"TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE"
By Max Shapiro and Andrew N.S. Glazer, "The Poker Pundit"

In another tag-team effort (this one caused by my intention to play the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em event tomorrow), Max Shapiro and I split up today’s $3,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em event, although the lion’s share of the work is Max’s and I’m just taking you through the first level of play.

When play began at 2:00 pm, the seat positions and chip counts were:

Seat, Player Chip Count
1 David Alimi $29,500
2 Jeff Rothstein $50,500
4 Gary Rabin $54,000
5 Robert Gerstanzang $75,500
6 Chris “JESUS” Ferguson $29,000
7 Fred Berger $53,500
8 Keith Lehr “Jet” $152,000
9 Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott $79,500
10 Erick Lindgren $77,000

Play began with $1,000-2,000 blinds. This meant that an opening limper could come in for a $2,000 call, while an opening raiser could start the action with a bet anywhere in the $4,000-7,000 range (unless he sat in the small blind, where his bet would be in the $3,000-6,000 range). Under WSOP pot-limit rules, a raiser can bet at a minimum twice the previous bet, and at a maximum, an amount equal to a call of the previous bet and then a pot-sized wager.

Although this final table wasn’t quite as star-studded as we have seen recently, there was still plenty of talent, especially in what the Masters would call “Amen Corner,” seats six through nine.

Seat six, Ferguson, you already know, although you might not know he finished second in this very event last year. Seat seven, Berger, is quite familiar with Ferguson because Berger WON this event last year. Seat eight, Lehr “Jet,” had nearly twice as many chips as his nearest competitor (this might have created a double nickname, but “Chip Jett” is already in use), and Seat nine, Ulliott, is a British star who also plays a mean guitar. (Fittingly, for those of you who got the Bowie reference, his chips did some Ziggying in the early going.)

On hand #3, Paris, France’s David Alimi decided to start a battle by opening for 7k from the button. New York’s Rothstein re-raised the maximum (by calling the seven and raising a pot-sized 16, he pushed 23k forward); Alimi, who’d already lost 3k in blinds, tossed in his last $3,500 and when Rothstein made the obligatory call, we had an all-in situation.

Rothstein turned over pocket sixes, while Alimi showed As-Qs. The board came down 10-7-4-K-10 and Alimi was more or less “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

It only took six more hands for another major encounter. Rabin (another New Yorker) opened for 7k, Devilfish raised 15k more, and Rabin raised all-in (another 32k on top of Devilfish’s bet). Devil called (leaving him with only 23.5k were he to lose), and turned over Ad-Ks. Rabin flipped up two black queens, and when the board missed everyone, Rabin was now second in chips, while Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott was suddenly last.

Six seemed the magic number in the early going. Rothstein had knocked out Alimi with two of them, six hands passed before Devil got hurt, and six more passed before the next major clash (three sixes…Devil losing…nah, let’s not go there).

On hand #15, Rabin opened for 7k, Gerstanzang made it 22k, and then Berger moved his 51.5k stack all-in. Rabin looked ill, but decided to pass. Gerstanzang didn’t seemed thrilled either, but probably figuring the pot odds were very nice if he was merely facing overcards (and pretty bad if he wasn’t), decided overcards were more likely (actually, for a third raise, there are only two overcards that are likely, A-K, and only three pairs that are likely, Q-Q, K-K, and A-A) and called.

I had it more or less right because Gerstanzang turned over 10-10 while Berger turned over A-K. The flop came 2-3-4, leaving Gerstanzang in the lead, but an ace hit the turn. Because of the suits on board, Gerstanzang had only one clear out for victory; the 10c would have given Berger a flush. Gerstanzang could also have earned a split if one of the three non-club fives hit.

Bang, the 10s it was, the only card in the entire deck that could have dethroned the defending champ, and a single card had switched Berger’s status from a chip leader with more than 100k to a guy on the sidelines getting 9th place money. True, he’d been a pre-flop underdog, but not by much, and his raise could have gotten some players to lay down pocket tens. Don’t play this game without strong stomach muscles.

A few hands later the blinds moved to $1,500-3,000, allowing the first raiser to bet anywhere in the $6,000-10,500 range, and from here on, I entrust you to Max.

HEEEER’S MAX!

I’m not sure that I like this tag team format because it is quite daunting to have to come on stage and follow the Poker Pundit’s opening act. Andy, you understand, can watch a hand in progress and tell you what all the down cards are, what the players are thinking, what they will do and why, what the precise odds and likely outcome will be, what the temperature is outside and what the stock market will do that day. And throw in several pertinent literary allusions as a bonus. Ah, well, bear with me and I will at least endeavor to get the hands correct.

Immediately after sitting down and breaking out my pen and pad, there was action. I looked up to see a board of A-10-8-2 with two diamonds. Lehr bet 30k, and the chip-depleted Devilfish called all in. Lehr had 10d-9d, giving him two tens and a flush draw. Devilfish had A-2, giving him aces and deuces. On his bio sheet, the outgoing Devilfish had written that he would “swim across shark-infested waters with a bloody pork chop around my neck to play poker with this lot.” Well, maybe he should have just eaten the pork chop instead of putting it around his neck to attract predators. A four of diamonds hit the river and the Brit jeweler got bit in half, cashing out in eighth place as the clock struck 3 p.m.

