Sunday, February 20, 2005

The French Open Final Wrap-up

For a hand-by-hand account of the final table click here. Be sure to join us on this blog in a couple of weeks when the EPT visits Vienna, Austria's Concord Casino (March 10-12, 2005)

The Battle from Seattle

If you don't care to watch Finding Nemo for the ninth time on the overseas flight to Deauville, there's time to dream a little dream. Like, say, a dream about you and a long-time friend making the final table at the French Open and getting heads-up for the title.

Sure, it's a silly little dream with odds against it stronger than hitting your one-outer on the river. But, that's what dreams are all about: making real in your head that which will never happen.

And so on the flight over from the states, that's what long-time buddies Brandon Schaefer and Carl Olson did. Sure, it was silly, but the circumstances of their trip together were pretty silly, too.

Brandon Schaefer (front) and Carl Olson

The two buddies went to the same high school. Then they went to the University of Washington together. Still, they live just a few blocks from each other. When Carl Olson won a cash qualifier for the French open on, he told Schaefer he'd like to have a traveling companion. Schaefer agreed, because that's what buddies do. Schaefer planned to just play cash games while Olson played in the main event. Then, Schaefer decided to play a few Frequent Player Point tournaments. On the very last qualifier before the event, Schaefer won his seat.

And so the dream was born. Maybe...just maybe...they would make it to the final table together.

For the two guys who haven't yet seen the age of 26 and who've never played against World Class Players like the competitors at the French Open, it seemed a long shot. A very long shot.

And yet, by and by, they found their way to the final eight players, all vying for a briefcase stuffed with cash and one very pretty trophy.

Two among eight

Dodging the bullets to make it through the starting field of 245 players was a lot like dodging raindrops in the guys' hometown of Seattle. Somehow they made it happen and entered the final day of play with sizable chip-stacks. More than half of the final eight had won their entries on

Here's what the final table looked like:

Seat 1--Mark Ristine, USA--251,000 (PokerStars online qualifier)
Seat 2--Peter Eichhardt, Sweden--202,000(PokerStars online qualifier)
Seat 3--Jeremy Tuckman, England--372,000
Seat 4--Brandon Schaefer, USA--691,000 (PokerStars online FPP qualifier)
Seat 5--Bob Coombes, England--163,000
Seat 6--Justin Bonomo, USA--124,000 (PokerStars online qualifier)
Seat 7--Carl Olson, USA--349,000(PokerStars online qualifier)
Seat 8--Luca Pagano, Italy--316,000

On the second hand of the tournament, it looked as if Carl Olson would never see another hand. With the blinds at 5000/10000, Bob Coombes opened the pot for 30,000. From the small blind, Olson made it 100,000. It seemed as though Olson would take it down right there. But sitting in the big blind, Pagano pushed in the rest of his stack. Olson had him covered, but losing would hurt him badly. It was a familiar scenario. Pagano had been picking up big pocket pairs quite a bit in the last two days and usually pushed in with them when facing a raise. Still, Olson called 240,000 more with AK of spades. The flop came down 684 with two spades. The turn was a king, the river a four, and Pagano left in eighth place, taking home 13,500 Euro.

A few hands later, short-stacked Justin Bonomo started raising to 30,000 one hand after another. The third time he did it, Peter Eichhardt found queens and pushed in the rest of his stack. He only had Bonomo covered by 1000. And while Bonomo had been raising a lot, this time he had aces. The board didn't help Eichhardt and he was out on the next hand, leaving in seventh place and cashing for 18,000.

Plays they will remember

The next few minutes brought hands the players likely wished they had back. Under the gun, Jeremy Tuckman came in for 40,000. The players folded around to the big blind, Mark Ristine, who called. The flop came down AA9 with two clubs. Mark checked and Jeremy checked behind him. The turn came down as a six of clubs. Mark checked, Jeremy bet out 30,000, Mark raised to 60,000, and after looking tortured for a few minutes, Tuckman announced he was all-in. Mark called immediately, showing KJ in clubs for the flush. Tuckman had AT and checked his way to a loss in the hand. While he doubled up on the next hand, he would never fully recover.

Shortly thereafter, Brandon Schaefer found himself embarassed after getting into a hand with Justin Bonomo. Schaefer came in for the standard raise to 30,000 and Bonomo re-raised form the small blind to 80,000. Brandon called and saw a flop of 9A2 with two hearts. Justin checked, Brandon bet out 100,000, and Bonomo thought for four stright minutes then anounced he was all in. Although it was only 58,000 more to call, Brandon mucked his hand. He said later he had "maybe half an out" and had miscounted Bonomo's stack before the hand started.

Bob Coombes, being one of only two European players left, became the crowd favorite, but his stay at the final table would prove to be short-lived. He got all in pre-flop with AQ against Jeremy Tuckman's AK and never improved. He left in 6th place, cashing 22,500 Euro.

Jeremy Tuckman would be the next to go. Again, Tuckman raised under the gun with AT and Mark called in the big blind with a pair of sixes. Tuckman pushed all in for 287,000 on a flop of 294 and Mark called. Tuckman never improved and was out in fifth place, making 27,000 Euro.

Tuckman's exit left only American PokerStars qualifiers at the table. Going into the final four, here's how the Americans stacked up.

Justin 384,000
Brandon 539,000
Mark 735,000
Carl 810,000

It didn't take long before the Battle from Seattle really started to get heated.

Schaefer raised pre-flop to 45,000 and Bonomo called the raise from the button. In the small blind, Olson raised the bet to 200,000 and Schaefer almost immediately pushed all-in. Olson happily called and turned over a pair of kings. Schaefer showed his friend AQs. It looked as if Olson would knock out his friend. Instead and ace came on the flop and Schaefer put a severe dent in Olson's stack.

It would continue a few hands later when Schaefer raised pre-flop with a pair of tens. Bonomo pushed all in with AQ. Olson had AQ as well and called the bet. Instead of pushing all-in, Schaefer called. He and Olson checked all the way across the board. It meant the end of Justin Bonomo. Schaefer's tens held up and Bonomo left in fourth place, cashing for 31,500 Euro.

Two buddies and an insurance salesman

Sure, it sounds like a bad joke. Two buddies walk into a bar and get into a fight with an insurance salesman. A worse joke was how insurance salesman Mark Ristine left the contest.

From the small blind, Ristine announced a raise to 50,000. Schaefer cold-called from the big blind. The flop came out as 4JQ. Ristine checked and Schaefer bet out about half the pot. Ristine decided to double the bet and Schaefer cold-called. Both players checked on the turn, a four. On the river, an eight, Ristine pushed all in and Schefer immediately called, showing a pair of queens for a full house. Ristine's pair of kings had no hope and the insurance salesman left in third place, taking 40,500 Euro back to California.

When daydreaming comes true at night

It had becoome the talk of the room.

"Did you hear that the two final players are rooming together?"

"I hear they went to school together"

It was enough to make a television producer giddy.

The two buddies found themselves in a pre-heads-up interview with the sprite of the EPT, