December 24, 2005

Goodbye, Mr. Chip: $10,000 UPC main event at the Plaza

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Set straight

I skipped the final $500 event because if I made the final table I wouldn't be able to play in the main event today. With only 55 entrants, it was an excellent chance to make my fourth UPC show and possibly win my first $10k event. I drew table 16, seat three. John Phan was in seat seven; Ted Forrest in seat eight, and Renee Wexler in seat two. I got a great read on Ted early on and called bluffs on the turn and river with Ace-Ten on a low board. Ted showed Ace-Nine and I was up to 33,875. Then Matt Keikoan took seat four and Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, seat five. Ted raised The Grinder's big blind and I called on the button with Ace-Queen suited. The flop came Ace-Jack-Deuce and I called his continuation bet. The turn was a Deuce and he bet 3000. I decided to raise here both to define my hand and to avoid calling a larger bet on the river if he had me beat. I raised 6000 and he called. The river was a King, which I didn't mind, since when he called my raise I figured I was probably beat with Ace-Jack or Jack-Jack. He decided to check but there was no way I was betting and I checked right behind. He turned over – ready? – Six-Deuce offsuit! His trip Deuces won the pot and I was down to 22,500. I snapped off a couple of Grinder bluffs and chipped back up to 32,275 at the end of level two.


When I returned from the break they had moved me for balance to table seven, seat two. On my left was Allen Cunningham in seat three; Martin "The Knife" Deknijff had seat five; Men "The Master" Nguyen, seat eight; Amir Vahedi, seat nine, and "Gentleman" Bill Edler, seat one. I dribbled down to near my starting stack at 30,075 when they broke the table.


My new assignment was table 14, seat nine. Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori had seat three; Chip Jett, seat five; and Layne "Back to Back" Flack, seat six. I was down to 27,100 at the end of level four. I won a couple small pots and got up to 32,500 when I decided to jam with King-Jack offsuit over the top of Max's reraise. He turned over the Cowboys but I made a miracle straight to double through. It had been a long time since I had had a major suckout in a big tournament and I had hopes that my luck might take me all the way. I had 46,150 at the dinner break.


When we returned I limped under the gun with pocket Tens. Chip limped on the button and the big blind rapped. The flop came Jack-Ten-Eight and it checked to me. I bet 2400 and Chip called. The big blind then jammed for 16,000. I jammed and was surprised that Chip quickly called. I was hoping he had Eight-Eight but he had the dreaded Nine-Seven offsuit for the dummy straight. The big blind had Queen-Jack, taking one of my outs to improve but I still had a decent chance to more than double up. My luck ran out, though, and I was out in 34th place. "One of these days, Mr. Jett," I said. He nodded and rapped the table respectfully.


The anticlimax in busting out of a big event was always unsettling. I no longer had plans for the next few days, but it was never dull in Sin City. I knew I'd be back soon.


December 17, 2005

Plazable Denial: Televised $500 UPC event at the Plaza

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Chip up!

The joint was packed for the second televised $500 event at the Plaza and the entries were almost double at 152. I drew table 19, seat eight, which turned out to be inside the dealer break room. My buddy Clint Baird was in seat three. I got lucky and doubled up early with Ace-Ace versus King-King and had 2825 when David "Chico" Levi moved into seat one. I caught a nice rush and won pot after pot, bringing me up to 3475 when with the blinds still 25-50, Chico made an enormous raise to 425 under the gun and got a smooth call from the solid player two to his left. I knew the guy knew Chico and was pretty sure that smooth call meant Queens or Aces. I had pocket Fours on the button but decided not to put over 10% of my stack in to hope to catch a set and win a big pot. Well, not only did a Four flop, but another one turned, and my quads would have busted both of them, who were all in before it got to me.


They broke the table and moved me to 17, seat nine, with tax accountant Marissa Chien, one of the nicest people in poker and author of theFrugal Tax Guide for Gamblers, in seat four. "Brooklyn" Dan Pugliese had seat six. I got in a coinflip with pocket Tens against Ace-King offsuit and lost, bringing me back to starting level with 1525. I got frisky and had 1975 when they broke the table.


Now I was back out in the main room at table six, seat seven. Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori had seat one; Jeff Rine, seat two, and David Singer, seat five. I continued my winning ways and, with an uncalled all-in the last hand of level three, was back up to 2975 at the break.


I kept steamrolling and was up to 4850 when they broke the table, moving me to 16, seat nine. Mike Laing was on my left in seat one; Craig Gray, seat three; David Singer, seat five, and Hoyt "All In" Corkins, seat six. This was a tough table but I had played with all these guys before and I was ready to gamble with them. I called David's short-stack all in with King-Queen on the big blind and he turned over Ten-Five of Diamonds and won the race, bringing me down to 2400. I shoved it in several times without a call and was back up to 4050 when they thankfully broke the table.


Now I was at table 11, seat two, but Hoyt followed me in seat nine and Mike Laing soon arrived in seat five. I picked a few spots and had 3925 at the end of level six. I came back from the break and picked up a ton of chips from seat four, who wouldn't call me when I jammed repeatedly. I was up to 9025 at the dinner break with 22 left.


I went over to Binion's with "Gentleman" Bill Edler and had a nice bowl of chili at the snack bar to tide me over, still planning to have dinner with Shortstack when we broke for the day. When I returned, I jammed with King-Nine offsuit and got called by pocket Fours. I won the race and was up to 16,200. With 18 left, we were in the money! We still had to play down to seven tonight for the TV table tomorrow. I got moved to table 14, seat eight. Craig Gray was in seat one and Mike Laing in seat four. I continued picking up chips and was up to 28,900 when I busted a short stack on the blinds with my Ace-King versus his Ace-Jack. I was up to 32,300 with 10 players left when a nice lady who hadn't been playing many hands raised under the gun. I saw pocket Queens, considered my options, and decided to move in. Mike Laing moved in as well and the original raiser folded. Mike turned over Ace-King offsuit, spiked an Ace on the flop, and I was out of the contest in 10th place.


Shortstack and I had a nice quiet dinner at Al Dente in Bally's, a virtually unknown but excellent Italian restaurant.


December 16, 2005

Ultimate Ultimate on this week

Lion on TV again

According to their web site, my third and final UPC episode will air this week. My second episode should have aired last week on local stations with a rerun tonight on WGN. The last episode, where I did the best, should air on WGN next Friday. However, they may scramble it up somehow. Enjoy!

December 13, 2005

Turkey of a Tourney: Thanksgiving Day $500 UPC event at the Plaza

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Tiny edge

With the 30 Internet qualifiers, the Plaza got a respectable 79 entrants for the first televised event of this brief Ultimate Poker Challenge series. They needed five more shows to fulfill their contractual obligation to the Plaza so they scheduled three $500 events and a $10,000 event. The fifth show would be a compilation of action from all the untelevised events.


