Trumping the Art of the Deal
Andrew N.S. Glazer, "The Poker Pundit"
Soon after the 422 starters in the 2003 World Series of Poker's
inaugural "open" event, the April 16 $2,000 Limit
Hold'em tournament, saw that first prize was going to be $290,420,
third was only going to be $74,560, and the 10th place final
tablist would earn a mere $9,420, most of them felt pretty
sure that some kind of deal would be struck sometime at the
If you're not familiar with tournament "deals,"
know that they are fairly common happenings in today's tournament
world, for two reasons.
First, the players are competing entirely for money they
have put up themselves: if and when corporate sponsors start
adding money, deals will have to go away.
Second, a prize structure that puts such a high percentage
of the prize pool into the first few places (and even then,
such a high percentage to first place) often makes it quite
economically sensible to strike some sort of arrangement that
reduces the money fluctuation.
Nonetheless, those predicting a deal here would have been
although it wasn't for lack of trying by many of
the final tablists. Whether or not the players wound up being
happy with their proposed stances on the various deals proposed
is something I'll save for the finish.
When play commenced at the final table, the starting positions
and chip counts were as follows:
|1 Tuan Nguyen
|2 Joseph Coreli
|3 Jon Brody
|4 Adam Schwartz
|5 Richard Brendel
|6 Mohamed Ibrahim
|7 Danny Qutami
|8 Todd Ostrow
|9 Jay Helfert
|10 Farzad Bonyadi
There were $844,000 in chips in play, and starting at Level
13, $2,000-4,000 blinds, playing $4,000-8,000, under the new
WSOP blind structure that entails much more luck at the tournament's
start (the blinds double each of the first three levels) and
much less at the end (the blind increases are tiny, as you'll
see), it was pretty easy to predict a long final.
NOW, IF ONLY I COULD PREDICT THIS WELL WHEN PLAYING
I wish my predictive powers weren't so good. The new system
is wonderful if you are playing but it makes coverage much
more of a marathon. Don't worry: I'm not going to detail a
large percentage of the nearly 400 hands that were played
here tonight. I'm going to trade off some hands for more atmosphere
and analysis, as this new format requires. In all the time
I've been covering final tables, I've never covered one that
involved this many hands, and it was the very first event
here. I won't be surprised if some events approach 500 hands.
The diminutive Nguyen, from Richmond, CA, didn't have to
stick around for much. He started with the shortest stack,
caught a bad break in a random draw that gave him the big
blind right out of the box, and after losing two thirds of
his chips on the first hand, lost the other six when Schwartz's
pocket jacks held up in three-way action. Ten-way deals are
quite unusual, and no one was talking any this early, especially
with three tiny stacks out there, so Nguyen had to settle
for $9,420, and the consolation that as long as it was going
to be painful, it was at least surgically swift.
Qutami, a South San Francisco resident against whom I'd played
a fair amount during my Northern California days, got in trouble
on the tournament's sixth hand, when he flopped bottom pair
and hung in through betting on the flop and turn, found himself
all-in two hands later, when Bonyadi opened for a raise to
8k, Coreli went all-in with a raise to 12k, Brendel made it
16k, and Qutami made it 20k with an all-in bet from the small
NO RESPECT AT ALL
Bonyadi, who must have been nominating his initial raise
for the Rodney Dangerfield "I don't get no respect"
award, threw his hand away, and when Brendel called, everyone
was now all-in, so we got to see the hand from start to finish.
Qutami turned over Q-Q, Coreli, who'd clearly been hoping
to isolate one player and couldn't have been happy when he
saw he was going to get two or three opponents, turned over
6-6, and Brendel turned over A-K.
Everyone whiffed as the board came down Jd-10c-3c-4h-2s,
and the pre-flop leader was the post flop winner, with Qutami
eliminating both Brendel and Coreli on the same hand. Brendel
was awarded 8th based on starting the hand with more chips
than Coreli, and what had been a tightly packed 10-player
table was now seven-handed only eight hands into the final.
Maybe the final wasn't going to take so long after all
I'd observed Ibrahim building his stack happily the night
before when the four-table hand-for-hand battle began. He
knew this was a fine time to steal chips from players who
were trying to hang on for the money, and he did it, and he
retained that very aggressive style in the early going, pushing
his chip total near 300k before the 20th hand. He did just
what you're supposed to do, push until they push back, and
the one time someone did push back, he made the nut flush
on the river.
