Saturday, October 02, 2004



Well, campers, that's a full lid.

If you had half as much fun reading these posts as I had writing them, then I had twice as much fun as you.

Thanks to all the UB crew, especially Melissa Gaddis, whose steady hand at the helm made the whole airship fly.

If you have comments about this blog (be nice) or anything, direct them to customer service at ultimatebet, and they'll find their way to me.

If you're not doing anything next Friday, October 8 at 2:40 pm PDT, check out CNN. I'll be talking about (naturally) poker, my new book Poker Night, and who knows, maybe even Aruba.

I'll be back, of course, on the Jungle Radio. I can't say where, and I can't say when, but I can say this: There will definitely be...

More later, -jv



Aruba 2005 is only a year away.



I'm done talking about bad beats. In fact, I'm done talking about poker. In fact, I'm done talking about everything for now. I'm gonna go hit the pool and soak up some rays before the serious craziness of the awards banquet starts at six. I'll be back some time with a wrap-up of that. Might be tonight. Might be tomorrow. We'll see.

More later, -jv


Kudos and encomia to Brad Lussier, screen name BDLUSS, who just picked off the pot limit Omaha crown here at the Gold Bracelet games.

Brad hails from Madison, Wisconsin. I was there once in the summer and I asked someone how it was in the winter. "Oh, it's miserable," she said. "Cold, snowy, nasty... but it keeps out the riffraff." No riffraff Brad, and now he has some hardware to take home.

More later, -jv


Rick Sherrill, screen name rickshot, just captured the title in pot limit Omha 8/b.

Rick makes frequent tournament forays from his twin homes in Arkansas and Mississippi, and we congratulate him on his gold bracelet win here in Aruba.

More later, -jv


Senovio Ramirez III, screen name the Chirio, won the Gold Bracelet Games title in seven card stud.

You see him here with Cindy Flores, screen name the honeynut. They live in Mercedes, Texas, where Senovio owns an undustrial suppply house. Felicitaciones, Senovio y Cindy.

More later, -jv


Marco Urbanic, screen name lookin4aces, won the seven-stud high low event here at the Gold Bracelet Games.

Seen here doing his best Henry Kissinger impression, Marco is a computer consultant from Cleveland, OH, and, like yours most humbly truly, a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University. Go Tartans!

More later, -jv


John "Pops11" Sirois is the winner of our limit hold'em crown here at the Gold Bracelet Games.

Pops hails from Concord, NC, where he's a doctor in emergency medicine. Wonder how many s&gs he's been called out of.

More later, -jv


Gabi Habash -- screen name gabih -- is our winner in the limit Omaha/8 competition.

Originally from Jordan, now hails from Kentucky, and he said of his triumph, "Finally won something, dad gummit," so, clearly, he's mastered the local lingo.

More later, -jv


Here's Nick Fair, screen name Mingusthedog, winner of the no-limit hold'em title at the Gold Bracelet games.

Nick's from Toronto, but he's currently based in Dalian, China, where he teaches English. It took him 36 hours to get here, and he'll make the long trip back tomorrow -- but he'll have some lovely bling-bling to keep him company en route.

More later, -jv


Ladies and gentlemen, I have traveled all around the world, and I've been to about a million conferences of one kind or another. I usually rate them on a sliding scale, from tolerably effed up to waking nightmare. When one runs well, well, you have to shout props out to the people who made it possible. In a word, these things don't happen by accident.

And so here are maximum props to the Wizards of Conferon, who made this event run smooth as... smooth as... damn, my metaphorator just broke. Well, anyway, smooth. Very... sweetly... smooth.

Left to right: Sue Hertlein, Karen Allen, Meredith Hopkins, Kara Underwood.

Thanks, ladies. You can organize events I'm at any time. And in fact, if one of you would drop by my house and organize my CDs, I'd be forever in your debt.

More later, -jv


Steve Croft -- Kopite01 -- claims to have taken three bad beats en route to his elimination from the no-limit hold'em Gold Bracelet Game. The worst of these took most of his stack when the blinds were 400 and 800, and he raised to 3000 with A-K suited. He got reraised all-in and called, to find himself face to face with pocket queens.

Now, let's pause to note that pocket queens is actually a favorite here, by about 55-45%, but an ace on the flop put Steve well ahead in the hand. It was gonna take runner-runner something to keep Steve from winning the pot. Did I mention that there was a ten on the flop as well? Can you guess what came next? If you said a king and a jack for a straight, you go to the head of the bad-beat class.

As for Steve, he goes to a dismal chip position, and suffers the final ignominy when his pocket sixes lose to pocket fives.
Gee, a lower pocket pair beating a higher pocket pair? I haven't seen that since, well, yesterday.

More later, -jv


Here's Art Kane -- ColbySophie -- winner of the pot-limit hold'em Gold Bracelet Game.

