How I went on tilt at the "Poker Million" (Part 2)
By Stan Mazza
Day One I awoke earlier than I wanted to and went into town to the Internet café to e-mail my family and my one backer and tell them of my success. I geared the rest of my morning around the noon starting time for the Poker Million. A long shower, and a cup of tea on the balcony while gazing at the sea, I was ready! A short walk to the casino brought me to the tournament site at 11:45, fifteen minutes before kickoff. I looked up my table number and seat and went into the restaurant for a quick cup of caffeine loaded with sugar (for energy I thought). I strolled in and took my seat just as Jack was announcing that the start was to be delayed two hours. So much for careful planning! I won't go into the details, but I basically did a lot of fretting for the next two hours. I had the time now to look through the list of players and was able to see who was at my table. Described later as the "Table from Hell", it included:
- Seat 5- Johnny Chan- seven (I think?), WSOP bracelets; winner of two straight WSOP championships and a second in a three-year span. A man who year after year makes a living from his poker abilities.
- Seat 8- Stewart Ruben- former professor, chess aficionado, Poker Author and winner of the only WSOP event that does not get a bracelet. (Press tournament). He would eventually finish in the top 30 or so. An elderly bantamweight who would not be intimidated by a bully with a cigar.
- Seat 6- Hemish Shah- a regular in the Big Omaha game with the Greek. He had a list of at least ten to twenty people with whom he had made last longer bets. He would check them off as they exited the room. I got the distinct impression that these were not small bets!
- Seat 3-Layne Flack- WSOP NL first and second ($3000 I think). He set records both years for the amount of chips brought into a final table. Montana charm with the bulletproof demeanor of youth.
- Seat 1- Surindar Sunar- also plays in the "Big" game with the Greek. Winner of many events (I don't know specifics) and reminds me of a cobra.
- Seat 9- Phil Hellmuth- Six WSOP bracelets including the Main event; Too many other tittles to count. Recent winner of European Championship, and "favorite" to win the Late Night Poker Event in England. He can seem a little too "cocky", but is the type of personality that will spur the growth of poker. I have heard his play described as "Poker Art". Hmmm, comes close!
- Seat 2-Lee Channing- One of two players who I am unfamiliar with. I played a little side action with him and he seemed "solid". I believe he got Hellmuth to lay down 99 when Lee had 77.
- Seat 4- F. Pini- The other "stranger" in the group. If anyone knows something relevant please let me know.
- Seat 7- B. Mazza- the B stands for Bruce. If you call me Bruce I'll know you work for the IRS or you are on the Isle of Man! People who will speak to me call me Stan (Stanton). I feel like I am giving off a "fishy odor".
The appointed time finally arrives and Jack says "Shuffle up and deal". This tournament has an unusual feature. You get $5000 in chips and a "rebuy" slip that you can use anytime up to the 5th level. Phil Hellmuth gets out of the gate early and amasses a nice chip lead. He is very aggressive and everyone must know that he is "stealing" a lot. With him two spots to my left, he has the big blind when I get the Button. For the first 4 hours of play, he only released his blind one time that I can recall. Anytime I raised, he raised. If I just called, he raised. I couldn't catch a flop and at the beginning of the third level I had to use my "rebuy" slip. I now felt that if I am to survive this table, I better "screw it down", and hope to catch a premium hand.
While I am WOA "waiting on Aces" an interesting hand comes up between Phil and Johnny Chan. Johnny has been very patient, and has not been catching any cards. His first 5000 has dwindled substantially. I don't recall the exact details, however I'm sure that Phil raised pre- flop and Johnny flat called. On the flop there was a bet and call (Axx). They checked the turn (x), and Phil made a bet on the river (x) that would have made Johnny use his "rebuy" coupon! Chan thought a few moments and called with the rest of his chips. He had no pair (KQ) and took down the pot. Amazing!