It's FUN to be the chip leader. Much more fun than it was
to be in Qutami's seat, especially after his "Two with
one blow" chips blew away on hand #18 and he found himself
raising UTG on #26, with only 4k left. Bonyadi decided to
isolate with a re-raise, and Qutami called.
A-9 for Qutami, who couldn't have felt very comfortable with
that as an all-in hand until Bonyadi turned over 6-6. At least
he had two overcards, and bang, the first card off the deck
was a nine as the flop came 9-7-2.
IF YOU ANNOUNCE IT, IT WILL COME
With tournament Co-Director Matt Savage manning the microphone
(the crowds this year are in for a real treat: not only is
Savage doing a good job announcing, calling out bets clearly
and chip counts regularly, but the final table area has been
moved to the section of the room usually reserved for the
Championship final, and two plasma screens treat viewers to
excellent shots of the table and the board), a ten hit the
turn, and Savage immediately noted that Bonyadi had picked
up additional outs, because an eight would make a straight.
Eight it was, the 8s to be specific, and Qutami exited seventh.
A little while later, after hand #48, I did a chip estimate,
and had the field at:
Bonyadi's fortunes immediately headed south, losing one pot
when his Q-8 got outkicked by a Q-9, and another when he ran
into a mere quad fives. Most of the rest of his chips vanished
when he took A-J against J-10 and played it very strongly
all the way into a board of Ad-Kd-Qd-Qs-3s. His flush draw
never got there and his aces were no good against a flopped
straight. He lost his last 2k when he tossed it in from the
button, with the blinds calling and checking him down the
whole way; sure enough, the board came 4-4-5-3-7, and the
two checking blinds, Brody and Schwartz, each had a seven.
HALF THE FIELD GOES IN 59 HANDS
MAYBE THE WHOLE FIELD
Brody's 9-7 edged out Schwartz's 8-7, and Bonyadi exited
sixth. We'd eliminated half the field in 59 hands. It was
going to take a lot longer to eliminate the rest. Two hands
later, the players asked if they could take a break, and I
sensed deal talk coming.
The players returned from a quick trip out of the room to
discuss a deal. A calculator came out, with the chips at
The trailers proposed a deal wherein the two leaders would
take $140,000 each, the three trailers $100,000 each, with
$16,000 left in play. After a fairly lengthy discussion, Ibrahim
vetoed the deal, even though $140,000 was almost second place
Two hands later, the discussion began again, this time with
the offer at $145,000 for Ibrahim and $135,000 for Schwartz.
Second place was to pay $149,140 in this event, but Ibrahim
still wasn't buying it, even though he would now really be
locking up almost second place money and could still take
Table discussion wandered back and forth about the deal and
other money matters over the next few hands. Helfert said
"I'll play nine ball with any of you for any amount,
you pro gamblers, money doesn't mean anything to you."
Ibrahim responded that "It means a little," and
Helfert, jovially enough, said "Yeah, bullets. I used
to be a pro pool player, and money was bullets for me then."
(By the way, out of respect for everything that has gone
on and is still going on in Iraq, I seriously considered eliminating
all of the usual poker metaphors about battles, ammunition,
and the like from all WSOP reports this year, but finally
decided that that's the language used in the poker world and
would stick with it here.)
ONE OF POKER'S GREATEST ROLLER COASTER RIDES BEGINS
Meanwhile, Ostrow shortly thereafter proved how quickly fortunes
can shift even in a limit tournament - one of the reasons
why many players want to deal near the end.
On hand #71, Brody made it 8k from the cutoff seat, Schwartz
cold-called from the button, Ibrahim called from the small
blind, and Ostrow made it 12k from the big blind, with all
three players calling: four players in for 12k each before
The flop came 10c-Jc-4d, Ibrahim checked, Ostrow bet 4k,
Brody passed, Schwartz made it eight, and got two callers:
three players in for 8k each on the flop, putting 72k in the
The 7h hit the turn, everyone checked to Schwartz, who bet
8k and got two callers again; it was now a 96k pot. The 2s
hit the river, it was checked around, Ostrow turned over his
pocket kings, and the opposition mucked. With none of the
draws getting there on the turn or river, Ostrow may have
missed a bet or two, but he still collected a big pot. Schwartz's
raise on the flop saved him some money later.