He came to the table as chip leader, and held seed throughout. Now he gets to go home to his two Rhodesian ridgebacks, Colby and Sophie, rescue dogs whom he describes as "having issues." Don't they all, Art, don't they all?

More later, -jv


Here are the results of the $540 buy-in from night before last, September 30. 180 ran, $87,300 paid to:

Jack Rosenfeldt Hobro, Denmark $34,920

Gary Barwick Chester, England 17,460

Dan Hart Chicago, IL 8,730

Thomas Bellizzi Long Island, NY 5,238

Andrew Palmer Winston-Salem, NC 3,929

Melissa Hayden Marina del Rey, CA 3,056

Ronnie Ebanks New Orleans, LA 2,183

Danny Noam Cave Creek, AZ 1,746

Tracy Scala Del Rey Beach, FL 1,397

Rene Mouritsen Copenhagen, Denmark 1,048

Bill Wade Brownstown, MI 1,048

James DeVidts Detroit, MI 1,048

Mark Leveritt Milwaukee, WI 960

Christian Kruel Rio de Janiero, Brazil 960

John Schuler Tallahassee, FL 960

Elliott Zaydman Glen Rock, NJ 873

Rafe Furst Los Angeles, CA 873

John Kenny Coconut Creek, FL 873

More later, -jv


I've heard more bad beats than you. It's a given. In my role as Captain Blogger, I've probably heard more bad beats than God. ("I swear to God, God, the light was green! If that fricka-fracking slackjaw hadn't been such a bad driver, I'd still be alive!")

I've filtered out most of the beats from these posts, because, really, who wants to hear the same sad tune played over and over and over again? It's like the seventh circle of hell, where Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again, Naturally is the only song on the jukebox. But a fey feeling fills the air this morning at the Gold Bracelet Games. Perhaps it's that the money's not serious -- $600 for first place, pocket change for last -- but for whatever reason, giddiness abounds. In that spirit, I've decided to share the bad beats with you, as fast and as fulminant as they come to me.

To kick things off, Mark "P0ker H0" Kroon's swan-song hand.

The game is pot-limit hold'em. Mark starts the day short-stacked with just 6645 in chips (compared to the leader's 62,555). He's looking for a place to make his move, and finds it when someone in front of him makes it 1000 to go. Holding A-J, he re-raises to 3000, and gets calls from the original raiser and a player in between. Flop comes J-9-8. Mark pushes all-in. The original raiser folds, but the other player sticks around with pocket sixes -- and catches a six on the river to send Mark to the rail.

That's a two-outer, folks, but his foe had two chances to hit it, and that'll happen about one time in 12. So I rate it a C+. We've seen it before, and we'll no doubt see it again.

More later, -jv


Just to make the madness a little madder, the keen minds at UltimateBet decided to slide another tournament in on top of the big tournament that ended yesterday. These worthies obviously don't want me to have a moment's tranquility by the pool or a refreshing dip in the sea, but I'm not complaining. You know me: I define myself through service.

Anyway, this tournament is actually eight different tournaments, eight different final tables featuring eight different types of poker. Much as it taxes my brain, I shall try my best to explain.

See, once you qualified for Aruba by winning one of the satellites, you also automatically qualified for the gold bracelet games. At this point, you got to make your choice from the following list, and decide in which style of poker you'd like to compete:

LIMIT OMAHA 8/B (eight or better high-low split)

Then, of a weekend in September, you sat down at your computer and shot it out with your co-combatants. Play in each of these tournaments worked its way down to a final table, 10-handed in the case of the flop games, and 8-handed in the case of stud.

At that point... play stopped. Your chip count was recorded and you betook your actual live body down here to Aruba. This morning you came into the tournament area, found your appropriate seat at the appropriate game, encountered a chip stack corresponding to the number you brought to the virtual final table, and began a one-table shootout for all the marbles -- said marbles to include the gold bracelet pictured below, one for each table winner.

So now we're here, doing something new and different: playing poker.

Your chip leaders at the start of play, by game:

LIMIT HOLD'EM -- TODD CROWELL -- toddcrowell
LIMIT OMAHA 8/B (eight or better high-low split) -- AL SABANOVSKI -- Jett1

And here are the prize payouts:

For the flop games,

1st -- $600 plus the bracelet
2nd -- $400
3rd -- $280
4th -- $200
5th -- $140
6th -- $110
7th -- $90
8th -- $70
9th -- $60
10th -- $50

For the stud games,

1st -- $600 plus the bracelet
2nd -- $460
3rd -- $340
4th -- $220
5th -- $140
6th -- $100
7th -- $80
8th -- $60

I'll be back to report the outcomes as they come out, but in the meantime -- glutton for punishment that I am -- I've decided to embrace the madness with...


