"And With a Wave of the Master’s Wand, Pot-Limit Omaha Becomes Deuce-to-Seven"

By Andrew N.S. Glazer, "The Poker Pundit"


Two important pre-report notices: First, if you’re receiving this in black on a blue background, try “selecting the text.” Second, when writing in with feedback, please take note of who wrote what article! Max Shapiro wrote the last three, and many people missed that. If Max writes a story, it’s best to send comments to him at readenlaff@aol.com, with a cc to me at pokerpundit@aol.com.

Today, Andy made a comeback from his ailing back sickbed, although not until two hours had passed at the final table. Max gave me his notes for hands 1-56. Please keep your fingers and toes crossed that my back stays uncrossed.

Now let’s get to business, and what fun business we had today, April 23, in the $1,500 (with rebuys) Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) event at the 2003 World Series of Poker.

A FEW PLO BASICS

Play started with 53 minutes left at the $1,000-2,000 blind level, where an opening raiser could bring the hand in for any amount in the $4,000 to $7,000 range. If you want a quick method to calculate the maximum possible opening raise at any level in PLO, just multiply the small blind by seven.

If you want to look at it another way (and you need to know this other “way” for raises that take place after someone has already limped or raised), the smallest raise allowed is $4,000, because that’s twice the previous bet (here, the big blind). The largest raise is $7,000 because the raiser can call the $2,000 big blind, which leaves $5,000 in the pot, and then raise the size of the pot, $5,000. Five thousand plus two thousand yields $7,000.

The starting seats and chip positions were:

Seat Player Chips
1 Chris Tsiprailidis $19,000
2 Jeff Shulman $15,000
3 Erik Seidel $50,000
4 Jon Brody $15,500
5 Dave Colclough $38,500
6 Scotty Warbucks $31,000
7 Men Nguyen $64,500
8 Billy Duarte $22,500
9 Brian Moore $34,500
10 Jeff Duval $113,500

This meant that $404,000 in chips were in play, although by a strict count from starting stacks and rebuys, there should have been $399,000. A certain amount of overage is expected from blinded off empty stacks and chip-ups during race-offs, but $5,000 (more than three buy-ins) is a bit on the high side. Someone probably made a mistake somewhere.

ONE STRIKE AND HE’S OUT

Tsiprailidis left the table after one hand in PLO’s version of “the classic confrontation.” In limit hold’em, the “classic confrontation” is A-K vs. Q-Q, but in PLO, you get it when one player flops top set and the money goes in against someone with a huge draw, like a “wrap” (for “wraparound” a big straight draw, where any of at least four cards gives the player a straight), and better still, a wrap plus a flush draw.

These big confrontations – the big made hand against the big draw – are often virtual coin flips, and they create big bang-bang-bang action.

Here, Duvall opened from the cut-off seat for 7k with A-A-J-4 and a suited ace of diamonds. Tsiprailidis called holding Q-Q-A-4. When the flop came Q-8-2 with two diamonds, each player had a lot going for him. Tsiprailidis had a set and Duvall a both a flush draw and an overpair to the board. A diamond hit the river; Duvall had the better pre-flop hand, Tsiprailidis the better hand on the flop, and Duvall the better one on the river. So goes PLO, and so went Tsiprailidis, out 10th.

The river came to Duvall’s aid again on hand #8, where four players saw the Kd-9s-2s flop. Colclough, with pocket kings and a suited jack of spades had, we were to find out, both a set and a flush draw, and bet 5k. Duvall, with K-Q-5-4 and a suited king of spades had a pair of kings and a bigger flush draw and raised 18k to put Colclough all in. The board finished J-10 to give Duvall a back-door straight to send Colclough out ninth.

AND I THOUGHT MY HOMETOWN WAS BAD

Card Player Editor Jeff Shulman had come to the final table last in chips and apparently first in sense of humor (or perhaps irreverence) because he filled out his bio sheet in a rather colorful manner, listing his hometown as “Hell” and his occupation as “Hooker.” On hand #14, Men “the Master” Nguyen (wearing trademark pants that have “Men the Master” embroidered onto the pockets…and the only player here I am going to commonly call by his first name, because there are so many Nguyen’s in poker) opened for 6k; Moore called, and Shulman moved his 19k all-in from the cut-off seat.

