A WILD NIGHT OF HOLD'EM
By Max Shapiro

Event #34
$5,000 Limit Hold'em


Tonight's limit hold'em tournament was probably the wildest event at
this year's World Series. Chip stacks fluctuated erratically and the
lead changed hands almost too many times to count. The player most
responsible for this state of affairs was 2001 World Champion Carlos
Mortensen. He played the most pots, was the most aggressive and played
many sub-par hands such as 4-3 and A-2 that somehow turned into big
winners. More accustomed to no-limit and pot-limit, Mortensen's style
of play led to his having the wildest chip swings at the final table.
Where his up-and-down ride eventually took him is something we'll learn
later.

DOUBLE TIMES SIX

But first, let's look at a different World Series occurrence. When John
Juanda won yesterday's pot-limit Omaha event, he became the fifth player
to win two gold bracelets this year. In my tournament report that
evening, I emphasized how remarkable that number was, explaining that it
was due in large part to the extended tournament structure that puts a
premium skill and helps the better players. Now, in the one-day
triple-draw lowball tournament that ran simultaneously with the limit
hold'em final table, the winner was Men "The Master" Nguyen. He became
the sixth player to take down two bracelets this year. Even more
interesting, his final opponent was Keith Lehr, who has one win to his
credit, so either player would have joined the double-bracelet ranks.
Similarly, Juanda's final opponent was O'Neil Longson, who also was
looking for his second bracelet this year.

(Results of the Triple Draw event have been posted separately.)

There were 143 entrants in tonight's event. The buy-in was $5,000 and
the total prize pool was $664,950. Chip leader at the final table was
Larry Beilfuss, who owns a night club in Milwaukee. Here is how they
started:

Seat Chip Count

1 David Chiu $102,000
2 Meng La $93,000
3 Larry Beilfuss $144,000
4 Carlos Mortensen $36,000
5 Bruce Eickson $27,000
6 Lee Salem $96,000
7 Steve Rosen $60,000
8 Lonnie Heimowitz $85,000
9 Mark Gregorich $35,000
10 Jason Lester $38,000

SURROUNDED BY CAMERAS

The final table area, incidentally, looked like something out of a "Star
Wars" sound stage. Machines were everywhere. In addition to the
Horseshoe's live Webcast, ESPN was setting up and practicing filming for
a seven-part series to be broadcast in the future. There were four
television cameras surrounding the table, another nine or ten overhead
and still another camera mounted on a massive boom. There were even
"peek-at-the-cards" mini spy cameras wrapped in green napkins on the
table where each player was sitting, to be used in the upcoming
television broadcasts. Throw in all the cameramen, technicians,
writers, announcers and tournament staffers, and it became a very busy
place. With everyone getting in everyone else's way, this made
following the action for these write-ups several degrees harder. But
it's a small price to pay for all the additional exposure that this will
bring to poker.

Limits at the final table started at $2,000-$4,000, with $1,000-$2,000
blinds, 55:37 remaining and $715,000 in chips in play. The first big
pot didn't come until hand 26. There was three-way action and the pot
was raised and re-raised until it got down to Mortensen and Steven
Rosen. When the board showed Q-6-2-7-K, Mortensen bet, Rosen raised and
Mortensen re-raised. Rosen had A-K, but Mortensen, with K-Q, had two
pair and tripled up from his starting count to about 112k.

Bruce Eickson came close to getting eliminated a few hands later and
survived on a lucky break. Eickson, who has an Amarillo Slim Super Bowl
title to his credit, was down to his last thousand against Rosen, a New
York equity trader. Rosen had an ace-high straight on fourth street,
but then Eickson made the same hand on the river and they split.

After 39 hands, the approximate chip count read:

Larry Beilfuss $155,000
Meng La $135,000
Lee Salem $115,000
David Chiu $90,000
Carlos Mortensen $70,000
Lonnie Heimowitz $60,000
Steve Rosen $25,000
Bruce Eickson $25,000
Mark Gregorich $25,000
Jason Lester $18,000

Blinds now moved up to $2,000-$3,000, with $3,000-$6,000 limits. Lester
was the first player to go all in, but he had the same hand as
Mortensen, K-Q, and the pot was split. Beilfuss then increased his lead
to about 180k when his pocket eights held up in a big pot with Meng La.
Rosen was next to go all in, and was in big trouble with A-10 versus
Lester's A-Q until a river 10 gave him a winning two pair.