Stay tuned, -jv


I've been listening to bad beats and war stories all week, and now I've got one of my own. Yes, after watching so much poker for so many hours and feeling as, well, eager as a bridgroom on his wedding night, I finally found the time and lack of common sense to play in one of the $540 buy-in evening events. Having reported on other people's play all week, I think it only fair that I report on my own.

Those fricka-fracking slackjaws! If they hadn't played so badly, I woulda won!

Nah, it wasn't like that. Not at all. In fact, it was just another garden-variety trip through a garden-variety tournament, resulting in a garden-variety suck out and a garden-variety trip to the rail.

It had its moments, though; it did.

Despite knowing that I was eager as a bridegroom on his wedding night, and despite vowing that I'd take it slow, I actually found myself getting all my money in the middle on the third hand -- third hand! -- of the tournament. How did that happen? Well, we all started with 2000 in chips, and on the third hand I found myself holding pocket queens. I made it 300 to go. With blinds at 25-50, this may have been too much, but it's the raise that the players in the two prior hands had made and I figured, hey, they'd established the going rate. Well, I got two callers -- one, and possibly two more than I want -- so now there's almost a thousand in the pot already, and I've only got 1700 left.

The flop comes Q-T-9, rainbow. I've flopped top set, but feel very vulnerable to a straight. I don't want to give a free card in this situation, obviously, but a bet less than everything will price an open-ended draw right into the pot. Yikes! Of course, there's the possibility that one of my foes is holding K-J and got there already, but if that's the case, all the money's going in the middle anyhow, and I'm relying on redraws to a full house. I do the math... swallow hard... and push my money in. It seemed like the right thing to do, third hand or thirtieth or 1300th.

Well, they both fold, so I'm off and running!

Uhm... for a little while.

Taking my cue from all the hyperagressive play I've watched all week, I try swinging my big stack around. Doesn't work. My several raises with several middle pairs hit several scary big-card flops, and my stack began to shrink, while meanwhile, the blinds began to rise. Next thing I know, I'm starting to feel imperiled and looking for a place to make my move.

I push half my stack in with A-T suited, encounter a raise and a reraise all-in -- not the outcome I'd hoped for -- and have to muck my hand.

Finally... finally!... with still about 800 in chips, I picked up Ac-Kc and reraised the original raiser all-in. He called with Ah-Jh, and much as I would like to excoriate his play, given the size of my stack and his, and the direish straits I was in, his call was a no-brainer.

We tabled our hands. Can you guess the rest? The board comes brick-rag-swill-crap... jack.

And yours most humbly truly is heading for the rail.

Well, at least I got a little play. And the fact is, the fricka-fracking slackjaws played all right, too.

So now, back to blogging. I'm settling in to watch the Gold Bracelet Shootout, and I'll be back with details on that forthwith.

More later, -jv

Friday, October 01, 2004


You think I'm done blogging? Brothers and sisters, they do not pay me to slack! I'll be back tomorrow with live coverage of the Gold Bracelet Tournament, a shootout of online champions. And then there's the awards banquet. Plus who knows what random revelry. It ain't over till it's over, folks, and it sure ain't over yet.

(But it's over for today. I'm gonna go play poker.)

More later, -jv


A happy, happy camper.

Eric Brenes, winner of $1,000,000, including a $25,000 buy-in to the WPT Tournament of Champions, shown here with WPT host Mike Sexton.

And, "as is traditional on the World Poker Tour," a toast to the winners.

And as the sun dips down into the placid Caribbean Sea, we bid farewell to the 2004 Aruba Poker Classic. If you didn't have fun, you didn't half try.

More later, -jv


Layne Flack, a $500,000 winner.


Layne Flack was a 4-1 favorite going into the flop when he managed to get his money in the middle with pocket nines against Eric Brenes' 2-2. The turn of A-6-4 put Eric's back to the wall, but he's been lucky before, and he got lucky again, this time catching a deuce on the turn. The river was an irrelevant king, and trip ducks won the pot.

Eric had Layne just barely out-chipped -- 3,605,ooo to 3,560,000 -- and, well, that was that.

Eric, by the way, got into this tournament via a $100 satellite on UB, so he turned a C-note into a cool million. That's quite a parlay!

Pictures to follow. Stay tuned.

Back in a flash, -jv


...and the trophy: temptation on the table.

Who will win? We shall see. Eric has been slamming Layne with raises, drawing even -- and now ahead -- with his aggressive play.

4.3M for Eric.
3.3M for Layne.

Stay tuned, campers. It won't be long now.

Back in a flash, -jv


Ever wondered where the chip counts and flop recounts come from? All props and shouts to this lady, Jan Fisher.

She tracks every hand, every bet, the turn of every card, and generously shares her data with the slow kids in the back of the class. Thanks, Jan. You da bomb.

We're on a brief break here, campers, so stretch your legs, grab a cold beverage, and settle in for the rousing finale.