My next chip count came at hand #76, when the players took
the scheduled ten minute break after the 90 minute round ended:
NOT EXACTLY THE OK CORRAL
When the players returned, the game jumped from $2,000-4,000
blinds, playing 4&8, to $3,000-5,000 blinds, playing 5&10.
It was only going to cost 2k more to sit out a round, and
the betting structure only increased 25%. Plenty of play left
for the more skilled players, and far less of a shoot-out
than historically would have been the case.
Brody couldn't have been happy. Not only was he trailing,
and not only had his attempts to lock up $100,000 cash failed
when he was in a better chip position, but on the break he
told me that he considered the relatively unknown Schwartz
(a Maple Ridge, British Columbia resident) one of his two
most dangerous opponents, regardless of chip counts; Ibrahim,
who had a very successful tournament history until a dry spell
the last two or three years, was the other.
Ostrow again showed us he was playing a bit "snug,"
as those players who don't like the word "tight"
tend to say, on hand #106. Brody opened with a raise to 10k,
Ostrow made it 15k from the small blind, and Brody called.
The flop came 8d-7d-6d, Ostrow bet out, and Brody called,
a scenario repeated when the 10d (not merely a fourth diamond
but one that made another straight flush possible) hit the
turn. The 9s hit the river, putting a straight on board, Ostrow
checked, Brody bet 10k, and with 75k in the pot (and hence
half of 85k available if he called and split it), Ostrow let
A GREAT LAYDOWN? AN OBVIOUS LAYDOWN? OR WAS THE PLAY TOO
It might have been a great laydown - heck, I wouldn't argue
with someone who called it an obvious laydown situation, because
Ostrow was only going for a split, that's pretty clear. It's
hard to imagine him laying down a diamond, and either a diamond
or a jack beat him - but given the aggressive play we'd been
seeing, I was surprised he let it go.
Maybe this is just a case of "when you know the player,
you call it a great laydown, and when you don't, you think
he's inviting attack," but we'd seen before and would
see again other instances of Ostrow playing conservatively,
and with him checking the river, I'm pretty sure Brody would
have bet with any two cards.
At hand #115, the latest chip estimate was
Ostrow wasn't the only player who was a bit cautious. On
#118, Brody raised from the button, and Ibrahim, as he probably
did at least 90% of the day, defended his big blind. He checked
and called when Brody bet the 4s-8d-5h flop, and check-raised
Brody when the Jh hit the turn; Brody only called the check-raise,
and only flat called when Ibrahim led out for 10k on the river.
BRODY'S TURN FOR UNDUE CAUTION
I say "only" because Brody turned over pocket jacks
for a set on the turn, a point when only a 6-7 could have
been beating him, and while the river seven meant any six
would have beaten him, a mere call seems shy. Some players
might ask "What would Ibrahim call with except a six,
had Brody raised the river," but I can imagine quite
a few calling hands - any smaller set, an overpair (unlikely
with the mere call pre-flop), two pair, or even one pair.
I think that if Ibrahim is playing pocket sixes or 6-7 you
just pay him off, especially given how clearly he had been
the aggressor all day long, but hey, it's a lot easier from
the sidelines. I suspect Brody just called on the turn planning
on raising the river and the seven scared him off. He's too
good a player to seriously consider that the aggressive Ibrahim
really had 6-7 on the turn.
Meanwhile, the pool-playing Helfert was probably indeed wishing
the game was nine ball and not limit hold'em, because he'd
lost half his meager stack on hand #117, and then on #119,
he raised and got a call out of Ibrahim from the small blind.
Ibrahim bet out on the 8c-8d-4c flop, with Helfert calling,
and then Ibrahim check-raised Helfert for his last 20k when
the 7c hit the turn.
As if to prove that 6-7 might have been a reasonable hand
to watch out for the previous hand, Ibrahim turned over 5-6
for a gutshot straight hit on the turn, and Helfert's pocket
queens needed an eight or queen to hit the river. The 2s didn't
qualify, and Helfert exited fifth, the first victim of the
non-deal in collecting "only" $35,320.
