"Even in the Colonies, You Don’t Give Flack to a Duke"

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

Max Shapiro and I tag-teamed this event. I’ll start: I was up so late finishing the long, two-part PLO report “The Magnificent Nine” that I’d have been starting back on three hours sleep. Max covered the first two hours (exactly 100 hands), so I could at least catch 200 winks (five hours sleep).

We’re also not going to be able to pull that two-newsletters-in-one-day thing very often, so if your favorite player doesn’t get as much ink as you’d prefer, please try to bear with us.

The $1,500 entry Hold’em Shootout is unique among WSOP events. All other events are elimination tournaments that use a system of breaking down tables as players bust out all around the room, in order to keep most tables full or close to full.

You might get “high-carded” off a table if another gets shorthanded and all others are full, with none ready to break, or you might lose your starting opponents fairly quickly if your table is amongst those scheduled to break early.

SHOUTOUT TOURNAMENTS QUITE DIFFERENT IN STYLE

In a shootout event, you take a good long look at your starting table, because those are the folks you have to beat to advance. Yesterday, 220 players started this event, which meant that over the course of the early afternoon, eventually 22 single table winners emerged, each guaranteed a place in the money.

Then, in the early evening, those 22 players drew for random seat assignments at three tables, one with eight players and two with seven.

These single tables then took on a bit of a supersatellite quality, because the top three players from each would advance to today’s final table. The fourth place finisher from the table that started with eight players got a small consolation prize: he was awarded tenth place and $500 more than the others who hadn’t qualified for the final.

Because your chip total did carry over, play here only “resembled” supersatellites. You wanted to accumulate as many chips as possible, even if you knew you were guaranteed a seat in the final.

As a result, when we started back today, the starting seats and chip positions were:

Seat  
1 Steve Schraber $29,000
2 Dee Luong $31,500
3 Annie Duke $56,000
4 Al Korson $17,000
5 Walter Threadgill $44,500
6 Layne Flack $32,000
7 Sam Chung $52,000
8 Don Barton $42,000
9 Pete Kaufman $26,000

SHAPIRO IN FOR GLAZER

Max’s report of highlights from the first 100 hands:

In the early going, Layne Flack lost all five of the hands he took to the flop and skidded from $32,000 to about 13k. Finally he raised and won the blinds. “Layne wins another,” announced Matt Savage. “Another?” Layne repeated in mock amazement.

On hands 33 and 40, Duke twice had A-K, flopped an ace and won, increasing her lead to about $80,000. On hand #41, Chung used pocket nines to make a jack-high straight against Schraber to move into second place with close to 60k.

Flack made a nice recovery with two straights. The first time, on hand # 47, he had pocket sixes against Schraber’s A-K. Schraber check-raised from the small blind on a flop of 4-4-2, went all-in and got called when the turn brought a five and when a river trey gave Flack a six-high straight, Schraber exited ninth (note that Flack was already leading; he’d have won as long as an ace or king didn’t hit the river).

Eleven hands later, Flack had 9-9, and like Chung earlier, made a jack-high straight, and was back up to about 48k. A few hands later, he paired his 10 holding K-10 against Duke’s 8-8 to move up to about 60k.

On hand #65, Chung had the button and bet a flop of J-4-2 with pocket fives. Schraber, who had earlier gone all in but survived rather comfortably with a full house, fatalistically called all in for $2,500 with K-Q. The fives held up when a six and ace came, and Schraber finished eighth.

FLACK GOES ON THE ATTACK

Flack’s bigger stack let him play more aggressively. On hand #70, he three-bet a flop of Q-Q-2 against Chung and forced him to fold by betting out when a third queen hit the river. Winning another hand, this time against Luong, he moved into second chip position behind Duke, then dropping to third after Threadgill picked up a couple of pots.

But Duke put some distance between her and the others when she got three-way action in a four-bet pot. She had A-Q, made trip aces and moved up to about 96k.

When the limits increased to $2,000-$4,000, here were the chip positions:

Luong, $21,000
Duke, $88,000
Threadgill, $63,000
Flack, $48,000
Chung, $41,000
Barton, $26,000
Kaufman, $43,000

Flack moved into high gear right after the break by winning two big pots. The first hand, he held Q-J of spades and flopped a flush against Chung. The next hand saw three players each in for four bets before the flop. When Flack bet a board of 9-9-6-5, both Chung and Barton folded, and Flack now had the lead.

Two hands later, hand #95, Chung had pocket queens. Luong and Flack got into a four-bet raising war pre-flop, and Chung called all-in for $3,000. When a flop of 6-4-3 was re-raised by Luong, Flack folded. Luong turned up pocket aces and Chung’s Q-Q was good only for seventh place when a king and five came.

