November 17, 2004

Lion in the woods: The Inaugural Professional Poker Tour event at Foxwoods


The Professional Poker Tour, a series of five $500,000 freerolls for top poker pros, was launching its first event just prior to the Foxwoods WPT tournament so I booked a nonstop on Alaska Airlines to Boston, rented a Hertz car with Neverlost, and set the controls for the heart of the Sun—Mohegan Sun. I had booked a room at Mohegan Sun, a somewhat nicer hotel and casino than Foxwoods, deciding the ten-minute commute through scenic New England countryside was worth it. I got a Sky Suite overlooking the Thames River, imported at great expense from England. All the rooms at both hotels had complimentary high-speed Internet access so I plugged in my Airport Express and got wireless throughout the suite. I drove over to Foxwoods to check out the action over there and then headed back to Mohegan to get a good night's sleep before the tournament.

We started with 134 players out of the 200 or so who qualified, many of the pros still in Monte Carlo for the event there. I drew table four, seat four, and as expected it was a rogue's gallery of scary opponents. Tony Cousineau has seat one; James Hoeppner seat two; Mirage WPT champ Eli Elezra seat three; the highly respected Lee Watkinson seat six; long-time pro Mickey Appleton seat seven; WPT commentator and long-time pro Mike Sexton seat eight; and WPT finalist Mohammed Ibraham seat nine. The seat to my left started empty, giving me a slight advantage as the vacant chip stack got blinded off.

Foxwoods had ordered special playing cards for the tournament series but unfortunately someone lost sight of one of the important qualities of playing cards: you shouldn't be able to tell which card it is by looking at the back. These decks had large areas of solid red and black on the backs and the black especially got scuffed and marked almost instantaneously. When "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan moved into the seat to my left about an hour into the event, he ordered a shot and a beer and said, "On the first hand I saw the Ace of Hearts and the King of Diamonds. They're both marked on the back and I've memorized them. On the next hand I got the Ace of Diamonds and that one's marked too. Pretty soon I'll have the whole deck memorized. Now I don't care if you want to keep playing with them but I just thought you should know." We asked for a new deck. Meanwhile I got nothing and was down to 9625 at the first break and 7225 at the second break.

Mohammed got knocked out and was replaced briefly by Chip Jett, who also busted and was replaced by Chau Giang. Tony C busted as well but the chips weren't going to me as I continued getting a rare decent starting hand and no action on it when I did. Finally with the blinds 150/300 and a 50 ante, Minneapolis Jim, well into his fourth shot-and-beer at this table, opened under the gun for a tiny raise to 625. Eli called on the small blind and I called on the big with Ten-Seven of Clubs. The flop came Eight-Six-Four with two Clubs, giving me a monster draw. I decided to check-raise Minneapolis all in but he pre-empted me by moving in himself. Eli thought a long time then folded. I called immediately and was happy when Jim turned over Pocket Kings because I didn't want to see Ace-King of Clubs. I hit my Nine on the river and Jim went into a drunken tirade about how I could be happy he had Kings. A couple others at the table tried to tell him I was actually a favorite with my 15 outs but I knew he knew that and it was all an act. Jim was an attorney, had a mind for math, and figured to gain an advantage by pretending to be a drunken idiot. Not that he wasn't drunk, but he wasn't an idiot. I was back up to 9550, almost my starting stack. Erik "Rounders" Seidel took Tony C's seat one and I bullied him a little, going to the next break with 10,450. I was playing against the top players in the world and I was up 450!

Immediately after the break they broke our table and I moved to table eight, seat nine. Karina Jett, Chip's wife, had seat one; Hoyt Corkins seat two; Minh Nguyen seat four; the very feared John "JJ" Juanda seat five; Kenna James seat six; Lee Watkinson seat seven; and Farzad Bonyadi seat eight on my right. Farzad had raised the 300/600 blinds to 1800 in early position and I saw pocket Aces. I decided to take a chance and slow-play them, hoping one of the aggressive players such as Juanda would reraise, so I just called. Minh called on the button and the flop came Eight-Five-Trey rainbow, a pretty safe flop for me unless Minh had made a set. Farzad bet out 4500. I decided to put my remaining few chips in so I made it 7325. Minh reluctantly folded and Farzad very reluctantly called the few more chips with pocket Nines. Minh said he also had Nines so Farzad was dead to a runner-runner Straight, which didn't come—in fact I made a runner-runner wheel I didn't need—and my patience paid off as I was up to 18,000.

Two hands later they moved me to balance tables and sent me over to the featured table; however, the camera crew had gone home so no TV time for me tonight. I was in seat eight. Robert Turner was in seat nine; Chris Bigler seat one; Josh Arieh seat three; Joe Cassidy seat four; Brian Haveson seat five; 2002 WSOP Champ Robert Varkonyi seat six; and Hoyt Corkins seat seven. On the first hand I limped early with pocket Fours and Robert on my left moved all in. I decided he had a big pair and mucked. He showed Aces. I had 15,625 at the break.

With the camera crew gone they moved us en bloc to a more comfortable table. Kathy "Pokerkat:" Liebert took the empty seat two; Barry Shulman took seat four after Joe Cassidy busted; and when Robert Turner went broke on my left he was replaced by Marsha Waggoner. I went card dead again and got cut off on my steal attempts, getting down to 6600 when I reraised the bullying Josh Arieh all in with Ace-Eight of Diamonds, figuring to gamble with slightly the best of it as I knew he would call. He did and showed Jack-Four of Diamonds, making me almost a two-to-one favorite. The flush came and I was up to 18,000. Kathy Liebert busted and my nemesis Can Kim Hua came into Brian's seat five when he went broke. At the end of the day there were only 39 left out of the starting 134. I had 13,400, a profit to be sure but somewhat short-stacked against the average of 34,360. I would be coming out firing tomorrow.

