the prize pool a hair under $1.8 million after the 8% juice. These warm-up tournaments were bigger than most of the poker tournaments in history. I drew a downstairs table again, table 28, seat 2. On my left was my buddy Andy "The Rock" Bloch, who had eliminated me from the second-chance tournament in Tunica from which I got my lucky chip. Peter "The Poet" Costa, with whom I had tangled before, sat in seat eight, and one of the most respected players in the world, Howard "Bub" (The Professor) Lederer, had seat 10. I played cautiously when the big names were in the pot and ended up splitting two Blind battles with The Rock. I won about 1000 when I called down seat five's bluff and when they broke the table I had 3900 from my starting 3000.


The new table had only two faces I recognized: Steve "Tipsy Joker" sat on my left and Mel Weiner, who had knocked me out at the Bellagio $10,000 WPT event, sat to his left. Tipsy busted out the first hand I was there so I didn't have to tangle with him. There was a lot of action at the table so I decided to play quality hands. It paid off: when I raised on the Small Blind with pocket Aces I got two callers who folded when I bet the pot on the King-high flop. I had 4600 at the first break and called Shortstack to tell her the news.


That table broke quickly and with 5100 I moved to table 53, seat one. Fred Hwang, a young tournament regular, sat across from me in seat five. The lovely and vivacious Clonie Gowan had seat seven and Jeremy "The Kid" Tinsley, who placed third in that same Tunica tournament, had seat 10. It was the first time I had seen The Kid not getting a massage but he quickly rectified that. The guy in seat six bluffed off a bunch of chips to me and I was up to 7475 when they moved the table en bloc upstairs. I lost a blind battle to The Kid and was down to about 5000 when they broke the table.


My new table, unfortunately for me, had many faces I recognized. I had seat eight. To my left was one of the top women players in the world, Kathy Liebert. In seat one was Alex Brenes, seat two Melissa Hayden, seat four my nemesis Can Kim Hua, who had eliminated me twice, seat six Steve Ford, who had eliminated me once, and seat seven Layne "Back to Back" Flack, so named for winning back-to-back World Series of Poker No-Limit Hold 'Em events in 2002. So there were only three people I didn't recognize. Then seat five turned his head toward me and I saw it was Ben Affleck. He wasn't as tough as some of these pros but his game was good. I introduced myself to seat ten, who turned out to be Martin Deknijff, winner of the biggest prize in poker history: $2.7 million at the 2004 Bellagio WPT Championship. He was wearing a nice shirt. So there was one guy at the table who wasn't a big name: seat three. His name was Scott.


I raised Kathy Liebert's Big Blind win Queen-Six offsuit, trying for a steal. She reraised me and I thought she was making a move so I reraised her all in. She called with Aces. "I can beat that," I said. A Queen and two Hearts came on the Flop. The Queen of Hearts came on the Turn, giving me trips and leaving Kathy with only the Ace of Diamonds as an out, since a Heart would give me a Flush. A Heart did come on the River, giving me a superfluous Flush and knocking out a disbelieving Kathy. I must have been her Can Kim Hua. I didn't think she'd ever won a hand against me. Alex and Melissa busted out soon after but their deaths were not by my hand. I was back to 7500 at the break and I called Shortstack to let her know I was at the Table of Death.


Layne "Back to Back" Flack, drinking back-to-back Coors Lights and sucking out five consecutive times all-in with the worst hand versus Ben Affleck and Steve Ford, raised on the cutoff. I had Ace-Queen and reraised all in. He called with Ace-Six and this time the best hand won. I had busted the pros on my left and right and was up to 11,000. Amir Vahedi took Layne's place and starting splashing his ample stack around. Then I had Ace-Queen again and raised in early position. Ben Affleck reraised all in with his short stack on the Big Blind and I called. His pocket Tens held up and he doubled up on me. I won some blinds and antes and then got Ben all in again with King-Jack of Diamonds against my Ace-Ten of Diamonds but he hit a King and doubled up on me once more. I still went to the dinner break with 9575.


