Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Final Eighteen on the Final Day

Final preparations for the EPT final table to all.

We're just a few minutes from beginning the final day of action here in Copenhagen. I thought before we begin, you'd like to see the list of 18.

1--Dan Pedersen--181,000 DENMARK
2--Ram Vaswani--151,000 UK
3--Eirik Kolaas--150,000 NORWAY
4--Mikael Westerlund--139,000 SWEDEN
5--Bambos Xanthos--131,700
6--Per Hildebrand--107,000 SWEDEN
7--Julian Thew--102,000 UK
8--Marcel Luske--83,800 HOLLAND
9--Padraig Parkinson--65,300 IRELAND
10--Aleksander "AXABAXA" Cooper--64,900 NORWAY
11--Pat McCarthy--55,800 USA -
12--Mika Puro--53,700
13--Noah "Exclusive" Boeken--49,400 HOLLAND
14--Birgitta Johansson--42,900
15--Katja Sophie Spillum--35,600
16--Jarl Lindholt--31,900 DENMARK
17--Jarkko Laine--25,000 FINLAND
18--Xuyen Pham--23,800 THAILAND

I'll provide updates this afternoon as frequently as possible. Unfortunately, my internet connection sits in a room adjacent to the poker room. What's more, casino security (read: people whom I'd like to keep in good spirits) like to keep the door to the adjoining room locked. To post, I'm forced to run down stairs, then back upstairs, and into my little hole. So, I can't bring you minute-by-minute action. Rest assured, though, when something big happens, you'll see it here as quickly as I can possible.

I'm also trying to work out the details of a hand-by-hand recount of the final table. The EPT works ever-so-slightly different than the WPT, so a hand-by-hand may be slightly challenging. Nevertheless, if it is in any way possible, you'll see it here.

Action begins shortly. Stay tuned.

Scandinavian Open--Saturday Final Report

Chip counts can be found at the bottom of this post

I stood with the assembled poker media elite, legs in full-on protest over several hours of standing, and eyed the man with the Las Vegas hat.

"Who is that?" asked a member of the European media.

Minutes before, I didn't know the answer. I felt almost embarassed, in fact. I mean, a guy with a chip stack that big surely was a well-known player. So, I'd sidled up to him, with a little shame in my eyes, swallowed my pride and asked his name and where he was from.

"Dan Pedersen," he said. "I'm from here."

Here. Copenhagen. Denmark.

Minutes later, I made the rounds, announcing to anyone who would listen that the great unknown who had outlasted the Great Dane himself was, in fact, Dan Pedersen, a Dane verging on greatness.

Chip-leader, Dan Pedersen

I'd found my to his table by accident, really. A crowd was assembling itself around the table, not for Dan, but a man deep, deep in the tank.

You are now entering the den of insanity

His name was Morten Stenheim. The man from Oslo was looking at a flop, 665 with one diamond. His opponent, Patrik Antonius had pushed in every last one of his chips. Though Stenheim had him covered, to lose the hand would cripple him beyond repair. Essentially, he was making a decision for the rest of his tournament life.

Stenheim, of Oslo, Norway

The minutes wore on and the crowd grew larger. Perhaps Stenheim thought his opponent had a big pair. Perhaps he feared a six. After a player called the clock on Stenheim, the tournament director arrived and counted down the 70 seconds afforded a player so deeply in the tank. With just a few seconds remaining, Stenheim announced, "Call." Antonius flipped over AA. Stenheim winced and turned over his ATs in diamonds.

With only one diamond on the board, Stenheim needed two running cards to win.

The turn was an eight of diamonds. Stenheim yelled in his native tongue. Though I didn't understand the word, I have no doubt he was screaming, "Diamond!"

From his lungs to the poker gods ears...the jack of diamonds fell on the river.

Some people might say, "That's just one way aces lose."

Well, if it is, it's a gut-sucking way that made me nauseus just looking at it.

Antonius took it like a man who is used to getting beat unconcious, which is to say, pretty quietly

A little while later, the fates of bad beats turned their back on Stenheim when he called a small raise from Marcel Luske and saw a flop of TTx. Both players checked and saw the turn, another blank. Luske bet out, Stenheim raised all-in. Luske called and showed JT to beat Stenheim's pocket cowboys.

I thought, perhaps, that signalled that I'd seen the end of the craziness for the night.