SCHWARTZ NEXT TO FEEL THE UNDEAL
Schwartz looked like another likely victim. Ever since he'd
hit his high water mark near 250k, he couldn't make any hand
hold up and with Ibrahim playing sheriff on most raises, he
couldn't steal much of anything. He had only 27k left when
we reached hand #123, and all that went in pre-flop and on
the flop when he took his pocket nines up against Ibrahim's
The nines were a nice favorite pre-flop but zing, 6-K-6-A-2,
and the likeable Canadian was gone, not merely out the 100k
that the trailers had been trying for, but the 140k or 135k
that all said Ibrahim were willing to grant him and his big
stack. Instead, he collected $47,100.
Ostrow continued with his snug play and as the game grew
more and more shorthanded, this approach proved less and less
successful, with Brody and Ibrahim taking turns attacking
him. He had only 10k left when we hit hand #129, when Brody
raised from the button, and Ostrow called all-in from the
GUESS WE SHOULD HAVE PUT A FORK IN HIM
He was winning, too: Ac-Qc vs. Kd-7d for Brody, but the flop
came 3h-7c-10c. Brody had paired, but Ostrow was plenty live
with a flush draw and two overcards - actually, he was about
a 7:6 favorite with that draw, but it probably didn't feel
that way until the Qs came off on the turn.
Still the way back seemed impossible, even after he picked
up a couple more chips: the counts were
Ostrow won a couple of small pots, though, and then doubled
through with pocket queens: suddenly he had almost 100k, and
his opponents were probably wishing they'd taken his unreasonable
offer (before the double-through) of $120,000 for his spot.
With third place guaranteed $74,560, I'd figured he was worth
about 90k, and on a break Brody mentioned the exact same figure.
Six hands later, Ostrow put in every bet and raise he could,
and Ibrahim paid him off the whole way on the J-9-9-2-6 board;
pocket kings were good, and Ostrow, who'd had 10k and a draw
on hand #129, now had 145k after hand #142.
I'VE HEARD OF SHOTGUN WEDDINGS, BUT THIS WAS TOO CLOSE
Eighteen hands later, Ostrow got everyone's heart pumping
almost as fast as they had been when they carried the actual
payoff money in a couple of minutes earlier; it wasn't the
money that caused the adrenaline surge so much as the guard
carrying the shotgun (aimed, fortunately, at the ceiling)
Ibrahim made it 10k from the button, Ostrow made if 15k,
Ibrahim went to 20k, and Ostrow made it 25k. Zounds! Ostrow
bet out and was called all the way as the board came 4d-5h-5d-kh-5c,
and was so excited that he announced "aces full"
on the showdown as he turned over his pocket rockets.
"It's actually fives full of aces," corrected Savage,
but that hand was good enough. He'd had every short-chipped
player's dream: Q-Q, K-K, and finally A-A, getting action
on each hand and finding each hand holding up. When we hit
the dinner break, the chip count was
Ostrow wasn't quite in the penthouse, but he sure wasn't
residing in the outhouse, either. It was truly anyone's tournament,
and each player had an hour to figure out how to make it his.
As the players assembled before the restart, I started asking
our Las Vegas mystery man a little about his tournament history,
starting with if he could ever recall a comeback like this.
IT TURNS OUT TODD OSTROW HAD STEPPED UP JUST A BIT IN
"Nope, not like THIS," he said, clearly full of
joy, "especially when you consider what's at stake. I
usually play the small buy-in events at the Mirage or the
Orleans, with my best result about $700. This is my first
WSOP event ever, and obviously it's going to be worth a bit
more than my previous tournaments!"
Yep, I'd call two orders of magnitude a reasonable step up
in class, and of course, he had a shot at still more as play
continued with the blinds moving from $3,000-$5,000 all the
way up, in one jump, to $3,000-$6,000. Golly gosh darn, it
was going to cost a whole $1,000 extra to sit out a round,
and the stakes had leapt up by a non-dizzying 20%.
Eleven hands into the post-dinner action, Ostrow hit Brody,
a friendly Davie, Florida resident who has, by his own admission,
"way too many final tables and not nearly enough wins,"
(a syndrome with which I can empathize) with a right and a
left worthy of the YOUNG version of George Foreman.
On hand #171, Brody made it 12k from the button, Ibrahim
made it 18k, and Ostrow made it 24k, with everyone calling.
The flop came 10c-7d-3s, Ibrahim led for 6k, Ostrow made it
12k, Brody made it 18k, and Ibrahim said "no mas"
while Ostrow called.
