A World Poker Tour event has a slightly different feel to it. The pros all know what being on television means to them (not to mention the $1.8 million top prize), and the amateurs all know what their 15 minutes of fame might mean to them in their home games were they to be able to get on to TV's top poker showcase.
The atmosphere is very serious, and even a bit tense. Camera people, and no fewer than half a dozen reporter types swirl around the tables, all looking to see what big hands are coming next. All of this makes for a very different feel to the room for this tournament, and who can blame people who have never been this far for being a bit nervous.
One man who has been in this position before is Alan Geohring. Several hands after being crippled by Erick Lindgren, Goehring put all his money in with A6. Lindgren, in the big blind, and had the price to finish the job he started several hands before, even though he only held 85. Goehring liked the 6 on the flop, but not the 7 on the river that gave Lindgren a straight, and sent Goehring straight out of the room. Alan Goehring - 27th place, $30,998.
Next to go was Steve Z. Steve had every draw in the book, as he held K 7 of clubs, and the board read AQ10 with two clubs, so he moved in. Andy Bloch had flopped two pair, and called Steve's bet. Not only did Steve not get a Q, or a club, but the river Ace confirmed two things- 1) Z was the last letter of the alphabet, and 2) Z was the next player out, as Steve headed for the door. Steve Zholtov, 26th place - $30,998.
The river Ace would become a recurring theme throughout the next couple hours.. Brian Anderson moved in with QQ, and was called by Lindgren with AJ. Anderson breathed a sigh of relief when both Bloch, and another player announced (to Lindgren's dismay) that they had folded Aces. The flop brought a Jack and the turn no help. But, the river was the brutal case Ace, and Anderson was stunned at his swift demise. Lindgren could only offer an "eh what're you going to do?" sort of look, and Anderson was looking for the door, having finished 25th, and picked up $30,998.
The brutality continued about 10 minutes later, as a 3-way pot developed, with Steve Brecher moving all in from an early position. Sammy Morcos called from the button, and Erik Seidel called from the Big Blind. A flop of K410 brought an all in from Marcos, and Seidel folded. Unfortunately for Morcos, Brecher had AK. REALLY unfortunately for Brecher, the turn was a Jack, which brought cheers from the crowd for the local favorite Morcos. Brecher suffered a terrible 2 outer, and was out the door in 24th place. Steve Brecher, $30,998.
Next to go was Victor Ramdin. Victor was really short, so 44 looked pretty good to him. Michael 'Grinder' Mizrachi woke up in the BB with AQ, and a river Q ground Ramdin out of the tournament. Victor Ramdin - 23rd place - $30,998.
We hadn't had a river suckout in at least 30 minutes, so we were due for one. David Rubin moved in with his pocket Jacks, and Andy Bloch called from the Big Blind with AJ. A board of Q253 gave Bloch additional outs, which he did not need as an Ace spiked the river, and Bloch spiked Rubin out of the tournament. David Rubin finished in 22nd place, and picked up $30,998.
As the Rubin hand was finishing, a huge pot was developing on the next table. Martin DeKnijff was down to the felt after losing a key coin flip to Greg Debora. Ted Forrest opened from middle position, and Sammy Morcos called from the button. De Knijff threw his last remaining chips in from the BB without looking, knowing he was getting the price. The flop was J75 all hearts. Ted led at the pot, and Sammy only called. The turn was a 7, and again, Ted led, and Sammy called. The river was a 2, and with no straights, or flushes on the board, Ted checked, and Sammy made a big bet. Ted went in the tank, and called with K7, and trips, Sammy was bluffing with a busted flush draw, and got clipped for a huge pot. De Knijff flipped over his two unseen cards, an eight, and a three, and got up and shook the hands of his competitors. Martin Deknijff - 21st place - $30,998.
This tournament was not singing Kevin's song. The affable local Kevin Song had lost several coin flips, and basically had not a whole lot of luck today. His streak ended as he moved in with KJ, and the big blind had AQ. The first card off was an Ace, and Song hit a sour note. Kevin Song - 20th Place - $30,998.