Men wanted to make sure he could play this hand heads up, so he also re-raised all-in for another 35.5K. Moore got out of the way, and we saw that Shulman had the lead with A-A-K-10 and a suited ace, while Men had 8h-7h-7c-5c. “I love double-suited hands,” he said later. The board came Q-8-3-5-4, and Men won with two pair. “If he (Shulman) doesn’t make a move, I’m done on the flop,” Men said as he raked in the chips. He’d knocked Shulman out in eighth place before I arrived, removing all concerns I had about the possible need to call any of The Boss’s stratagems weak.

Before hand #28, blinds went to $1,500-$3,000, allowing the first raiser to make it anywhere from $6,000 to $10,500.

The final dramatic hand before the coach sent Glazer in for Shapiro was #35. Brody, at his second final table in this Series, moved in for his last few chips in the small blind holding A-A-K-J double suited, and Seidel called from the button with K-J-9-3 and a suited king. The board came K-J-8-J, giving Seidel jacks full and an apparent k/o of Brody, but an ace hit the river to give Brody new life and cut out some of Seidel’s.

GLAZER’S “BACK” AT IT

I came in on hand #57 with Duarte on the button, and estimated the chip count to be:

Seidel, $41,000
Brody, $11,000
Warbucks, $16,000
Duvall, $90,000
Nguyen, $81,000
Duarte, $100,000
Moore, $65,000

One hand later, the short-stacked Brody came along for the ride from the big blind on a four-way limper, and then pushed his remaining 7k all-in when the flop came 8c-3s-8s. Men called him, and turned over 5-6-7-8, trips with a bad kicker. Brody showed A-J-8-4 (I’m only calling suits when they are relevant), trips with top kicker.

The 6c came off on the turn, though, to fill Men up and send Brody out seventh, where he completed his “bad timing day” by going immediately over to the H.O.R.S.E. tournament into which he had bought in, played for two hours, and then left to get blinded and anted off while he played the PLO final table.

It was “whipsaw day” because Brody had taken a big pot bad beat just as he had to leave for the PLO final table, sending him there in a (temporarily) bad mood. At the PLO final, a cruel turn card sent him out and back to the H.O.R.S.E. in a bad mood, augmented by the chips that had been lost while he was playing in the PLO event.

AND YOU THOUGHT PLAYING TWO ONLINE GAMES AT ONCE IS TOUGH…

It has been done before and it will be done again, but playing two tournaments simultaneously like this doesn’t strike me as optimal strategy, especially not in a six week long WSOP, when there will be plenty of time to play plenty of tournaments.

The break that sent the blinds to $2,000-4,000 (opening raise from 8k-14k) came after hand #67, and I was able to get a more accurate count:

Seidel, $34,000
Warbucks, $45,000
Duvall, $111,000
Nguyen, $99,000
Duarte, $55,000
Moore, $60,000

Seidel had been quiet and patient ever since I’d arrived at the table, which is more or less par for Erik’s course; he’s as quiet and even-tempered as they come, and his approach marked precisely the opposite end of the spectrum from Men Nguyen’s. Men had been ordering Corona’s regularly, enchanting the crowd with a series of colorful, good-natured remarks, and playing a lot of pots.

When you add in the 12” height differential (Seidel is 6’5” tall), it becomes almost impossible to imagine two players whose physical presence and playing style could be more different.

THEY DID SHARE ONE COMMON TRAIT

About the only thing you could say these two had in common was a high talent level, because, with all due respect to the other players, these were clearly the two biggest names at the table. Seidel owned five WSOP bracelets (titles), and Men four.

On hand #72, poker’s version of the irresistible force and the immoveable object collided. Men opened for 14k, and Seidel moved his 40k all-in, a raise of 26k. When you combined Seidel’s cautious play with Seidel understanding that Men understood Men would be getting good pot odds, I was pretty sure Seidel had a BIG hand, very likely aces and perhaps suited aces at that.

Men probably figured the same thing, but decided to go for it, and called. Seidel turned over As-Ah-9c-5d (aces, sure enough, but not very well coordinated aces), and Men exposed his Ac-Jh-7c-7s.