Dinner was at the buffet they had set up for us. It was the same every night. I had iced tea and dined with Andy, Kristy Gazes (Bill's wife), and Amir.


After dinner Ben's luck finally ran out and Amir got his chips. The ESPN crew missed the celebrity bust-out but came over to film Amir's smile. I went card dead and got blinded down to just over 5000 when I found pocket Jacks in third position. Seat one, a guy named John who had replaced the busted Alex Brenes, reraised me almost all my chips. I sensed he wasn't strong and re-reraised all in, which he wasn't too happy about, but for a few more chips he called with his Ace-Queen. He hit an Ace on the Turn and I was out of the contest, finishing 126th for the second tournament in a row. I might not have been playing great poker but at least my consistency was improving. The main event was next.


May 15, 2004

Is there no limit to this tournament? Another $1500 WSOP No-Limit Hold 'Em Tourney

Elevator operator

I licked my wounds from the two quick exits, got through the deluge of fan mail telling me how badly I played my final hands, and signed up for the next event, another $1500 No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament. The attendance at these things was remarkably stable: 834 players entered, making a prize pool of $1.15 million after the 8% juice. I got a table in the actual poker room, table five, seat four. In seat one was Chris Hinchcliffe, WPT finalist from the PartyPoker Million cruise that I cashed in, and in seat seven was The Champ: Chris Moneymaker, winner of the 2003 WSOP Championship. I'd played with Money before and wasn't worried about having him on my left as he tended to play tight early. Hinch, on the other hand, was playing super-aggressive. I chipped up early, reraising two different players before the flop when I got pocket Queens and Aces and not getting a call either time. I showed the Aces after reraising all in and Hinch shook his head and said, "Wow." "I played it wrong?" I asked "Smaller raise," he said, and I saw his point, but Aces are tough to play after the Flop so I just played it conservative.


When the Norwegian to my right limped in early position I called behind him with pocket Fours. It folded to Hinch on the Big Blind, who told the dealer to bring it. The flop came Five-Four-Deuce, giving me middle Set. Hinch checked and seat three bet the pot. I smooth called, hoping I wasn't going to go broke to a Set of Fives. Hinch called as well. The Turn brought another Deuce, giving me a Full House. Hinch checked, the Norwegian moved all in, and I called. Hinch mucked and seat three turned over pocket Sixes. He didn't hit his two outs and I eliminated him, doubling up early. Hinch said he had flopped a Straight and kicked himself for slowplaying it but it would have come out the same because I wasn't laying down that hand.


Paul "X-22" Magriel, WPT finalist and backgammon expert, sat down in seat three. Every time he raised I asked, "Seven Deuce offsuit?" Finally he said, "You watch too much TV." Hinch didn't respect Chris Moneymaker's reraise and called with Ace-Queen. Money's Kings held up and Hinch was down to the felt, busting soon after. I didn't play many more hands and went to the first break with 3250 from my start of 1500.


Right after the break they broke our table and I moved to table 69, seat six, with Card Player publisher Barry Shulman on my left. Barry liked to play a lot of hands and I lost a couple small pots to him, bringing me below 3000. Then I limped with pocket Eights under the gun and got a call from the chip leader in seat one. The Flop came Queen-Eight-Seven. I got it all in against his Ace-Queen and I doubled up again to 5450. Then the short stack in seat four opened on my Big Blind. I saw Ace-King and reraised him all in. He called with pocket Tens, which held up when I flopped my Ace but he made a Set. Then I got into another pot with Barry when I opened with Ace-Jack and he called. The flop came Jack high, two Clubs. I check-raised him all in and he called with King-Queen of Clubs, winning when the Ace of Clubs on the River gave him the nuts. I was down to 1850. Justice reigned when I flopped a Set of Nines in a multi-way pot and seat nine called my all-in. I practically tripled up to 5000 and felt like the elevator operator who was asked how he liked his job: it had its ups and downs. I knocked out seat three in a coin flip and when they broke the table I was up to 6300.