Razi Babak had a pretty up and down day. He doubled others up, at one point he tripled himself up and he had big swings in his stack throughout the day. He thought he had hit another jackpot when he flopped the nut flush against Eugene Todd. Razi had A7 of spades on a flop of Q 8 10, all spades. He slowplayed the flop, and the turn was a Q, pairing the board. Razi chose to move in on the turn, and Eugene called instantly with trip Queens. Things looked good for Razi, until the river paired Eugene's other card (a deuce), and Razi was headed for the hills. Razi Babak - 19th place - $30,998
Babak's elimination occurred on the hand before the dinner break. Now down to 18, the chip counts were:
Ted Forrest - 635k
Andy Bloch - 605k
Eric Seidel - 520k
Erick Lindgren - 420k
David 'piano man' Slan - 420k
Glen Banks - 360k
Freddy Deeb - 300k
Haralambos Voulgaris - 290k
Eugene Todd - 280k
Dan Harrington - 250k
Ben Johnson - 235k
Hung La - 195k
Harley Hall - 190k
Greg Debora - 175k
Tommy Hang - 165k
Sammy Morcos - 140k
Michael 'Grinder' Mizrachi - 130k
Jenny Kang - 118k
The last woman in the tournament was Jenny Kang. Jenny was not to last long, however, as she opened the betting. Freddy Deeb came over the top of her with a raise that would put her all in.
Jenny decided to call Freddy's bet with A3. Freddy flipped over two tens. The doorcard of the flop was an Ace, which caused Kang to Jump out of her seat with glee. Unfortunately, when the dealer spread the flop, there was a ten there also. Kang's tournament was over, and she collected $36,165 for 18th place.
Crippled several hands earlier, when his AQ ran into Harley Hall's pocket Aces, "Action" Dan Harrington was the next to leave us. Harrington had doubled up (with quads, no less), but was still very short when he moved in with KQ. Ted Forrest woke up with Kings, and put Dan out of action. Dan Harrington - 17th place - $36,165.
Next began the amazing ride of Michael 'Grinder' Mizrachi. At 18 players, Michael was 17th in chips. But, the Grinder began to catch cards, and catch fire when Eugene Todd moved in from middle position with K 10 spades. Mizrachi woke up with Kings, and sent Todd packing. Eugene Todd - 16th place $36,165.
Stop me if this seems familiar, but several hands later Greg Debora thought A8 was worth a go on the button. The Grinder woke up with Kings, and for the second time in 10 minutes, sent a player packing. Greg Deborah - 15th place - $46,498.
The Grinder had a very large, and very vocal cheering section, and they had reason to be vocal, as the Grinder was making his move.
Continuing the trend of eliminating players, Mizrachi chose to play the rush, and call the all in bet of Sammy Morcos with AQ. Sammy turns over AJ, and the Grinder is dominating the hand. Domination turned to elimination, as a Q on the turn gave Sammy zero outs. Sammy Morcos started the day as the third shortest stack, and wound up rallying to a 14th place finish, and $46,498 in prize money.
From 17th in chips with 18 left, Michael Mizrachi was now the chip leader of the tournament with 13 left.
Andy Bloch had played really well for 3 1/2 days, and had started day four as the chip leader. But it was not to be Andy's day, as he ran into a buzz saw named Tommy Hang. In the course of two hands, Tommy took almost 400,000 chips from Andy, putting an end to Andy's day.
It started when Andy moved in with an open ended straight draw, and was called by Tommy, who had bottom pair, and a flush draw. The turn made Tommy's flush, and took 1/2 of Andy's chips.
The other half of Andy's chips went on a coin flip as Tommy's tens held up to Andy's AQ. No love for Andy, except a consolation hug from his girlfriend, and $46,498 for his 13th place finish to try to ease his pain.