I drew table seven, seat one, and Jenny Kang was two to my left in seat three. My arch-nemesis Can Kim Hua was in seat seven and Marc Aubin in seat nine. Hua busted early and Charlie Shoten took his spot. I had chipped up to 1850 when they moved me to table six, seat nine, for balance. I got up to 2050 there and then they broke the table and moved me to table 12, seat five, with Kevin "The Man" Chan in seat seven and Charlie Shoten in seat two. I had 2400 at the end of level three and got up to 2900 when they moved Men "The Master" Nguyen into seat six. The blinds and antes were going up and I was down to 1875 when we redrew for seats at 18 remaining. I got table 14, seat three. Men followed me to the table and made a late-position raise. A loose-passive player called in the next seat and I jammed with Ace-Queen offsuit on the button. Men jammed, which I liked because it protected me and meant he didn't have a monster, and the third player folded. Men showed Ace-Queen offsuit. He had the Ace of Clubs and I had the Queen of Clubs, meaning his hand was a 50.4% favorite because of the rare situation that four of the remaining 11 Clubs came on the board. You can guess the rest. I was out 18th.


I invited Clint and Full Tilt's JDN, along with wife Heather and a friend, for Thanksgiving dinner at Les Artistes steakhouse at Paris. They had a yummy pumpkin soup special but rather than turkey I had my usual bone-in filet. The 2002 Justin Isosceles meritage was an excellent way to wash it down.


We went down to the new Paris poker room and somehow convinced them to spread $3/6 HORSET for us. Mixed poker games, usually played for high stakes, are identified by initials: H for Hold 'Em, O for Omaha Eight or Better, R for Razz (Seven Card Stud Lowball), S for Seven Card Stud, E for Stud Eight or Better, and T for Triple Draw Deuce to Seven Lowball. We were having a grand old time, especially when a couple of tourists sat down with us and had no idea what was going on, when top tournament pro John Pham walked by and decided to join us. John is one of the most pleasant guys in poker, always smiling and enjoying himself. We played till about two then called it a night. I was up $4 and gave it to the dealer.


December 12, 2005

Another Day, another Nickel: $500 UPCs at the Plaza

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Brooklyn Dan

There were 55 entrants in the next Plaza $500, and I had a lovely starting table, seven, seat five, with only "Brooklyn" Dan Pugliese a recognized opponent. They immediately broke the table and put me at table 11, seat four, with Internet pro "Viffer" in seat seven, Craig Gray, an up-and-comer along with his twin brother Jason, in seat one, and Men "The Master" Nguyen, who showed up thinking this tournament was televised, in seat two. Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori then came into seat three. I was just above even at 1575 at the end of level three, then got it in with Ace-Jack suited against Ace-King offsuit and was out of the contest.


I drew table eight, seat nine for the next Plaza $500 event, which drew 68 entrants, and got Jenny Kang in seat three, David "Chico" Levi in seat four, and Rick Fuller in seat seven. I dribbled my starting 1500 down to 1250 when they broke the table and moved me to table seven, seat six. Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori had seat four but otherwise I knew no one at the table. Max busted right away, leaving me to chip up to 2625 thanks to my pocket Queens holding up against Ace-Jack suited. Then they broke that table and moved me to  table 16, seat eight, where Renee Wexler had seat one. I lost a couple small pots and was down to 1825 at the end of level three.


When we returned I got nowhere and had 1425 when they broke yet another table. This time I was at 15, seat four. I jammed with King-Queen and ran into Cowboys, putting me out of the contest in 34th place. I bought in for tomorrow and enjoyed the beautiful desert winter.


Clint Baird and I had an exact repeat of out steak dinner at the Luxor and then walked over to MGM to play a little $2-5 no-limit Hold 'Em. I made a great call with pocket Tens against an opponent who put me in preflop with Nines but he sucked out on me. I rebought and bluffed a flush draw against a tight player who happened to have flopped a set of Cowboys. I hit the flush and got back almost to even before we called it a night.


December 7, 2005

Back at the Plaza again: Televised $500 events for Ultimate Poker Challenge

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Genius and donkey

I rented my lucky Cadillac Sedan de Ville with XM Satellite Radio from Avis and returned to the fabulous Plaza in downtown Las Vegas with the radio set to Frank's Place. The first televised event was on Thanksgiving Day and I was hoping for a small field: the 59 who showed up was more than I expected until someone told me there were 30 online qualifiers for each of the three $500 events.


I drew table 16, seat four, and had Allen "Knish" Kessler in seat two and Mike Laing, arriving late, in seat seven. I got a great read and got away from pocket Queens against a flopped set of Eights but then I raised on the button with Queen-Seven offsuit and made a donkey call of the big blind's jam getting only three-to-two. He had Ace-Jack offsuit, which held up, and I was out in 43rd place.


Dinner was with aspiring pro Clint Baird at the Luxor Steakhouse. The food and service were great as usual and I convinced him to try the yummy black bean soup. There was no reason to order anything but the 2001 Stags Leap "Fay" to wash it down.


December 5, 2005

Making the Circuit: 2005 WSOP Circuit $10k at Bally's Las Vegas

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Oh say can you sing?

One hundred thirty-four players showed up at Bally's for the main event, which conflicted with a bigger tournament in Monte Carlo. In addition to the traditional Harrah's $10 food comp, our hosts spread out a nice selection of complimentary soft drinks in front of the cash bar. I asked the bartender if the soft drinks were free and he said yes, but suggested a tip. I said I'd tip myself as I grabbed a Diet Coke from the ice bucket. Everybody's hustling in Vegas.


Our day began with an embarrassing and inappropriate a capella rendition of the National Anthem in which the amateur singer got the lyrics wrong in five places and the notes wrong in more. There was no flag to gaze at so I remembered my training as a baseball umpire and stood soberly, contemplating what a wonderful country we live in. Finally it was over and the long day began.


I drew table 11, seat seven. It was a tough table with Billy Gazes on my left in seat eight, Steve Hudak in seat nine, Lee Watkinson in seat one, New Orleans circuit event winner Walter Chambers in seat two, Lee Salem in seat five, and Paul "Eskimo" Clark in seat six. Soon seat four busted out and top tournament player David "The Dragon" Pham came in. I was determined to play my game and finished level one up slightly at 10,400 chips. Then early in level two I reraised Lee Watkinson with pocket Jacks and he called. The flop came Nine-Eight-Seven and he moved in for a little more than the pot and about half my stack. With six outs even if I didn't already have the best hand, I called and his Queens held up, bringing me down to 4700. Then "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan took seat three and started ordering Heinekens two at a time alternating with green tea and coffee. What an act that guy had. I finished level two with 5200.


Level three went nowhere for me and I was down to 3550. I won a few small pots in level four, chipping up to 5250, and then lost a coinflip to the short-stacked Billy Gazes when his Ace-King beat my pocket Tens and I was down to the felt at 1475. Then it folded to me in the small blind. I saw Ace-Queen and pushed in. Billy called with the same hand and we chopped. Then I won all-ins with pocket Kings v. Ace-Eight and Ace-Deuce v. Lee Watkinson's Ace-Queen and I was back in business with 5900. I had 5375 when they broke the table.


My new assignment was table two, seat eight. Amnon Filippi was in seat one, Paul "Taker" Phillips in seat three sipping gin and tonics, and Scotty Nguyen in seat seven. I had 5050 at the end of level five. I got it in with pocket Nines against Scotty's Ten-Nine and was up to 7900 and finished level six with 6550. On the last hand of the day it folded to me on Paul Phillips's big blind and I jammed with pocket Fours. He thought awhile and made a big deal of saying what a marginal call this was but finally put it in with Jack-Ten of Diamonds. The flop came Ace-Seven-Five rainbow. The turn was the Five of Diamonds, giving Paul a Flush draw. The river was another Seven and Paul extended his hand thinking he had won before we both realized it was a chop, the Two Pair on the board with Ace kicker beating both our hole cards. Allen "Knish" Kessler did me the favor of busting on another table at the same time and I was headed to day two with my short stack of 6875 and 45 players remaining.


