"A Dream Realized"

By Max Shapiro

There were any number of players at the $3,000 limit hold’em final table with World Series goals, but only one got there. Was it Phil Hellmuth, trying for his ninth bracelet, which would tie the record held by Doyle Brunson? How about Jennifer Harman? A win tonight would be her third WSOP victory, tying the women’s record held by Barbara Enright. Tom Jacobs certainly wanted a win. He had 23 prior cash-outs dating back to 1985, which included four seconds (one in the championship event), but no bracelet. A win would also put him within a hair of becoming a World Series millionaire. Jan Sjavik won the European no-limit championship in 2001 and would have liked a matching American title. Then there was…well, let’s see who made it.

SORRY, LADIES

Tomorrow is the final table of the ladies event, but there will be no full report, simply the results along with comments by Andy Glazer explaining why the women are not being afforded equal opportunity.

A TOUGH FINAL TABLE

This event had 154 entrants with a $429,660 prize pool. The final table started with $1,000-$2,000 blinds, playing for 2k-4k, with 28:51 left. There were $462,000 in chips in play. It was one tough final table, with a seasoned pro in every seat. Here’s how the players started off:

Seat  
1 Mike Matusow $17,000
2 Tom Jacobs $65,000
3 Toto Leonidas $49,000
4 Bill Gazes $76,000
5 Paul Testud $50,000
6 Jim Meehan $62,000
7 Jan Sjavik $31,000
8 Jennifer Harman $12,000
9 David Chiu $34,000
10 Phil Hellmuth $67,000

Hellmuth seemed to have a good shot at getting bracelet number nine. He began in second chip position, $9,000 behind leader Bill Gaze’s $76,000. But on the minus side, he arrived in obvious deep discomfort, wincing, grimacing, bending over, grabbing his ailing back and stretching out on the floor before the final table began in an attempt to alleviate the pain.

GET THE MESSAGE?

Jacobs wore a cap with Hebrew lettering which translated as: “It’s up to you.” At first I thought it meant, “It’s your turn to act.” But I later realized it must have had a loftier and more inspiring meaning, such as, we have a choice in what we do, for good or ill.

THE MOUTH QUIETS DOWN

Just six hands into the action, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow took a big hit. As Jacobs kept betting a board of A-K-Q-Q, Matusow kept calling, finally folding on the river with only 4k left.

Two hands after that, Harman was almost as badly depleted. She had 8-6 in the small blind and decided to gamble and call when Hellmuth raised. Hellmuth bet the flop and Harman called with an open-end straight draw. The pot was then checked down. Hellmuth won with pocket queens, and Harman was left with $8,000.

On the next hand Matusow, one away from the big blind, raised all in for his last $4,000 with K-10.and ran into Sjavik’s pocket aces. The Mouth had a ray of hope when a flop of J-8-7 gave him an inside straight draw. A trey turned and then a river ace crushed Matusow and left him in 10th place, which paid $6,920.

RAISES FAZE GAZES

About 20 minutes into the final table, starting chip-leader Gazes suffered a brutal beat. Holding pocket nines in a three-way raised pot, he flopped a set. The flop was bet and he flat called. The turn brought a queen, and Gazes got into a four-bet raising war with Jim Meehan. Meehan bet the river, Gazes just called and Meehan turned up pocket queens for a set-over-set win. Minneapolis Jim now took the lead with close to 90k.

Hellmuth hadn’t been able to do anything since his win over Harman. Just before limits went up, he was check-raised by David Chiu with a board of J-10-8-2. Hellmuth stared at his opponent, trying to get a read, but it would be easier to get a tell from the Sphinx than from the inscrutable Chiu. After a long hesitation, Hellmuth folded.

SECOND PLAYER OUT

Limits now were $3,000-$6,000. Harman immediately found herself in the big blind, with just $3,000 left. Chiu raised under the gun, Jacobs re-raised and Jennifer found herself in a very tough spot. She pondered at length, rubbed her face, mouth, lowered her head in thought and finally called with A-8. A flop of Ac, 10c, 4c and a turn-card nine were checked down. Chiu, with pocket kings, bet the river deuce. Jacobs called and took the pot with A-K, his king kicker out-kicking Jennifer’s eight and kicking her out of the tournament. Harman, a very high-limit side game player with bracelets in $5,000 no-limit deuce-to-seven and $5,000 limit hold’em, collected $8,580 for finishing ninth. Jacobs, meanwhile, moved into a slight lead.

About a dozen hands later, Frenchman Paul Testud, scoring his third WSOP cash-out, won a $25,000 pot to move into second place with about 80k to Jacobs’ 85k. Meehan had dropped but was still close behind behind with about 72k. A few hands later Hellmuth bled off a lot of chips in two re-raised pots, the first time to Jacobs and, two hands later, to Toto Leonidas. Another 15 hands went by, Hellmuth could not do anything and was now down to about $24,000.