Freddy Deeb had been really short stacked for about an hour, and he finally had no choice, but to put his chips in with J8. Erick Lindgren called with K9. A flop of 484 looked pretty good to Freddy, but a river 9 had him looking for the door. Freddy Deeb - 12th place - $56,831.
Every once in a while, you can really tell the amateurs from the professionals at these events. The next hand had a prime example of this as David 'piano man'. Slan made a critical error. The piano man had been playing the right tune all day, but after his preflop raise was called by Erick Lindgren, he moved in with pocket 5s, on a board that read KJ6. Lindgren decided he had to call with his king, and the piano man was out on one sour note, giving about 300,000 more chips to Lindgren in the process. David 'piano man' Slan - 11th place - $56,831.
This brought us to our final table. Of course, this being a World Poker Tour event, we had to play down to six. Here were the chip counts as we reached the final ten.
Michael Mizrachi - 1,149,000
Ted Forrest - 1,086,000
Erick Lindgren - 985,000
Tommy Hang - 765,000
Erik Seidel - 299,000
Haralambos Voulgaris - 294,000
Glen Banks - 245,000
Hung La - 219,000
Ben Johnson - 182,000
Harley Hall - 162,000
Glen Banks was the first to have his dreams of TV crushed. Glen moved in from the small blind. Haralambos called with A6. Glen flipped over Q 10 of spades. The flop, turn, and river were a cardiologists special, as the 567 flop kept Haralambos in the lead, but the turn 10 gave Glen the lead. The river was an Ace, and Glen's heart sank, as there would be no Shana Hiatt photo op for him. Glen Banks - 10th place - $56,831.
The great Erik Seidel was next to go. Like several players before him, Erik moved in with a legitimate hand, AQ, only to run into pocket kings. The twist this time, however, was that it was not Mizrachi who had the special K's, but Ted Forrest.
The board was no help for Seidel, as the biggest card off was a Jack. Erik Seidel finished 9th place, and picked up $77.,498.
There were now two more players to eliminate, and it looked likely that Ben Johnson, and Harley Hall would be the candidates, as both of them had about 1/2 the chips of the next stack up.
But when both Ben and Harley were in the blinds, it was a battle of the blinds. Ben moved in with A8, and Harley called with A9. Two nines on the flop made it very clear that Ben Johnson, with only 10,000 in chips left would not be fast enough to out run his fate of 8th place.
Ben's final hand came two hands later, as he moved in with 10 8 of spades. Ted Forrest had AK, and Ben Johnson had $103,328 for his 8th place finish.
Down to the TV bubble now, and for the next hour play was pretty tight. One notable hand had Michael Mizrachi take about 400,000 chips off Ted Forrest with a rivered flush. Now the clear chip leader, Mizrachi was looking down at about 1.6 million in chips. Making move after move, and playing very effective Big stack poker, Mizrachi kept building, and building his stack until at one point it reached nearly 2.4 million, or about 40% of the chips in play.
The bubble search was on, and when all was said & done, Tommy could Hang on no longer. Tommy Hang gave his pocket 9's a go for all his chips, and was called by Ted Forrest with AJ of hearts. The first card off was an Ace, and Tommy's TV dreams were crushed. Tommy Hang finished 7th place, and picked up a nice payday of $129,160.
Tomorrow is the big day. Vince will be there, Mike Sexton will be there, Shana will be there, and 6 hopefuls will be there, thinking of the top prize of $1.8 million dollars, and being immortalized on television, and DVD forever. Michael 'The Grinder' Mizrachi has a big lead, but both Ted Forrest, and Erick Lindgren both have healthy stacks, so I am not going to write the end to this TV script quite yet. Final table chip counts are below. Until tomorrow.....
World Poker Tour Final Table
Seat 1 Ted Forrest 895,000 in chips
Seat 2 Michael Mizrachi 2,190,000
Seat 3 Erick Lindgren 1,140,000
Seat 4 Hung La 325,000
Seat 5 Haralabos Voulgaris 710,000
Seat 6 Harley Hall 120,000