They ran the board, and Men was dead by the turn as the cards came Ad-6d-4h-9d-10h. The words that no opponent wants to hear came from tournament Co-Director Matt Savage’s microphone: “Erik Seidel doubles through and now has $82,000.”

Seidel’s big hand now enabled him to play a bit more, and he’d taken a slight chip lead over Duvall and Men when we reached hand #82. Duarte limped in for 4k from the button, Moore called from the small blind (SB), and Seidel raised it 12k more from the big blind (BB). Duarte then re-raised his last 13k all-in, Moore declined, and Seidel called.

TROUBLE BREWING FOR SEIDEL

Duarte turned over A-A-Q-3, and Seidel said “I’m in trouble” as he turned over a hand that needed most of the cards in Duarte’s hand to improve: Ac-Qc-9d-3c. The Jh-Js-7c-10h-6h board missed everyone, and Duarte had doubled through, and Seidel, ever the gentleman’s gentleman, said “Well done, Billy,” complimenting him on the limp-trap.

Hand #86 was notable only for the first usage of a line Men would later use again. He’d lost hand #85, and when he raised from the SB, he muttered “Steam raise.” Duarte didn’t call, and Men said “No, I say ‘steam rice, not ‘steam raise.’” When he showed his Q-6-4-3, though, it looked less likely that he had said “steamed rice.”

Two hands later, Duvall limped in and both blinds, Moore and Seidel, took a look at the flop with him. When the dealer gave us 9d-8h-9c, Moore immediately led out for his last 10k, with Duvall calling.

It turned out that Duvall had been limping with an intriguing hand, K-K-5-2, with one king suited in spades; perhaps Seidel’s “Well done, Billy” had reinforced the power of limping, although limping with kings is infinitely more dangerous than limping with aces. He had the lead, but Moore had a reasonable draw with his J-J-10-4 (the top side of the open-ended straight). This draw wasn’t kind to Moore, just as a number of others hadn’t been, and the board finished 3h-6h to eliminate Moore sixth.

NOMINATION FOR “BEST ORIGINAL PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM USE”

Men continued his almost non-stop chatter (and almost as continual downing of Corona after Corona) and playing to the crowd, and I gave Savage a 9.45 rating on his “Ear plugs to the final table, please” announcement over the PA system.

Warbucks had never been close enough to the chip lead to warrant a sobriquet of “Daddy,” and even though he doubled through Seidel on #103 by rivering an ace, he fell on the next hand, when Duarte limped in from the button and both blinds played along.

The flop came 2h-Ks-9s, Warbucks led out for 12k, and Duarte made an odd, limit poker kind of raise, to 24k. Warbucks called, and the two players looked at the 6d on the turn. Warbucks checked, Duarte bet the 6k Warbucks had left in front of him, and we saw that Warbucks was drawing dead: Duarte had K-10-9-9, a set of nines, and Warbucks had A-K-10-4. Even another king wouldn’t have helped; it would have given Warbucks three of them but Duarte nines full of kings. An irrelevant Qd hit the river, and Warbucks was fifth.

The chips were relatively close at this point, but Duvall lost a couple of pots to Seidel and one to Men, which spread things out a bit. As we hit the dinner break, we counted the chips at:

Seidel, $91,000
Duvall, $49,000
Nguyen, $182,000
Duarte, $100,000

The hour-long dinner break is sometimes used for eating but almost always used to discuss strategy and plans, either with friends or with oneself. Sometimes the cards don’t cooperate with the plan, though. The blinds moved to $3,000-6,000, allowing the first raiser to bet anywhere in the 12k-21k range, and on the second hand after the break, Duvall made it 21k from the button.

He didn’t get an easy 9k, though: Duarte called from the BB. The flop came 6h-5h-Jh, and Duarte checked. Duvall moved the last of his chips, about 28k, all-in, and Duarte called instantly.

THIS ISN’T THE OMAHA YOU’RE ACCUSTOMED TO

Shorthanded PLO is nothing like the low limit Omaha games most readers are accustomed to; in those “six players see every flop” games, if a strong hand is possible there’s a good chance someone has it. In such a game, anyone who didn’t have a heart flush, and a strong one at that, probably would be well-advised to get out, although top set or maybe middle set are playable too.