CHIU HEADS SOUTH

Chiu, holder of two bracelets, was not doing much better. About halfway into the 3k-6k level, he raised and was re-raised by Jacobs. The flop was 7-7-6. Chiu checked, Jacobs bet, David check-raised, Tom re-raised. Jacobs had pocket queens and made a set on the turn. He checked fourth street, but bet the river. After long thought, Chiu called, lost and was down to $3,000.

Three deals later, which was hand 48, Chiu had the big blind and posted his last 3k. He had J-8 offsuit to Leonidas’ Ac, Jc. Chiu was close to a 3-1 underdog. He flopped an open-end straight, but couldn’t connect and finished eighth, which was worth $10,740.

Six hands later the field was narrowed again. Bill Gazes button raised pre-flop with A-5 Meehan called with 10-8. Meehan took the lead with a paired eight when a K-8-6 flopped. He put Gazes all in and then all out. Seventh place paid $12,880.

PHIL TRIES TO DO IT THE HARD WAY

Meanwhile, Hellmuth had lost a couple more pots and was down to a mere $3,000 after posting his big blind. When the pot was raised and re-raised, he passed on a chance to triple up and folded. He then had $1,000 left after posting his small blind. Again the pot was raised. Hellmuth called out the odds he would be getting if he put in his last chip, and he seemed to like them. But then he decided to pass.

“I’m going to try this the Phil Hellmuth way,” he said, whatever the “Phil Hellmuth way” was. Meehan later couldn’t believe the two folds in the blinds. “Even if he had deuce-three he should have called,” Meehan commented.

Four hands later, Hellmuth instructed Matt Savage to announce that he had one chip left. “Phil Hellmuth has one chip left,” Savage obediently announced. Under the gun, Hellmuth then tossed it in. Sjavik, with K-9, flopped a nine and won the pot as Hellmuth mucked without showing.

DON’T EXAGGERATE, PHIL

“You did not let me win one hand,” he complained to the table. Correction: apart from picking up a couple of blinds, Hellmuth did win one hand. The one against Jennifer Harman, remember? In any event, the answer was “nein” for bracelet number nine. Small consolation, perhaps, but Hellmuth picked up $15,040 for ending up sixth.

Jacobs, who a bit earlier had beaten Testud in a pot, now had increased his lead. The approximate count read:

Jacobs: $140,000
Sjavik: $95,000
Testud $80,000
Leonidas: $75,000
Meehan: $65,000

A hand later, Testud had pocket kings. Unfortunately for him, Sjavik had pocket aces, and when the betting was over, Testud had dropped down to about $55,000. He dipped down even further two hands later when he three-bet a board of 7-3-2-9 with three clubs, then folded when Jacobs made it four bets.

At 7 p.m. the limits were kicked up to $4,000-$8,000. The chip count now stood at:

Jacobs: $164,000
Sjavik: $133,000
Leonidas: $70,000
Meehan: $62,000
Testud: $35,000

TESTUD IS A GOOD SPORT

Testud took another hit when Skavik, with pocket eights, flopped a full house. But the Frenchman just laughed, obviously having a good time. Left with just three chips when his blind came around, he jokingly gripped two of them in his eye sockets, as if they were monocles, and held the third one on his forehead. Meehan raised with pocket eights to put him in, but Testud, with K-Q, won with a queen on the turn.

Leonidas is a focused player who almost never says a word or shows any emotion. But he couldn’t help clapping his hands when he beat Jacobs in a big pot to move within about $15,000 of the chip leader. He had A-K and outran Jacobs’ pocket jacks with an ace on the river. After going all in and escaping a second time, Testud finally succumbed on hand 85. He had pocket nines and got re-raised all in before the flop by Sjavik, who won with pocket kings. Fifth place earned Testud $17,180.

IT’S SJAVIK’S TURN

Sjavik began to go on a rush now. After finishing off Testud, he was dealt pocket aces against Meehan, flopped a set and knocked Minneapolis Jim down to about $41,000. Then Sjavik took a pot from Leonidas and moved into a lead of about $160,000.
A few hands later, though, it was Meehan who won with pocket aces to beat Sjavik’s paired king. “Nice hand,” Sjavik said politely.

“I wanted to say ‘nice hand’ when you had the aces,” the colorful Meehan replied, “but I had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.”

In addition to his European championship, Sjavik also won a $250,000 guaranteed event at Commerce Casino. Continuing his onslaught, he eventually ran his lead up to close to 200k. Asked to describe the Norwegian’s play, frequent competitor Dave Colclough described him as one of the best, if not the best, limit hold’em player in Europe. “He plays more loosely than the average American,” Colclough explained.

HOW CLOSE CAN YOU GET?