Ostrow check-called when the 8h hit the turn, and when the
9c hit the river, he checked, Brody bet again (not shy at
all here), and Ostrow made it 24k. Brody looked like the guard
might have gotten careless with that shotgun, and almost threw
his K-K away, but called, seeing exactly what he expected:
J-J and a gutshot straight for Ostrow.
DID ONE BAD TURNS DESERVE ANOTHER?
Heck, it's only one hand, right? Enter hand #172, where Ostrow
limped in from the SB on a rare non-Ibrahim raise, and he
and Brody saw a cheap flop of 8d-7c-Js. Ostrow checked, Brody
bet 6k, and Ostrow called. The 5c hit the turn, Ostrow checked
again, Brody bet again, but this time Ostrow popped it to
24k, with Brody calling.
An irrelevant-looking 2s hit the river, Ostrow led out for
12k, and Brody called. Ostrow turned over 8-7, two pair on
the flop, and Brody sighed as he turned over 8-5, two pair
on the turn.
Ostrow, the $10,000 man not so very long ago, now had roughly
300k and a clear lead over Brody, who had sunk near the 200k
mark. Brody was shaking his head, muttering to himself, and
trying to laugh as a means of recovering his composure.
Meanwhile, echoes of a favorite old science fiction story,
"All the Way Back," by Michael Ansarra, started
reverberating around in my head.
Greg Hopkins, a friend to both Brody and Ibrahim, was on
the rail and tried to break the tension by saying "It's
good to have some adversity." Brody agreed, although
wasn't sure this was the precise moment to endure it. Meanwhile,
Ostrow had his fist pressed against his forehead as he was
shaking his head, obviously in some measure both stunned and
thrilled, and probably trying to calm himself enough to play.
EASY COME, EASY GO
The chips started leaking back just a few hands later, on
#188, when Ostrow called a 12k bet on the end staring into
a board of 8d-4s-Qc-Jc-Qs, and couldn't beat Ibrahim's eight.
Hands #191, 192, and 193 also each gouged into Ostrow's stack,
and while he lost more money on #191, #193 probably hurt more,
because in a three-way limp pot, everyone checked the flop
and the turn on an A-5-4-9 board. The 3s hit the river, Ostrow
finally led out, and Brody just called with his 8-2 (a straight),
probably fearing a backdoor flush. Ostrow flipped over 9-4,
a reasonable enough checking hand on the flop, but two pair
on the turn and a self-trap, giving Brody yet another free
card with a hand on which he never would have called any bet.
Half of that 300k was gone, much to Ibrahim but some to Brody,
who had now pulled back into second at 240k.
Ostrow's chips kept melting away, as steadily as light snow
on a hot sunny day. He'd fallen to 90k by #206, and to 44k
by #211. His anguish and disappointment were as visible on
his face as his excitement had been what seemed like only
By #219, he had 13k left. He'd run 10k into 300k and now
was back almost exactly where he'd started.
EASY GO, EASY COME
He tripled up on the next hand, and an eerie déjà
vu feeling started working its way around the room (is there
any other kind of déjà vu?)
By #224 it was 60k. By #226 it was more than 100k. I took
particular note of #227 because as soon as I glanced up from
my note-taking, I realized the button hadn't moved. I frantically
but silently tried to get Savage's attention. I was a railbird,
albeit one allowed inside the rail. It wasn't my place to
say anything to the players, but I felt it was OK to say something
quietly to the director. By the time he noticed me, Ostrow
was just about to drag a very small pot, and it really was
too late to do anything.
It was, oddly, time for the next dealer to come into the
box, and so the former dealer was standing next to us as I
showed Savage my notes, that had tracked the button every
hand. No question, it hadn't moved, and the dealer confirmed
this. "I was about to move the button," he said,
"but the other two players (Ostrow, SB, and Brody, BB)
had already posted their blinds, and I thought maybe I'd missed
A new count had it
This comeback wasn't going to get to 300k, though. Ostrow
started faltering, unable to find the big hands but even more
important switching gears at exactly the wrong time. His earlier
snug play would have avoided these troubles, but over the
next few dozen hands he paid off far too many winners on the
end, making calls with very little of his own.
