As it was Valentine's Day, the Commerce Casino was decked out for the occasion. Flowers showed up at the tables once in a while, and happy couples could be seen heading to their special dinners. One place where there wasn't much love floating around was the Crowne Ballroom, where not only the nineteenth event of the Los Angeles Poker Classic was being conducted, but the twentieth event, a $1000 No-Limit Shootout, was being waged as well as a supersatellite for the Main Event of the Classic.
Three hundred fifty five players started play on Sunday, making a prize pool of $344,350. It was an interesting ten man final table that kicked off play around seven Monday evening. The rundown went like this:
Seat 1: Chip Leader John Smith, 135,600
Seat 2: World Series of Poker veteran Glenn Cozen, 113,300
Seat 3: Steven "Short Stack" Shkolnik, 36,400
Seat 4: Norm Lapin, 40,900
Seat 5: Lee Smith, 10,700
Seat 6: David Daneshgar, 58,600
Seat 7: Chris McCormack, 45,600
Seat 8: Chris Crockett, 18,000
Seat 9: Shamil Kastashuk, 32,900
Seat 10: Derek Harrington, 40,400
If the Crockett name looks familiar, it should. Chris' father, Steve, made the final table of last night's Limit Hold 'Em tournament. His was not the only interesting story of the night, though.
Blinds started out at 1/2K with a 300 ante and there was an immediate start to the action as, on Hand 4, the two chip leaders, John Smith and Glenn Cozen, decided against tournament strategy and banged heads. Smith raised on the button to 5,000 and Cozen upped it to sixteen. Smith called as the flop came down Ac-10-Qc. Both checked and the turn came down with a seven. Checks came again and the river revealed another Q. Cozen fired a 20K bet into the pot, only to see it reraised to seventy thousand by Smith. With only approximately sixty thousand in chips remaining, Cozen (who later informed me he had A-J) released his hand and Smith increased his chip lead (Smith held a queen to complete the set, I found out later).
The mood of the table was much different that last night's frantic and combative Limit tournament. There wasn't much chatting between the players, and the clicking of the chips was the only conversation being made.
On Hand 7, Lee Smith found himself on the small blind and, after a raise from Derek Harrington to 8K and a call from John Smith, pushed in his remaining 6,600 into the pot. When the flop came down As-Ac-4, Harrington called all-in and John Smith, seeing a chance to knock out two competitors, called. The three turned up a remarkable set of hole cards: Harrington held pocket queens, John Smith held pocket nines and Lee Smith, unfortunately, only held pocket tens. When rags came down on the turn and river, Lee Smith headed home in tenth place.
Six hands later and another casualty hit the list. Chris McCormack raised to 9K, only to see John Smith raise out of the small blind up to 21,000. He called and the flop came down Kd-J-8d. After Smith checked, McCormack decided now was the time and pushed all in. When Smith quickly called, the writing was on the wall. As McCormack turned up his A-K, Smith showed the perfectly sprung trap with his pocket Jacks. No help came for McCormack and he was out in ninth place and John Smith continued to extend his already commanding chip lead.
The action seemed to settle for awhile. On Hand 25, Chris Crockett found himself in the big blind facing a 10,000 bet from Glenn Cozen. He called with a short stack and, after the flop hit with Kd-Jd-4, Cozen bet enough to put him all in. After a good deliberation, Crockett called with a gutshot draw with his A-10. Cozen turned up the lead with pocket threes. "I made a terrible call there," Crockett snorted, until a miracle ten hit the turn. When another K came on the river, Crockett went from being done for the tournament to doubling up.
Short of the break on Hand 34, John Smith raised the betting to 7K and, on the big blind, Shamil Kastashuk went all in. Once again, Smith called quickly, and with good reason. Smith revealed pocket Aces as Kastashuk silently prayed. A Jack on the flop provided a momentary flash of hope for Shamil, but no King came and he was out in eighth place.
Coming off the break another player went out. Norm Lapin called Harrington's 15K raise pre-flop on Hand 39 and, with a flop of Q-2-K rainbow, pushed his last 3,500 into the pot. Harrington called with top pair, top kicker with A-Q. Lapin sheepishly turned up his A-8 and the night was done for him as he took home the seventh place prize.
The next hour was a grind for all the players. Not many flops were seen as the players respected the raises of their opponents and there were many uncontested pots. Chip leader John Smith, who had been very aggressive before the break, settled back with his lead. Steven Shkolnik, by my count, was all in at around nine times during the evening. We reached a second break with the standings approximately as such:
On Hand 71, Daneshgar and Crockett went at each other on the blinds. Daneshgar called Crockett pre-flop and went into a dead-on impression of Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, drawing his Cal University hooded sweatshirt closed around his head. Crockett responded by pulling his shirt up around his face, like the cartoon character Beavis, as the two contested the pot. Daneshgar's impersonation must have been better as he took the pot.
On Hand 74, we said goodbye to World Series of Poker veteran Glenn Cozen. After a raise from Daneshgar to 13K, John Smith called and Cozen put his remaining 10,000 chips in the pot. He never seriously had a shot, as Smith held A-2 of spades against his 10-7. The flop was promising for Cozen as it came down Q-J-Qs, but runner-runner spades came and Glenn was out in sixth place.
By far the most dramatic hand of the tournament was what turned out to be the final hand. On Hand 81, Derek Harrington pushed his stack of 47,000 chips to the center. He found a willing participant with Steven Shkolnik. Steven barely had Derek covered, chip wise, as they turned up their cards; Derek's pocket queens looked mighty nice against Steven's pocket eights. When Shkolnik spiked his eight on the turn, he literally leaped into the air as Harrington controlled his urge to toss his chair across the ballroom. When all was said and done, Derek Harrington went home after the devastating beat in fifth place.
Discussion commenced about a deal, and as the numbers were run, there were some great stories. Chris Crockett is barely 21 years old, having just celebrated that milestone birthday in January. He has celebrated by playing at the Jack Binion World Poker Open three days after his birthday, doing very well in one of the preliminary events and also playing in the Main Event. This was to be his best payday yet.
The man with the everyday name, John Smith, is just as interesting. He admitted to me he has only been playing for "about ten months", hitting the $10/$20 No-Limit tables at the Commerce. A highway contractor by trade, John took up the game and says he has consistently been doing well in both cash games and tournaments.
An agreement was reached as the final money was broken down by chip count and John Smith was the man who was declared the winner. The event was not a part of the race for Best All-Around Player of the Tournament, thus no points were awarded for the event.
Tomorrow, the No-Limit Shootout Event hits the Main Table at the Commerce and, as we draw closer to the Main Event, we should see our players tonight make a run at the big prize beginning Friday.