There was plenty of activity on the floor of the Amazon Room as the 2006 World Series of Poker kicked into its third week of action. The thing was that, for this Sunday, it was tough for the fans to decide what to keep their eyes on. The crowds that filled the aisles of the poker floor could choose from the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament (which featured a bevy of the best poker players in the world), the $1000 Ladies' No-Limit tournament (with defending champion Jennifer Tilly and Shannon Elizabeth leading the ladies to the felt), the $1000 rebuy tournament (which had some star power to it as well) or the final table of the $2,500 No-Limit tournament, Event #13 on the schedule, which had some fireworks of its own.
1,290 players came to the tables two days ago to play down to the gentlemen who made up this highly competitive and explosive final table. The field lined up like this as the cards flew around 2:30 Sunday afternoon:
Seat 1: Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori, 337K
Seat 2: 21 year old Justin Pechie, 355K
Seat 3: Newcomer Tri "Chino" Ma, short stacked at 113K
Seat 4: Professional player Mike Matusow, 338K
Seat 5: Chip leader and professional player Anthony Reategui, 966K
Seat 6: Matt Heintschel, 121K
Seat 7: Pro Corey Cheresnick, 250K
Seat 8: Excellent newcomer Terrence Chan, 492K
Seat 9: Michael Scott, 164K
The reason for the delay was caused by Max Pescatori. The Milan, Italy native was watching the tense final moments of the championship game of this year's World Cup, featuring his beloved Italian national team as they battled the French in Berlin, Germany. After the Italians vanquished the French in penalty shots, someone called up Pescatori and let him know that there was a tournament waiting for him. Pescatori quickly dashed to the tables with his arms thrust in the air in celebration as he stepped to the felt for the battle there.
With the antes only at 1K and the blinds at 4K/8K and fourteen minutes left in the level, the general thought around the audience was that this particular event, with over three million chips in play, would be a lengthy battle. If it was anything, it was one of the most rapid events so far at this year's World Series. Chip leader Anthony Reategui, a player known for his aggressive and powerful play, punished the table as he commanded those arranged around him. Many times players entered into a pot against him, only to have to lay hands down when he used the power of his chip stack to force them to fold. It was a pattern that would be repeated throughout the run of the tournament.
There were a few all in moves from the short stacks in this level, but none were called and we moved up to 2K in antes with 6K/12K blinds. Reategui continued to push his chip advantage and was reraised all in by Matt Heintschel. Reategui seemed to not even pause to think about the hand and called the second shortest stack at the table. Heintschel had to be happy with the potential for a chop, as his A-8 versus Reategui's Ad-8 were basically even preflop, but the flop of three diamonds had to make Matt nervous. When the King of diamonds fell on the turn, Heintschel was drawing dead and the meaningless diamond on the river only added insult to injury. Heintschel was eliminated from the tournament in ninth place by a devastating beat.
Reategui, who won a WSOP bracelet in 2005 in the $1500 No-Limit Shootout event, continued to bully the table and built the constantly expanding area of chips in front of him. Most of the play was done preflop with all in moves that removed the skill of playing poker from the game. While this may work against the purist's thoughts of the skill of the game being in post flop play, all of the players seemed to be wanting to put everything on the line without seeing the flop. It proved to be the downfall of many players in this particular tournament.
Reategui continued to be a one man wrecking crew as he faced an all in raise from Terrence Chan. With the power of a massive number of chips behind him, Anthony made the call and flipped up pocket fours. Chan was in a race as he held Big Slick, but a four on the flop turned the tables significantly to Reategui. After the board blanked out, Chan was a disappointed eighth place finisher in the event.
Mike Matusow was attempting to play post flop poker against the field, but he too soon realized that this would be almost impossible to do. His focus was incredible as he watched the action develop around the table (his second final table of the World Series, after his attempt at defending his Tournament of Champions title from 2005) and he tried to devise a strategy to combat what was going on.
His decision was "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and he began to get aggressive with the table himself. It worked for him as he seemed to get the table to slow the action down and it helped him get into a pot heads up with youngster Justin Pechie. On a flop of 10-9-6, Pechie fired into Matusow and "The Mouth" responded by moving all in over the top. Pechie considered his options for a couple of moments and called, showing a flopped two pair of tens and nines. Matusow, who thought he had trapped his opponent, showed the J-10 and, even though the King on the turn gave him more outs, he couldn't hit any of them on the river and left the Rio in seventh place.
Tri Ma was a player who started with the worst of it at the beginning of the tournament and now found himself climbing up the leader board due to the quick eliminations. While he attempted to build his stack through the all in maneuver, he was never able to get action to build up to be able to challenge the leaders seriously. After Corey Cheresnick raised a pot up, "Chico" Ma moved in once again only to find the massive chip stack of Anthony Reategui waiting for him. Reategui simply called Ma's all in, attempting to draw Cheresnick into the pot. Cheresnick didn't fall for it and folded wisely; this time Reategui had a hand in pocket Aces to "Chico's" A-Q and eliminated Ma in sixth place before the level ended.