I moved to table 10, seat five. Chad Layne, a very tough player, sat to my right, which was where I wanted him. I opened with pocket Kings and got a call from the loose player on the Big Blind with a very curious expression on his face that I didn't know what to make of. The Flop came Queen-Queen-Deuce. He checked and I bet half the pot. He thought a moment then pushed his cards to one side as if to fold but at the same time emphatically said, "I'm all in!" The dealer had touched his cards and he yelled, "What are you doing?" and grabbed them back. I thought for quite a long time. If I called and he had me beat I would be down to 1000 and crippled. I had a feeling that his over-dramatic act was concealing a big hand and trying to make me think he was bluffing so I laid it down.


They moved us en bloc upstairs, bagging our chips for security, and we played one hand before they broke the table. I moved to table 88, seat one. Unfortunately Chad was still with me and now on my left in seat four. Ron Faltinsky had seat eight and Annand "Victor" Randin, finalist at the Showdown at the Sands, was in seat nine. Some guy in seat six was getting a chair massage and when he looked up I saw it was Daniel Negreanu, one of the hottest and toughest players on the circuit. I knew he would be testing me so I went right after him and won a small pot, giving me 5200 at the break.


For the next half-hour the poker gods smiled on me or, more importantly, they frowned on everyone else. I seemed to be the only one at the table getting any cards and I just picked up blinds and antes like a madman. I was up to 12,000 when Ron Faltinsky moved all in for almost 4000. I saw Ace-King and called. He had Ace-Queen, making me a big favorite, but he hit one of his three outs and doubled up on me. I reraised two players all in with pocket Kings on the last hand before dinner. They folded and I entered the break with 8000.


Chad and I went to the buffet and had a variety of mildly appetizing selections washed down with iced tea.


After dinner I lost a couple small pots and was down to 5000 when I opened in late position with Ace-Nine. Chad called on the Button and the Flop came Ace-Ace-Eight. I thought about the best way to get all my chips in and decided to just move all in and hope he would call if he had a Pair. He did call, but he had the last Ace, with a Queen. I still had a 30% chance of winning or splitting the pot but the poker gods had had enough of me and I was out of the contest, finishing 126th and just out of the money.


May 13, 2004

Expensive entertainment: The $2000 WSOP Pot-Limit Hold 'Em Tourney

Over the top

There were 324 entrants ponying up $2000 each for the red-headed stepchild of No-Limit Hold 'Em, making the prize pool just under $600,000 after the 8% juice. I drew a lovely table with David Grey the only top pro, and he two seats to my right. I won a small pot and then raised in late position with Ace-Nine of Spades. I got a call on the Big Blind and the flop came Eight-Five-Deuce, two Spades. I bet the pot, 200. My opponent made it 600. I counted out my chips. Curiously, I had exactly enough to reraise the pot: 1400. With the Nut flush draw and two overcards I was the favorite if he had a Pair. I was hoping he would lay down something like Ace-Eight or pocket Sevens and even if he had flopped Two Pair or a Set I still had outs. He called and turned white when he saw my hand – he had King-Ten of Spades, giving him only six outs and me 10 redraws if he hit. "Don't worry," said David Grey, "you can still win with a King or a Ten." A King came on the Turn and I didn't hit an Ace or a Spade on the river so I was out of the contest. I thanked David for pointing that out and wished everybody good luck. That 15 minutes of entertainment cost $8000 an hour.