Instead, just a few minutes later at table two, QQ went all-in vs. 99 vs. 88 all-in. Three pocket pairs, two players all in. At first, it looked good for the queens. The flop came down AQK. Then the turn, a jack. And then the river: a ten. A broadway straight on the board and none of the pocket pairs meant diddly. Chop-chop...chop.

A Frequent Player Point and a Chair

Because I like a Cinderella story as much as anybody (except maybe Prince Charming, who always seems into that sort of thing), I keep a close eye on the online qualifiers who made their way to Denmark for the tournament. I was first drawn to Justin Bonomo who cashed on the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Bonomo nursed a short-stack most of the day, finally busting in 25th place after he went all-in with JJ. His opponent held AK and found a king on the turn.

Bonomo, stacking his short-stack

Then there ways Terry Jenkins. The man rode over with me on the plane and had a running, friendly argument with his brother, who claimed to own half of Jenkins winnings. Jenkins had qualified with 200 Frequent Player Points and was on the freeroll of freerolls. He gave me some hope when he flopped a set of aces against an opponent who flopped bottom two pair. Alas, he would not survive into the money either.

Terry Jenkins, Palm Desert, CA

And then I heard the story of Pat McCarthy. McCarthy returned from his dinner break with only 3600 chips. His fiancee who flew in today went upstairs to bed. Then McCarthy proceeded to bust Gus Hansen. Then he busted Devilfish's KK with AA. He, too, was here on a 200FPP freeroll. As the hour passed 2am, he told me he'd told his fiancee, "If I'm not upstairs by 3am, it's good news."

Sure enough, when 3am came, McCarthy, from Atlantic City, was counting his chips. He goes into tomorrow in 11th place.

Good news, honey.

Pat McCarthy, Atlantic City, NJ

To the Bahamas and back again

Third-place PCA finisher, Mikael "The Salesman" Westerlund seems to be on a bit of a roll. Freshly out of the islands, he's running well here in Denmark.

As I sat and watched him, the man known to play 64o as the nuts, raised four consecutive hands. On the next hand, under the gun, he looked an his cards, scowled, and folded. Then he announced with his best salesman's pitch, "Anybody at this table would raise with that hand, but I'm afraid people are getting tired of my raises."

Well-known online player Noah "Exclusive" Boeken seemed incredulous. Westerlund countered with the best line of the night.

"I never raise with bad hands," he said. "And I never bluff. And I never lie."

He heads into tomorrow in fourth place with a very healthy chip-stack.

Westerlund in a rare folding moment

Back to the front

And, of course, we must make our way back to chipleader, Dan Pedersen. With a growing cheering section behind him, he went to battle with another well-known player who had the chips to make it into the money. With just a couple players left before the bubble, the two went to war on a raggedy board and ended up all-in. Pedersen held QQ. His opponent held TT. Pedersen's queens held up and his stack grew to more than 180,000, securing his position as chip leader.

He still has his work cut out for him though. Hendon Mobster, Ram Vaswani has been quietly, properly collecting chips all day long and sits just 30,000 back in second place.

Ram Vaswani

And frankly, the rest of the field doesn't have any slouches in it, either. To wit: Padraig Parkison, Julian Thew, Noah Boeken, and Marcel Luske are there as well and have chips with which to play.

1--Dan Pedersen--181,000
2--Ram Vaswani--151,000
3--Eirik Kolaas--150,000
4--Mikael Westerlund--139,000
5--Bambos Xanthos--131,700
6--Per Hildebrand--107,000
7--Julian Thew--102,000
8--Marcel Luske--83,800
9--Padraig Parkinson--65,300
10--Aleksander "AXABAXA" Cooper--64,900
11--Pat McCarthy--55,800
12--Mika Puro--53,700
13--Noah "Exclusive" Boeken--49,400
14--Birgitta Johansson--42,900
15--Katja Sophie Spillum--35,600
16--Jarl Lindholt--31,900
17--Jarkko Laine--25,000
18--Xuyen Pham--23,800

While I could type on and on about the 12 hours of play, good sense dictates I close now and get rested up for the final 18 players later today.

Please come back and join us. It promises to be a good day.

In the money, headed to Sunday

We broke this morning with 18 players remaining, all of them in the money.

I'll have a full report in a little while. Until then, here's your final 18 (with player-reported chip counts...I trust'em, don't you?)