SET VERSUS SET

Mortensen took a big hit when he flopped a set of sevens to La's set of
kings. On the turn alone, 48k went into the middle when the pot was
four-bet. La now took the chip lead with about $150,000…for the time
being, at least. Lester next was down to 10k when he folded a $50,000
pot against David Chiu. Finally, 68 hands and two hours into the final
table, the first player was eliminated. Lester re-raised and went all
in with pocket 10s and got blown away by La's pocket kings.

Ten minutes hands later he was joined by Rosen, who could not recover
from his short-chipped position. Holding pocket treys, he lost his last
chips to Lonnie Heimowitz, who had pocket eights. The initial chip
leader, meanwhile, was sinking fast. With a board of J-J-6-3-A,
Beilfuss made a bluff bet with K-5. La, holding just K-6, picked him
off with a good call. But turnabout, as the expression goes, is fair
play. On the next hand, La raised Mortensen on a flop of J-5-3, and
then bet the turn-card seven and the river five. When Mortensen called
and won with an ace-high, La just smiled a bit sheepishly.

La later climbed to about 180k, winning a big pot from Mortensen when he
made a flush with 10d-8d, and kept moving up. At the next break, the
count was:

Meng La $215,000
David Chiu $130,000
Lee Salem $104,000
Larry Beilfuss $80,000
Lonnie Heimowitz $55,000
Carlos Mortensen $47,000
Mark Gregorich $44,000
Bruce Eickson $39,000

It was now 5 p.m. and the blinds were $2,000-$4,000, playing for 4k-8k.
Eickson had two small bets left, and when the flop came 10-8-5, he
raised all in from middle position with bottom pair and ace kicker.
Holding J-10, La flopped top pair, and Eickson finished eighth when
blanks came on the turn and river.

MORTENSEN MAKES HIS MOVE

Picking up several pots with aggressive raising, Mortensen drew very
close to La, about $175,000 to $190,000, and jumped into the lead when
he took two pots a few hands later. The first time, the board showed
10-4-3-5. Chiu bet and Mortensen raised. When Carlos bet the river,
Chiu hesitated a very long time before calling, and was stunned when
Mortensen showed him As-2s for a wheel. Two hands later, Beilfuss, on
the button, called all in with Ac-5c. Mortensen had K-10 and hit a king
on the river to leave Beilfuss in seventh place. Mortensen now had a
solid chip lead with about $230,000.

La was visibly annoyed a few hands later. He had Lee Salem, a liquor
store owner, all in and almost all out when he held K-9 and hit a nine
on fourth street. But Salem,with a-J, got loose with a river ace.

Chiu, holder of three bracelets, was battered, first by La, who made a
straight, and then by Mortensen, who had pocket queens, and dipped down to $28,000. But, in this topsy-turvy tournament, it took him just five hands to zip back up to $100,000. He had A-K, and it stood up against Mortensen with a board of 6-6-6-5-4.

Returning from a dinner break at 7:45, the blinds were 3k-5k, and the
limits 5k-10k. The rankings now were:

Mortensen $218,000
La $182,000
Chiu $99,000
Gregorich $96,000
Salem $68,000
Heimowitz $53,000

THIS BUD'S FOR DAD

Again showing the volatility of this event, it took Heimowitz a mere 10
minutes to go from $53,000 to about $150,000. Perhaps he was energized
by his father, six-bracelet holder Jay Heimowitz, a retired Budweiser
beer wholesler, who had taken over guest announcing duties for the
Webcast. "He's always been very competitive," the elder Heimowitz said
later. When we were out running, if I would get a step ahead of him
after five or six miles, he would punish me."

As play continued, La, who by now was to the immediate right of
Mortensen, began making a career out of check-raising the
super-aggressive world champion of 2001. He then took the lead back when he held K-9, flopped trip 9s and, of course, check-raised. A few hands later, he again made a third nine, this time beating Gregorich. La now had about $230,000 to Mortensen's $175,000, while Chiu was in third spot with about $110,000.

WHO'S GOT THE LEAD ANYWAY?

As the 200th hand approached, Salem, who had been all in not long
before, took down a $125,000 pot against La when his pocket 9s held up.
Now he had the chip lead with about $150,000, while Mortensen, talking a
couple of beats, had become lowest chipped with around $70,000. Then
Chiu beat up on La by pairing a queen on the flop to outrun La's pocket
10s, and now Chiu had the lead with about 185k. Then Mortensen won some pots and took back the lead. Then Chiu, holding 10h-9h, made a straight flush against Heimowitz, and he roared back into number one position with about $250,000. Keeping track of the leaders was becoming a full-time job.