Back in a flash, -jv


Mike Matusow came close to eliminating Eric Brenes just now, but a miracle river kept Eric alive and sowed the seeds of Mike's demise.

Holding an 8-6, Eric raised all-in into a flop of Q-8- 5, only to get a call from Mike, holding Q-9. The turn, a 3, put Eric on the brink of elimination, but a six on the river saved him. Thus was Mike, himself saved by a miracle king a while back, eviscerated by the river.

Well, you know what they say: The river giveth and the river taketh away.

Mike couldn't believe his eyes.

And by the time the river got done takething away Mike's chips, he was down to "scrapmetal and donuts." It all went in on the next hand...

Here's the live play by play:

And now Mike is all-in for 75K. Eric has called him, as has Layne

A-Q-7 on the flop.

Eric and Layne check.

Q on the turn.

Check, check.

River: 9

7-4 for Eric wins with a pair of sevens, and Mike Matusow is eliminated in third place.

$250,000 is not a bad payday, but there's no one more disappointed not to have won than Mike Matusow. He has an urgent need to "make his bones" in the poker world, but that need must remain unmet till next time.

For now, let's pause... take a deep breath... and watch the final showdown between Layne Flack, with 4.895 million in chips, and Eric Brenes, with 2.74 million.

Back in a flash, -jv


If you've ever wondered what your virtual cardroom manager looked like, here he is..

...Hector Orozco, of San Jose, Costa Rica.

Thanks for all your hard work this week, Hector. Without you -- and all the other UB staffers -- this blog would've been a bog.

And now, back to the action.

Layne just bet Mike off a big pot on the turn, causing a million-dollar chip shift. Things happen fast at this limit.

Back in a flash. -jv


Can you see Paul Wolfe? That's him, watching the tournament from just to the left of the palm tree.

Says Paul, admiring his picture, "I've never looked better."

Back in a flash, -jv


Just five minutes ago, Layne Flack was on his back, but now he's back on the attack, picking up 300K here, 400K there, getting right back in the hunt. Showing no hint of surrender, he's turned up his smile and his chat, suddenly determined, it seems, not to let Matusow win the war of words uncontested.

Does it make a difference? I think it does. When you feel a player's energy, when you think the man's on fire, your more circumspect about your moves. Everyone knows that the best way to have a rush is to build one, and Mike Caro told us 30 years ago that there's nothing wrong with people thinking you're lucky.

Eric -- 2M
Layne -- 2.8M
Mike -- 2.8M

As you can see from these numbers, Layne is all the way back. He has pumped up the volume, and it's working well for him; now the only danger is believing his own PR. Feel like you're invincibly lucky and you can get out in front of a hand at the wrong time, to the wrong end. At times like these, it's good to remember that, "Deception is what you do to others, delusion is what you do to yourself."

Back in a flash, -jv


Blinds are up now, to 60 and 120K, with antes of 15K. That's 225K going into the middle before the cards are even dealt. Chip counts as follows:

Layne -- 1.4M
Eric -- 1.25M
Mike -- 4.8M

The only one, then, not terribly imperiled by the blinds and antes is the redoubtable Mr. Matusow. He's been getting hit by the deck in the last half hour -- or either that or no one wants to mess with him. Layne seems to be suffering. He's resorted to sunglasses to conceal his eyes from Matusow's penetrating gaze. Eric is cool, though; he remains unwilted in the heat, as tranquil and calm as he's been throughout the tournament.

I may be projecting, but it seems like Matusow has the most to lose. The title -- the status -- seems to matter a great deal to him, much more than Layne, who's been there before, or Eric, who's just ice-cube cool no matter what. It'll be interesting to see what happens if Mike comes back to the pack. With his big chip lead, he should be able to coast home, but if there's a chink in his armor, it's need. If need breeds impatience or recklessness at the wrong time, he could make a decision he regrets.

Back in a flash, -jv


Here's a peek at Patrick getting his postgame moment with Shana Hiatt.

Thanks to Maxx Duffy for this shot, and manyof these shots.

Chip count as we speak:

MIKE -- 3.1M
LAYNE -- 2.7M
ERIC -- 1.7M

B ack in a flash, -jv


... is Pat McMillan.

And Mike Matusow gets his chips.

Mike opened the betting for 200K. Patrick raised all-in, committing his entire stack of 920K. Mike called. A-8 for Pat, pocket jacks for Mike. The board came Q-4-2-9-5, and though the crowd wished hard for an ace, wishing won't make it so, and Patrick McMillan was out in fourth place. A real fighter -- remember, he came back from 31st out of 33 at the start of yesterday's play -- he deserves every cent of the $170,000 he earned.

And Mike Matusow is now up over 3 million in chips.

And Eric Brenes just doubled through Layne Flack when his pocket dueces held up against Layne's A-3.

Now he has about two million in chips.

Ladies and gentlemen, we've got ourselves a shootout!