Phil continues to "work his chips" and there are few "winners" at our table. My "bus comes in" and I finally pick up a hand (AA). I am under the gun and have to decide to "limp" (call $200) or raise. I feel that I need to make some money with this hand and decide to just call. I take two chips off the top of my stack and toss them in the pot. There is a shocked look on my face when I realize that one of them is a $500 chip. It is obvious that Phil has picked up on my expression, and I try to recover from this error by telling the dealer that I had not intended to raise and asking if I could take it back? Phil obligingly gives me the "well known ruling", my raise must stand. He then quickly raises me ($2100 I think). All others drop out, and I take my "sure profit" by raising all in. Phil mucks, and I show the Aces. The table erupts in laughter. "How could I fall for that move?" Phil moans. "The last time you had them (aces), you gave a big speech and I knew I would never lose a pot to you!" I don't recall having; much less showing aces previously:
It is announced that play would be complete within an hour and I go back to WOA mode. I have $10,000and hope to make it till tomorrow, when we will re-draw for tables. I don't play a pot the rest of the night and the blinds grind me down to $8500 when we adjourn. I feel relieved to have survived this talented table where every encounter was fraught with terror.
Day Two I can't say I had a good nights sleep, but it wasn't for lack of trying. I may not have slept enough, but I was horizontal (bed or couch watching TV) for much of the next 12 hours. Have yall ever seen lawn bowling? How about cricket?
On day two I've gotten what I think is a good table draw. There are no famous faces about and no monster stacks either. I catch KK early on and double up against QQ. I'm above water for the first time n the tourney. Now the bad news! Our table is the first to break up9. I move to my next location Table 13 seat 2 is my new spot, where I will remain for the rest of the day. I can't recall exactly each person and position, but this is my recollection:
- Seat 1- "Amarillo" Slim Preston- I have had the pleasure of playing with Slim before; he will keep the table loose. His constant patter will keep the table friendly. A WSOP repeat Champion who is arguably the most recognized poker player alive.
- Seat 4 -Ian Dobson- an Irishman who makes the final 6 and if you watch the telecast, you will see that he can really play.
- Seat 5- Layne Flack- Layne got a reprieve yesterday and was high-carded to another table. He left with a short stack, but has acquired some chips.
- Seat 6- David Welch- An Englishman who I shared a cab with at the WSOP a couple of years ago. His stack grows steadily, as the day passes. I think he finished ninth
- Seat 7 or 8 Bob Skultelsky - The man who was on the biggest "freeroll" in the history of poker. Bob got in the Million by winning a "freeroll" tournament in Blackhawk Co. where Ladbrokes has a Casino. They spelled his name incorrectly in the "list of runners" for this event, but after his first days showing (4th position @ 35,600); they corrected their error!
- Seat 2- Stan Mazza- I had 19,000 and was once again a short stack.
- Seat 9- Jim McManus- Novelist, turned poker-playing reporter. Did well in this years WSOP main event, and finished the first day in 6th position with 33,400.
- Seats 3 and 7- I think, but am not positive, that Hemish Shah and Lyle Berman occupied these seats. They were relatively short stacked and I think they were anxious to get back to the "Big" game with the Greek, where they could play for some real money.
My stack has been growing slowly but steadily, when my first big confrontation occurred. I had the button (ATo). Three players "limped in" and when it got to me and I just called. One of the blinds also called and 5 of us saw the flop (AK2). It was checked around to me and I didn't like it. I felt I had to try to protect my hand, but what would I do if I were raised? I gave a small speech about "making a stab at it", and bet about three times the pre-flop bet. Quicker than I could get my hand out of the pot, Layne Flack raised all-in. The others folded, and I now had to answer my own question. I did a lot of mental speculating about how this hand had developed and what Layne might have. It finally came down to my belief that a high percentage of all-in bets represent weakness. If they have a "monster" they want a call. I took a deep breath and called. This wouldn't "brake" me but I would be severely "bent". We turned over our hands; Layne was on a cold steal with (45o). I held off the middle buster (3) and another champion moved to the rail.
