The irony was thick at the Commerce Casino Monday night. As the PPT (Professional Poker Tour a WPT invitational made for TV event) television set loomed 20 feet away from the final table, the participants and hands in this event gave us everything a TV producer could dream of. Drama, interpersonal conflict, and whole lot of huge suckouts made up what was by far the most entertaining, and overall the best final table of any LAPC event thus far. Had this final table happened with the cameras rolling, WPT creator Steve Lipscomb would have been dancing a jig at the thought of the kind of TV this event would have produced. Come to think of it, Lipscomb is probably dancing a jig right now anyway.
This final table had all the ingredients that make good TV. Star power was present in the form of Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari. A melting pot of cultures was present in that there were European, Asian, and players from right here in the good 'ol US of A. Speaking of the good 'ol US of A, no one represents that phrasing quite like good 'ol boy Sam Grizzle. Grizzle, with his slow Texas drawl and ability to chew a hot dog while needling his opponents, would add a lot of flavor and a whole lot of drama to this final table.
No good TV program is made without some unexpected turns and twists. Those turns and twists came at this final table in the form of suckouts plenty of suckouts. Speaking of suckouts, Canadian pro Binh Do managed to do his opponents in with two major suckouts in the first twenty hands. Binh's AJ crushed Sam Grizzle's AQ for his first double up. Then, several hands later, Binh moved in with 88, and was in good shape against Jeff Yock's JJ once the 8 came on the river, that is.
On to the eliminations, though as Steve Hohn, in his second final table this week moved his very short stack in with K5, and happened to run into Joe Deniro's QQ. No King for Hohn, and before his chair was warm, he was out the door with a payday of $2,549 for tenth place.
Next out was Ahn Dang, who re-raised Binh's opening raise all in with KQ which sounded like a good idea until Alan Smurfit, who was the next to act moved all in as well. Smurfit's AQ was smurfalicious, and held up as five small cards hit the board, and Dang hit the showers. Ahn Dang finished 9th place, and collected $3,399.
But Smurfit's joy was short lived. Several hands later, he moved in from the SB with K4 on Sam Grizzle. Grizzle went in the tank for a while, and then called with QJ of spades. The flop was K J 8, which sounded smurftastic to Alan, until a Q spiked on the turn. The river was a blank, and Alan Smurfit had a blank look on his face as he walked to the desk to collect his $4,249 payday for 8th place.
Suckouts were the order of the day however, and the next one was a doozy. Jack Boghossian moved all in under the gun, which seemed like a bit of an overbet. All folded around to Antonio, who went in the tank, and decided to call with Q10. Jack proudly flipped over AA, with a look on his face like 'Ha! I played a trick on the magician'. Unfortunately for Jack, Antonio had a trick left up his sleeve, as a board of 68K7, and a crushing river 9 gave Antonio the gutshot suckout, and gave Jack a sucking feeling in his gut. A chair or two was harmed on his exit, but Jack Boghossian finished 7th, and reluctantly took his $5,311 dreaming of what might have been.
Next, Binh Do, he of the two magic suckouts went all in. Unfortunately for Binh, he ran head into Jeff Yock's KK. Everyone at the table agreed the way things had been playing out, that the A, or three spades were coming. No such luck, however, as the board read KQ957 for a set of Kings for Yock. Binh Do finished in 6th place, and garnered $7,435 for his efforts.
The strange trend of the best hand holding up continued, as the very next hand Joe Deniro opened the pot with 66. He got re-raised by Ken "Stan's little brother" Goldstein with 99. Deniro chose to call the re-raise, and again the best hand held up. A board of AK1043 produced no Hollywood ending for Deniro, and he was crippled to 10k in chips. Deniro was able to double through Sam once, but it was not long until he moved in with Q9 out of desperation, and was soon out of chips as Jeff called with AQ. No Oscar, and no pot for Deniro as he walked out the door, carrying his $9,559 for 5th place.
There was no Hollywood magic for the Magician this day, as several hands after he was crippled by losing a huge pot to Jeff Yock on an uncalled river all in, the Magician disappeared. Antonio called Sam's all in from the SB with K7 hearts. Unfortunately, the Texan had AJ, and Antonio could conjure up no magic as the first card off was an Ace. Antonio Esfandiari finished 4th place, and collected $12,746.
The next ninety minutes provided the best drama at a poker table I have seen in some time. Down to three players Sam Grizzle, Ken Goldstein, and Jeff Yock, chips, insults, needles, and accusations flew around the table as the competitors all tried to out maneuver each other for the top prize. Save one sentence from Sam, there was never any discussion of a deal at any point three handed.
At one point, Sam Grizzle had 210,000 of the 320,000 chips in play, and Jeff Yock was down to about 18,000. Sam was crowing something fierce, with all kinds of needles coming out as Jeff was the one who had refused Sam's earlier request for a deal (when Sam had 40k, and the others had about 140,000 each). But Jeff Yock hung in, moved in repeatedly, and got a couple key walks on his BB, and was suddenly up to about 80k. Sam at this point asserted collusion, which only led to the drama building, and the vibe at the table becoming more tense. It was clearly personal to Sam, who let everyone within about twenty yards know how he felt.
Sam proceeded to double up each opponent, and the chip counts after about 45 minutes were relatively equal. Sam never let up with the talk, and kept trying to get into his younger opponents heads. At one point, he and Jeff Yock had played six pots out of eight hands, and the good ol' Texas "I got more guts than yew" shootout was on. Jeff and Sam went at each other's throats repeatedly, and eventually it was a key hand where Jeff made quads with 88 after Sam had made two pair with KJ on a board of K87J. The river was the case 8, and now Sam was the one with the short stack.
It was only a matter of time until Sam's QK ran into Ken's AQ, and that was that. Still wearing some of the hot dog he had just consumed, Sam grumbled toward the desk, sure that his fate was sealed by some unspoken plan by the other two. Sam Grizzle finished third, and picked up $20,181.
At this point, the table got very relaxed, and you felt like it was two friends playing nickel gin rummy. Much chatter flew around the table, surprisingly none of it about Sam, and play was on. Eventually, a deal was cut, and the two decided they were playing for the trophy, and a small bit of cash.
The last hand of the evening was a perfect television ending. Both players were about equal in chips when Jeff Yock moved in from the BB after Ken made it 24k to go. Ken called in a flash with AdQc. The flop came 9 10 3 with two diamonds, and given the way this table had been playing out, you kind of knew what was coming. The turn brought a J of diamonds, and with it suckout number one on this hand. Jeff had been rescued, and was now in the lead with a straight. Of course, the river was a diamond, for the double reverse suckout, and the nut flush for Ken, and finally, this TV program was over. Somewhere, you could just hear Mike Sexton saying "Oh! He did it!". And yet still .somewhere out there Steve Lipscomb was still dancing that jig.
Final results are below. Day one of the PPT is tomorrow, and I am taking my sunglasses to deal with the brightness of all the star power in that room. Wish me luck.
1st Ken Goldstein $78,597
2nd Jeff Yock $40,362
3rd Sam Grizzle $20,181
4th Antonio Esfandiari $12,746
5th Joe Deniro $9,559
6th Binh Do $7,435
7th Jack Boghossian $5,311
8th Alan Smurfit $4,249
9th Ahn Dang $3,399
10th Steve Hohn $2,549