Back in a flash, -jv


I'm not sure what the technical difficulty is -- it's a difficulty, and it's technical in nature -- but there's a break in the action here at the final table, and if you're wondering why I haven't posted an update in the last 30 seconds, that's the reason why.

The pause gives me a chance to upload some pix of ultimate gear. Here are your official tropical-issue UB hats...

...and here's the official tournament tee...

...designed by this man, UB photographer and graphic genius Jason Karl, shown here with his wife, Anthea.

Well, they're promising to resume play shortly, so I'll be back blogging shortly, too. In the meantime, have you checked out the live webcam from Playa Linda? Here's the URL again, in case you missed it before.

And I'm gonna go outside right now and wave, so click on over.

Back in a flash, -jv


The winner of this little shinding will pick up a cool million dollars, plus this striking, island-themed trophy.

Just to recap the remaining payouts, we have $500,000 for second place, $250,000 for third, and $170 for our next eliminee in fourth.

Back in a flash, -jv


Much to the delight of the crowd here at Playa Linda, Patrick McMillan just survived an all-in scare against -- surprise -- someone other than Layne Flack.

He got his money in the middle (625K) with A-J, and found a willing caller in Eric Brenes, holding pocket tens. An ace on the flop gave Patrick the lead in the hand, and when the boad bricked out, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. No chance of hearing that sigh over the shouts from the crowd, where there seems to be much sentimental enthusiasm for the young pro from Knoxville and St. Louis.

He's back up over a million now, and right back in the hunt.

Much to the delight of the crowd.

Back in a flash, -jv


I probably shouldn't post this picture because it seems to be the kiss of death -- the last two I posted were both eliminated shortly thereafter -- but anyway, here's Eric Brenes.

The Costa Rican comes by his poker skills naturally: His brothers Alex and Humberto are both top pros. Here's your picture, Eric; hope I haven't jinxed you.

Back in a flash, -jv


"Vindication!" cried Mike Matusow, as the board came a king. Vindication for what, I'm not entirely sure. All the bad beats Mike imagines he's suffered during this tournament? It looked like a garden-variety suckout to me.

Layne opened the betting for 160K and Mike called. The flop came K-3-2. Layne bet 300K, Mike raised all-in for 765K and Layne called. A-A for Layne, K-J for Mike. The turn was a rag, but the river was Miracle Mike's miracle king. A loud cheer went up from... Mike Matusow, as he'd dodged the bullet of elimination.

So it goes here at Playa Linda. We almost got down to three, but we're still stuck on four.

Back in a flash, -jv


I quote-and-paste an email correction I've just received:

Hey John... Dr Fey is from Clinton Ok... not McClinton... and tell him I want something autographed when he gets back...
Larry McDaniel, RN
Dr Fey fanclub

Thanks for the correction, Larry, and thanks for checking in.

Back in a flash, -jv


Here's an amazing fact: After almost an hour and a half of play, virtually every hand producing a flop has involved Layne Flack. In fact, I'm not sure if any two other two players have mixed it up even once. Talk about being the straw that stirs the drink!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, in no-limit hold'em, you want to be the one who knows, not the one who guesses. In the largest sense, only Layne knows what Layne is doing; everyone else is guessing, and he's such a dominant force at the moment that they all have to play his game. It's worth going to school on, you who would be tournament winners. Take charge; there's no back seat on this bus.

Back in a flash, -jv


Sorry, campers, but I've lost track of the round number. I think it's 623, or maybe a million. Things get fuzzy in the heat. This much I know: Blinds are 40 and 80K, antes are 10K. That's a chunk of change, Chuck, especially if you're Pat McMillan, trailing the field with 875K and looking for some room to move.

Other chip counts at the start of this round:

Layne -- 3.44M
Mike -- 2.175M
Eric -- 1.175M

Back in a flash, -jv


John Juanda is our fifth place finisher. He took an A-8 up against Layne (who else?) Flack's A-K, and they got their money in before the flop. It was all over when a king hit the board.

Layne's got 'em guessing now; he got John to call for all his chips with much the worst hand. And now his chip count is thrice that of his nearest competitor, viz:

LAYNE -- 3.6M
MIKE -- 1.2M
PAT -- 1.55M
ERIC -- 1.5M

Truly... the heart of a baboon.

John Juanda, out in fifth for $130,000.

Back in a flash, -jv


... and their chip counts are these:

LAYNE -- 2.25M
JOHN -- 1.25M
MIKE -- 935K
PAT -- 1.53M
ERIC -- 1.505

Antes at this level are 10K and blinds are 40K and 80K, which means that each lap will cost the somnolent player 120K. Literally... you snooze, you lose.