Just another $5k tourney: WSOP $5000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

Half Vulcan

It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Phil Hellmuth, Jr., had baptized me by fire but my current poker teacher was WPT champion Barry Greenstein, brilliant, unflappable, and calculating with nerves of steel. I drew seat two for today's $5000 "warm up" No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament at the Horseshoe and Barry drew seat one. If I had to have him at my table, I was happy once again to have him on my right, teaching me lessons from there. I didn't think I was ready for lessons on my left yet. The toughness of the table didn't stop with Barry, though. Tam "Tony D" Duong, who finished eighth in the 2002 World Series Championship, sat to my left. Hilbert Shirey, a WSOP bracelet holder, had seat five. Rick Salzman, who had cashed in a few WSOP events, had seat six. Alex Brenes, brother of Humberto, occupied seat seven, and Ngoc "Jimmy" Tran, who made eight final tables last year, had seat nine. There were 254 entries, making a prize pool of just under $1.2 million after the 8% juice.


With that lineup against me I decided to play conservatively and pray for the table to break. Meanwhile, Barry busted seat four with a cruel, calculating play and yet another tournament pro, Fred Berger, sat down. I asked Barry if he was half Vulcan and I thought I saw the beginnings of half a smile – the human half, no doubt. I entered a few pots and had to bail out and quickly lost half my chips before winning a couple pots from Jimmy Tran and Tony D. I was down from my starting 5000 to 3650 at the first break.


I fiddled and diddled in the next level and then the blinds were up to 100-200 and I only had enough chips left to make one shot. Jimmy Tran limped in early position, something he did frequently. Since I hadn't played a hand in an hour I decided to raise/steal with King-Jack. Everyone folded to Jimmy and he called. The flop came Ace-King-Ten. I decided to move all in with my second Pair, thinking it unlikely that with his limp/call the flop hit him hard and if he had a weak Ace he'd have to lay it down. Unfortunately he called with Ace-Ten for Two Pair. I still had six outs – the two Kings for trips or the four Queens for a Straight – but they didn't come and I was out of the contest. I turned to my mentor, Barry "Spock" Greenstein, for advice. "How'd you like the way I played that one, Barry?" He raised an eyebrow. "Well, you're supposed to catch a King or a Queen," he said. I grimaced and wished everyone good luck. Today's entertainment had cost only $1700 an hour.


An assistant producer from ESPN found me wandering around and asked me to come up for an interview. I asked why they didn't interview the good players and she said they were all still playing. I said I wasn't dressed for TV and what about my hair but she said, "You're a poker player!" I couldn't argue with that so I went up and did the interview. They taped me doing my chip trick, which I don't want to give away, but it's basically dropping the whole stack all over the table. Set your TiVos and ReplayTVs.


May 2, 2004

They call me frisky: WSOP $1500 No-Limit Hold 'Em

Who was boss

Today was another $1500 buy-in No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament, the kind you saw on TV, and it was no surprise that once again more than 800 people entered and gladly paid the Horseshoe's 8% juice to play. I timed my arrival at the Horseshoe to get there just as the tournament was starting but Erik "Rounders" Seidel had the valet parking guys greased and they took his car first so I was off by a couple seconds. Erik saw what he had done and was kind enough to wait for me so we both arrived fashionably late. For the first time I was downstairs, assigned to table 41, seat two. There were no famous names at the table although I had played with Mike "Strip Club" Husa, on my left, before on the PartyPoker cruise. The empty seat at position nine, though, turned into Barry Greenstein, one of the toughest and winningest players in the game.


Having position on Barry I played as frisky as I ever have and quickly accumulated a nice stack of more than double my starting 1500. I won a couple nice pots against Strip Club and was over 5000 when Joe in seat five defended his blind against one of my frequent raises. This time, though, I had Ace-Jack and the flop came Ace high, two Clubs. Joe checked and I bet about half the pot. He called. The Jack of Clubs came and Joe bet his last 1200 against my top Two Pair. There were quite a few hands he could have other than a made Flush so I called but he turned over the Six-Deuce of Clubs. My four outs didn't come and I was down under 4000 but I got to needle him about playing Six-Deuce for the rest of the day. Then Barry reraised my Ace-Queen opener all in. I called just to show him who was boss and he turned over pocket Tens. They held up and I was down to 2500. I lost a couple small pots and I was down to 2000 at the break. He who lived by the frisk died by the frisk.