Teddy Bear, Lion, and Dorothy

We had redrawn for seats last night. I drew table five, seat four. Jennifer Harman had seat one; Eli Elezra seat two; former WSOP champ Brad Dougherty seat three; Dewey Tomko seat five; Card Player publisher Barry Shulman seat six; John Phan seat eight; and Randy Holland seat nine. The very first hand, John Phan, with a big stack, raised my big blind and the short-stacked Brad Dougherty moved all in for more than I had. I looked down and saw Ace-Queen offsuit. With all the money in the pot I decided to call and try to triple or quadruple up; as long as nobody had Aces or Ace-King I was in OK shape. John mucked and Brad turned over the same hand as me. We chopped the pot and I was up to 18,000. John Phan lost a couple big pots and was out. Then I raised with Ace-Jack under the gun. Dewey moved all in for not much more and I called after it folded around to me. He had pocket Eights but my Ace flopped and Dewey was out. Robert Varkonyi came into the empty seat seven and Barry "Spock" Greenstein took seat eight. Barry moved in on my big blind and, having played with him in this situation before, when I saw Ace-Seven of Clubs I figured I was about even money and with the blinds and antes in the pot I called. He turned over King-Queen offsuit and somehow my brain froze because I thought I needed a pair to win the hand. I kept shouting, "Ace," and when none came, I patted the table but Barry was getting up and I realized I had won the hand. I apologized and saw Jennifer giving me a Mona Lisa smile. I said, "I don't know how I can be so smart and then be a complete space cadet in a situation like that." She said, "You're a poker player." The space cadet-poker player was now up to 41,000.

Eli was having trouble pronouncing Brad Dougherty's name and kept calling him "Dorothy." Finally I asked if he was needling him or really couldn't pronounce his name. Eli said he really thought that was how it was pronounced. I turned to Brad and said, "If you're not lucky, that nickname will stick."

I took a small pot from Varkonyi and with 48,000 chips I was now above average for the first time since the tournament started. Then Jennifer, short stacked, moved in on my big blind from the cutoff. I had Queen-Jack offsuit and decided three-to-two pot odds were good enough to call with the range of hands she might have. She had Ace-King, which wasn't too bad for me, making me a two-to-one dog, and the flop came Ace-Queen-Jack, putting me ahead. But she turned a Ten for the Straight and an unneeded Ace came on the river and I had doubled up a dangerous player. I had 33,800 at the break.

Phi Nguyen came in to seat five and they decided to move us en bloc to the featured table. That meant hanging out with Kay Han, the Shana Hiatt of the PPT. Kay was extremely friendly and personable and a good choice for someone whose job it was to interview players who've just lost their shot at half a million bucks. They miked us up, told us how to use the hole-card cameras and we were underway. Barry Shulman, who was down to the felt, was second to act when he moved in for less than three times the big blind. Since it wasn't much more to call, I did, with Seven-Five offsuit. Barry had King-Eight but I made a pair and he was out of the contest. Ted "Teddy Bear" Forrest took his seat and Dan Heimiller took seat eight. They moved Brad "Dorothy" to balance the tables and I was down to 23,600 at the break.

I had only 20,800 when with 18 players left we redrew for seats. I got the non-featured table, seat five, with Teddy Bear in seat one, Thor Hansen in seat two, Casey Kastle in seat three, John "JJ" Juanda in seat four, Dan Heimiller in seat six, Brad Dougherty in seat seven, "Action" Dan Harrington in seat eight, and Jennifer Harman in seat nine. I was down to 18,200 when we colored up the black chips. They moved Dan Heimiller to the featured table for balancing. I won some blinds and antes and by the dinner break I was up to 28,000.

I had dinner in the very mediocre buffet with Hoyt, Shawn "West Texas Man" Rice, Aaron "Iowa" Loew, and a couple others. It killed me to pay $13.99 for it. Your best bet for having dinner at Foxwoods was to drive to Mohegan Sun.

When we got back I was looking for opportunities to come over the top of Ted Forrest, playing his big stack aggressively as he should. I called one raise on the big blind and moved in when I got a piece of the flop. He folded and that brought me up to 46,000. You didn't have to win too many pots at this level to get chips. Then, with 38,000, Casey Kastle made it 8000 to go. I called with King-Queen offsuit on the button, hoping to see a flop with position on him, but Action Dan moved all in on the big blind. Casey took a few minutes and then folded. I started talking to Dan, trying to get a read on him, but then I said, "There's no way I'm ever going to get a tell from you, is there?" I figured it was equally likely he was making a move or he had a big hand. I was in big trouble against Aces or Kings and not too happy with Ace-King or Queens. Finally I decided that since I was getting no callers when I was moving in that I would wait for a better spot and I folded.

I was down to 22,000 when Teddy Bear raised my small blind and I saw Ace-Jack. I figured I had him beat and pushed in, but Dorothy moved in right behind me. Ted took a little time and then folded and Brad turned over pocket Tens. With my overcards I had a 43% chance of winning the pot, which now had 62,000 in it, but alas, my cards didn't come and I had to surrender to Dorothy. I was out of the contest in 12th place, my best finish ever in a televised event but only the top six got paid.

Immediately after I busted out, Ron Rose noticed that with the cheap paper cards Foxwoods was using players could see the reflections of the card faces in the illuminated Plexiglas around the rim of the featured table. The crew spent two hours sanding it down before they continued but I just went back to the Mohegan and crashed. The main event was in two days.

1 comment:

BadBlood said...

I've been reading your blog for quite some time but never commented.

Congratulations on an impressive finish. Even though it was out of the money, considering the field with which you played, I am still very impressed. Nice work.

Hope the main even treats you better.