Only 23 hands had gone by, and three players were already out. Quick night, I thought. Maybe not, because 81 more hands were to elapse before the next stubborn player called it a night. To this point, Lehr still had the chip lead with about 155k, but two other players weren’t that far behind. Gerstanzang had about 135k and Rabin around 120k. At the other end, Ferguson was not faring well. He tried a couple of raises, folded after being re-raised and by hand 46 was down to $16,000. A few hands later, Freedman made a small raise with pocket aces and Gerstanzang called. A third ace flopped, along with two clubs. When Gerstanzang bet 15k, Freedman wasn’t taking chances. He raised the pot to force Gerstanzang out, “in case you’re on a flush draw,” he explained.

JESUS (all right, I’ll spell it out in capital letters the way Ferguson likes it, and the way Andy wrote it, even if it does violate all the rules of capitalization) was almost dead, but now began to rise again. He went all in and doubled up to about $24,000 when his pocket eights held up against Gerstanzang’s A-Q. A few hands later JESUS again went all in and again held up Gerstanzang, a New York state policeman, for $24,500 with pocket kings.

Nobody wanted to take chances at this stage. Repeatedly, players would put in a small raise, then quickly fold when someone came over the top.

Blinds inched up to $2,000-4,000, allowing opening raisers to bet anywhere from $8,000 to $14,000. Here’s what the players had to work with at this level:

Player, Chip Count
Lehr: $200,000
Rabin: $100,000
Gerstanzang: $97,000
Rothstein: $86,000
Lindgren: $64,000
Freedman: $58,000
Ferguson: $49,000

A dozen hands went by before there was a showdown. Gerstanzang, holding K-Q, bet 12k on a flop of K-10-6. Lehr had A-10, and hit a second pair on the river when an ace came. He bet and got an additional 12k from Gerstanzang. After folding a couple of hands on the flop, Gerstanzang was seriously short-chipped. On hand #103 he went all in with pocket fives against Lindgren’s A-9. It was no contest when the flop came A-9-8 to give Lindgren aces and nines, and the state trooper cashed out in 7th place.

A lot of chips changed hands on the next deal. Lindgren opened for 12k, Rabin raised 25k and Lindgren moved all in for 52k more. Lindgren was a big favorite with pocket queens to Rabin’s K-Q until the flop came K-10-9. Lindgren, a money manager, would now have to manage to get the case queen or else a jack for a straight to stay in business. Neither came and he finished sixth.

Rabin had suddenly zoomed up to around $190,000, about $50,000 behind chip leader Lehr. After a few more hands he had closed in some more and the count looked like this:

Player,Chip Count
Lehr: $260,000
Rabin: $240,000
Rothstein: $58,000
Ferguson: $55,000
Freedman: $38,000

Rabin missed the chance to bust Freedman eight hands later. He called Lehr’s $6,000 raise, but folded his A-K when Freedman re-raised all in for $20,000 more with pocket tens. Lehr called with pocket eights. A board of K-2-2-3-7 kept Freedman alive, but he would have been gone had Rabin called. Instead, Freedman moved up to about $80,000.

A dozen hands later, when blinds moved up to $3,000-6,000, the positions hadn’t changed much. Lehr still maintained his chip lead at $243,000, closely followed by Rabin with $221,000. Not long after, on hand #141, Rabin took over the lead. He had a big decision to make after the flop came J-5-4 and Rothstein moved in for $51,000. Rabin, with K-J, had top pair and a strong kicker, but he was hesitant to call such a large bet. After long thought, he finally did, and discovered that all Rothstein had was pocket sixes. A queen and then a king came and Rabin’s paired jacks were good. Rothstein finished in fifth place and Rabin now had a substantial lead with about 330k.

On the next hand, Freedman raised to 21k with K-Q. Ferguson quickly came over the top to put him all in for 41k more. JESUS had the lead with A-9. The flop was K-5-3 and now Freedman led with kings. Then an ace turned, and JESUS was triumphant as Freedman finished in fourth place.

All three remaining players now had more than $100,000, but the next hand would bring them much closer together. Ferguson was in the big blind with Kc-4c. Rabin raised 6k holding A-K and Ferguson called. A flop of 4-4-2 gave JESUS trips. He bet a modest 12k and Rabin called. A 10 turned and Ferguson bet 24k. Hesitating, Rabin asked how much his opponent had left. Seeing it was 55k, Rabin called, hoping to catch an ace or king and bust him. The turn brought the worst possible card for Rabin: the ace he wanted to his A-K. He quickly moved in, Ferguson called, won with his trip fours, and in two hands had dramatically moved into a tie for the lead. Both he and Lehr had about $220,000 each, while Rabin now was a close third with about $212,000.