Whether or not the calls were right isn't clear; three-handed,
you don't need a lot. What was clear was that his timing was
way off; he was calling when opponents had the goods, and
given his earlier reluctance to play with anything other than
real hands, he probably should have figured that if opponents
kept betting into him after he'd called, they probably had
He found himself down to 15k by hand #257, and escaped with
a split taking Q-3 against Q-4 when the first four cards came
A-A-J-Q; there was no river card that could have avoided a
ANOTHER MONSTROUS BLIND JUMP
After #258, the blinds almost increased by a factor someone
could notice: they went from $3,000-6,000 playing 6&12
to $4,000-$8,000, playing 8&16. Blinds and bets had each
increased 25%, and it would actually cost $3,000 more to sit
out a round.
On the first hand at the new level, Ostrow had to post 8k
of his remaining 15k as the big blind, and Ibrahim wasn't
the type to given anyone any breathing room. He raised from
the SB and Ostrow thought long and hard. Obviously he had
almost nothing, but the thought of dropping to 7k with 4k
of it posted as the SB was too unappealing. He called, saying
"I need help" and turned over 8-3.
He didn't need as much help as he thought, because Ibrahim
had only J-2, but a jack hit the J-6-7 flop, and when a six
hit the turn, "Ostrow the Unkillable" had finally
been stomped out of the tournament. Two such great comebacks
and such a big payday for a small tournament player will make
for memories for a lifetime, though, and even if $74,560 wasn't
as much as he might have made in a deal, he'd had a ride he
- and many others - will long remember.
It was thus on hand #260 that the heads-up duel began, with
Ibrahim leading 580k to 260k. Heads-up, the small blind goes
on the button (SBB) and acts first before the flop and second
after the flop.
Ibrahim made a strong statement on hand #263, a limp-in pot.
He bet out at the 2h-7h-Ad flop, only to get called. Both
players checked when the 3c hit the turn, and when the Kd
hit the river, Ibrahim checked and then called Brody's 16k
bet - even though the pot wasn't very large.
Brody turned over 8h-4h, a flush draw gone bad, and incredibly,
Ibrahim turned over J-10 - jack high!
If that isn't enough to spook you into thinking your opponent
has a read on you, I'm not sure what is. Nonetheless, it made
a fair amount of sense. Neither player had acted like he owned
a pocket pair, and it would be hard to value bet a king with
an ace on the board. There was a reasonable chance that Brody
was betting with exactly what he had, a flush draw that had
no chance to win except with a bet. Figuring he could beat
a stone cold bluff, he made a call I don't think I'm capable
Ibrahim kept firing at the undoubtedly shaken Brody, and
worked his lead to 690k-150k, and then to 740k-100k. Just
as it looked like we might be done, Brody almost doubled through
on a hand he raised from the SBB - a tricky thing to do against
an opponent who hadn't released many hands to raises, given
that Brody had 3-5!
NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL A FLOP
The flop, though, brought fire and brought rain: Ah-4h-2d,
a straight, though we didn't yet know it, for Brody! Each
player checked the flop, but when the 4c hit the turn, Ibrahim
checked, Brody bet 16k, and Ibrahim picked the wrong moment
for a check-raise to 32k.
Brody just called, waiting, hindsight tells us, to use his
position to trap Ibrahim on the river, and Ibrahim cooperated
by betting out. Brody raised, got his call, and turned over
Four hands later, his stack was back to 225k, and by hand
#308, it was 351k (Ibrahim thus at 493k). And here I was thinking
that the best roller coaster in town was over at New York
New York (actually, it probably is, but with the miserable
shape my back is in, you won't catch me riding that THIS trip
now it's 50-50 whether I go to the Bellagio tomorrow, or pass
and have Max Shapiro cover it).
WE COULDN'T HAVE ANOTHER DEAL TALK GO AWRY, COULD WE?
At this point Brody brought up the possibility of a deal,
and for the first time in a long time, Ibrahim - thus far
completely vindicated in his earlier refusals - considered
accepting. He was willing to chop according to the chips,
which would have meant Brody would get about $183,000, but
Brody quite correctly asked for some kind of premium on his
Ibrahim was willing to consider $190,000 (leaving him with
about $250,000) but Brody figured his stack might be worth
more, and as he made his point, Ibrahim decided they should
just play it.
All we needed was for Ibrahim to say "Play it, Sam,
you played it for her, you can play it for me," but he
was focused on movies, not Bogie and Bergman.
