How I went on tilt at the "Poker Million" (Part 1)
By Stan Mazza
I was pleased to discover that the post-tourney posts on RGP are as numerous as the pre-tournament information was scarce. With Andy Glazer and Jim Mcmanus reporting on this event, I am sure that a clear picture of the overall tournament scene will be presented here and on other forums. I had e-mailed before the tournament with Andy, but we had not previously met. Andy was a participant in the one-table that I won to get my seat. He had the misfortune to get eliminated when he got all his money in the pot pre-flop with Aces. I met Jim when we were both playing in another one-table ($300). He was showing another player an article he had written on the WSOP for Harper's Magazine and I asked if I could have a "look"? He is covering this event for Playboy and I look forward to seeing his article. Jim was at my table on the second day, had a big stack, and made things difficult for me all day. Not wanting to be compared to these two professionals, I'll try to limit my report to personal encounters and observations. I have been home for four days now. I have just about caught up on my sleep and am back on a normal time schedule. During brief periods of consciousness I have been working on this report.
I will now insert my "Biersteker" disclaimer: This is a long, probably boring, personal account of my trip to the Poker Million. If you have anything better to do, stop reading NOW, and go do it! I apologize "up-front" for any errors or omissions. I am doing this strictly from memory, without notes. Any comments that may be offensive to anyone are unintentional, as I did not purposely mean to criticize anyone in this report.
In a previous report, which was posted in the early hours Friday morning from the Isle of Man, I told of my one table win ($900) which got me into the "Big" Event. I apologize if that post was disjointed, as I must confess that I had spent a sleepless night pondering the opportunity lost when I was eliminated from the tourney. With your permission, I will re-start my story.
London and Travel to the Isle of Man
We wanted to have a couple of days to get over jet lag so we arrived in London on Friday in the early AM. We were going to spend two nights there and travel by train and ferry to the Isle of Man (IOM) on Sunday. After checking in at what I came to refer to as the "Un-Comfort Inn" @ Nottinggate, we took a nap until 4 PM when the Casinos open. I had been told that the biggest action was at the Victoria Casino near the Marble Arch, so that is where we headed. I was aware of the "24 hour rule", but we thought we might get someone to sign us in as guests. Wrong! Our cab driver just happened to be a member and was willing to try to get us in, but the somewhat "cheeky" front desk manager would not let him do this without him being present. Oh well, we could use some more sleep! We joined the Club, had our pictures taken (picture ID cards?) and then anxiously waited for the 24 hours to pass. Upon arrival the next day around 6 PM, we were again turned away because John had on his Reeboks and this was against their dress code (Dress code in a Casino?). After the $35 cab ride we return and finally gain admittance. The poker area is a small with 4 or 5 regular tables and 3 or 4 self-dealing table. They charge less for the self-dealing games. Two games were in progress, the biggest game in Europe ($15,000 buy-in Omaha pot limit) and a self-dealing 7 stud $150 PL. The Omaha game included George "The Greek" Paraviliskis, Surindar Sunar, and Kassim "Eddie" Deeb and Lyle Berman. Where the "Greek" goes, the others follow like "flies to honey". Amarillo Slim and T.J. Cloutier were present but were not playing. I sat down in the Stud game where I was surprised that my dealing made everyone nervous. In the UK they deal in a way that the cards never leave the table. They leave the deck flat on the felt and slide the cards off the top. My American style seemed to cause them some concern and they offered to deal for me! Without going into detail I won $500 or so and went to bed that night feeling good.
The next AM we headed out early for Victoria Station to catch a train to Heysham, where the ferry departed. Due to the unusually heavy rains in the north of England the train schedules were affected and we were told that we couldn't get there in time for the ferry! An hour later and $75 poorer we were deposited by our London taxi at Heathrow where we paid walk-up prices for RT airfare to the IOM. In the waiting area several familiar faces were present; Melissa Heyden, Richard Tatalovich, Joanne "JJ" Bortner, and David Plastik were all on the flight. Melissa and David were coming from Amsterdam. Richard came from Foxwoods where he gave up a chance to be the "best all-around player" there, to come for a shot at the Million. JJ was traveling with her sister, and mother. The last time I had seen JJ was at the Carnival of Poker where she was playing one-table satellites prior to her appointment at that day's Final table. This lady loves to play!
After a 2-hour delay the little puddle jumper of an airplane winged us to the Isle of Man in just over an hour. If you had the resources (AKA $$) and paid your $9000 up front, you were given VIP status. The VIP's were met at the airport and were provided transport to Douglas (the capital). Us "poor folks" had to take a cab. The VIP's were also given free rooms and food (no whiskey9) for the duration of the tournament. This took up all the available rooms at the Hilton and we took refuge a couple of blocks away at The Welbeck Hotel. This was a great choice, as we were given a prime corner room with an ocean view, sitting area and balcony. We got all this for $75 ($37.50 ea.) per night including English breakfast.