Back in a flash,-jv


Vic "Doc" Fey, screen name themd, just finished his day in 6th place, victim to yet another Layne Flack rope-a-dope attack. The hand went down like this:

Vic made it 100K to go before the flop, and Layne just called. The flop came J-9-5 offsuit. Doc bet 120K, and again Layne just called. Now came the brutal blow: an ace on the turn, just the card Doc needed for his A-K holding. Trouble was, Layne held A-5, and happily called Doc's all-in bet of 725K. A five on the river merely gilded the lily, giving Layne a full house, and Doc was done for the day.

Layne seems to have established himself as the master of the flat-call today, picking up pots by smooth-calling before or after the flop and making big moves on the turn. In this case, though, Doc did all the work for him and Layne's passive-aggressive strategy paid off again.

Said Layne after the fact, "I've got the heart of a baboon." I don't know what that means, but it makes good copy.

Farewell, Vic "Doc" Fey, our sixth-place finisher and winner of $105,000.

Back in a flash, -jv


... verifying his chip count before the start of play.


Well, they both had real hands.

Layne raised to 120K from the button. Mike moved all in for 357K more. Layne called. A-K for Mike, A-Q for Layne. A five-brick board brought no help to either player, and Layne had to ship his chips. This was not the first confrontation between these two: So far, we've seen exactly three hands through to the river, and they've all been Layne/Mike showdowns.

Back in a flash, -jv


Here's a look at one of your finalists, Vic "Doc" Fey, from McClinton, Oklahoma.


Here's a chip count on the fly, courtesy of Linda Johnson, who just took over annoucning duties from Jack McClelland.

Vic "Doc" Fey -- 1.1M
Layne -- 1.2M
John -- 1.2M
Mike -- 870K
Pat -- 1.8M
Eric -- 1.5M

So far in this tournament, the most notable action has been a lack of action. We haven't seen a river -- haven't even seen a turn card -- and I'm pretty sure we've only seen two flops. This is typical of the early stages of final tables, where the players are feeling each other out, searching for weaknesses, over-agressiveness, or other targest of opportunity.

For example, John Juanda just won an uncontested pot with a pre-flop raise. He showed his hand -- pocket tens -- as if to say, "See, boys, I'm not in there with nothing." His credibility for big tickets thus established, he can set himself up for steal-raises later in the action.

In the meantime... more of same: fold, fold, raise, fold, fold, fold. Blinds and antes; first bettor gets the blinds and antes. I'm reminded of a saying I heard somewhere, "The second liar never has a chance." That's true in poker, at least at this table now.

Back in a flash, -jv


You can't know this, but right now I'm sitting about fifteen feet from the tournament table, blogging just as fast as I can. Sitting to my left is Suanne Day, general manager of UltimateBet, tracking the action as fast as I can post it. So, in an act of pure self-indulgence I say, "Hello, Suanne! Here's that picture I took about fifteen seconds ago."


Folks, it's an insane proposition for me to try to relate all the hands, or even all the meaningful hands, in this tournament. But I'll try to pick off the key ones for you -- the elimination hands and the "indicators," hands or plays that seem to dictate trends... such as Mike Matusow starting one of his patented blitzes or... or this one.

About half a dozen hands into play, Layne and Pat have just gotten involved in a pot. Looking at a flop of A-7-4, pat checked, and Layne bet 80K. Pat raised 120K and Layne folded. It seemed to me that Layne was testing Pat, trying to determine whether Pat's aggressive counter-moves yesterday were strategic or hand-based. Pat, for his part, seemed to be sending the message that, "I'll do the check-raising around here."

Or maybe I'm reading too much into just another hand of poker. Time, as they say, will tell.

Back in a flash, -jv


Here's Jack McClelland with his able tournament staff, wife Elizabeth, left, and daughter Eva, right.

Uhm... the family that runs tournaments together stays together?


Here's Linda Johnson, WPT announcer and "The First Lady of Poker," calling the shots in Aruba.


Just to refresh your memory (easier than refreshing your web page), here are the final table chip counts and and seat positions. Play starts today with 5K antes and 15K-30K blinds.

SEAT 1 -- VIC FEY -- 1,262,000
SEAT 2 -- LAYNE FLACK -- 1,548,000
SEAT 3 -- JOHN JUANDA -- 1,365,000
SEAT 4 -- MIKE MATUSOW -- 713,000
SEAT 5 -- PATRICK McMILLAN -- 1,328,000
SEAT 6 -- ERIC BRENES -- 1,417,000

So what do you say? Anyone wanna play poker?

Back in a flash, -jv


It's 11:53 in Aruba. Start of final table play is moments away. I'll be back with stats and faqs in a flash, but first things first; check out this webcam:

It's a live shot from the Playa Linda Resort here in Aruba, where the final table's being played. Bookmark that bad boy and check back frequently. If you see a shiny bald head reflecting the sun, that'll be me.

Next, here are Mike and Vince, just like they appear on TV.

And Shana Hiatt, right, just like she appears on TV. The woman with her is Robyn Moder, producer extraordinaire for the World Poker Tour.