Dig Doug

I headed over to Bally's for what would likely be one hand of poker. I drew table three, seat six. Actually I didn't draw it: tournament director Jimmy Somerfield's philosophy was that instead of a random draw, he would sort the tables by chips so that the short and large stacks would be evenly distributed. I wasn't sure whether or not I liked that but it was an interesting difference from most tournaments. I asked the tournament staff if I could get a second $10 food comp for day two but it was not possible what with the high cost of prices and all.


Billy Gazes was two to my left on seat eight; Lars Bonding, seat nine; Paul "X-22" Magriel, seat one; chip leader Doug Lee, seat three, and Alex Prendes, seat four. In the first orbit the very loose Doug Lee opened under the gun. I saw Ace-Jack and thought that was plenty good enough to push it in against him. It folded around and he called with Ace-Queen. "Doug!" I said, "What are you doing with a real hand?" He shrugged apologetically as Canadians will do. His kicker held up and I was out of the contest in 44th place.


December 3, 2005

Free Xbox 360


You can get a free Xbox 360 by joining a free multi-level marketing scheme: CLICK HERE. This company is legit; I have friends who have received many similar offers from them in the past and they have come through with the goods. You have to do one of their marketing offers, most of which are free trials that you can cancel without cost (I suggest the RealArcade GamePass), and then you have to refer eight friends. Do it fast before everyone you know is taken. No kidding. Go.

Please click on my referral link to sign up:

November 21, 2005

Penultimate Ultimate

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Check your local listings

According to the web site, my second appearance on Ultimate Poker Challenge will air this week. Hoyt Corkins will dissect my play. Once again I don't play many hands, but the third episode should be more rewarding.

November 20, 2005

Bally's Bustout: $1570 Six-Handed NLHE at Bally's Las Vegas

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Fifteen Outs

I decided to warm up for tomorrow's WSOP Circuit main event with a fun $1500+$70 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament at Bally's. There were a healthy 124 entrants for this non-televised event. I drew table six, seat one. There were a few guys I recognized but no big TV pros at my table. On the fifth hand it was my big blind and I called a 75 raise with Five-Four of Hearts. We saw the flop heads up: Jack-Eight-Deuce with two Hearts. I checked and he bet 300 into the 250 pot. I called with my flush draw. The turn brought an offsuit Six, giving me a double gutshot along with the flush draw. I checked and he bet 700. I decided to move in, being a little worse than a 2-1 dog if called by a pair and winning 1550 if he folded. He immediately called with Queen-Jack. I didn't hit my 15 outs and I was out of the contest.


Dinner was at the spectacular Alex restaurant at Wynn. We had the sommelier's tasting menu with vintage wine pairings, which was superb. I got a good night's sleep in preparation for the main event tomorrow.


November 18, 2005

Shana Sighting

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Hostess with the mostest

Since season three of the World Poker Tour is still in reruns, chances are few but me are experiencing Shana Hiatt withdrawal yet. If you are, watch for her cameo in Must Love Dogs, otherwise notable only as John Cusack's 100th boy-meets-girl formula movie.

November 17, 2005

Agony of the Pequots: 2005 Foxwoods WPT Main Event

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Horseradish ice cream

For the second year I booked a suite at Mohegan Sun, on the whole a far nicer hotel than the smoky Foxwoods and only eight miles away but with no poker room. I had planned to play in the super satellite the day before the main event but the line was so long I decided to skip it and just bought in. I was assigned day two of the split field of 783 and drew table 11, seat eight. The only big name at my table was Dewey Tomko, who played very tight in the early going so I didn't mind having him at my table. There were a couple decent players at the table, two calling stations, and several blindly aggressive players. The mixture made it difficult to dominate the table and I contented myself with chopping out small pots, chipping up from my starting 10,000 to 16,300 by the end of level two.


After that, though, I had no luck. All my bluffs got raised and when I made a hand I got no action. I ended up getting my last 2000 in with King-Queen of Spades against Ace-Nine offsuit and lost the coinflip. There were about 250 left in day two so I called it 500th place or so.


Surprisingly, almost all my smart friends were also out early. The highlight of the trip was two dinners at Todd "Olives" English's Mohegan Sun restaurant, Tuscany, with Matt "Jacksup" Matros, Chris "21 Outs Twice" Fargis, Mark Gregorich, and Steve "Brec" Brecher. Other than the tuna tartare being topped with an outrageous chilled wasabi crema – essentially horseradish ice cream – the food was superb, especially the porterhouse. We washed it down with several bottles of 2003 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel.


I flew back to Seattle for a brief stop before the upcoming Vegas events at Paris and the Plaza.

November 7, 2005

Room with a View: 2005 WPT Doyle Brunson Championship at Bellagio

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Poker Kitty

I had skipped the tournaments at the Taj and Borgata due to my new "No New Jersey" policy and was raring to play in the next World Poker Tour event at Bellagio. I busted out of the super-satellite in five minutes when my Queens were cracked by Five-Four suited flopping two pair so I had to shell out $10,200 for the entry fee.

I was delighted to see the tournament area had been moved from the smoky casino floor into the beautiful Fontana room with a great view of Lake Bellagio. There were 420 starters and I drew table 44, seat four. Chinese would be unhappy with the draw because four was an unlucky number for them but I was happy as a clam with the seat, right by the terrace door, because I could watch the fountain show as I played.

On my left in seat five was Alex Brenes, winner of this year's WPT invitational. In seat nine was Derek Tomko; in seat 10 was Kathy "Poker Kat" Liebert, whom I always called "Poker Kitty," which delighted her no end. In seat one was seasoned pro Billy Duarte. In seat two was a stubborn aggressive player with an unusual style who busted early and was replaced by the very aggressive Daniel Alaei, and on my right in seat three was another aggressive player named Sam. I lost a couple small clashes with the aggressive players on my right and was down to 16,300 from my starting 20,000 chips at the end of level one.

I fought back in level two to 24,400, then in level three, with the blinds at 100/200 with a 25 ante, five players limped in front of me and I made a nice steal-looking raise on the button with pocket Aces. I got two callers and the flop came Eight-Four-Deuce rainbow. It checked to me and I made a decent bet. The first caller folded but Sam on my right immediately check-raised me all in. I wasn't laying down Aces to this guy so I called pretty quickly. He turned over King-Eight of Spades, didn't improve, and I was up to 45,500. I had a nice 42,150 at the end of level three.

With the blinds up to 200/400 with a 50 ante, I struggled in level four and my stack dwindled to 27,100. With one more level to play before we broke for the day, it was time to gamble and I busted Derek Tomko with pocket Jacks versus his Ace-King of Hearts. I finished the day with 31,675 and invited Poker Kitty and "Gentleman" Bill Edler to dinner at the Luxor Steakhouse, where we chowed down on fine Vegas steaks and washed them down with the Stag's Leap Cabernet.