Ibrahim seemed to again have picked the right moment to just
say no, because Brody couldn't make a hand over the next 60
hands. "I raised with every hand I had that I could raise
with," he told me afterwards about that stretch, "but
Mohamed called most of the raises, and then I could never
hit a flop. I might have checked a few times when I should
have bet (no argument here: it seemed like there were far
too many hands where Brody raised pre-flop but gave up when
he didn't hit a flop), but I couldn't move him and I couldn't
By the time we reached the official break, Ibrahim lead 725k
to 120k. The blinds skyrocketed again, from $4,000-8,000 to
$5,000-10,000 - another 25% jump. If all men could be this
gentle and this long-lasting when it came to sex, the world
would be a much less troubled place, I think.
Ibrahim kept the pressure on, and had Brody reeling and down
to about 90k when we reached hand #374. Ibrahim made it 20k
from the SBB, Brody re-popped it to 30k, with Ibrahim calling.
The flop came Ac-6d-3s, and Brody bet 10k, with Ibrahim calling
again. The 10h hit the turn, and Brody again led out, with
Ibrahim calling the 20k. A seven hit the river, Brody led
out one more time, and again Ibrahim called.
NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL A RIVER
Brody flipped over his pocket sevens, a set on the river,
and Ibrahim showed everyone his ace. The tournament would
have been over, barring an Ostrow-like comeback from the 10k
Brody would have had left. Instead, Brody had a real stack,
and on the very next hand, his 5-9 caught a gutshot straight
on the turn as the board came 2-7-8-6. In two hands, he'd
moved from 90k to the low 200s.
Lady Luck can be a fickle partner, though. On the hand following
Brody's gutshot, Ibrahim made it 20k from the SBB, with Brody
calling. The flop came Q-3-A, with Brody leading out, Ibrahim
raising, and Brody calling. A deuce hit the turn and a six
the river, with Brody check-calling 20k each time.
Ibrahim flipped over 4-5, having turned a gutshot of his
own. With all these belly wounds, I was wondering how anyone
was going to be able to eat again. Maybe the security guard
with the shotgun was targeting the cards.
While Brody recovered from a dose of his own medicine, Ibrahim
shot 20k at an 80k pot with the board showing 8c-Qd-4h-Kh-Jd,
and Brody let it go. Ibrahim turned over 10-3 offsuit, your
more or less totally successful bluff and mind game rolled
up into one.
Brody kept trying but sliding after that, and his stack eroded.
Ibrahim won a never-bet limp pot on #392 after announcing
"nine-high," leaving Brody with 40k.
On hand #393, Brody tossed half of his stack in as a raise
from the SBB, and Ibrahim called. The flop came 3c-Kc-10s,
Ibrahim checked, Brody bet, and Ibrahim raised Brody's last
10k. Brody wasn't happy but with that much in the pot and
memories of the 10-3 hand no doubt still floating about, he
called. Pocket nines for Ibrahim, Ac-Q? for Brody, who needed
either a queen, ace, or running clubs.
LOTS OF OUTS LEAD ONLY TO AN EXIT
The 4c hit the turn. Brody was live to any club, any ace,
or any queen. He said he'd gladly give Ibrahim a set if it
came via the 9c, but the river card was one pip and one color
off. The ten of hearts gave Mohamed Ibrahim his first ever
WSOP bracelet, and complete vindication for refusing deal
after deal after deal.
Brody is a successful stock trader, and while he wouldn't
throw $140,000 out into the street, was quite sincere when
he said the battle had been, for him, much more about the
bracelet than the cash.
"Money spends," he said, "and I have enough
money. I've played in maybe 65 WSOP events, cashed about 15
times, but have never gotten all the way. It's tough to come
this close and lose."
How did he feel, then, if this was all about the bracelet?
Not as badly as his first words would have had me guess. "I
don't feel that bad," he said. "I mean I did just
win a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and I did perform
well, and got second place in a huge tournament. That's not
a horrible outcome just because it wasn't my ideal outcome."
Because of various comments the two players had exchanged
about "adding another game" to the play, as well
as various good-natured challenges about playing some high
stakes Omaha later, I assumed that limit hold'em wasn't Brody's
best game, and asked him if that were true.