When the limits had gone to $6,000-$12,000 at 9:15, Chiu was still the
leader:

Chiu $245,000
Mortensen $170,000
Salem $150,000
Gregorich $90,000
Heimowitz $32,000
La $28,000

Six hands into the new level, La had a tough decision. After (again)
check-raising Mortensen on a flop of Q-9-7, he bet the turn-card deuce,
then checked a 10 on the river. Mortensen bet, and La, left with only a
few thousand, took a couple of minutes to decide He finally called with
just A-K and beat Mortensen's ace-high. Mortensen shook his head as La
pulled in a $100,000 pot.

LOTS OF FLUSHES

Heimowitz, crippled when Chiu put that straight flush beat put on him,
was the next player out. He raised all in with Ks-Js, and was called by
Mortensen and Salem. The flop was Kd-8d-3d. Heimowitz had flopped
kings, but Mortensen had aces in the hole. One was a diamond, and a
fourth diamond on the river also gave him the nut flush to leave
Heimowitz in sixth place

Three deals later, a very similar hand came down. This time there were
four spades on board. On the river, La bet holding the queen of spades
and Mortensen, holding the ace of spades, raised him all in. Now four
players were left, and Mortensen had the chip lead once again with about
$250,000. He moved up even further, to about $325,000, beating Chiu in
a pot that was four-bet pre-flop, and shortly after that had accumulated
half the chips on the table.

NO STOPPING MORTENSEN

Armed with all that ammunition, he began to go on an awesome rush. Hand
236: He bet into a board of 10-9-6-10-8 and Salem folded. Hand 237: He
raised pre-flop and was not called. Hand 238: Another raise, another
fold. Hand 239: Raise and fold again. Hand 240: in a three-way pot
against Chiu and Salem, with multiple bets and raises, Carlos won by
flopping an eight to his 8-6. He was now up to 450k, his 20-chip stacks
strung out in a long row.

On the next hand, Gregorich finished off Salem. He raised with Kc-4c.
Salem, in the small blind, called all in with Q-4. Neither player
connected with the board, and the king-high was enough to leave Salem in fourth place.

Mortensen's victory seemed assured. Relentlessly raising almost every
pot, he beat Chiu with pocket 10s to leave him with about $35,000. That
went in the middle on hand 254. Chiu raised with K-10 and Gregorich
re-raised with A-10 to put Chiu in. The board came J-7-5-3-5, and now
only two were left.

IT'S NOT OVER YET

As they went into their final battle, Mortensen led Gregorich by
$446,000-$270,000. Within a few hands, Carlos had made a straight on
the turn, only to have Gregorich make a higher one on the river.
Gregorich won another pot with pocket 10s, and in just six hands the two
were almost exactly even. A dozen hands later they were back to where
they began heads-up, and were in the exact same position when limits, 17
hands later, went to 8k-16k.

YES IT IS

They fought on with Gregorich slowly losing ground until nearly 300
hands had gone by at the final table. The end neared when Mortensen
made trips, leaving Gregorich with only about 45k. Two hands later,
Gregorich had pocket sixes to Mortensen's pocket tens. On a flop of
Q-5-5, Gregorich bet and Mortensen raised. A king turned and Gregorich
bet all in. Dead to a third six which never came, Gregorich was the
runner-up and the man from Madrid, Spain, had another bracelet to go
with his championship.

Asked where he goes from here, a supremely confident Mortensen said he
expects to win the championship event that would start the next day.

Final Official Results

1. Carlos Mortensen Madrid, Spain $251,680
2. Mark Gregorich Las Vegas, NV $126,340
3. David Chiu Rowland Heights, CA $63,530
4. Lee Salem Carlsbad, CA $39,900
5. Heng La Torrance, CA $26,600
6. Lonnie Heimowitz Monticello, NY $23,280
7. Larry Beilfuss Waukesha, WI $19,940
8. Bruce Eickson Felton, CA $16,620
9. Steve Rosen Armonk, NY $13,330
10.Jason Lester New York, NY $10,640

11th and 12th, $10,640: George Westphal, Bismarck, ND; Prahlad Friedman,
Richmond, CA.
13th-15th, $9,300: P. Thiptimakon, Downey, CA; Jim Courtney, Plymouth,
MI, Mike Matasow, Las Vegas, NV.
16th-18th, $7,980: Al Stonum, San Carlos, CA; Trent Sessions, Huffman,
TX; Nikolaus Frangos, White Plains, NY.

 

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