My draw for day two was one table back but still with the great view: 45 – five. On my left was Jan Sorensen, who had just won a WSOP bracelet in Seven-Card Stud. Layne "Back to Back" Flack had seat one and Alan Smurfit was on my right in seat four. I went card dead and with Alan re-smurfing every time anyone to his right smurfed, I just got blinded off. I was down to 18,600 at the end of level six.

With the blinds at 400-800 with a 75 ante, TJ Cloutier came into seat seven. Then Layne, who had been forced to behave by the aggressive players between us, raised and Alan Smurfit called. I found Ace-Queen of Diamonds, which was the nuts as far as I was concerned, and moved in. Layne folded but Alan smurfed with pocket Fours. I hit my Ace but he made a Spade smurf on the river to send me home in 151st place.

Next stop: Foxwoods.

September 27, 2005

Lion in Zion

Our Israel trip report is now on line, along with many photos. Don't miss this one.

September 16, 2005

Bluffing Jesus: UPC II Main Event

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Chou call

The $10,200 main event at the Plaza drew 55 people. Because they were rotating tables through the TV spotlight, the entire tournament was played seven-handed, which I liked. I got a tough starting table, 12, seat six, with Mark "The Shark" Seif in seat eight, Dan Pugliese in seat nine, fellow Full Tilter Andy "The Rock" Bloch in seat one, Ray Faltinsky in seat two, and "S.K." Senthilkumar in seat three. Then 40 minutes after the start the empty seat on my left was filled by another Tilter, World Champion Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. This would be a true test of my abilities.


 I saw a five-way flop on the button with pocket Sevens and the flop came King-Jack-Eight and checked around. The turn card was a seven, giving me bottom set, and I checked. Mark bet and Andy called and I check-raised half the pot. They both called. At this point I put Mark on a big hand like top set or Ten-Nine for the straight and Andy on a straight or flush draw. When the river came an Ace and it checked to me I was more than happy to check behind, figuring one or the other of them had me beat. Mark had King-Jack, slowplaying himself right out of the hand, and Andy had Queen-Ten for the nuts on the river. I was down to 21,700 from my starting 30,000.


Then I bluffed off half my stack to Jesus when he flopped top pair, top kicker and I picked up a pair and a gutshot on the turn. I gave it up on the river and was down to 10,475. I played aggressively but got nowhere and was quickly down to 2275 when I doubled through Ray with pocket Tens versus his Ace-Eight offsuit. That brought me back to 5000. Chou Giang moved into seat nine and I was up to 6800 at the break.


I had 5900 when, with 200-400 blinds and a 50 ante, I picked up pocket Nines on the button. I made a hefty raise to 1500 but Chou thought it was 1100 and called. The flop came Five-Four-Three and Chou put me all in. I called and he turned over King-Deuce offsuit. The turn was an Ace and I was out of the contest 40th.


I made a spotlight table in this event, bringing me up to four TV appearances in the series. It was great to play a TV event every day in Las Vegas and I couldn't wait for UPC III in November.


With so many televised events now I made a decision to skip tournaments in places I didn't want to go because of distance, expense, or State taxes. That meant no California or New Jersey tournaments unless there was a significant incentive to play, such as added money, and no events in faraway places like Europe or Aruba unless Shortstack and I really wanted to go.


Meanwhile, it had been ages since we had traveled just for vacation and we decided to book a trip to Israel. I had heard there were some good home games there.


Tonight (Friday) on WGN Superstation at midnight Pacific Time should be an airing of my first final table from this UPC. It aired last week on local affiliates and they're going to rerun them on WGN a week later. We don't get the program at all in Seattle so I haven't seen it but others have said it's a great show. Set your PVRs!


September 15, 2005

Young Guns: $5150 UPC II No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Goodnight Ladies

The penultimate season-two event was the $5150 and with the very small field of 24 and the starting stack of 15,000 I hoped to make another TV final table. I drew table 14, seat seven, but they broke the table almost immediately and moved me back to my unlucky table, 16, at seat seven. It was definitely the table to be at, with only two players I recognized: Bo "Legato" Sehlstedt in seat four and "S.K." Senthilkumar in seat five on my right. Then John Phan arrived 90 minutes late in seat three. I got pocket Aces cracked by King-Queen but only lost a small pot, taking me down to 12,650 at the first break.


I struggled to chip up to 13,025 in the next two levels but was down to 10,575 when we redrew at 18. I got table 12, seat four, and had the two loosest players in the room on my right: John Phan in seat two and Pete Lawson in seat three. Joe Awada was in seat one and Dan Pugliese seat eight. All I had to do was pick up a hand as the two young guns were entering at least half the pots. I chipped back up to 14,300 at the dinner break.


When we got back John Phan made a late-position raise and Pete Lawson reraised on the cutoff. I found pocket Queens on the button and while I could consider laying them down against some players there was no way I could against those two. John mucked but Pete called with pocket Kings and I was out of the contest in 16th place.


Tomorrow I had the day off and then the next day was the main event.


September 14, 2005

Lion and Man: $3100 UPC II No-Limit Hold 'Em

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All in, all out

Today's $3100 event drew 30 entrants and I drew table 16, seat one, the exact scene of last night's debacle. Pete Lawson, the young gun, sat across from me in seat seven and came out firing. Fellow Full Tilter Allen Cunningham had seat nine on my right, and Melissa Hayden arrived a half-hour late in seat six. Right away I made Fours full versus the nut flush and chipped up to 15,500 from my starting 9000, down to 14,400 at the first break. Then I got nothing for a long time and my stack dwindled back to 9600 when we redrew at 18. I stayed at table 16 but moved to seat nine. This was a tough table with David Singer in seat two, Gavin "Birdguts" Smith in seat three, "Gentleman" Bill Edler in seat five, and Kevin "The Man" Chan in seat seven. I was down to 7750 at the next break with 15 left.


I picked my spot and got it all in with pocket Tens versus The Man's pocket Sixes but he hit his set and I was out of the contest in 10th place.


September 13, 2005

Squeezed Out: $2080 UPC II No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Two-Cokes rides again

We were getting into the home stretch of La Última. Today's $2080 event drew a field of 35 and I got table 12, seat four. I couldn't get away from Hoyt "All In" Corkins but at least he was on my right where I could keep an eye on him. Kevin "The Man" Chan had seat seven and my buddy Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman had seat eight. I won several small pots and then busted a short stack in seat five to chip up to 11,075. Then seat two raised under the gun and I smooth called with pocket Queens. The Man made it 2000 and the initial bettor folded while I called. The flop came Five-Trey-Deuce with two Hearts. Kevin moved in for 6600 more and after some thought I was pretty sure he had Ace-King and I called. He did and he didn't improve so I busted The Man. I had 21,825 at the break.


I was down to 16,125 when we redrew with 18 players left. I got table 16, seat one, and had Kristy "Alrighty Then" Gazes on my left in seat two, "Brooklyn" Dan Pugliese in seat four, and Avi Two Cokes in seat nine on my right. Nothing worked and I was down to 11, 200 at the next break.


