Friday, March 11, 2005

EPT Vienna E-WSOP Day One Wrap-Up and Chip Count

The room cleared, the chips fell into bags, and the room's cacophony slipped into a quiet buzz. Almost all the players had taken taxis back to the hotel. One sat alone in his seat, a painfully blank stare set on his face.

Luca Pagano seemed to be hypnotized. Occasionally he shook his head or brought his fingers to his lips. But, basically, he just sat there staring into nothing.

It had been the last hand of the night. Almost all the tables had quit. Luca Pagano was facing a bet that would force him to call for all his chips. The board was about as scary as it gets. Four cards were already down, with one left to come: AKQ9 with two spades. The man who had bet into Pagano had him covered by quite a bit. Watching from tableside, I tried to put them both on hands. I considered every option. The made straight, the flush draw, two pair. All of them seemed to be possible. Pagano was in pain.

The opponent said, "Do you have the ace?"?

Pagaono allowed a smile, "Of course, I have an ace."

Minutes went by. I thought for a moment that Pagano was going to call, which surprised me. I was sure he would lay down the hand. Pagano is a fantastic, but conervative player. I didn't think he would call with any less than two-pair, or better yet, the made straight. Finally, after some murmurring from the railbirds behind him, Pagano said, "I'll believe you" and mucked and ace and king face-up. Top two pair. I exhaled with the words, "What a laydown."

Then, his opponent, with no particular flair, turned up AQ.

Pagano had just laid down the almost sure winner.

And so he sat staring into nothing. He still had more than 30,000 in chips going into Level 10 tomorrow (600/1200/100). But, in his mind, he had just blown it all.

He was still sitting there an hour after the game was over. He was still sitting there when I left. I wouldn't be surprised if he were still sitting there when I return later today.

That was the end of the day.

The beginning

The snow had stopped falling, but a hard chill sat in the air. The space-heaters in the tented dinner buffet had to ask for help from the veal goulash and noodles. Players, still recovering from jetlag and pre-game hangovers, looked surly. It was a crowded room with cigarette smoke filtering in from the cash games. And while it had all the conditions of an Eastern European war--the cold, the smoke, the goulash--it was not at all unplesant for the 297-something players who made their way to Vienna for the first day.

Of course, there were hard times. Shortly after the dinner break, I found French Open 3rd place finisher Mark Ristine sitting alone at an empty table in the front of the room. He still wore his dark sunglasses.

"I don't remember a hand I won," he said.

Twice Ristine had made powerful sets to see them fall to better hands. They were beats from which he would not recover. They would turn out to be among his final hands on the EPT this year.

No repeat for Ristine

And then there was the story of blog-favorite John Gale. Before the dinner break, he was dealt pocket kings twice, pocket queens once, and Big Slick four times. He lost with every one of them. Still, he managed to hold on to some chips. How, I'm not entirely sure. But, that's why I'm writing and he's playing. In fact, he'll be playing in Day 2.

Gale, the suvivor

In fact, it seemed that many of the top players here faced short-stacks early on and many of them found a way to battle back to the middle of the pack. Other top players did not, however.

Midway through the day, a familiar voice came over the intercom. Devilfish had grabbed the mic from the poker room manager and announced he and Ram Vaswani had both busted from the tournament and they were ready for a cash game.

As if to entice the cash-hungry, Devilfish closed his announcement with, "We're both steaming."

Devilfish, pre-steam

And for as cold as it was outside, it wa a steamy evening inside the cardroom. Marcel Luske, Isabelle Mercier, and Devilfish were out before we hit the halfway mark in players.

As we hit the 150 mark, I surveyed the room. Sixteen tables of aching bodies struggled to stay in their seats. Two chip-stacks stood out at this point. Morten Stenheim, the King of Bad Beats (I'm going to stop using that moniker as of had amassed a sizable stack of chips and removed his sunglasses so he could better admire his mountain. He would ride a rollercoaster the rest of the day, at one point vowing to go home if he finished with less than 50,000. He came very close, but is still going to stay.

Stenheim, going into Friday with just under 50K in chips

John Wells, hopeful for an Oakley Sunglasses sponsorship, kept his shades on. He constantly scanned the room looking for chip stacks as big as his. He sat near 60,000 and hoped to end the day as the chip leader. As it would happen, from that moment forward, he would get no cards and would end the day around 50,000 in chips.

A Texan playing Texas Hold'em, John Wells

There were other rags to riches stories. Scandinavian Open champ Noah Boeken at one time had fallen below 1000 in chips and somehow managed to rally back to more than double his starting stack. Then on one of the last hands of the night, he got all his chips in with an open-ended straight draw, holding KJ vs KQ. He ended up hitting the open-ender to double up.

