Get Ready For A Good One
By Andrew N.S. Glazer, "The Poker Pundit"

Because the players and tournament officials agreed to finish the Deuce-to-Seven No-Limit Championship in one day yesterday, there were no final tables played today at the 2003 World Series of Poker.

There was a lot of poker played though, as 127 starters coughed up the $5,000 buy-in for the second-most expensive no-limit tournament played at this year's WSOP.

I watched the preliminaries as the last fourteen players tried to survive and grab ammunition for tomorrow's final table, and was rewarded by a dramatic finish.

With eleven players left, a hand at Table Two was folded around to Huck Seed in the small blind. The antes were $300 and the blinds $1,000-2,000, so Huck tossed two $500 chips into the pot.

Jason Gray, who had been playing fairly aggressively and was the chip leader, decided to raise $6,000 more out of the big blind, and Seed, with that confident-bordering-on-arrogant soft tone of his, waved his hand and said softly, "I'm all in."

THOSE TWO WORDS THE ALL-IN BETTORS USUALLY HATE TO HEAR ARE…

Gray looked interested and asked how much Seed had raised. "Fifty two five" came the answer (another $52,500). Gray thought for about three seconds. "I call," he said.

Seed looked like he'd swallowed a grapefruit and turned his cards over. As the Kh-Js hit the table, his face returned to something more normal and he said, "I moved all-in blind, at least I have something."

Gray turned over Qd-Qc. Seed did indeed "have something, but Gray was about a 2.1-1 favorite. Seed started standing up from his chair, and then the flop came 10h-9h-2s; at this point, the hand was a virtual coin flip, with Gray a 51-49 favorite - any king, heart, or queen would win for Seed (Gray's "set" card would have given Seed a straight).

"Well, I guess I better stick around for this one, he said, but he didn't have to sweat it for very long, because the 5h hit the turn, and Gray had no outs. He had about $57,000 and a lot of "if only's" left (as in "if only my queens hold up, I have a huge chip lead with about $176,000").

The dangerous Seed was the chip leader, and we lost a short-stacked player #11 over at the other table just a moment later on another turn card. Player 11 got his last few chips in with Ac-5c on a flop containing an ace, got the obligatory call from pocket eights, and an eight hit the turn. Another ace hit the river, but trip aces don't beat eights full of aces, and the final table was set.

Johnny Chan is second in chips, just slightly behind Seed, and if that sounds familiar, it ought to. Last year, in the $3,000 no-limit event, the two chip leaders were…Chan and Seed.

Chan was the chip leader as play began with $307,000, and Seed was second with $138,500.

Spectators that year were looking to a duel between the two former world champions, but were left stunned just 17 minutes into the final table when…oh, heck, Andy Glazer wrote it up well then and I might as well quote him here:

THE 2002 DUEL ENDED BEFORE IT STARTED

"We'd only had about 20 minutes left on the clock at this level when the final table started, and three of them were left when Chan, who is having a magnificent World Series, raised it to $12,000 from the cut-off seat (one behind the button). Seed decided to call from the big blind.

A COLLISION OF WORLD CHAMPIONS

The flop came Qh-3d-2s, Seed checked, Chan bet 20k, and Seed immediately announced, with a wave of his hand, "I'm all in." Chan thought for about four seconds and said "I call," and all hundred spectators, who had been warned not to stand up in their grandstand seats, stood simultaneously. We couldn't have had a more of a buzz in the air had a swarm of killer bees flown in through a window.\

Seed turned over 4s-5s, an open-ended straight draw and backdoor flush draw, and Chan turned over Qd-10d, top pair and a backdoor flush draw.

I think this call had to mean one of two things. Either Chan had a great read on Seed, certainly a possibility for a player of Chan's caliber, or Chan didn't have the usual interest a chip leader does in ensuring that he finishes in the top three. By calling this bet, he was putting himself in a position where either his chip lead would be gone (and indeed now in the hands of his most dangerous foe), or one where his lead would be huge, giving him an excellent chance for first. He was also taking a shot at eliminating not merely his most talented opponent, but a talented opponent who had position on him.

Me, I go with the "read" theory, but you can't just dismiss the other one. Chan has enough money to be focused more on wins than on locking up high ladder climbs.

The board finished of 9d-8d, giving Chan a flush he didn't need, and with the spectators blinking more rapidly than if they'd walked from darkness into the sunny Las Vegas summer, Huck Seed was gone, and Johnny Chan had nearly half the chips at the final table."

NO FOREGONE CONCLUSIONS

If you don't recall the finish, Chan didn't win that table. Randall Heeb, who is back this year with his trademark Panama hat, staged an amazing comeback to win.

Heeb won't be at this final table, but another player who'd been counted out a few times today, Layne Flack, will be. Flack won't have quite as much ammunition as his two more famous opponents will, but he should be a factor. The rest of the field isn't exactly chopped liver, with players like Surindar Sunar and Amir Vahedi in there.

It should be fun, and my back and I will both be there!


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