Then someone raised in late position and Avi Two Cokes called on the small blind. I found King-Queen offsuit on the big blind and decided to try the squeeze play, moving in. The original bettor folded but Avi called with Ace-Jack offsuit, making me a 60-40 dog. He flopped an Ace right away and I was down to 200. I was all in for the small blind and didn't even look at my cards but when a four-way pot got checked down I found Ace-Queen for top two pair and I was up to 900. It folded to me on the button and I pushed in with a suited connector but lost to the big blind and I was out of the contest in 13th place.


Avi didn't last much longer and I met him for dinner at Fusia, the new pan-Asian restaurant at Mandalay Place. The highlight of the menu was the assortment of three sushi hand rolls. Avi had two Diet Cokes and I had a Grey Goose martini.


September 12, 2005

The Lion Rides Again: UPC II $2600 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Stop and go

Today's event at the Plaza was a $2600 buy-in drawing only 33 players. That was fine with me because it gave me a good chance to get on TV but with fewer than 40 it wouldn't count in my CardPlayer Player of the Year standings, in which I was trying to crack the top 1000. I drew table 12. seat one, and my buddy Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman was on my left in seat two. Gavin "Birdguts" Smith had seat six, Hoyt "All In" Corkins seat seven, and Kristy Gazes seat nine. It was a tough table but most of the aggressive players were on my right, which was good.


On the third hand I raised under the gun with Ace-King of Clubs and got three callers. The flop came Queen-Nine-Seven with the Queen and Nine of Clubs, giving me a huge draw. I bet 250 and Hoyt made it 1000. I moved in, figuring hoping he didn't flop a set, and he immediately called. He had the best hand he could have for me, Jack-Ten of Clubs, meaning I was already ahead and he had very few outs: just three Kings and four Eights and I had Flush redraws on all but the Eight of Clubs. He didn't improve and I got my revenge, busting Hoyt and doubling early to 15,000.  I pressed my advantage but lost several small pots and was down to 12,625 at the break.


I raised under the gun with pocket Queens but when there were a second raise, a call, and a third raise before it got back to me I decided to muck my small investment! The other hands were the other two Queens, Kings, and Aces! I got out cheap and would have been drawing nearly dead but I was down to 10,475 at the next break. I chipped up a bit and had 11,825 when we redrew at 18 players left.


My new table was 16, seat eight. Allen Kessler had seat nine on my left; UPC producer Dan Pugliese seat one, Rick Fuller seat six, and Avi Two Cokes, seat seven. It was a great table with mostly solid, predictable players and I aggressed my way to 16,600 at the dinner break.


I raised early with pocket Queens and the chip leader made a huge reraise all in from the big blind. I put him on Ace-King and called. He turned over pocket Sevens and I doubled through to 34,000. Then I busted a short stack with pocket Jacks versus his Ace-Five offsuit, bringing me to 38,000. Then I reraised Avi all in with Ace-King offsuit and he called with Queen-Jack suited. He flopped a Jack and I was down to 29,000. I was glad he was still in because he was my friend but I should have busted him with that donkey call!


We both made the final table and I had 27,400 as we played to eliminate three more contestants. Unfortunately one of them was Avi. He raised my big blind and I called with pocket Sixes, planning to stop-and-go him if the flop looked safe. It did and I moved in but he called with Ace-King, giving it a decent probability that he was already ahead. He wasn't and didn't catch a pair so he was out and I was up to 44,000. I had made my third TV final table and the stinky Plaza was becoming my favorite place to play!

Gentleman Bill

One of the players at the final table with me was "Gentleman" Bill Edler, whom I didn't recognize and definitely underestimated, letting him make some moves on me that I wouldn't have if I had known he was buddies with the likes of Gavin "Birdguts" Smith and Erik Lindgren. I'll leave the details of the final table to the TV broadcast but this was the best yet. It's scheduled to air Nov. 19 but they have been playing fast and loose with the schedule so it's safest just to record them all.

Surprise UPC airing

Although it was scheduled for Sept. 24, the Ultimate Poker Challenge featuring me and Rafe Furst has already aired in some markets. Unfortunately, my neighborhood is not carrying it this season so I can't see it. If anyone taped it and can send me a copy I would appreciate it. Apparently it was a great show and they kept in some of my jopkes.

Superstation WGN is showing it as well as local channels. Check your local listings. I made two more TV final tables as well as a spotlight table in the final.

September 8, 2005

Draw a Blank: UPC II $2000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Draw a Blank: UPC II $2000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

Pony Tail

The fields were getting more intimate as the buy-ins went up at the Plaza. Today's event was $2000+$80 and only 31 people signed up. I drew table 14, seat eight, and we started four-handed! Right away I got pocket Jacks on the big blind and reraised the button. He put in the third raise and I called. The flop came Ten high and I decided to check-raise him. He bet 1400. I made it 3500 and he moved all in for 1975 more. I looked into his soul and decided the four-to-one I was getting wasn't good enough and mucked. He showed a King. I was down to 2075.


Then fellow Full Tilter Clonie Gowen moved into seat one and Dusty Dirksen took seat two. I had 2375 when the table broke. Now I was at table 12, seat seven. Karina Jett had seat nine and Vellaisamy "S.K." V. Senthilkumar had seat one. I won a coinflip on the blinds and doubled up to 4250.  Then I called a bluff on the blinds against the same guy and was back up to my starting stack of 6000. I busted seat five, taking me up to 8000, when we redrew at 18 players left.


I got table 16, seat four, and Hoyt "All in" Corkins was two to my right in seat two. S.K. was between us in seat three. I raised in middle position with King-Ten of Hearts and the pony-tailed Edward  Moncada made a small reraise in the small blind. This small-reraise-out-of-position tactic was in the superaggressive player's bag of tricks and it was tough to know what to make of it: it could mean a marginal hand or a monster. I called and the flop came Queen-Jack-Trey with two Clubs, giving me a Straight draw and an overcard. Eduardo checked to me and I didn't see much choice but to push all in here although with his big stack I thought he might even call with Ace-King. He thought for some time before calling with Ace-Jack, making me a two-to-one dog. I didn't hit and was out of the contest in 17th place.


Dinner was at the excellent but virtually unknown Isis restaurant at the Luxor with Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman. I always got the wonderful Beef Wellington. Avi had two Diet Cokes while I started a bottle of 2001 Stag's Leap Artemis Cabernet.


September 6, 2005

Death by Gavin: UPC II $1500 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Death by Gavin: UPC II $1500 No-Limit Hold 'Em


The $1500 event drew only 41 people and with the short field I had hopes of making another TV table. I got table 12, seat one, and Gavin "Birdguts" Smith, fresh on the heels of his victory at the Mirage WPT event, sat two to my left in seat three. Vince Burgio had seat seven and Renee Wexler seat eight. Gavin limped under the gun and I made it 300 in the small blind with pocket Kings. Gavin called and the flop came Six-Two-Two. I bet 800 and Gavin called, which he could do with any two cards but I put him on a middle pair or a big Ace. The turn was a Trey and I put him all in for about the size of the pot. He called with pocket Sixes for the Full House and I was down to 1275. Then a player limped in second position and I found Ace-King and moved in. Gavin moved in over the top with pocket Jacks. I didn't catch a pair and I was out early in 36th place.