Playing short-handed, though, you can’t assume a flush just because three of a suit hit the flop. Duarte turned over A-A-A-2, and Duvall J-K-Q-Q. Neither player had even a single heart in his hand, and when the board finished 2h-9c, the aces had held up against the queens. Jeff Duvall, the chip leader when play began at the final table, was out in fourth place.

Sometimes when you get three-handed at a final table, the result seems like a mere formality – one great player with a huge chip lead. At those final tables, the real action is the set-up, the way the chip leader took control.

This wasn’t one of those kinds of final tables. The real action, adventure and drama started three-handed, with three of the five best players still in, and plenty of drama. I’ve skimped a little on the action up to here just so there would be room for the finish.

Five hands into the three-way action, Duarte made it 20k to go from the button, and Men called. The flop came Jh-8h-As, Men checked, Duarte bet 25k, and Men said that he was all-in. He wasn’t, of course; this was pot-limit, not no-limit, but saying “all-in” is the equivalent of saying “raise the size of the pot,” especially when that bet more than covers the other player’s stack size.

Duarte threw his hand away, and The Master had added 53k to his stack in one swing. Men showed his hand, as he did quite often during the match: A-Q-J-10. “I have nothing, huh?” Men asked/stated. “Only top two, straight draw, nut flush draw, no hand.”

A few hands after this “no hand,” I estimated the chips at

Seidel, $75,000
Nguyen, $259,000
Duarte, $70,000

AN EARLY MORNING CONFESSION

Ten hands later, at #134, Seidel limped in from the button, Men made it 18k more, and Seidel called.

The flop came 4s-5d-3h, and I now have a confession to make. I followed this pot closely, I thought, and my notes indicated that Men bet the pot, 54k, and Seidel re-raised all-in, the 54k plus another 49k, and that Men called. The only problem with those notes is that the numbers just don’t add up. Seidel didn’t have nearly enough chips to make a bet that big. But I’m almost certain that Men had to call a large bet, a 49k bet, so it may be that Men checked, Seidel bet the 49k, and Men called. It could also be that Men bet out for 54k and Seidel called all-in for 49k.

The problem is, it’s 4:30am and I have no one I can call to get the record straight on this one. I guess those pain killers for the back spasms threw me off more than I knew. I’ll be able to get it right for you tomorrow. For now, let’s just assume that…

Seidel moved all of his chips in, a 49k bet, and Men called. I think the “Men calling” scenario is more likely, because so many of us were stunned that he called with the hand he turned over.

Men had been caught running without the ball. When he turned his hand over, everyone was stunned: he had A-K-Q-J, certainly a premium hand pre-flop, but your basic absolute swing and a miss on the flop.

MAYBE THE TWO GUYS FROM “CHARIOTS OF FIRE” COULD HAVE HELPED

Seidel turned over K-10-5-3, two pair. It could have been worse than that – he could have had a set or a straight, with Men drawing dead. As it was, Men needed runner-runner, and once the 8c hit the turn, the 4d river card was irrelevant.

That scary phrase, “Erik Seidel doubles through” came over the PA. Seidel’s 73k had turned into 152k, and he’d brought Men back to the field in the process.

These totals are why it couldn’t have been Men betting 54k and then Seidel raising 49k. That would have resulted in Seidel owning a monster stack: 24k each pre-flop, then 103k each post-flop. That would have given Seidel 254k (actually 260 with Duarte’s big blind), and I know for a certainty that Seidel didn’t have nearly 300k two hands later.

On the very next hand, he collected 33k more, this time from Duarte, when both players checked the Ah-2d-6c flop, Duarte led out for 7k when the 8h hit the turn, and Seidel bet the pot (26k), with Duarte calling. The Js hit the river, Duarte checked, Seidel bet the pot again, and Duarte let it go.

IT ONLY TOOK TWO HANDS

Again, Savage’s voice: “Erik Seidel has gone from last to first in two hands.” He added 12k more on the next hand, and had 197k. Duarte had about 44k, and Men was at 163k.

We had a moment of comic relief – and yet more proof of why players should table their hands in Omaha, even when they think they are beaten – when on #144, the two blinds, Seidel and Duarte, checked all the way after limping pre-flop. The board showed 10d-9s-9h-7h-8s.