By Anthony's count, he picked up the pocket Aces thirteen times in the tournament and it allowed him to personally devastate the field. Reategui had personally eliminated three of the four players at the final table and, with the blinds rising up to 8K/16K with a 2K ante, he continued to apply pressure to the field. Corey Cheresnick was to be his next victim as the two brought it all to the center with Reategui way behind with a 7c-6c to Corey's Ah-8h. The flop (9-8-J) brought a pair for Cheresnick but opened the door for Reategui in a gutshot straight draw. That gutshot filled on the turn when the ten came and, with a measly deuce on the river, Cheresnick was done for the evening in fifth place.
Reategui was not finished as he attempted to reenact his feat of eliminating the field (as he had done in 2005 when he won his WSOP bracelet) on the way to victory. He hooked up against Michael Scott and this time had the edge with his As-5 over Scott's K-Q of diamonds. Once again, the flop was all Anthony's; a 2s-3s-5s gave him the best hand and a draw at a straight flush and no paint came to the rescue for Michael as he was eliminated in fourth place, giving Reategui nearly 75% of the chips in play (2.4 million of the 3.2 million available).
At this point, the twenty-one year old Justin Pechie decided to make a stand against the powerful Reategui. After facing yet another raise from Anthony, Justin popped the pot for an additional 80K and Reategui called. The flop came 4-7-K and "The Kid" fired 100K at the burly Reategui, who just called. When the turn card paired the four, Pechie meekly checked and allowed Reategui to make a massive 600K bet at the pot. Pechie's trap had worked perfectly as he called and turned up A-K to Reategui's 10-7. When a third four appeared on the river, Pechie had risen up to take over the chip lead from Reategui for the first time at the final table.
Max Pescatori had quietly been sitting back and staying out of the battle between his opponents and he seemed to desperately want to get into the game. He found an opportunity just before another break as Pechie raised a hand up to 50K and was flat called by Reategui. "The Italian Pirate" moved his stack in and, after serious deliberation from Justin and a quick move from Anthony, was called by both players. At this point, Pescatori committed what could have been a turning point in the tournament. He flipped up his cards, showing an A-8, and immediately clasped his Italian-flag covered head when he realized the other two players could have a side pot going. This never materialized as the flop brought an Ace and his two opponents checked down the pot. Neither could match Pescatori and he tripled up as the table took another break.
With the triple up, Pescatori was back in business as the blinds went up to 10K/20K and the antes increased to 3K. The torrid action that had marked the previous three plus hours suddenly came to a screeching halt as the players merely passed the blinds around the table. It was almost as if three different players had come back from the break and assumed the seats of the aggressive players that had been there previously. While there seemed to be a lull in the storm, many in the crowd didn't believe that the play would make it out of this level, however.
The lull suddenly ended about thirty minutes into the level when Pechie and Pescatori mixed it up. After Justin raised the pot to 75K and Reategui folded, Pescatori came all in over the top and Pechie called him. They both had middle pairs, but Max's pocket eights was seriously ahead of Justin's pocket sixes. They both flopped sets on an 8-6-K board, leaving Pechie looking for the case six to save his tournament. Another King came on the turn and a case card came on the river; it was Max's case eight, however, making him quads to eliminate the 21 year old Pechie in third place in the event.
With the elimination of Pechie, Pescatori still had a huge mountain to climb:
On the very first hand after Pechie's elimination, Reategui attempted to end the tournament when, after the flop brought a 3c-5c-J, the two survivors bet, raised and reraised until Pescatori was all in. He only had a club flush draw with his 10-2 of clubs and Reategui's J-4 held the lead. A four came on the turn but it was the four of clubs, which gave Pescatori the lead. When the river came up dry for Reategui, the two players were nearly back to even in the match.
This time around, it was Pescatori who took the battle to Reategui and soon Max had established command by reversing the chip count from only twenty minutes earlier. Reategui seemed to be slowly watching his dream of a second World Series bracelet slip away as "The Italian Pirate" continued to hammer on him. Reategui attempted to regain his aggressiveness just as the clock was winding down on the level when he raised to 40K from the button. Pescatori just called as the two saw a flop of 6-7-10. Anthony made a statement when he pushed in 100K only to have Max return the fire with a 350K raise. Reategui figured this was the time to make a stand and moved all in, which Pescatori called. Reategui had an edge with his Q-10 giving him a pair of tens and Pescatori could only manage a gutshot straight draw with his J-8. A King gave an even bigger edge but, as the dealer displayed the river card, Pescatori and his Italian comrades pierced the air with delight; the final card was the miracle nine, giving Pescatori the straight and ending the event in less than six hours of play.
1. Max Pescatori, $682,389
2. Anthony Reategui, $356,040
3. Justin Pechie, $206,207
4. Michael Scott, $148,350
5. Corey Cheresnick, $118,640
6. Tri "Chico" Ma, $103,845
7. Mike Matusow, $89,010
8. Terrence Chan, $74,175
9. Matt Heintschel, $66,758
"This has been the greatest day of my life," said an obviously emotional Pescatori as he spoke to the crowd following the tournament. "First, Italy wins the World Cup and then I come here and take the greatest prize in poker." His countrymen chanted his name from the rail as he turned to them and graciously added, "I also have to thank all the Italians who came to support me today as well!" With that, the party started for dual celebrations for the Italians on Sunday: their fourth victory in the history of the World Cup and Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori's first ever bracelet at the World Series of Poker.