September 3, 2005

Again with the TV: UPC II $1000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Alrighty Then

With the weekend over the Ultimate Poker Challenge lowered the buy-in back to $1000+$60 and drew a nice field of exactly 100 players. My goal for today was to avoid being seated between Hoyt Corkins and Chris Bigler and I got my wish, drawing the extremely lucky table seven, seat seven and having only one tourney regular, David Plastik, at my table in seat four. David busted early and was replaced by the always dangerous Mike Borovetz. I picked up a few small pots and chipped up to 3325 at the first break from my starting 3000.

When we got back I decided to move in on the big blind with Ace-Jack offsuit over the top of the bullying chip leader. He called with pocket Eights but I caught an Ace on the river and won the coin flip, bringing me to 7000. They moved me for balance to table 19, seat seven, and this time I had "Syracuse" Chris Tsiprailidis on my left in seat eight and the ever-ominous Mike Borovetz in seat five. Doug Lee, the loose-aggressive player whose number I seemed to have, moved into seat three. I won a big coin flip with Mike Borovetz and got up to 17,475. Then holding pocket Nines I saw a flop with the short-stacked Doug Lee. It came all clubs and having the Nine of Clubs I put him all in. He called with a much better hand than I gave him, a set of Sevens, but I hit my Club on the river and once again busted Doug. That got me up to 22,100. Then seat six made a small raise on the small blind and I called on the big blind with Ten-Trey of Spades. The flop came Jack-Ten-Trey with two Hearts, giving me bottom two pair. He checked and I put him all in for a little more than the size of the pot. He inexplicitly called with King-Nine offsuit, didn't improve, and was gone, putting me to 24,925 at the break.

When we returned they broke our table and moved me to table 12, seat eight. Fellow Full Tilter Kristy Gazes was on my left in seat nine. I lost several small pots and was down to 17,175 when we redrew with 18 players left.

I got table 16, seat eight, and Kristy got the seat to my right this time, giving me position on her. I looked at her chips and licked my lips, saying, "Yum yum!" She said, "Alrighty then!" Amnon "Eric" Filippi was on my left in seat nine. I had few opportunities to play a pot and was down to 14, 300 at the dinner break.

Blinds and antes rising, I came back from dinner guns a-blazing and had chipped back up to 21,000 when I open-raised in middle position with pocket Aces and got calls from seats one and three. The flop came Ten-Nine-Seven with two Clubs. Seat three led out for 3500. I gave him a weak Ten at best and decided to move in, hoping he would call with a Ten and think I was on a draw. But seat one called all in for a little less than I had. The original bettor folded and seat one turned over Eight-Six of Diamonds for the Straight. I needed runner-runner to beat him and they didn't come so I was down to the felt at 2700. But I came out firing and won several all-ins to get back to 12,400. I continued to play aggressively and got back up to 17,000 when we were in the money with 10 players left.

We moved to one 10-handed table to play down to the TV seven. I got seat nine. Syracuse Chris had seat four, and Simon Hennessey, whose Kings I had cracked with my Ace-Nine in the 2004 World Series, had seat three. I didn't find many opportunities and was down to 10,200 when we eliminated the eighth player. I had made my second TV final table but was second-to-last in chips.

Hot roll

The next day I pulled the Caddy up to the Plaza just in time for my interview. With a short stack I was going to be aggressive and try to win the thing rather than wait out the other short stacks. The start was delayed while we waited for Simon and David "Chino" Rheen, one of the others at the final table, to finish a hot craps roll. I'll save the details of the final table for the TV show, tentatively scheduled to air Oct. 22.

September 2, 2005

New Yorker Lion

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There was a brief mention of me in a poker article in The New Yorker.

August 20, 2005

The Tough Get Tougher: UPC II $3100 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Yesterday's defeat had taken the chip off my shoulder and I bought in with some trepidation, seeing even more big names in the room. But this was the season of the Lion so I plunked down $3100 and sat with the field of 60. I drew table six, seat eight, and it was déjà vu all over again with me sandwiched in between Hoyt Corkins in seat six and Chris Bigler in seat eight. I filed a formal protest with the tournament director but he thought I was joking and blew me off with a smile. Besides those two big boys, "Syracuse" Chris Tsiprailidis was in seat one and John Phan had seat two. Right away I ended up heads-up with Chris Bigler with pocket Tens on a board of Nine-Trey-Deuce rainbow. I check-raised him and he called. The turn was a Five. I bet 1800 and he moved in. Against most opponents I would have folded but Chris had been bullying me every time we had played together and I decided to make a stand with my overpair. He turned over Ace-Four offsuit for the gutshot Straight and I was out of the contest.


August 19, 2005

2600 Hurts: UPC II $2600 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Suck and re-suck

I strutted into the Plaza with my upturned chin and a grin reminiscent of gin and vermouth, having used part of my winnings last night to buy into today's $2600 event. With the stakes going up we were starting to attract more big guns and of the 53 players, three well-known pros were at my starting table. I drew table 16, seat seven, and Hoyt "All In" Corkins was on my left in seat eight; Allen "Knish" Kessler was in seat five, and Jenny Kang was on my right in seat six. Right away I got Jenny to lay down what was probably an overpair when put in the third raise all in on a coordinated flop. That brought me up from my starting 7500 to close to 10,000.


Jenny busted and was replaced by the very aggressive Chris Bigler so now I was stuck between him and Hoyt. The ever-dangerous Mike Borovetz took seat one. I didn't get much and was back down to 7825 at the break.


When we got back I saw a multiway flop with Six-Four offsuit on the small blind. The flop came Seven-Six-Three rainbow. I checked, Hoyt bet, the other player called, and I decided to move in with my pair and gutshot on a semibluff. Hoyt didn't take long to call with Ace-Seven suited, making him a 69% favorite but I hit a Four on the turn to give me two pair. Now I was a 77% favorite but Hoyt re-sucked with an ugly, ugly Seven on the river to send me packing in 34th place.


Dinner was with Matt Maroon, one of the many Matts I knew who were excellent poker players and/or writers, and in his case both. He had expressed an interest in being corrupted by good wine and I wanted to take him to Mistral at the Las Vegas Hilton but it was closed for the summer so we went to the decent Hilton Steakhouse instead. As usual in Las Vegas the steaks were perfect and we washed them down with the yummy 1997 Heitz Trailside Cabernet, the Maroon's introduction to California cult wines. Heh heh.


Tomorrow: $3100!


August 15, 2005

Looks Like I Made it: UPC II $1570 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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Royal Flush

The summer heat wave continued and I imagined walking through a blast furnace as I passed from the Plaza valet parking into the air-conditioned casino, the smell of moldering carpets and stale cigarette smoke welcoming me. There were 70 entrants in today's Ultimate Poker Challenge event and I drew a table with no familiar faces to start. Right away I raised in middle position with Queen-Jack of Spades and got a call from the big blind. The flop came King-Seven-Six rainbow with the King of Spades. I bet the flop and got called. The turn was the Ace of Spades, giving me a gutshot and a flush draw. I bet again and got a call. The river was the Ten of Spades, giving me my first Royal Flush in live play. I bet and he folded so I didn't get to show my prize. A few hands later I again bet a draw and this time rivered a Straight and got paid off. I made a good call with Ace high on what looked to be a busted Flush draw and before I knew it I had doubled up my starting 4500 to exactly 9000. I had 8375 when they broke my happy table.