I continued a slow drain and was down almost to my starting point when Barry opened under the gun, something he did quite a bit, and I reraised him all in with Ace-Queen. He called with King-Queen, didn't get a miracle, and I doubled up on him to 3350. Then seat seven limped, something he had done before with small Aces, so I raised on the Button with Ace-Nine when it got to me. He called and the Flop came Ace-King-Deuce. He checked. I put him all in, hoping he would call with a worse Ace. He did indeed have an Ace with a worse kicker but unfortunately it was a Deuce and he called with Two Pair. I had a lot of outs to win or tie the hand, being less than a three-to-one dog, but they didn't come and I seesawed back down to under 1500. With the blinds 100-200 and a 25 ante about all I could do now was push all in. After a bit of this Joe in seat five, with whom I had been sparring all day, called with King-Jack suited. My Ace high held up and I doubled up once again. I had 2400 at the next break.


The blinds doubled to 200-400 so once again my options were limited. They moved our table en bloc upstairs to the main tournament area and I very quickly saw pocket Jacks in the cutoff and pushed all in. It was 25 to one against one of the remaining three players having a higher pocket Pair but Mike "Strip Club" Husa, still glued to my left hip, was boss with Aces and I was out of the contest, finishing 225th of 831.


Taking a Pot Shot: WSOP $2000 Pot-Limit Omaha with rebuys

Old nemesis

Since I had had some success playing Pot-Limit Omaha on line with play money I decided to plunk down $2000 for the World Series of Poker Pot-Limit Omaha with Rebuys event. Pot-Limit Omaha tournaments are usually played with rebuys because there is a tendency to go all-in frequently, usually when one player flops top Set and another a big draw. In Omaha, players are dealt four cards instead of two and are required to use exactly two cards from their hand and three from the board to make a five-card poker hand. Other than that, it's just like Texas Hold 'Em. I decided not to max out the rebuys and add-ons in this event so I just bought in for the minimum $2000. There were 145 entrants, underscoring the relative unpopularity of Omaha versus No-Limit Hold 'Em.


I drew table 101, seat eight to begin the tournament. WPT finalist James Hoeppner sat at my left; tournament pro "Miami" John Cernuto had seat two; Late Night Poker star Joe "The Elegance" Beevers was in seat four; and the passionate George "The Greek" Paravoliasakis, finalist at this season's Paris World Poker Tour event, filled seat five. Miami John got knocked out early and was replaced by a very tired Jamie Posner, getting a nonstop massage after having played poker nonstop for the last day or so. WPT finalist Charlie Shoten sat down in the vacant seat six. I doubled up on a man named Gene, wearing a cowboy hat in seat three, and then when seat seven busted out he was replaced by WPT winner Barry Greenstein, one of the most feared all-around players in the game. Charlie busted and was replaced by Elie Marciano, who raised me all in on a bluff. I looked into his soul, called with bottom two pair, made a Full House, and doubled up again.


Then I got half my chips in before the Flop with Aces against Jamie Posner. I didn't hit the Flop but I moved the rest of my chips in with just an Overpair. Perhaps groggy from lack of sleep, he called with practically nothing and my Aces held up to double me again to 11,400 chips. Then cowboy-hat Gene, who had just won a big pot with wired Aces, raised in middle position before the flop. I called with Nine-Nine-Jack-Queen, three Diamonds. The Flop came Ace-Queen-Six, two Diamonds. I check-raised him all in and he called, having wired Aces for the second straight hand, leading my Set of Queens with his Set of Bullets. The Diamond didn't come so he doubled up on me, leaving me with only 4400 chips as we went into the dinner break.


When we returned from dinner, Joe "The Elegance" Beevers busted out and my old Bellagio nemesis Can Kim Hua, two-time WPT finalist, sat down. He opened for 1050. With Jacks and Fives double suited, I reraised him all in before the flop and he called, showing Nine-Ten-Queen-King double suited. I was about a 55% favorite but he made a flush and I was out of the contest, finishing 36th and out of the money.