To this point, Flack (by his own calculations) had raised seven times in a row (and had his first beer).

GLAZER IN FOR SHAPIRO

My first job was to check out the chip positions, and I estimated them at:

Luong, $42,000
Duke, $100,000
Threadgill, $62,000
Flack, $93,000
Barton, $4,000
Kaufman, $29,000

Flack continued pounding the way few others can maneuver a big stack, and by #114, he was at 140k. The other “early going” (for me) involved Barton, who survived several very short-chipped all-ins. His K-K on #121 got a stack one bet couldn’t finish (16k), and four hands later, he got it all in with raise-re-raise sequences on both the flop and turn against Luong.

Barton had good reason: he’d followed up his K-K with an A-A, and Luong’s 4-4 was no match. Barton suddenly had 32k, and now it was Kaufman who was the next apparent target.

Luong is a rather attractive young woman, and provided a bit of comic relief when she appeared to catch Flack gazing into an area just south of what was in an earlier era called a décolletage.

FLACK CAUGHT RED-FACED, RED-HANDED

“Camera angle, camera angle,” she said, as Flack started to redden. “Go ahead, take a look, I want to be seen.” Normally Flack wouldn’t have turned this shade of red after three six-packs.

Luong brings much more than a pretty face to the tables. The Richmond, CA resident doesn’t play a lot of tournaments, and as this was her first WSOP cash, you probably haven’t heard of her, but she regularly plays and beats the $40-80 and $80-160 games at San Jose’s Bay 101, so she got some game. If opponents like Flack want to add to her EV (expected value, that is, what she rates to make per hour in a given game) by allowing themselves to get distracted, that’s their problem, not hers.

Another welcome intermittent final table distraction was John Bonetti’s announcing on the PPV Internet broadcast. When Duke picked up a small pot, Bonetti said, “Annie Duke picks up some driftwood, I think she’s building a barn. Johnny Chan built about seven barns yesterday,” a reference to the way Chan built his stacks by picking up small pots.

We’d reached hand #150, and I was curious how the barn-material collections were going, and I estimated

Luong, 75,000 planks
Duke, 90,000 pieces driftwood
Threadgill, 17,000 nuts and bolts
Flack, 95,000 glass bottles to be melted into greenhouse window panes
Barton, 10,000 nails, to be used for hanging on by
Kaufman, 45,000 bales of hay, to be used for cleaning up Flack’s messes

While Flack’s stack had bounced back and forth between 140k and 70k, most of the others had been a bit more stable, except the two short stacks, Barton and Kaufman; they’d taken turns feeling good and feeling like their time was up.

FLACK CRIPPLES BARTON

Flack doubled up Barton a few hands later, and then dealt a severe blow to Kaufman’s chances a few hands after that. Flack opened for 4k, with both Kaufman and Duke (the big blind) coming along to see the 2h-4d-7h flop.

Duke led out for 2k, but Flack popped it to four and Kaufman to six. Duke got out of the way, and Flack called. The 6h hit the turn, Flack checked, Kaufman bet 4k and Flack made it 8k, with Kaufman calling.

The 2s hit the river, and with three hearts on a paired board, Kaufman grew more confident, while Flack grew more cautious. He checked, Kaufman bet 4k again, and Flack just called. Kaufman turned over his A-A for aces-up, and a relieved Flack turned over the 3d-5d that had made a straight on the turn.

We now had three short stacks, and while they might have still been thinking about the top prizes, Kaufman, Barton and Threadgill were all short enough to warrant keeping an eye on each other for the difference between the 6th place payoff of $11,000 and the $20,000 awarded for 4th.

PICKING ON THE LITTLE GUYS A SOLID PLAN

Four hands after Kaufman had joined the “hangin’ tough” group, #161 overall, Threadgill opened for 4k, and Flack, Barton, and Kaufman all came along. One big stack was in with the three little ones. Flack can certainly pick his spots.

The flop came Js-3h-10d. Kaufman led out for 2k, and only Threadgill and Flack called. The 7c hit the turn, and Kaufman led out one more time, with Threadgill calling all-in, and Flack flat calling.

The 9h hit the river, and Flack’s bet forced Kaufman to play an 8k side pot. His reasons were understandable when he turned over his Qh-8h. I’m not exactly sure what Flack was doing in the pot on the flop, and even on the turn he was live only to a gutshot, but that’s exactly what came, and Flack had the second-nut straight.

No one else turned over K-Q, and Flack scooped in the pot, laughing at his own weak play and good luck. Threadgill, who’d been eliminated in sixth place, wasn’t in the mood to hear anyone laughing. “And now he laughs,” Threadgill said, as if to indicate he thought Flack was laughing at him.