I had over 40,000 now and I am close to the tables' chip lead. As is the norm in No Limit, we go long stretches without any significant action. Then encounter number two occurs when I tangle with Jim McManus. Jim has a few more chips than I do when I catch QQ. When the "action" gets to Jim he put in a raise. Slim folds and I re-raise an amount 3 times the raise. Jim flat calls. I'm thinking (hoping) he has AK, or a mid- sized pair. If he had AA or KK wouldn't he have re-raised pre-flop? We get a flop of small cards with no flush draws. Jim checks. I bet an amount that should move him off AK or AQ and he calls again! I now hope he has an over pair to the board, TT or JJ perhaps. Alarm bells are going off in my head (he could have flopped a set). I fear a trap and when Jim checks the "turn" (paired the board), I check also. If Jim moves in on the "river I will have to think about letting it go, but if he checks I am moving in! The "river" card is a jack. Jim bets an amount that I have to call. I have too much committed to the hand. I think he has JJ and has filled up. He has QQ also! Whew!
I have inched up to just over $60,000 and the table has moved into "super tight" mode. Everyone has a respectable amount of chips. Dewey Weum is moved to our table with what is the shortest stack at the table (around $13,000). I've got the button when Dewey makes a "call me bet" of only twice the blinds. All fold to me (5h6h) and I think Dewey must have a pair (He has 10's). The price seems reasonable and I can get away after from this hand after the flop if I don't "catch". I call and we get a flop (345o). Dewey reaches for the remainder of his chips. I try to stall off the bet by reaching for my stack to indicate a willingness to call. Dewey sees this, hesitates a moment, shrugs, and bets "all-in". I've got a lot of outs (2,5,6,7) and I call. I do not improve, and Dewey doubles up.
Remember the Frenchman who blew all those strokes in the British Open a couple of years ago? I think I know now he felt when he hit that first errant stroke. WHAT was I doing playing 56? Shortly thereafter, I overplayed a pair of nines and paid off a pair of Aces. My once formidable stack was now only $33,000. I thought I knew what it was like to "go on tilt", but this was "TILT". I was having trouble breathing and I'm sure the others could hear my heart pounding. Mercifully the dinner break arrived quickly and I had an hour to compose myself. The idea of eating was repugnant so I went out of the casino and sat on a bench on the beach for the entire hour. "I am still in this" I told myself. Patience, I will have patience, I vow!
As the players are taking their seats Johnny Chan comes by and looks at my stack. "What happened to all those chips?" he asked. "I ran into Aces" I replied. I couldn't bear the indignity of telling him that all I had was 99. I also conveniently omitted that 56 play. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was somehow letting Johnny down!
Soon after the break the cards conspired to make me break my pledge. An early raise to $5000 and three callers brought the action to me (AhKh). I know I am looking at least one or more pairs (small I hope). There is close to $25,000 in the pot. I decide to make a "move" and I bet my entire stack ($30,000+). Everyone folds except the best hand (KK), and I don't catch an Ace. I had him out chipped but now am reduced to $13,000.
I am out of control again, have lost my focus and feel that I must recover quickly! I get ATo in late position and "bet it all". Ian Dobson, who has a huge stack of chips looks at one card (A) and calls semi-blind. He has A3 and I am a big favorite. The board unfortunately comes with two "running" pair, and all I get is a split. On the next hand I have 55 and move it in again. Dobson once again peeks at his first card and it, of course is an ace. He calls semi-blind again. We turn them up and he has AA. I'm dead to a 5.
Five cards later, I'm just DEAD.
Well, I'm better off than that Frenchman in the Open! After he "choked", he had to face the cameras and the world. I do not have to share my pain with anyone, and can slink quietly into the night.
On reflection, there is no question; I could have been more patient. But if I could have hit that straight draw…
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