I'd had hopes for Henry and Jamie Terranova, a father and son team that came here from Long Island, NY to play together. Sadly, neither of them finished the day. Neither did my Cinderella story Kevin Fangerow.

My other hope had been in a couple of buddies from Duke University. I dubbed them the DUM (Duke University Mafia). Jason wouldn't finish the day. But half of the DUM, finished well. Josh Schiffman has more than 80,000 in chips. (Note: Funny story. The young man counted out and signed for his chips, giving himself 71,000 to finish the day. The Duke University student apparently needs to hit Math 10 again. He shorted himself by 10,000. He can give Stacey the Dealer an extra tip for catching his mistake. That's S-T-A-C-E-Y).

Schiffman, the chipman

THAT table

You know, there's almot always THAT table, the action table where crowds can't help but form. Tonight, it was the table where Russian Denis Kmaritonov (my apolgies if I misspelled that)sat. When the crowd formed the first time, the Russian was almost all-in with pocket aces. He got two all-in callers, pocket kings and pocket queens. His aces held up and he rocketed to chip-leader. Half an hour later, he got two more players all in when he held pocket sevens. He was up against ATs and AKs. Not only were his sevens good by themselves, he turned a straight on a 634/5/9 board.

In fact, the Russian ends the day with with the chip lead and not a few people who would like to see him lose a few hands.

The chip-leading Russian

Other notables, London's Jeffrey Rogers who goes into tomorrow in second place, just ahead of Mr. Puro Mika (that's how he wrote it down for me but I think it might be Mika Puro) who sits in third place.


Here's the official chip count:
KHARITONOV Denis 146,875
ROGERS Jeffrey David 119,175
PURO Mika 115,475
SMITH Luke 97,200
LANDAUER Lothar 81,600
PHAM Xuyen 79,050
COOPER Robert 76,425
WALSH Jennifer 74,675
SCHIFFMANN Josh 71,425
TOLNAI Tibor 66,075
SANEJSTRA Joachim 64,650
GROSPELLIER Bertrand (Elky) 61,650
BETSON Alan 59,475
GRECH Joseph 59,050
Resink Johann 57,600
JAIKEL Luis 56,300
HARNEMO Andreas 55,400
RIEDLINGER Horst 55,050
WELLS John 52,850
KOZINSKIY Yuriy 50,150
CASAGRANDE Harry 48,950
CLAYTON David 48,650
STENHEIM Morten 46,775
Boatman Ross 45,100
STOCKINGER Sigi 43,600
SZEREMETA Nic 41,875
COHEN Robert 41,725
LERBREKK Ove 40,925
NOWAB Simon 39,125
PERIC Milurat 38,825
MESUT Bütün 38,725
PAGANO Luca 36,500
BOEKEN Noah 32,850
PUNTALA Timo 31,525
RAPP Rainer 30,900
SHALABI Mike 30,050
PAGANO Claudio 28,775
Torbey Sami 28,000
HERSLETH Pel 27,225
JONES Iwan Bryn 26,250
WOLTERS Christoph 25,825
REITHER Bernhard 25,400
PERRAULT Pascal 25,250
GUNDERSEN Thomas 24,500
RAMSEY Timothy 24,175
Tyler Thomas 23,425
BENTIVEDO Mario 22,350
FIRICANO Daryn 21,475
TSOUKALAS Nicholas 21,325
TESTUD Paul 20,800
WALSER Severin 20,625
KENDALL Tony 20,250
TSOUKALAS Maria 19,775
VLADAR Steve 19,700
SOKOTIN Sergeij 18,775
BÖCKSTRÖM Stefan 18,525
Beevers Joe 18,325
GALE John 18,275
URE Anthony 18,100
LINNEMAN Roger 18,050
HUCKLE Jonathan 17,925
VELLIOS John 17,900
TRAN VAN Hung 17,000
ZHANG Luzeh 16,850
HAUGLAND Erlend 16,150
WAGENKNECHT Dieter 15,550
SHOREMAN John 15,450
SWAINS Howard 14,175
BUSH Gary 13,425
Hadayia Mark 13,125
LEVIEW Falker 12,550
FRIEDMANN Mark 12,400
BONOMO Justin 12,350
LEEB Thomas 11,975
BAUER Georg 10,900
Kalpesh Batel 8,850
BARTLOG Mark 8,700
CHOY-SING Tony 8,375
MAIRHOFER Peter 7,900
Ovadia Ofer 7,025
KEINER Michael 4,575

Eighty-three players remain going into this afternoon. At some point, I suspect all of us will sleep. Perhaps at the dinner break.

You can thank the two Thomases (fine, fine gentlemen) for the official count. These guys work very, very hard.

I could write and write, but the sun is about to come up. Plus, I think someone needs to check on Luca to see if he's gotten up from the table yet.

We're back at 2pm.