1--Dan Pedersen--181,000
2--Ram Vaswani--151,000
3--Eirik Kolaas--150,000
4--Mikael Westerlund--139,000
5--Bambos Xanthos--131,700
6--Per Hildebrand--107,000
7--Julian Thew--102,000
8--Marcel Luske--83,800
9--Padraig Parkinson--65,300
10--Aleksander "AXABAXA" Cooper--64,900
11--Pat McCarthy--55,800
12--Mika Puro--53,700
13--Noah "Exclusive" Boeken--49,400
14--Birgitta Johansson--42,900
15--Katja Sophie Spillum--35,600
16--Jarl Lindholt--31,900
17--Jarkko Laine--25,000
18--Xuyen Pham--23,800

Play resumes at 2:30pm on Sunday. The way I count, that's about eleven hours from now.

Bubble time

At 2:30am, we've reached 19 players. The next player out gets nothing.

Chip leader Dan Pedersen (seen below) has continued to run over the tables, most recently crushing a big stack with QQ vs. TT.

Other notables still in the hunt: Marcel Luske, Padraig Parkinson, Ram Vaswani, Mikael Westerlund, Julian Thew, and Noah Boeken, and Xuyen Pham.


You heard correctly--1:15am, 28 players left

Actually, I heard correctly.

It's Dan Pedersen.

Chip leader, Dan Pedersen, Copenhagen

Just a few moments ago, we condensed to three tables and finally, once the stacks of green started to obscure the players view, raced off the 25s. (See below for some of the big stack approximate counts).

Now in the eleventh hour of play, three of the biggest stacks in the game have converged on one table. Marcel Luske, Padraig Parkinson, and Dan Pedersen will be pushing around their weight as we play for the next two hours.

Indeed, it's been a grueling day for the players. The back muscles are beginning to grow stiff. The tailbones are starting to get sore.

And yet, only 30 seconds remain until play resumes.

Back to the felt.

In-game chip report and the picture of the day

We've crossed from Saturday into Sunday. At 12:30am, we sit at 36 players. While the concept of an official chip-count is a little unruly right now, I did size up some stacks to determine who is out in front right now.

One thing is clear...

This guy is the current chip leader

Few people in the room know the man. I know this much. He is from Copengen and his name sounds remarkably like Dan Pedersen. That said, that name doesn't appear on my list of players, so he could be Ken Pedersen, or Frederik Pedersen...or even Daniel Berthelson. Once he's stopped taking everybody's chips, I'll firm up his name. I bothered him enough getting this far. He's sitting with about 170K in chips.

Close behind is Irishman Padraig Parkinson who just doubled up in a big way with AA vs. AK. I put him second in chips with somehwere in the neighborhood of 140K.

Also big in chips right now (although this is not a comprehensive list), are Noah Boeken (aka Exclusive) with about 80K and Mikael Westerlund with about 78K.

And hanging tough with a big stack of his own is Dutchman Marcel Luske. Just a few seconds ago, he stared down an all-in opponent and I was able to squeeze in for my favorite picture of the day.

One last thing before I head back into the room: For friends of online qualifier Justin Bonomo, he's still hanging in there. His stack isn't big, but he's alive.

Standby for more in a while.

The Great Dane is Great Done, and Insta-Photo Gallery

He was the hometown hero. He was the man who proved to be confounding to his tablemates. He was the man who had an entire rail of Danish staff wrapped up in the moment that was the Great Dane.

A big dog that attracks a flock of birds

It's all past tense now, though. After a quick start, Gus trickled to a slow finish, busting out with a short stack, on an unremarkable hand, well out of the money. The crowd gave his a hometown round of applause. And then just as quickly play resumed.

Gus hitches up and moves on out

Also gone is the Devilfish, reportedly busting out on the OOH (only online hand), KK vs AA.

There are quite a few stories to tell in the two levels since the dinner break. But since we're just on an eight-minute respite, let this quick photo gallery suffice as a teaser.

Morten Stenheim, Oslo, King of the Bad Beat. Just wait to you read this suck-out story

Patrik Atonius (left), a jester in the King of Bad Beat's court. You'll feel for this guy.

Terry Jenkins (right), Palm Desert, CA, Frequent Player Point qualifier, hoping to be the Cinderella story

An impressive crowd is forming on the rail

Around 60 players remain out of the start 156.

More in a bit.

An appetizer

The poker players just finished a nice dinner of east Asian food and soda pop. I can't offer you that, but I can offer a few morsels of what happeneed before the dinner break.