Chips continued to flow back and forth for another 30 hands until the 6 p.m. dinner break. At that point the players were as closely bunched as rush hour commuters on the Tokyo subway. With only two or three bets separating them, the count was:

Jacobs: $124,000
Meehan: $117,000
Sjavik: $117,000
Leonidas: $105,000

Blinds were now $3,000-$5,000 with $5,000-$10,000 limits. The chip lead kept changing. Leonidas took it over after winning a $70,000 pot from Meehan, and then Sjavik regained the lead. Meehan, meanwhile, went all in three times, living to tell about it, the third time doubling back up to 70k by making a set of jacks on the river. The next hand, he had a tough decision. Leonidas bet into a board of 10-7-6-6. Meehan stood up and walked around a bit, and finally called. When a five came on the river, Meehan bet, Leonidas folded, and Meehan had now bounced back to about 90k.

The chips continued to fluctuate wildly. Catching cards and betting aggressively, Leonidas took the lead again with about 185k. Then Jacobs, re-raising Leonidas with just 9-8, flopped two pair, won a 100k pot and caught up with him. A dozen more hands went by, Leonidas kept fading, and the rough count, at 8:15, was:

Jacobs: $170,000
Meehan: $110,000
Sjavik: $120,000
Leonidas: $70,000

Meehan then cut Leonidas down to about $35,000 by flopping an ace to his A-5. Four hands later the flop came 5s, 3s, 2s. With Ks, Jh, Leonidas was drawing to the number two flush. Unfortunately, with As, 5d, Jacobs was drawing to the nut flush and also had a pair of fives. He bet, Leonidas raised and Jacobs put him all in. A four and nine came, and Meehan, missing his flush, settled for a wheel. Leonidas, finishing fourth, took home $25,780.

Jacobs now had $170,000 to $158,000 for Meehan and $135,000 for Sjavik. The three finalists went out to talk deal. Maybe they went to a movie too, because they were gone for a long time, returning a little before 9 p.m. Twenty minutes later, Sjavik had A-8, flopped trip eights and left Meehan with about $62,000. Sjavik, betting quickly and confidently, later beat Meehan down to 20k by flopping a queen to his K-Q.

MINNEAPOLIS JIM’S LAST HAND

Meehan finally lost everything as the time reached 9:30. It was hand 194. After posting his big blind, he had only 2k left holding 5d, 4d. Sjavik put him in holding K-2. The flop was K-Q-7, then an eight turned and Meehan was drawing dead to a six for a straight. He didn’t get it and cashed out in third spot for $40,880.

Heads-up, Sjavik now enjoyed the lead, but only a slight one. But by 9:45, his lead was about 2-1: 308k-155k. That was his high point. Fifteen minutes later, Jacobs held Q-J, made three jacks and had pulled roughly even. A dozen hands later, Jacobs held Qs, 2s, flopped a flush draw and hit it on the river to take the lead, about 270k-190k.

THE END IS NEAR

Sjavik continued to drop down and suddenly turned much more conservative in his play. Fifteen hands later Jacobs flopped another flush. Two hands after that, now on the offensive, he bet into a board showing 10-3-2-8-10. A much more tentative Sjavik shook his head. He did not like it, but he eventually called. Jacobs showed pocket jacks, and now had a huge lead, $386,000-$76,000.

At 10:40, limits went to $8,000-$16,000. The match-up lasted four more hands. On hand 248, Sjavik had K-J and Jacobs had A-J. The pot was four-bet pre-flop, and $64,000 went into the middle. When the board came Q-8-10-3-K, Sjavik went all in for his last 16k on his paired king, and Jacobs blew him away with an ace-high straight. Sjavik earned $81,640 for finishing second, and Jacobs collected $163,000 along with his long-sought bracelet.

In a post-game interview, the 57-year-old Jacobs said there was no particular turning point in the tournament, and that he just played his usual game, “as aggressively as I’m capable of.” In the latter stages, he pointed out, the game turns from limit to almost no-limit, because “the money’s going in.”

The bracelet came at an opportune time for Jacobs, because he’s been cutting down on the number of events he plays. “It’s just becoming too taxing,” he explained.

Final Official Results

1. Tom Jacobs Las Vegas, NV $163,000
2. Jan Sjavik Oslo, Norway $81,640
3. Jim Meehan Las Vegas, NV $40,880
4. Toto Leonidas Glendale, CA $25,780
5. Paul Testud Ermont, France $17,180
6. Phil Hellmuth Palo Alto, CA $15,040
7. Bill Gazes Las Vegas, NV $12,880
8. David Chiu Rowland Heights, CA $10,740
9. Jennifer Harman Las Vegas, NV $8,580
10.Mike Matasow Henderson, NV $6,920

11th and 12th, $6,920: Robert Geers, Las Vegas, NV; “Devilfish,” London, England.
13th-15th, $6,000: Nikulaus Frangos, White Plains, NY; Rob Hollink, Holland; Chris Bach, Long Beach, CA;
16th-18th, $5,060: Gary Lent, Riverside, CA, $5,060; Lonnie Heimowitz, Monticello, NY; Kip Williams, Carrollton, GA. Five hands after their return the blinds went to $3,000-$6,000, with 6k-12k limits.

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