My new assignment was table eight, seat three. Max Pescatori had seat one; "Captain" Tom Franklin, seat two; John "Murphdog" Murphy, seat eight; and David "Harpo" Levi, seat nine. I limped in early position with Jack-Ten suited and saw a Jack-high multiway flop. The big blind bet and I called along with Franklin. The turn was another Jack. The big blind bet 1000 and I called and Franklin folded. The river was a Ten, giving me the nuts. The big blind moved all in and I called. He showed Jack-Seven and I was up to 14,025. It's an easy game, really.


Then I made a button raise with pocket Deuces and seat five made it 700 to go on the big blind. I called and the flop came King-Seven-Deuce with two Spades, giving me bottom Set. He bet 1000 and I moved all in. He called 2300 more with Eight-Five of Spades. My Set held up and I was up to 18,300. Then Tom Franklin rivered a Set of Tens when I gave him a free card on Fourth St. and I was down to 14,000. Then seat two caught a Nine on the river to make Two Pair against my Ace with a better kicker and I was down to 10,425 at the break.


When we returned Tom Franklin tried to move the button ahead, claiming he had just paid the big blind. The funny thing was, the dealer had been very conscientious and, as he moved the button to me after the last hand, had specifically said it was my button after the break. Well Tommy would have none of it and started accusing me of angle-shooting and demanding to review the videotapes. So the floorman went off and came back a few minutes later saying the tapes showed the button was in the right place. Well, this didn't satisfy the good Captain and he went off on another tirade. I don't know what got into him but I was about the least likely player to be guilty of angle-shooting and while I was probably less fastidious about watching the button movement than most, this particular time I was certain, because of the dealer's comment before the break. So he was either mistaken, trying to get in my head, or shooting an angle himself, but it just made him look foolish in front of the whole room.


When we finally started playing poker again, the blinds were 100/200 and I made it 600 in middle position with pocket Queens. Harpo called on the big blind and we saw a flop of Jack-Four-Trey. He check-raised me all in and I called. He had a Jack and didn't improve so once again I busted him, which he was probably getting pretty sick of. That put me up to 17,300. I then went card-dead for a while and dribbled down to 14,025 when they moved me for balance to table seven, seat nine. Seat one was Doug Lee and seat two, Marc Aubin, both of whom had been at my starting table in Lake Tahoe. UPC executive producer Dan Pugliese, a solid player, was in seat three.


Two players limped to me in the big blind and I raised with Ace-Jack suited, getting a call from only the small blind. The flop came Ace-Queen-Trey and the small blind check-raised me all in. I was getting over four-to-one so I made a crying call, expecting to see pocket Treys, Aces, or Ace-Queen, but it turned out he was on an ill-advised pure bluff. I busted him and was up to 20,000. I had 19,700 when they broke the table.


My new table was 14, seat three. Capt. Tom had seat one; Dan Pugliese, seat two; Roy "The Boy" Brindley, seat six; and fellow Full Tilter Rafe "Tiltboy" Furst in seat eight.  I had 19,215 at the break.


When I returned they moved me once again for balance, this time to table 16, seat nine. Murphdog was the only one I recognized but then Rafe followed me and took seat three soon thereafter when they broke our old table. It was time to start busting short stacks and I took out one when I called his all in with Ace-Nine on the big blind and beat his pictures, then another when I flopped top pair with a Queen in a battle of the blinds and called his all-in bet with second Pair. I was up to 33,000 when we got down to 18 and redrew seat assignments.


I drew table 16, seat three. Rafe had seat two and I told him I was getting tired of writing his name down in my notes. Mike Borovetz had seat four; Vince Burgio, who won three of these events in a row last year, had seat eight, and Murphdog had seat nine. I was down a little to 30,300 at the diner break.


When we got back, Murph was raising a lot of pots with his huge stack and when I reraised him on the big blind he pushed in. I called right away with Ace-King of Hearts and he sheepishly showed King-Five. I doubled through, bringing me to 63,700. Soon we were down to 10 players and in the money! We moved to one table of 10 and needed to lose three players for the TV final table tomorrow.


I drew seat six; Mike Borovetz was on my left in seat seven; Vince Burgio had seat eight; Rafe had seat nine, and the rest were unknown to me. I looked for spots to be the aggressor on the TV bubble but didn't meet with much success and was down to 51,800 when we made it down to seven. My first TV final table!


Dinner was at N9ne steakhouse with Russell Rosenblum and Shortstack. They had a good selection of lesser-known Napa Cabernets there and we had a nice 2001 whose name escapes me.

Lion on the Telly

I was very excited to be on TV and did the interview wearing my Full Tilt "Quiet Lion" baseball jersey while Rafe wore his hockey uniform. I'll leave the details of the show a surprise. It's scheduled to air Sept. 24. Check your local listings: the show is syndicated on a variety of local stations.

August 14, 2005

Seat of Death: UPC II $1060 No-Limit Hold ‘Em

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Squeeze Play

The valets at the Plaza were beginning to recognize my gray Caddy and with quick service and precision timing I got to the tournament area just in time for the start of today’s event. We got a nice crowd of 139 players to pony up $1060 each for today’s event. I drew table 10, seat one, and recognized only Mike Borovetz in seat nine. Right away I limp-called a raise by seat four with Eight-Six of Diamonds. The flop came Nine-Seven-Trey with one Diamond, giving me a Straight draw and I check-called. The Turn was the beautiful Ten of Diamonds, making my straight and giving me a Straight Flush draw to boot. We got it all in and he showed pocket Kings, giving him no outs. I busted him and doubled up to 5900. David “Harpo” Levi took seat four.

Then I raised in middle position with pocket Tens and got called by the big blind. The flop came Queen-Queen-Ten, giving me a Full House. He check-called a half-pot bet from me but he Hollywooded so badly I was certain he had a Queen. The Turn was a King and he made a small check-raise, which I called. Now I was afraid I was actually behind so I just called a small bet on the river. Sure enough he turned over Queen-Ten. I had flopped a Full House and was drawing dead! I patted myself on the back for not doubling him up but I was down to 3900. For the cold-decking I gave a playful scowl to my favorite Plaza dealer, Anna, a nice Jewish girl who used to run a kosher deli with her husband Marty across the street from Yeshiva University in Manhattan until they both moved to Las Vegas to play and deal poker.

Harpo and I always seemed to get it all in against each other pretty quick and this was no exception. On a multiway flop of Ten-Nine-Six we got it in with my Ten-Seven of Hearts a favorite over his Queen-Eight. A Seven came on the Turn, giving him a Straight, but I filled up when a Ten came on the river and he was done for the day, bringing me up to 5025. Dave Daseke took Harpo’s spot in the Seat of Death. I had 5875 at the break.

They moved me to table 14, seat one, for balance and “Syracuse” Chris Tsiprailidis was the only name player, in seat eight. I found pocket Nines in late position in a pot raised by a very tight player who had previously folded Jacks to a reraise. Well, if he was going to fold Jacks I was raising and sure enough he folded. Maybe he had Queens. I was up to 7400 but the blinds and antes were escalating fast. With the limits at 200/400 with a 50 ante, I found King-Queen in a pot with an early-position raiser and the tight guy calling. I decided to run the squeeze play and moved in. The first player folded but the tight guy called with Ace-King, a bad matchup for me. I didn’t hit and I was out 56th.