Seidel turned up a five and a six (this had become a fairly common theme once the game got three handed: the players often turned over only the two cards they thought were playing) to show the low end of the possible straight, and Duarte turned over an 8-6; it looked like he had the higher straight. Seidel started looking through the rest of his cards, which he now tabled, and eventually found that he had a ten and could play 10-6 for a chopped pot.

FEET OF CLAY

Duarte had apparently missed that he even had a straight, until the end, and Seidel had thought he only had a nine-high straight, so Savage announced “The best players in the world, and they can’t read their hands.” Hey, Matt, it gets hard after so many hours of staring at combinations.

Duarte doubled his 40k stack back through Seidel three hands later when Seidel decided to call has 12k raise pre-flop with 9-10-J-3, and Seidel tried to steal it when Duarte checked the 6d-5s-7c flop. Duarte moved in after Seidel’s 20k bet, a tiny raise, perhaps two or three thousand, and Seidel was obligated to call. Duarte’s pocket queens held up, and he was back in the game with 80k.

The Master had retaken the lead, 200-124-80. Men kept talking, toying with both the crowd and Duarte. The crowd had been pulling heavily for Duarte, and Men kept making estimates of how many people were pulling for him or Men. “If you win a pot, the whole room say YES, Billy Boy,” Men quipped.

Duarte had joked that he had so many fans because he owed so many people money. “You win today,” Men said, “you pay them off, next time, no one here to root for you!” While Men was playing a small pot with Duarte, he asked the crowd, still quite playfully, “If I lose this hand, please don’t scream, I cannot play!” When Duarte won, Men smiled and asked “How much DO you owe?”

WHERE’S STAN SCHRIER WHEN YOU NEED HIM?

The poker got serious again on hand #158 (with a comic moment thrown in by accident), when Duarte limped in from the button and both blinds played. All checked the 6d-3d-2c flop, but when the 10s hit the turn, Seidel led out for 18k, and got called by both opponents.

The river card was the 5h, and I was sure I heard Seidel say “I bet whatever Billy (Duarte) has there (37k).” No one moved for a minute or two, and I started wondering if Seidel had instead said “I want to know what Duarte has there.” Another minute passed. A minute of silence is a LONG time at moments like this. Finally, with a question that brought to mind Stan Schrier’s lapse at the 2001 Championship event, Men asked “Is it up to me?”

It certainly was a legitimate question; I was closer to Seidel than Men was, and I wasn’t sure what I’d heard. I’d actually written down “I bet what Billy’s got” and then had crossed it out after the long silence and watching Seidel apparently deep in thought trying to figure out what he should do. Instead, he was just trying to look unreadable.

Savage had heard Seidel correctly, and said “Yes, it is, but that’s a legitimate question,” indicating that he understood how Men might not have heard Seidel’s remark. Seidel hadn’t pushed any chips forward; he’d just announced his bet.

MY TURN? OK, MAKE IT $146,000

Upon learning it was his turn to act, Men bet the pot, 146k. Duarte let it go quickly, but Seidel thought for a while. He didn’t have anything like 146k left. If he called and lost, he would be out. He opened a bottle of water, took a drink, and decided to let the hand go, losing 61k in one blow. Men showed 6-4-2, a six-high straight at least, but declined to let anyone know whether his final card was a seven that would have given him an even bigger straight on a 6-3-2-10-5 board.

Men now had almost 300k, with Seidel left with about 60k and Duarte about 40k.

Six hands later, Men took the showmanship to a new level. Duarte limped in from the button, Seidel called from the SB, but Men raised 18k from the BB. Only Duarte called. The flop came Ah-2d-8s, Men bet the pot, and Duarte folded. Men then flipped his hand over to show he had absolutely nothing, no pair, no draw, and no hope. “I not even have a pair, what a player, Men the Master!” he proclaimed.

Duarte dropped down to 14k, but tripled through on hand #162, and now Seidel was the low man, with 26k to Duarte’s 42k. The Master was well over 300k and seemed out of sight.