THE BEST CRACK ABOUT LIMIT HOLD'EM YOU'LL HEAR THIS YEAR
"I don't think limit hold'em is ANYONE'S best game,"
he said with a smile. "It certainly isn't mine. It's
very trying. You can't move chips or protect a hand. I'm probably
best at Omaha eight-or-better, or pot-limit Omaha, or no-limit
I don't have any regrets," he concluded. "I raced
over here just after I busted out of the Bellagio main event,
and got here at 11:45 (each tournament starts at noon). If
I'd lasted 45 more minutes at the Bellagio, I wouldn't have
been able even to enter this event. I played well, I think
Mohamed played very well, and I had a great time."
When I was able to reach Ibrahim (it's pronounced eeb-ra-heem),
the first thing I wanted to know was what was on his mind
as he refused deal after deal.
"I felt very comfortable with the game," he said,
"even though I knew anything could happen. There just
wasn't going to be a deal that I was happy with, especially
because the money was very important to me, bigger than the
bracelet, because the money was big not just for me but for
a lot of other people."
I wanted to know what he meant, because I knew just enough
about Ibrahim's game to get myself in trouble. When I first
met him and started playing against him four years ago, he
was hugely successful and feared, and I hadn't realized there
had been a long dry spell.
ACTUAL HONESTY AND ACCEPTING OF RESPONSIBILITY
THAT HAPPEN IN POKER?
"I had a big loss in the pit games," he said, "and
ever since that, I haven't been very lucky in tournaments.
I've only been able to play tournaments lately because so
many of my friends have supported me, either with loans or
by backing me."
I was curious if Ibrahim would be willing to reveal the names
of his supporters, and he was. When you read the folks he
named, you'll quickly realize that he MUST be a very skilled
player, because the list isn't exactly full of people lacking
"There are a lot," he began. "Allen Cunningham,
and Ted Forrest, they have been big. Johnny Chan, and Gus
Hansen, and Freddie Deeb, Lee Salem, Greg Hopkins, Hasan Habib
list goes on, there are a lot more."
There was a reason for Ibrahim's turnaround, it appears -
one that goes beyond his friends' faith in him.
"I quit smoking five months ago," he said. "In
fact, over the last half year, I have been working hard at
getting rid of all my leaks (bad habits). I haven't played
any pit games, no blackjack or craps. I didn't even play any
Bellagio events, because I didn't quite feel mentally ready
yet. But I felt ready for this one. Choosing to get rid of
my leaks has worked for me, at least so far."
In a community of players who so often blame everything except
themselves for their failures, it was awfully refreshing to
hear a talented player accept responsibility for his own hard
times, and even more good to see that accepting that responsibility
and choosing to DO something about it resulted in a big win.
THAT'S a lesson far more important than any of the hands Mohamed
Ibrahim played today, a lesson valuable not just in poker.
It was such a good lesson, and such a happy ending, it even
made it worth sitting through 393 hands. I can't wait for
the split-pot games to begin
FINAL OFFICIAL RESULTS, $2,000 LIMIT HOLD'EM
422 ENTRIES, TOTAL PRIZE POOL $784,920
(7% withheld for Binion's overhead, profit, and tournament
1. Mohamed Ibrahim, $290,420
2. Jon Brody, $149,140
3. Todd Ostrow, $74,560
4. Adam Schwartz, $47,100
5. Jay Helfert, $35,320
6. Farzad "Freddie" Bonyadi, $27,480
7. Danny Qutami, $19,620
8. Richard Brendel, $15,700
9. Joseph Coreli, $12,660
10. Tuan Nguyen, $9,420
11th-12th, $9,140 each: Ralph Grantham, Don Barton.
13th-15th, $7,840 each: Juha Helppi, Raymond Yee, Dat Tran.
16th-18th, $6,280 each: Perry Shenkman, Robert Drew MacGregor,
Yuegi (Rich) Zhu.
19th-27th, $4,700 each: James Allen, Warren Karp, Frank Giammarinaro,
Teresa McMillan, Nhut Tran, Phi Nguyen, Brain Cunningham,
Kathy Liebert, Russell Hendricks.
I love getting reader feedback and questions. Don't be shy about
disagreeing with anything you read in Wednesday Nite Poker.
If I decide you're right, readers will hear about it (with attribution
or without, as you prefer); if you're wrong, you'll probably
learn something important when you hear why you're wrong.
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