Dinner was at Little Buddha at the Palms with Avi “Two Cokes” Freedman and brother Noam. The Palms was a very nice place to stay for playing in a tournament downtown, with convenient freeway access and great rooms and restaurants. Avi had two Diet Cokes and Noam and I enjoyed the Harushika cold sake.

Tomorrow: $1570 at La Última!

August 11, 2005

Brief beat: Second $550 event at the UPC II

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With the air conditioning going full blast to ameliorate the 115-degree desert heat, I pulled the gray Caddy into valet parking at the Plaza, entered the dingy casino, and fought through the registration line to get my seat assignment. Once again I was in the auxiliary area, table 27, seat one. There was no one I recognized at the table but before 10 minutes were up I limped into a family pot in late position with Ten-Nine suited. The flop came King-Ten-Nine, giving me bottom two pair, a strong but vulnerable hand. It checked to me and I bet 200 into the 150-chip pot. Somebody check-raised me all in. I looked into his soul and decided I had the best hand. I called and he turned over King-Queen for top pair. That made me a 64% favorite but the turn was a Four and the river another Four, counterfeiting my two pair and knocking me out of the contest in last place.


That left plenty of time for dinner, which was at Mix at Mandalay Bay with Eric “Howard Treesong” Liebeler and his beautiful wife Carmencita. I had been looking forward to my first experience of celebrity chef Alain Ducasse. The food and company were terrific, but the atmosphere was a bit crowded and noisy, interfering with enjoyment of the spectacular view, and the service was inexplicably unpolished. A tuna tartare appetizer was fresh but not as tasty as Michael Mina’s. The lamb was wonderful, but a 2001 Nickel & Nickel Tench Vineyards Cabernet was served with cheap wine glasses. I was told they didn’t have anything better but later found out they were lying and had Riedel stemware, which presumably they allowed you to use at some magic price point.


I introduced Eric and Carmen to the game of Moscow Hoosegow. Amazingly, this will be the first reference to it on the Web. You give a clue consisting of two words. The answer is a synonym for the first word followed by a synonym for the second word, which must rhyme. For example, “Capital Prison” would be “Moscow Hoosegow.” Note that you could not say “Russian Prison” because “Russian” is not a synonym for “Moscow.”


Eric got my favorite example, invented by Shortstack, instantly: Terrorist’s Sleepwear.


Tomorrow: $1060 at the Plaza.


August 8, 2005

La Última! Ultimate Poker Challenge at the Plaza Season Two

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Running over

Busting out of the World Series main event early made it possible for me to play in the very first event in season two of the Ultimate Poker Challenge at the Plaza, referred to fondly by Shortstack as “La Última.” While the first events were only $550 buy-ins, every event was televised so my sponsor Full Tilt Poker was happy for me to play in as many as possible. I planned to play in half of the two-day events, unable to play the other half by virtue of winning the previous event.


I had reserved a Hyundai Affront from Avis, since there was no way in hell I was staying at the Plaza, and they had upgraded me to a gray Cadillac Sedan de Ville, which I thought was a nice gesture.  I drove it into the Plaza self park, a scary, prison-like edifice with imagined muggers waiting around every corner, and resolved to park with the valet in the future.


They got a nice turnout of 146 entrants for the first event and I got assigned table 29, seat one. My table was set up in a makeshift auxiliary tournament area across the casino.  I only recognized one player at my table, Noam Freedman, brother of my buddy Avi “Two Cokes.” Despite his being on my left, I was running over the table perhaps better than ever before and I was up from 1500 to 4325 when they moved us en bloc to the main tournament room, table 14.


I was stealing like mad and after raising three hands in a row and winning the blinds and antes one seemingly solid player, who had made a show of telling me what hand he was laying down every time I stole, reraised me. The only problem was that I had a real hand this time, pocket Tens. I decided to call but he had Alcoholics Anonymous and I was out of the contest in 68th place.


Noam also busted out in time for dinner and we had a wonderful meal at the trendy N9ne steakhouse at the Palms along with Avi. I had the bone-in filet and Noam, Shortstack and I shared a nice bottle of 2001 Napa Cabernet while Avi had two Diet Cokes. Tomorrow: another $550 event in La Última!


August 6, 2005

This is it, wasn’t it? The 2005 WSOP Main Event

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Corner table

With 5,619 players vying for the biggest prize in poker history, Harrah’s management had roped off the entire hallway leading from the tournament area to the rest of the casino so that the little girls involved in the final stages of the dance competition might continue unmolested. Meanwhile, they routed all the people who had paid $10,000 each to enter this event through a cheesy poker trade show. With $600 per person being raked from the prize pool, including $200 earmarked for the staff, Harrah’s still gave back nothing other than a single $10 food discount and it wasn’t even usable at the tournament snack bar.


I had drawn the first of three flights for the big event. The Maitre D’ had given me a corner table, which made it easy for my fans to watch me play, but unfortunately I had three good players at my table, all to my left. I had table 179, seat two, and the two players to my left I didn’t recognize but they obviously knew what they were doing. In seat seven was Hooman Nikzad, a tournament regular who had busted me once before. The guy in seat nine was making ridiculous preflop raises, making it difficult to see a lot of cheap flops with marginal hands. I played very few pots and was down from 10,000 to 9750 at the first break.


I had planned to bribe one of the 14-year-old girls with a $10 buffet coupon to say I was her uncle and get me into the men’s room behind the ropes but given my corner table location it was unnecessary and I was one of the first to get to the main restroom. When I returned I played a few more pots but had no success and was down to 7925 at the end of level two, and then 7900 at the end of level three.


With the blinds at 100/200 with a 25 ante, it was time to start playing pots and I raised in early position with Ace-King suited. The good, aggressive player in seat four made a small reraise and it folded back to me. I decided he was medium-strong and decided to move in, perhaps getting him to lay down the best hand or getting a race if he called. He immediately called and showed pocket Jacks. They held up and I was down to 1250.


Then a four-way pot limped to me with King-Nine in the big blind. I decided to see a flop and it came King-Four-Trey rainbow, making it likely I had the best hand. I decided to check and see what the others did. Somebody bet and I called. He turned over Ace-Ten for the bluff but caught an Ace on the river, knocking me out.


Dinner was at Shibuya with Russell Rosenblum, Matt “Jacks Up” Matros, Chris Fargis, and his girlfriend Jodi. We all had Kobe steak, washed down with the 2001 Phelps Insignia.


While the Rio was indisputable a nicer hotel than Binion’s Horseshoe had been, in many ways Harrah’s was a poor host. The enormous rakes they took from the events combined with the negligible complimentaries offered opened the door for a competing group to take the franchise away by offering better value to the players. The lack of restroom facilities was inexcusable. The dealers were overworked and undertrained. The playing cards were used over and over again, picking up marks and scratches along the way, not retired after a few hours as they are in games where the house’s money was at stake. To be fair, Harrah’s put this thing together quickly. Let’s see if they correct these problems next year.


It was a disappointing World Series but tomorrow started the Ultimate Poker Challenge series at the Plaza, which I had been looking forward to. Shortstack said she had a feeling the Lion was going to tear up “La Ultima.” We would see.