Here's Mike Matusow with his posse-of-one, cousin Greg Haptor, screen name heromusic, in from LA for the big event...

...and Layne Flack giving an interview.

Okay, that's some visuals to get you started.

Back in a flash. -jv

Thursday, September 30, 2004


At 11:22 pm here on the happy island, the final table for tomorrow was finally set when Martin Feijo went all-in with a hand slightly better than his previous 2-7, but couldn't make it hold up.

Round 26. The antes were 15K and blinds were 60K and 120K. With only 7 million in chips in play, and each round costing almost 300,000, you knew the end would not be long in coming.

Well, it wasn't.

Two hands into the new round, Martin pushed in under the gun with A-3 offsuit and his remaining 300K in chips. He found a willing caller in the big blind, Eric Brenes, who held pocket nines. A nine on the flop ended the drama and... at long last... we go to tomorrow.

Interesting thing about the blind structure. Though it was big enough to force all-in bets, it hardly encouraged calls. Why? No upside. Suppose you hold a million in chips. Faced with the choice of doubling up or going broke, in most cases you figure that doubling up is a significant good. But here the blinds were so high that even doubling up wouldn't move you far out of precarious territory. On the other hand, if you lost the hand, you lost both the chance for tomorrow's TV exposure (not an insignificant consideration to many) and the chance to get a little more play from your chips when the blinds roll back.

So... weirdly... the upside and the downside were upside down, and thus was the final table setting deferred until the blinds grew so high as to be insurmountable.

Congratulations to Martin Feijo -- screen name IwillbustU -- our seventh place finisher and $80,000 winner.

Here are your chip counts and contestants for tomorrow, when play will start at the considerably less draconian level of 5K antes and 15K-30K blinds:

LAYNE FLACK -- 1,548,000
ERIC BRENES -- 1,417,000
JOHN JUANDA -- 1,365,000
PATRICK McMILLAN -- 1,328,000
VIC FEY -- 1,262,000
MIKE MATUSOW -- 713,000

Game time is 12:00 noon, EST. Look for a first post around 11. Till then, campers... d
oes anyone mind if I go to bed?

More later, -jv


Martin Feijo just pushed in his last 268K from the small blind and got a call from Vic Fey in the big blind. Vic had half a hand -- Ad-9h -- but Martin surprised everyone by turning over the worst hand in hold'em, 7-2... okay suited, but still...

Can you guess the rest? The flop came 3c-Kd-Td, but the turn was a deuce and the river, for good measure, a seven.

Think about that next time you make a big move with a bad hand and get caught. "Hey," you can say, "that's how the pros do it."

Of course, the blinds are monstrously high now -- so high that everyone's looking for a hand to make a stand.

But 7-2?

Now I've seen everything.

More later, -jv


Well, I'm going to lose my bet on 10:30, but not by much. At 10:30 exactly, we lost our 8th place finisher, Roy Obriecht, screen name royo1, who collected $55,000 after a mighty fight.

His end came on a coin flip when Layne Flack (who else?) raised pre-flop to 300K and Roy moved in with his half a million or so in chips. Layne called. Pocket nines for Roy and Qc-Tc for Layne. The flop came 3d-Td-Jc. Roy picked a straight draw with an 8 on the turn, but the river was also an 8 and Roy was done.

You didn't hear much about royo1 during this tournament. He was involved in few big confrontations and the only words he uttered were call, raise and fold. But he played cool throughout, won his share of respect (and therefore uncontested pots), and acquitted himself with class. His quiet, steady presence will be missed at the table tomorrow. He wouldn't have been flamboyant for the cameras, but he'd have represented poker well to the folks who eventually watch this thing at home.

More later, -jv


We've reached a break after the 24th level, and the story of the last ten minutes -- yes, the story can change that fast -- is the re-emergence of Mike Matusow. After lying fallow seemingly for hours, and watching his chip stack fall and fall, Mike was forced to make a stand with his last couple hundred thousand chips and a not-very-impressive As-7d. He got a call, though, from John Juanda's even less robust Kc-9h, and when the board connected with neither player, Mike had doubled up.

He seemed to take this as a sign to go on a tear, because he picked up a quick blizzard of pots with uncontested pre-flop raises, and before you know it, was back up over a million in chips.

And before you know it, back talking smack again.

It's a funny thing about Mike. When he's silent, everybody's silent. The other players. The floor personnel. The fans. As soon as he starts talking, everyone else starts talking, too. A few outbursts -- "Yeah, baby!" "I never wilted!" -- later, and the whole room was buzzing.

Said John Juanda, "Did Mike Matusow just show up?" I guess you could say he did. You'd have to be deaf not to notice.

Here are the numbers at the break.


We start play now with antes at 10K and blinds at 40K and 80K. Hmm... Before play started today, Tournament Director (extraoridaire) Jack McClelland predicted that it would take till 10:30 to get down to six players. We're at 10:13 right now.