FLACK NEEDS NO REASON TO LAUGH, AND RARELY DOES SO MALICIOUSLY

I know Flack well enough to know that he was doing no such thing; he was just laughing at how simple the game is when you can catch cards at will. He probably hadn’t shown the best judgment in picking that moment to laugh, but there was nothing sinister about it.

We were getting close to the dinner break, and for a moment it looked like two extremely short-chipped players were going to have to wait an hour for their seemingly inevitable fates to be decided, but on the very last hand, Duke opened for 4k, Barton made it 6k from the small blind, and Duke, seeing that Barton had only 3k left, tossed that in rather than the allowable 2k raise.

Barton could have forced her to take the last $1,000 back, but he was fine with getting it all in before the flop. Duke turned over K-J, while Barton was the slight favorite with 7-7.

The board came down 8-A-9-A-nine to put two pair on board, counterfeiting Barton’s smaller pair of sevens, and leaving him with playing the board as his best hand. Duke could offer a king kicker instead of an eight, and Barton was out fifth.

The chip counts at the break were

Luong, $109,000
Duke, $83,000
Flack, $133,000
Kaufman, $5,000

This almost looked like one of those SAT questions that asks you to “pick the item that doesn’t belong with the rest.” Kaufman had indeed made it to a fourth place payoff, but he was probably able to eat a relaxed dinner, with everyone else out of reach.

A NEW BLIND STRUCTURE

Play resumed with $2,000-3,000 blinds, playing $3,000-6,000.

First we took care of the inevitable on hand #170. Duke limped from the button, with Flack and Kauffman coming along for the ride. Everyone checked as the board began 2-7-7-A, but after an apparent blank hit the river, Flack bet and Kaufman called for his last few chips. Flack turned over A-2, which was actually just aces and sevens with a bad kicker, but it was good enough. Kaufman mucked and exited fourth, and the real fight was on. It started out as a fairly even battle, with the chips leveling out to

Luong, $95,000
Duke, $95,000
Flack, $140,000

By the time we’d reached hand #191, Flack had picked up 25k, and Luong 10k, which meant that Duke had lost 35k. No sooner than I had made a margin note that “Annie looks frustrated by her cards” then Duke went on a rampage. She won hands 195-198, the last one a fairly big one when she made a boat with 8d-9d and Flack made top two pair with his A-10 on a 9-A-8-9-10 board.

Now Duke and Flack were tied at 120k, with Luong right behind at 90k. Duke grabbed the lead on the next hand, and stayed hot over the next half dozen to pull 40k ahead of Flack and 50k ahead of Luong.

Flack stayed within range, but Luong could find neither the right betting pace nor the right cards to hang in, often having to drop out before the showdown or to take desperation shots at the showdown because a big draw had failed to turn into anything.

THEY JUST “CHIPPED AWAY” AT HER

Luong never suffered any single huge individual beat, but when the limits are high and the betting pace is fast, you need to make your share of hands, and she couldn’t, Her chips just fell away 6k here and 12k there. By the time we reached hand #231, Luong and Flack limped in from the blinds, and Flack check-called when Luong bet the 2c-6c-5s flop.

The 8s hit the turn, and this time Flack check-raised, his last bet enough to put Luong all-in. She turned over the 9-5 that had been leading on the flop but which, appropriately enough for the stretch she’d been enduring, fell behind on the turn, because Flack showed Q-8.

A queen on the river ended Luong’s day and Flack’s distraction simultaneously. Duke and Flack counted their chips and discovered that Duke held a small lead, 175k-155k. The duo asked that the clock be stopped.

The deal negotiation team (Duke invited brother Howard Lederer in as a consultant) returned quickly from a very brief chat. Diego’s eyes met mine and we silently agreed that such a quick return must have meant an event split.

MEMO TO SELF: KEEP MOUTH SHUT, APPEAR SMART

We’re both very smart when our mouths are closed. Duke announced that the deal had given them each $80,000, and that they had left $20,000 and the bracelet in play.

Heads-up play began on hand #232, and finally ended on hand #355. I could spend 15 pages detailing the hands, but all you really know was that these two were about as evenly matched as I’d every seen in a long heads-up battle. The lead changed hands 12 times. Flack took a 2-1 (220-110) about eight times, and Duke took the same big lead about four times. As you’d imagine in such a back and forth duel, we spent a lot of time tied, too.

The blinds jumped to $2.000-4,000, playing $4,000-8,000, after hand #259, and jumped again, to $3,000-6,000, playing $6,000-12,000, after hand #347. With all of the ups and downs, all those times where the player with the big lead just needed two more good hands to put away the trailer, we were tied as late as hand #338.

Even though I’d successfully predicted that the heads-up match would go for at least two hours on the PPV broadcast (it wound up going about 2.5), when we reached that last tie, I started sensing that the end was near, and perhaps on the theory that if you make enough predictions, you’ll be right on some of them, I was right here, too.