After checking in and unpacking, we headed to the Casino to look things over. We were required to join the Casino (no 24-hour rule). The tournament was staged in two separate rooms, one for live action and another for the tournaments. There were no games on Sunday and we not permitted to even look at the tournament area! It was raining, and we had dinner at The Welbeck and "chatted up" the folks the cozy bar. (End of part 1)
Pre Million Activity On Monday, full off expectations, we headed off to the Casino where the first Mammoth satellite was scheduled to be held. I was interested to find out how many UK qualifiers would be playing in this event. Others and I had been voicing our concern over the number of players who might be in the "Million", and I figured this would be the first test. While I still don't know how many of the "Mammoth?" participants were from UK qualifiers, I don't think there were more than 3 or 4. There was only one table, and this proved to be the last "Mammoth" held. Hmmmm! They were also having one tables for $900 and $300 and I took a shot in three $330 events. My concerns were mounting. It was obvious that these well-intentioned and friendly folks were lacking in experience and were making it up "on the fly". The dealers had been brought in from various locations in the UK, and many had not dealt poker before. In Europe most games are PL and the dealers have been trained to bring in the bets before the action had been completed. This is done to help the players count the pot. It also facilitates the distribution of the cards by the "English Method", as the dealers do not have to maneuver the cards around the chips. This, however was "No Limit", and the Americans were vocal in their complaints about this practice. It was hard to know where the action was, and with the inexperience of the dealers, caused many controversies. They didn't have a clock for the dealers and the 20 minute rounds were variable (18-35 min). I was becoming even more unsettled and went to have a chat with Jack McCelland who was sitting nearby. He said he was aware of the problems and was doing what he could. He explained that as an unlicensed consultant, he was limited in his ability to control things. I gave up on qualifying for the day and went to the cash games to try to "pump up". The side action consisted mainly of $15,000 PL Omaha (the "Greek" had changed locations); $150 and $375 buy-in PL holdem; and $1500 PL Omaha. The hourly charge was $15 per hour with no tipping required. I took a small loss in the $150 PL game and retired for the day. I went to sleep wondering "why we still had no information about the number of entries" and "should we have come?"
The next day the sun came out, both literally and figuratively. Jack McCelland had been transformed into a "super-consultant" and had obviously taken control of the event. He organized the staff, and introduced the "super-satellite" to the folks from the "other side of the pond". I would guess that 20+ seats were won in less than 3 days from the "supers". IMHO the smartest thing the Ladbroke management did was to listen to Jack's invaluable advice.
I mimicked my first days schedule with three one tables (2@ $330 and 1@ $900), and had no success. I headed over to the cash games and was wondering if I could beat these games? The level of play was as high as I have ever experienced. It is a good thing that Ladbrokes introduced some "dead money" into this event, because the players sure didn't! ("If you can't spot the sucker in 30 minutes…") In the cash play I booked a nice win ($900) and went to sleep around 2AM with an improved outlook.
I had planned on possibly playing in a $3000 event (one of the Mammoths that were cancelled), but I poured $1000 into supers instead. My Poker Million budget ($4,000) was down to its last $400. I would take my last shot in a $900(I think I just busted the budget!) one table. Time was running out so I had to play in the first one available. The line- up included Andy Glazer , Mansour Matloubi, and a young guy (The Kid) who had already won a "super" and had been tearing up the cash games. Mansour, (2 to my right) tripled up early and was running over the table. The "Kid" (on my right) was also very aggressive and I found myself "having to call a raise" almost every hand to enter a pot. I played tighter than "Dick's hatband" and soon found myself in a three- way battle. They had most of the chips and all I had was a table image as "super tight". IT'S TIME TO GAMBLE!
Mansour raised my blind and I "went over the top" with K8 offsuit. He was on a steal and I had some air. Whew! We danced around for a while and then I caught several nice hands in a row. Suddenly I was chip leader. As I had been raising every pot, Mansour decided to make a stand. I had the button with JJ, put in a big raise and Mansour (AQ) bet all his chips. The "Kid" (K8 suited), in the large blind, with a short stack, decided that this was a chance to get some chips, and called with what he had left. I thought for a few minutes and decided that this was the hand to go with and called. I held off the Ace King and Queen and I was in "The Million".
I went over to register, and when I was done we were transformed into VIP's. Ladbrokes would now pick up our hotel and food for the remainder of the trip! Needless to say, I had a shift in attitude. I decided to forgo the cash games, have a couple of drinks at the bar, and get good nights rest. All was right with the world, and I dreamed of becoming famous and wining the Million.
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