Seidel asked Duarte if he wanted to save $10,000 (reducing the fluctuation between second and third place money, assuming that was where they would finish, but the save would apply even if some other finish occurred). Men objected, saying it would take pressure off his opponents, and was well within his rights to object. Everyone has to agree to a deal for it to be legal. “If you want to give me first place money, you can chop second and third any way you want,” Men said, and of course Seidel wasn’t willing to do that.

HELP WITH TWO CARDS TO GO, OR SEIDEL WAS GONE

Seidel moved to elimination’s brink a couple of hands later. He limped in from the SB, Men raised it 12k, and Seidel called. The flop came 2c-3c-9c, and Seidel bet his last 8k all in. Men called, and we saw Seidel holding top pair with 9-10-J-Q, but in huge trouble, because Men turned over 9-3-7-Q. Men already had two pair, and so a nine wouldn’t help. He needed either a jack or a ten in the final two cards to win, a queen for a split, or he was gone.

A jack hit the turn, and Seidel lived on.

A couple of hands later, we hit the break, with the blinds now moving to $4,000-8,000, allowing an opening raiser to bet between 16k and 28k. We got an accurate chip count:

Seidel, $52,000
Nguyen, $319,000
Duarte, $33,000

On the second hand after the break (#168), Duarte made it 16k from the SB, Seidel moved in, and Duarte called. Seidel turned over As-Ah-2c-7s, and Duarte was in trouble with Ac-3c-Qs-10d.

The board came Kc-4h-9s-4s-Qh (a queen looks a lot like a jack for a millisecond, and since a jack was Duarte’s out card, Seidel supporters experienced a momentary flash of doom), and Seidel had eliminated Duarte, although he still trailed Men by roughly 300k to 104k.

Heads-up, the small blind goes on the button (SBB) and acts first before the flop and second after the flop.

THE DUEL BEGINS

The heads-up match began on hand #169, and after three hands, the two players started discussing a save; after all, Seidel was one double-through away from making it an even match. First place was to pay $146,100, and second $73,020, so there was a big swing here. Seidel proposed a save where Men would get 40k, Seidel 20k, with the other 13k and the bracelet still in play. Men wanted a 20-50 split, and Seidel declined. Eventually, Men agreed to the 20-40 save. Seidel was guaranteed at least $93,020, and Men at least $113,020.

Although a lot of REAL money had just changed hands, not too much in the way of tournament chips moved for the first ten heads-up hands. On the 11th (#179 overall), Seidel limped in from the SBB, and each player checked the 8s-9d-5s flop. When the Kd hit the turn, Men bet 16k, and Seidel took a good long while thinking. Eventually, he raised the pot, 48k; after putting that money out, he had only 30k left in front of him. A loss would be devastating; a called win would pump him up.

The Master wasn’t into pumping. He let the hand go. He had a big lead and didn’t need to risk it.

On the next one, Men limped in from the SBB, Seidel raised 16k, and Men called. The flop came 3c-10h-10d. Seidel checked, Men bet 25k, and Seidel flat-called.

LET’S THINK ABOUT IT

The 4c hit the turn, Seidel checked, and Men bet the pot: $98,000. Seidel only had 77k in front of him, so if he called and lost, that was it. He sat and thought…and thought…and thought some more. Then, he thought for a while.

Finally, Erik Seidel said “I call,” and turned over Ad-As-2d-Qd. Had all the hands Men had been turning over “free of charge” helped Seidel spot anything? Did Men have the dreaded ten that would have meant trips?

No. Men turned over 6c-6h-5s-Jc. He had a pair of sixes, and an open-ended straight draw. A six, deuce, or seven could win for him.

The ten of spades fell on the river, and we had a new chip leader, Seidel up by exactly 100 large: Seidel 252k, Men 152k.

Men grabbed 24k back on the next hand, and then we hit the pivotal hand #182, where Men brought it in for 24k from the SBB. Seidel called.

The flop came 3c-4s-3h. Seidel checked. The Master bet the pot, 48k. Seidel raised the pot, an all-in bet, given that he could call the 48k, putting 144k in the pot, and then raise 144k.

Men called almost instantly, and Seidel said softly, “I think I need help.” He turned over Qd-Qh-Js-Ks. He had one pair. Such a fast call by Men surely meant that….