Anyone want to bet against Jack?

I don't.

More later, -jv


Layne Flack just took another big hit to his stack.

With the blinds still at 30 and 60K, Vic "Doc" Fey made it 120K to go under the gun. Layne called and everyone else retreated to the sideline.

The flop came 9c-Ks-8c and Doc went all-in for his last 367K. Layne must've smelled weakness or drawness, because he called fairly quickly -- with nothing better than a draw of his own.

Kc-Jc for Doc, Ts-Jd -- an open-ended straight draw -- for Layne. The turn brought a club, and the loss brought Layne's stack down below a million.

Now we'll really see a test of his mettle.

Stay tuned, campers. This is almost getting interesting.

More later, -jv


Wow, check out this hand:

It's round 24. Antes are 5k, blinds are 30K and 60K, which means each lap costs you a tasty 130K.

Layne Flack is in the big blind, a place he's been comfortable calling raises all night long. Pat McMillan brings it in for 120K and Layne comfortably calls. They see a flop of 2c-6h-3d, not the sort of flop that either of them is likely to have hit... except with Layne you never know.

Well, now a little raising war breaks out. Layne fires the first salvo with... a check (I count this as an aggressive move on Layne's part because, let's face it, the check-raise has not been missing from his repetoire today). Pat makes it 300K to go. Layne... true to form... calls the 300 and raises another 350. Now, this is where his opponents have frequently turned tail today, but not this time. Pat reraises all-in, a sizeable chunk of chips measuring exactly 429K.

Now Layne goes into the tank. He knows that Pat knows he's capable of making a play at that flop... but equally capable of having called with low cheese and hit it hard. If anyone's likely to be at the other end of the deck, it's Pat, who has played much more straightforward tight-aggressive poker today. But is he at the other end with A-K... or A-A? In any case, Layne decides to let it go, thus shifting exactly 935K of his chips to the other end of the table.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new chip leader, Pat McMillan.

Who, by the way, started the day in 31st place, with a paltry 85,000 in chips.

And came back from the dinner break dead last at 400K.

Can you say "outhouse to penthouse?" Oh, I think you can.

Now two questions arise. One, will Pat be able to handle prosperity as well as he's handled adversity, and two, will Layne be able to handle adversity as well as he's handled prosperity?

Time will tell.

It's probably telling even as we speak.

More later, -jv


In one of those "tragic that someone has to lose" confrontations, Jim "Gutshot Jimmy" Roy just busted out in ninth place.

Under the gun and (relatively) short-stacked with 800K, Jimmy made the standard opening raise of 100K. It was folded around to a call from Layne Flack in the big blind.

When the flop came Jh-8d-Qs, Jimmy must've thought he was sitting mighty pretty with top two pair, especially when Layne checked. Jimmy made it 400K to go (effectively pot-commiting himself) and Layne came over the top. Jimmy called quickly, only to find himself staring at Laynes T-9 offsuit: Layne had flopped a straight.

Jimmy still had four outs to a full house, plus runner-runner eights as a longshot possibility and runner-runner 9-T for a split pot. Alas it was not to be. The board bricked out, and Gutshot Jimmy was heading home to St. Albert's, Alberta, Canada, $35,000 to the good.

Two hands later, we had a "man overboard" scare when Pat McMillan went all-in against Layne Flack. But his pocket kings held up -- one of the few hands that hasn't gone Layne's way today -- and Pat had doubled up.

Informal chip counts for the Great Eight:

VIC FEY -- 300K

More later, -jv


The pre-prandial torpor has segued nicely into a post-prandial torpor as no one, it seems, wants to claim the 9th spot on the pay table. While the lull extends, I have a moment to catch up on my picture-posting, with three found objects from today's camera work.

First we have another t-shirt for our graphics collection, displayed on the back of sartorially splendid Chad Hicks.

"If it flies, it dies," reads the bottom legend. Not exactly politically correct, but better, Chad imagines, than last year's Hunting With Hangovers shirt, which read, "PETA: People for Elimination of The Animals." The only good news I can think of is that if they really are hunting with hangovers, the only thing they're likely to shoot is the sky.


UB staff stalwart Jeremy Day went souvenir shopping today, and came back with this stunningly mis-printed Aruba visor.

Jeremy said that all the other visors had the "Aruba" printed right side up, so naturally he felt compelled to buy this one. A lad after my own heart.


Mark Robey, screen name The Bowler, approached me this morning and asked me to autograph his new copy of my new book, The Killer Poker Hold'em Handbook.

I thought I might be flattered until he pulled it out of its camouflage covering, a Dunkin Donuts bag. What does he think it is, a bottle of Thunderbird? Anyway, thanks for supporting the cause, Mark, especially at the island-inflated prices they charge.

More (and more found objects) later, -jv