As anyone who knows him can attest, Chris Ferguson is a perfect gentleman at all times. He is polite, well mannered, even a trifle shy. But he is not someone you want at your table. With his black Stetson pulled low, his reflective glasses covering his eyes, his face shadowed by a beard and by hair cascading well below his shoulders, he turns into something of an apparition, totally unreadable. There he sits, motionless, his chin and face cradled by his long-fingered hand, and as he stares down at his cards, this mathematical genius with a computer for a brain is busy calculating odds and devising strategy with pinpoint precision.

He did not get those five bracelets by accident.

One hand later, Rabin picked up the blinds and now the three were just about dead even. A dozen hands later there was another dramatic shift. Rabin raised with K-Q, Lehr re-raised with Ac-Kc, and Rabin moved in. The board came 4-4-3-A-5. Lehr had won with aces, and he appeared to have Rabin covered and busted. But Ferguson, missing nothing, asked that the chips be counted down. Sure enough, Rabin still had about 18k left. In any event, the Lehr Jet had climbed into the stratosphere with $370,000 in chips.

Rabin lasted four more hands. Ferguson had the button and raised 10k. Lehr called, but then Rabin moved in for 21k more and Lehr folded, deciding to leave Rabin in the hands of JESUS. Rabin had Ah-Kh, Ferguson pocket 10s, and it was close to a coin toss. JESUS won the toss when the board came Q-9-3-J-7 and Rabin departed in third place. .

It was now 7:45, and after some lengthy discussion, Lehr and Ferguson arrived at a deal. Play resumed with Lehr holding a good-sized lead, $414,00 to $240,000. Lehr quickly took command of the situation, raising and forcing Ferguson to fold several times. The eighth hand heads-up was critical and tested Lehr’s judgment. On a flop of 8c-5c-2h, Ferguson bet 8k, Lehr raised to 24 and Ferguson made it three bets with a 40k raise. Lehr pondered. Ferguson obviously had some kind of hand, but was it a flush draw, an eight with a better kicker, two pair, a pocket pair? It could have been anything. Finally going with his paired eight, Lehr called. A 4c and a 10h were checked down, and Ferguson showed a second-best 8-J. With about 540k to120k, Lehr now had a chip lead of about 4.5 to 1.

Relentlessly raising now, Lehr forced Ferguson to fold one hand after another, slowly driving him down. By the time the blinds went to 4-8k, Ferguson was left with only $28,000. Proving himself as much a gentleman as Ferguson, Lehr paid tribute to his final opponent, saying “I just got the better hands,” and that he wouldn’t have done a deal with “just anyone.”

Ferguson managed to double up the next hand with pocket aces, but could only hang on for six more deals. On the final hand, Ferguson raised $18,000 on the button with K-6 and Lehr re-raised.45k with A-6. Ferguson called, leaving him with $1,000, which he tossed in on the flop. A board of J-9-4-3-Q didn’t change anything, and the 39-year-old “Lehr Jet” had flown off with his first World Series bracelet.

Lehr is a self-described “house dad” who plays mostly poker. “My wife has a good job,” he said. A family man, he had a photo of his two sons resting against his chips for luck and inspiration. He’s been playing “Wednesday night” poker since he was 18 or 19 and began going to the World Series a few years ago at the suggestion of a friend. This is his first WSOP cash-out and his first major win, though he’s had final tables at Tunica and at the Bellagio.

Ferguson paid tribute to Lehr, calling his play awesome. “He dominated the table,” Ferguson said. “He certainly dominated me.” Lehr agreed that he had things under control at all times, but said it also helped when he caught better cards at the end. One of the brightest spots for him came when the dangerous Devilfish “gave away” his chips and busted out. He also returned Ferguson’s compliment by calling him a great champion and a truly nice person.

Final Official Results

1. Keith Lehr Jr. Bossiere, LA $225,040
2. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson Pacific Palisades, CA $115,560
3. Gary Rabin New York, NY $57,780
4. Mark Freedman Cambridge, England $36,620
5. Jeff Rothstein New York, NY $27,360
6. Eric Lindgren Las Vegas, NV $21,280
7. Robert Gerstanzang Jamestown, NY $15,200
8. David “Devilfish” Ulliott Hull, England $12,160
9. Fred Berger Slidell, LA $9,740
10.Alimi David Paris, France $7,300

11th and 12th, $7,300: Leandro Alvarez, Carson, CA; Tom Ferguson, Woodville, TX.
13th-15th, $6,080: Al Krux, Fayetteville, NY; Tom Schneider, Phoenix, AZ; Andy Gomm, England.
16th-18th, $4,860: David Pham, Bell Gardens, CA; Neil Channing, London, England;Peter Eichardt, Sweden.
19th-27th, $3,640: Johnny Chan, Cerritos, CA; Annand Ramdin, Bronx, NY; Gilbert Gross, Las Vegas, NV; Bruce “Elvis” Atkinson, Brighton, England; JoseRosenkrantz, Miami, FL; Richard Salzman, Alpine, CA; Cy Jassinowsky, South Africa; James “Stormy” Greer, Broomfield, CO; Bruce Yamron, Naples, FL.

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