MEN NEEDS A DEUCE TO A SEVEN

It meant that Men had a BIG draw: he turned over 5-5-7-6. This meant that any deuce through seven would give Men the pot. Four twos. Two threes. Three fours. Two fives. Three sixes. Three sevens. Men had 17 outs twice. His draw actually made him the favorite. It was a new variation on the classic confrontation. One pair against the big draw.

Pot-Limit Omaha had, from Men’s perspective, turned into Deuce to Seven.

The turn brought the Jack of clubs. Seidel, never much of a talker, said quietly, “picture, picture.”

The river brought the Queen of clubs, trips that Seidel didn’t need. He’d just needed to dodge 17 silver bullets, and he’d done it.

Erik Seidel had his sixth WSOP bracelet. Men “the Master” Nguyen was crushed, and who could blame him? On hand #162, Seidel had $26,000 in chips. Twenty hands later, he had all $404,000.

Men was willing to talk, but he was so clearly disconsolate that I didn’t want to keep him for long. What about that last hand, I wanted to know. He’d acted so quickly. Had he considered throwing a draw away?

“No, I can’t throw my hand away there,” Men said. “I have too many outs, many too many. Any deuce to seven.” I let the Master go. Second place feels absolutely awful right after it’s happened, especially when you’ve been leading for most of the last two hours.

I could approach Seidel with a clear conscience. First, I wanted to know about the hand that had sent him into the lead, the big call with the aces.

“I was scared to death,” Seidel said (you sure couldn’t have figured that by looking at him, but of course it made sense). “I had a feeling he didn’t have a ten, and I just had to go with my feeling.”

THIS ONE’S FOR YOU, BUB

How about when he was down to 26k? Had first place seemed out of range then? “I always felt hopeful,” he said. “This was an important one for me, to get the sixth bracelet. I’m tired of finishing second, of getting needled by Phil Ivey and Bub (Howard Lederer). Bub got the second place needle in today.”

I was also curious about what Seidel thought of the new WSOP blind structure. “I like it,” he said. “It seems like such a waste to play for two or three hours that don’t really mean anything. There’s definitely more luck involved early, but if I’m going to get knocked out, I’d just as soon get knocked out at 3:00, instead of playing until 10:00 and still getting nothing. It might be a little too slow at the end, but it’s a very big improvement on the old structure.”

What about the last hand? “I thought I had a read on him there, but when he called so fast, I thought I was wrong. I thought he’d gotten a little demoralized after the aces hand, who wouldn’t be? That could have had something to do with it. I’m too tired right now to figure out how many outs he had.”

(If Seidel hadn’t been that tired, and had felt the need to examine Men’s chances, he’d have understood the quick call. It’s tough to put all your money in with a big draw, because you have no hand yet, but 17 outs twice are hard to ignore.)

Somehow, the pot-limit Omaha tournaments always seem to provide a lot of drama, probably because Omaha’s “classic confrontation” comes up so much more frequently than limit hold’em’s does. These events seem to come down to luck and heart. Both finalists have heart, but Seidel was the one put to the test for a longer stretch, with that small stack. Erik Seidel is one of poker’s greatest champions and nicest people, and it’s hard to stop myself for rooting for him any time he plays.

In the end, though, Seidel caught when he had to, and Men missed when he couldn’t afford to. We so-called experts like to talk about all the skill in this game, and there is a lot, no question. Anyone who tries to claim it’s all skill is just wrong, though. Men Nguyen will be glad to explain why.

Final Official Results
2003 World Series of Poker Event #8
Pot-limit Omaha
$1,500 buy-in
117 Entrants · 149 Rebuys
$384,480 Prize Pool

1. Erik Seidel, $146,100
2. Men “the Master” Nguyen, $73,020
3. Billy Duarte, $36,140
4. Jeff Duvall, $23,060
5. Scotty Warbucks, $15,380
6. Brian Moore, $13,460
7. Jon Brody, $11,540
8. Jeff Shulman, $19,000
9. Dave Colclough, $7,680
10. Chris Tsiprailidis, $6,160
11th and 12th, $6,160: David Grey Sig Stockinger.
13th-15th, $5,380: LeRoy Baca, Michael Davis, James Hoeppner.
16th-18th, $4,620: Bob Walker, Bill Gazes, Doyle Brunson.

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