The day started out with a bang with the early elimination of Tom Ly in the second level of play. From there the action continued unabated - until heads-up that is. The one-on-on battle was surprisingly long considering the final three players struck a deal over dinner to chop the money according to their chip stacks and play for the $10,000 seat at next year's World Series of Poker Main Event and the championship ring.
Speaking of dinner, I feel I have to send a shout-out to tournament directors Jack Effel and John Arthur, who not only took care of the dietary needs of players and media alike, but ran an amazing tournament overall. Tonight we sat down with the final three players, the media contingent, the tournament staff and even the dealers and waitresses for a full-on Italian dinner at the restaurant downstairs, Polostina's. Salute gentleman!
Getting back to the deal, Rick Rosetti, Alex Gomez and John Racener hammered out an agreement whereby Gomez would take the lion's share of the prize pool, $270,000, and Racener and Rossetti would both take $190,000.
I guess the problem people have with deals being made is the fear that the players may not take the game as seriously knowing that their payout has already been determined. One thing's for sure, Alex Gomez and Rick Rossetti don't subscribe to that philosophy. Even though their prizes were locked-up hours before, they nonetheless played ultra-conservatively until the match was finally decided.
Now bear in mind I was in attendance for the culmination of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at last year's WSOP between Andy Bloch and Chip Reese, the longest in World Series of Poker history, so I know a little something about long heads-up matches.
There was rarely a hand that went to showdown and most pots were being conceded to the first player to show strength. To give you an idea of the tight play we were seeing here tonight, consider this hand: After some substantial betting and calling throughout, the board finished showing Q-7-2-8-Q. Alex Gomez made a substantial bet and Rick Rossetti made the call.
The surprise came when the player's flipped over their cards. Rick had Q-2 for the boat, queens full of deuces, and Gomez had Q-8 for the higher full house. If this isn't a hand that should end a heads-up match, I don't know what is! Somehow Rick was able to make an amazing read and keep himself in the game by not coming over the top after filling up on fifth street. In an interview after the match he told me that he felt really confident that he was beat. Not confident enough to muck his full house mind you, but confident enough not to raise with it.
In comparison to plays like this, the last pot of the night was somewhat anticlimactic. Beginning with a raise to $120,000 from Gomez and a call from Rossetti, the flop came out K-9-3. Rick was first to act and fired out $150,000. Alex quickly moved all-in for about $600,000 more and Rossetti took a few minutes to make his decision before eventually making the call.
Gomez flipped over pocket tens and Rick saw he had made a great read again, calling with K-7 for top pair with a weak kicker. The turn and river were of no help to Alex and the tournament was done. An ecstatic Rossetti wasted no time in popping the corks on the Dom and beginning his celebration at the final table.
While the WSOPC events like the one here at Harrah's Atlantic City may not have the same big buy-in and star-studded roster as the WPT, there is a definite charm to these tournaments. For one thing, the $5,000 buy-in is certainly more manageable than the $10K and attracts a lot of local pros who may not play the WPT main events.
In addition to the variety of entrants, the tournament staff here went out of their way to make sure that everyone involved - players and media alike - felt comfortable and had a great time. There's an intimacy at events like this that you just can't find at the strictly regulated and corporate-minded World Poker Tour. So ciao from AC, until next time.