Another Star Studded Event
As players filled the tournament room, several faces stood out among the crowd. This would be another tough field. Amir Vahedi was a few minutes late, holding his trademark cigar between his fingers.
Kathy Liebert was the only woman who participated in the tournament, but no one was glad to see this player at their table.
Carl McKelvey, Warren Karp, Charlie Shoten, “Shadow,” Tom F, Franco Brunetti and Harley Hall were among the other expert players.
The final table play began ten handed, and included Gioi Luong, for his 23rd final table this year, Harley Hall, “Shadow,” Franco Brunetti and Terry Fleischer, who had a large chip lead.
Harley quickly got outdrawn when his AT flopped top pair. Terry called his all-in with K9, which had flopped an open ended straight draw. Terry caught it, and Harley exited in 10th place.
Almost as quickly, Gioi went all-in with pocket aces, only to get called by Franco, whose pocket sixes flopped a set. Franco felt some empathy, as he had gotten back to back pocket aces cracked earlier in the tournament, leaving him with only 600 at his lowest point.
The final eight played for so long together that a save was proposed. One player objected, but the others made a save of $1200 for 7th place.
The final six got into the money about midnight. Marc Mags had the chip lead with 36,650. Franco Brunetti was not far behind with 30,750. Third was Richard “Shadow” Hoffmaster with 23,800. Terry Fleischer played fast and loose, which cost him his earlier lead. He was down to 22,200. Nursing short stacks were “Zeke” and Kody Stein with 11,575 and 7,075 respectively.
Both the players and the crowd applauded enthusiastically as each runner got eliminated, as the play was so outstanding and each participant had been through a marathon run. Hand shaking and back patting were common.
Kody doubled through over and over again, putting him firmly back into the game. Zeke played a short stack well, and managed to hang on for over two hours, until he went out with QJ versus Terry’s A4 and got no help. He was paid $4,200 for his patience.
Kody kept doubling up, totaling about seven times, against Terry alone. On his eighth attempt, he actually had Terry outchipped, but his 77 was rivered by Terry’s J9 suited, which caught a flush. Not long afterwards, Kody put in his remaining chips with 53 in the big blind, versus Terry’s A5 and got no help. Kody played extremely well and was paid $5,105 for fifth place.
The final four battled on until after 4:30 am. The play was amazing, showing world class no-limit hold’em at it’s best. Franco played a patient game and kept slowly gaining chips, while the others shuffled them around. His excellent play and unwavering reads put him firmly in the lead, and in control of this wild table.
Chatter abounded, most good naturedly. Players felt they needed to play the tournament out, but fatigue was beginning to show, especially in sixty year old Shadow and sleep deprived Marc.
Deals were proposed and rejected many times, but when the chip counts were fairly close (although Franco was firmly leading), the players decided to get a chip count proposition. A few small adjustments were made, but most of the remaining participants seemed happy with the deal, knowing that the slow rise in antes and blinds were finally starting to take their toll.
Franco Brunetti received first place and $15,455. Franco is from California, although French/Italian and fluent in both languages, as well. He has an excellent tournament record, and much success in NLHE events, He considers Stud his favorite poker game.
Terry Fleischer took several chances and managed have the second highest chip count when the deal was struck, after being up and down all night. His style is tricky, he is virtually impossible to read and kept the other players guessing most of the time. Terry has won several large events this year, and this puts his winnings well over $300,000. He was awarded with second place and $13,560.
Marc Mags plays few events per year, but always chooses large buy-in tournaments and plays high stakes at the Bellagio. He works in the computer field and shares this profession with poker. He was awarded third place and $12,525.
Richard “Shadow” Hoffmaster was the veteran at the table, with decades of experience, although he makes Montana his home these days and doesn’t play as many events. He considers Omaha Eight his best poker game, but in tournaments he has more success in no-limit hold’em. He was given fourth place and $11,575.
When someone in the crowd asked if this was the most boring no-limit tournament yet, a top player responded, “No! This is real poker, not this all-in stuff you see every hand. They are playing world class tournament poker, you could learn something!”
I can’t disagree, this was no-limit hold’em at its best.