April 16, 2004

Once more into the Bellagio: another $2600 No-Limit warm-up

Power on

They got the power turned back on at the Bellagio after an unscheduled three-day outage so I entered the last No-Limit event before the World Poker Tour Championship. This was another $2600 buy-in, including a $100 entry fee and $75 in lieu of tips. There were 207 entrants, many fewer than in the last $2600 event, because people had either gone broke or gone home.  The only big name at my starting table was WPT finalist Maureen Feduniak. I mentioned that I was lucky for her since she had won the last tournament we had played in at the same table together, beating Howard Lederer, who had knocked me out at the final table. We began to play and I won a bunch of small pots, growing my stack from the starting 5000 to 8050. Then I got a free flop with Queen-Deuce of Diamonds when the player to my left limped under the gun and everyone else folded. The flop was Ace-King-Four of Diamonds, giving me the Nut Flush. I slow-played the nuts while he slow-played his Ace and he came over the top of me on the end for all his chips. Just like that I had 15,000.


Barry Greenstein sat down and I avoided him as best I could until they broke the table. There were still many unknown faces at the new one, with the exception of Fred Berger to my left, and I managed to hold my own until they moved me for table balance. The new table had quite a few Brits at it but no one I recognized from TV. They weren't pushovers, though, and it was tough to be frisky with all the stealing going on. I decided to get my share and picked on one guy who was raising two or three times an orbit. I reraised him before the flop on the Small Blind with Ten-Nine of Diamonds. He called, which I wasn't too happy about, but then the Flop came Ten-Nine-Four, two Hearts. I moved all in with top Two Pair and he called with pocket Aces. My hand held up and all of a sudden I had 29,000 chips. I fluctuated between 29 and 35k and had about 30,000 when they broke the table.


My new table once again had Barry Greenstein. Internet player Scott Epstein sat to my right, stealing my pathetic blinds constantly until I picked up pocket Jacks and reraised him all in, to which he folded. Eskimo Clarke sat to my left with a nice stack and Meng "The Ninja" La sat  two to Eskimo's left. There seemed to be a lot of stealing going on but every time I tried to do it Barry Greenstein reraised me. Finally I raised with Ace-Jack and Meng reraised almost my whole stack. I thought awhile and then moved in for only 7500 more than his 30,000 raise. He called of course and had Ace-Queen suited, making me a big dog. The door card was a Jack, putting me ahead, but the other two cards were Ten and Nine, giving Meng an open-ended Straight draw. The Turn brought a Heart, giving him a Flush draw too, so now he had 18 outs. The River was the very welcome Deuce of Spades and I doubled up to 65,000. I had 64,800 when we broke for dinner.


Most of the restaurants at Bellagio were still closed, including the buffet, but I pulled some strings to get a reservation at Olives. Avi "Wookie" Freedman, his wife Gail, and Andy "The Rock" Bloch joined me for a delicious dinner. Avi's specialty was ordering appetizers so we had several of the yummy Tuna Tartares, a squid, some carpaccio, and a couple salads. I had the superb rack of lamb for the entrée and Avi and Gail shared some sea scallops. As a rule I don't eat dessert but they had homemade chocolate-chunk cookies with peanut-butter ice cream so I had just one order and ate it with a fork. The cookies were so rich I couldn't finish two of the three but The Rock helped me out.


I rushed to get back to the tournament but they had extended the break another half-hour because the blackout so I cooled my heels until eleven when we resumed. We were down to three tables now and I found myself still with many unfamiliar faces. The night marched on and I picked up a few more blinds and antes when fellow Northwesterner and Lion Tales reader Dennis Waterman moved in for his last 13,000 with King-Queen. I called on the Big Blind with Ace-Eight of Spades and it held up to put him out 14th. I felt bad about busting him but I now had over 100,000 chips. We were down to 12 when I found Ace-King under the gun and Keith Hawkins on my left reraised me all in. I called and beat his pocket Queens when an Ace came on the Turn, busting him out in 12th place and giving me the chip lead of 161,000 when we called it a night at 3 a.m.

Very aggressive

I slept in as best I could, getting almost six hours of sleep. I walked over to Bellagio and found my stack right where it should be. Howard "Bub" (The Professor) Lederer came over from the Pot-Limit Omaha tournament he was playing in and wished me luck. We played only two hands when one of the players I didn't know from the other table busted out and we redrew for seats at the final table. I got seat eight, with French movie star Patrick Breul to my left. With the chip lead I decided to be aggressive and with the blinds 2000-4000 with a 1000 ante I bet 15,000 in early position with yesterday's lucky hand, Ten-Nine of Diamonds. Patrick called on my left and everyone else folded. The Flop came Ace-Seven-Four rainbow. I bet out with nothing and Patrick called. I figured he had an Ace, but not a big kicker. The Turn was an Eight, giving me an open-ended Straight draw. I checked, hoping for a free card, but Patrick bet 25,000. I had the pot odds to call but I wanted to win the pot right there rather than trying to bluff the River if my Straight didn't hit so I moved all in over the top of him. He called and turned over pocket Sevens for a Set. I needed a Six or a Jack on the River but they didn't come. I had him covered but just barely, down to a mere 4000. Two hands later I was all in on the Big Blind and got three callers. I didn't look at my hand. Four Diamonds came. I looked and found the Six but two others had higher diamonds. Meng had the Nine and justice prevailed as he compensated for my earlier suck-out by busting me. Tenth place paid $5720, a profit of $3120.


Andy "The Rock" Bloch commiserated with me since he had suffered a similar fate in the recent Seven-Card Stud tourney but when it came down to it I was alone in my humiliation. I walked outside, down the moving walkway past the dancing fountains. Celine Deon sang the theme from Titanic as I watched the water cannons shoot waves of spray hundreds of feet in the air. It was about a mile's walk back to the MGM Grand's giant, golden, quiet lion.


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