EVEN WITH A SLOW STRUCTURE, EVENTUALLY YOU HIT HIGH LIMITS

At 3-6, playing 6&12, the money fairly flies out of a player’s stack, especially if the players both develop something. Sixty grand can shift faster than you can bat an eye, and since 135k represented half the chips in play, it almost didn’t matter who was leading. If one could manage to string together three big hands in a row, the other was doomed, or something very close thereto.

On hand #339, Duke got caught with Ah-2h on a 2s-7s-6h flop – quite easily the best hand – and it got better when a heard draw appeared with the 9h turn card. The flush didn’t get there, but a third deuce did, just enough to cost Duke more money, because Flack had started with an 8-5 and turned a straight.

That hand cost Duke 48k, and if she’d made her flush instead of the three deuces, it might have earned her 56k. Nothing like one card shifting a third of the chips.

Flack three-bet #342 holding J-8, and got rewarded by a 7s-Js-Jd flop. Duke must have held something big, like A-A, Q-Q, or A-K, because she hung in through some heavy betting on the Ks turn and the 9c river…while unable to beat the three jacks.

When the limits reached the still higher level, Flack chopped away at Duke’s stack with post-flop bets on hands 351-353. Duke couldn’t call any of them, and had 60k left.

The final hand really summed it up. Flack made it 12k from the small blind on the button, and Duke called. The flop came 6d-4d-Ah, and Duke check-raised Flack to get 12k in on the flop. When the 7c hit the turn, Duke liked her Jd-5d, because she now not only had a flush draw, but an open-ended straight draw as well. She bet out and Flack called.

HITTING THE STRAIGHT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER

The 9d hit the river, giving Duke her flush, so she bet out again, only to be raised enough by Flack to put her all in. She called, and learned she was one pip short: Flack had Qd-8d. I’d thought it would take roughly three big hands to do it, and that’s exactly what had happened.

“It was a fitting last hand,” Duke said. “That was as equal a match as I’ve ever played, and whoever caught a rush was going to win.”

I wanted to know if yet another near-miss on a bracelet attempt was weighting on her.

“I’d like a bracelet, sure, but I don’t feel too bad about this,” Duke said. “I played as well as I can play, and I was even sick, although I want to be very clear that I’m not bringing that up as an excuse. Layne was the one player I didn’t want to face heads-up, because he’s tremendously skilled and a great guy too, but I couldn’t have played any better than I did and that’s what really matters.”

Flack, who has now captured two bracelets in each of the last two years, isn’t short on self-confidence, but he respected Duke’s game “She was the one I least wanted to play heads-up, that’s for sure,” Flack said. “She made it hard. I’ve never played heads-up for almost three hours.”

I was a bit surprised to hear that, so I pressed further. “Duh, Pundit, remember who you’re talking to…Mr. pot-limit, no-limit. Those heads-up matches don’t go on forever. I hate this game. I can play it, but I hate it.”

WHAT DID DUKE THINK OF THE LADIES EVENT?

There was one more opinion I wanted from Duke, and it had to do with that Ladies Tournament supersatellite going on across the room.

“I’m of two minds about that,” Duke said. “Would I play it? No. Do I think it should offer a gold bracelet? No. This is one of the few competitive games where men and women can compete on a perfectly level playing field. At the same time, I think it’s nice for a lot of people. I know a lot of women who are wives or girlfriends of poker players, and it isn’t an easy life. It’s nice that they have something classier to do for at least one day that isn’t just hanging around the rail or playing slot machines or blackjack.”

Layne Flack now has five bracelets, and is one of three pros with two this year (the others being Chris Ferguson and Johnny Chan, which puts Flack in some elite company). While Annie Duke is still looking for #1, I have zero doubt that if she keeps coming to the WSOP for the next ten years, she’ll get at least one, and perhaps quite a few more than that.

Final Official Results
$1,500 Limit hold’em shootout
220 entrants, Total Prize Pool $306,900

1. Layne Flack, $120,000
2. Annie Duke, $60,000
3. Dee Luong, $30,000
4. Pete Kaufman, $20,000
5. Don Barton, $14,000
6. Walter Threadgill, $11,000
7. Juijen Chang, $7,700
8. Steve Schraber, $6,200
9. Al Korson, $5,000

10th, Brent Carter, $3,000.
11th-22nd, $2,500 each: Ram Vaswani, Moj Seyedin, Scott Mayfield, Ray Bonavida, Gary Lent, Walter Morrill, Glen Bindelglass, Robert Geers, Dennis Horton, Chris Johanssen, “Syracuse” Chris Tsiprailidis, Bon Phan

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