April 11, 2004

A big event with no TV: A Bellagio $5150 No-Limit Hold 'Em Warmup

Table from hell

I decided I needed more practice against the world's best No-Limit Hold 'Em players so I entered the $5150 No-Limit Hold 'Em event at Bellagio even though it wasn't televised. The juice, including 3% in lieu of tips, was $300 or 5.8%. There were 169 entrants, less than half of what they got at the televised Reno event, but still a large field by historical standards.  I drew the table from hell to start, with six very tough players and two I didn't know. My current nemesis Scott "Empty Seat" Fischman sat to my left in seat one. A woman named Debbie had seat two, then Two-time WPT finalist Phil "Unabomber" Laak in seat three, WPT champ Paul "Pretty Boy" Phillips in seat four, Reno finalist Young Phan in seat five, Fred Berger in seat six, David "The Dragon" Phan in seat seven. An experienced pro whom I hadn't met, Alex Roberts, sat to my right in seat eight. I lost 2000 of my starting 10,000 chips sending messages to Scott and The Dragon that I wouldn't be pushed around, and I was down to 7000 when I had to dash across the street to Paris to play my final session in their Million Dollar Slot Tournament. I stayed one more hand to play my button, though, and found the Ace-King of Spades and raised. Debbie called and I ended up winning 1000 or so back when I caught an Ace on the Turn to beat her Pair of Sixes.


I didn't win the million so I came back and battled at the table from hell until I found a Pair of Queens in middle position and made a standard raise. Scott Fischman reraised me. I looked into his soul but saw only an empty seat so I moved all in. He called with Aces but I flopped Queen-Nine-Nine and doubled up to 15,000. Anyone can have skill but it takes luck to win a tournament. I knew I'd be on the wrong end of that bet four out of five times but I was grateful still to be alive.


They broke us and I moved to a table with only three players I recognized: Steve "Z" Zolotow on my left in seat one, John "JJ" Juanda in seat two, and Meng "The Ninja" La in seat seven. Meng paid me off 3500 when I caught a Straight on the river in a three-way pot that was checked almost all the way down. As I had hoped, he called me with a Pair, thinking I was trying to buy the pot with nothing. Then seat eight limped under the gun and I limped right along with Ace-King of Spades. Steve Z took the opportunity to move all in with a Pair of Sevens for 6000 more. It folded to me and I called, making a Flush on the River and knocking out the Zee man. I won another small pot and was up to a high point of 35,000 when Scotty Nguyen and Howard Lederer sat down. I fortunately went card-dead then and didn't have to play against the world champions. When they broke the table, with 45 people left, I had 30,000 chips, a bit below average.


My new table had me in seat two, Gary Lent, who had won a big pot from me at the Sands, in seat five, Chad Layne in seat nine, and Gabriel Thaler, a young high-stakes player, in seat one to my right. Gabriel was raising a lot of pots and when I saw Jack-Ten of Clubs on the button I moved all in for the re-steal. Unfortunately the Big Blind woke up with pocket Queens and took half my stack. Gabriel was not amused when he saw my Jack high. The Blinds and Antes were going up and up and up and by the dinner break I was down to 9600. I figured I might be out on the first hand after the 90-minute break but I walked across the street to Paris and saw the five Million-Dollar finalists play their round and had a nice steak at the banquet with Shortstack.


When I returned I perhaps foolishly called all in from the Pocket Queens guy with King-Nine of Spades. He only had Tens this time but I caught runner-runner Nines on Fourth and Fifth Streets and doubled up. Then Barry Shulman sat down in seat seven with a nice stack, playing a lot of pots as was his style. I didn't tangle with him but when seat eight raised the 800-1600 Blinds to 5500 and Gabriel called, I saw Ace-King offsuit and moved in for 19,200. Seat eight folded but Gabriel decided to call with a Pair of Fours. They held up and I was out of the contest, finishing 36th.


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