Our Israel trip report is now on line, along with many photos. Don't miss this one.
September 16, 2005
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.