Gale Force Stymied by Aces

The poker room is a non-smoking venue. Anyone in need of a cigarette is forced downstairs to the main casino lobby.

I knew where I'd find John Gale.

The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion had just received a giant round of applause from his fellow players. In this room, that's not a good thing.

He stood at the bottom of the stairs with PCA final table-mate, Mikael Westerlund. Westerlund was in the middle of a rant about the stupidest player he's seen in his life. The tale wound through a series of bets, raises, and cold calls and ended with what even Westerlund admitted was a big mistake. After raising pre-flop with 9T, he found himself facing a re-raise. The Stupidest Player cold-called the re-raise giving Westerlund odds to call. The flop came nine-high and Stupid Player (not my words, so don't give me any grief about it) checked to Westerlund. Westerlund then made his mistake, checking his top-pair. Westerlund didn't indicate what the original re-raiser did, but I assume he checked, because Westerlund saw the turn, a king. He ended up losing at the end to a pair of kings his opponent made on the turn.

Westerlund survived and returned to his sat next to Marcel Luske.

But, really, I was there to hear John Gale's story.

Gale was working the play over and over in his head, still not free from the bounds of his loss. With the blinds at 25/50, Gale raised to 200 before the flop with a pair of queens. Martin de Knijff re-raised to 700. The raise wasn't enough to sscare Gale off. But before he had a chance to act, a player in between them cold-called the 700. Gale made a decision.

"I didn't want to see the flop," he said.

And so he pushed the rest of his stack into the middle.

Gale's Caribbean poker gods must've missed their flight, for de Knijff turned up AA, crippling Gale and sending him eventually to the casino lobby, a champion now saddled with the burden of being the first out of the Scandinavian Open.

Goodbye Mr. Gale

Dane, The Great and Terrifying

When I walked up to the table, Gus Hansen seemed to be needling Devilfish. He was piling chips that it seemed once belonged in Devilfish’s stack.

“You can’t believe how sick that hand was.,” he mused almost to himself. Then again, “So, sick.”

He shook his head as if he wronged the world in some way.

“So sick.”

Something drew my attention away from the table, but when I turned my head around, Gus said, “Deuce-five.”

I’d noticed during the hand in question, the board had a A34 on it with two spades.

“But the deuce-five it was in diamonds,” Gus said. Apparently Devilfish had been holding two spades.

“So sick.”

Devilfish in mean-looking mode

An orbit later, the deuce-five conversation hadn’t ceased. Gus made a minimum raise from the cutoff, then cold-called the button’s re-raise. The flop came jack-high rainbow. Gus bet out a small fraction of the pot and the button, perhaps still thinking about the deuce-five, pushed all in. Without as much as a blink, Gus called and flipped over two aces. The button, another European player, dropped his head and turned over two queens.

That, it seems, is the danger of the Great Dane. It could be deuce-five. It could be rockets.

A few hands later, Gus called the 150BB from early position. The table folded around to the BB, who checked his option. The flop came down ace-high with two clubs. The BB checked and Gus bet out the minimum. The BB called and they saw a rag on the turn. Again, the BB checked. This time, Gus followed suit. The river, a queen of hearts, drew another check from the BB. It was here I expected Gus to make a play at the pot. But he did not. He, too, checked.

The BB turned up AK suited in diamonds and Gus mucked his hand.

I looked back at the board with my mouth ever-so-slightly agape The BB had checked his option with suited Big Slick. He had checked his top-pair, top-kicker on the ace-high flop. He had checked the raggy turn. And he had checked the river that didn’t fill in the club flush.

Checked all the way down against Gus Hansen, who never bet more than the minimum bet.

Perhaps, I thought, he was hoping as I thought: that Gus would make a play at the pot and he could check-raise. Or, perhaps...perhaps he was just scared.

I walked away a little scared myself.

The Great Dane there an adjective better than 'great?'

Why Hold'em Makes Your Heart Beat

I was watching one particular table because Marcel Luske, Mikael Westerlund, and Isabelle Mercier were all playing there. I was hoping to a catch a hand that involved one of them.

Instead, I got caught up in a hand featuring a young American.

In the cutoff, the young man raised about 2.5x the BB. The players folded around to the BB who cold-called the raise. The flop came king-high with two clubs. The BB checked, the kid announced strongly, “Eight hundred..”

The BB called and watched the turn come down. A queen of hearts. Now, two clubs and two hearts sat on the board.

Again, the BB checked and the young American announced, “One thousand.”

Again, the BB called.

It was as if everybody at the table knew what was happening. Two clubs on the board and two check-calls from the BB.

When the nine of clubs hit the river, the BB instantly moved all his chips in the middle. It almost seemed too deliberate. Too fast. So fast that either he had the flush and wanted to seem like he was making a play. Or so fast that he didn’t have the flush at all and was, in fact, making a play.

The young man went so far in the tank that the hotel had to call out for a deep sea diver to rescue the player. He was gone, mumbling to himself about not wanting to bust out early but also wanting the BB’s chips. Eventually, Luske called the clock on the kid. But the young man was so far in the tank, he didn’t hear it. The floorman came over and announced the American had one minute and ten seconds. The floor started counting down with ten seconds remaining.

With seven seconds left, the young man shot from the tank as if he’d been fired from cannon.

“Call,” he said with a voice of confidence that waned as fast as the BB turned over A8 of clubs for the nut flush.

And just like that, it was over. Six minutes of high-drama that for the moment represented to me everything this game is about. Decisions overlapping decisions, wrapped in a moment of sheer terror, culminating in a poker life or death maelstrom of denial and triumph.

Or something like that.

A decision he won't soon forget

So, there's your appetizer for the evening. Barring any connection problems, I hope to have a five course meal later on tonight.

Watson? Are you there?

It appears after several hours of furious scrambling to fix the Internet server here at the Radisson, we've returned to something resembling connectivity.

In an age when we're used to getting whatever we want on demand, having to wait nearly three hours seems like an eternity, especially when there is fast and furious poker action going on. Out of fear you'd think I'd abandoned my post, I actually called the wife back in the states and asked her to post the Technical Difficulties entry.

But, we're back...hopefully for good.

Since I've spent a lot of time trying to get our connection back, I'll simply give you a few brief updates.

At 9PM Denmark time, we have 88 players left out of the original 156. Some well-knowns busted before the dinner break. Left to the cash games or next tournament are Isabelle Mercier, Baard Dahl and Martin de Knijff.

Just before the dinner break, stand out Xuyen Pham took a massive pot off her neighbor. After raising pre-flop to around 900 with AKo, the guy net to her pushed all in for about 7000. Everybody else folded around to Pham who considered her play for a few moments. She had the guy covered by nearly three times and finally decided to call. Her opponent flipped up 68o. Pham flopped two aces. Her opponent had four outs with a gut shot straight draw on the river, but his seven didn't come.

Pham, Queen of the Chip Stack

The top eighteen players will get paid tomorrow. We're expecting to get down to the final 20 or so by close of business at 4am.

I'll be back in a bit with another update.

Technical difficulties

Hotel internet server has collapsed. Updates as soon as it recovers.

Scandanvian Open begins and Insta-Photo Gallery

Thought you folks might enjoy a few pictures of the start of the tournament, but first...some sad news to report from the poker room. PokerStars Caribbean Adventure winner, John Gale, thought it was an omen. He drew the exact same seating assignment as his first day in the Bahamas. Indeedm, the very same seating assignment that sent him to the final table and eventually first prize. Sounded like an omen to me. Sounded like an omen to him.

Unfortunately, the cards are sort of fickle about omens.

John Gale in his, er, lucky, seat

Gale's pair of queens ran up against a pair of aces. It was a crippling blow from which Gale had no spirit to recover. To a round of applause, he left as the first player out of the Scandanavian Open.

Just last night, Gale mentioned something about the poker gods being on his side. It seems his particular overseers are better suited for the temperate climate of the Caribbean than the Kingdom of Denmark.

With that out of the way, let's move on to a quick photo gallery.

The Scandanavina Open begins

Each table is lit by a single overhead light

Isabelle Mercier loses the off-table smile

The Great Dane returns to his homeland saying he'd had enough of Tunica, MS

Hendon Monster Barny Boatman sizes up his table. Earlier in the elevator he'd asked me for the time. I told him he had 15 minutes until the tournament started. He said, he wasn't worried about making it on time. Rather, he just couldn't wait to get the cards in his hands

Fellow Hendon Mobster, Ram Vaswani, checks the bet

European standouts Baard Dahl and Martin de Knijff find themselves as neighbors. Dahl told me last night he used to be on his way to chess greatness, but peaked when he was 17. I said, "You can peak in chess?" Apparently, you can. Now 34, Dahl is a fulltime poker player in the midddle of a successful year.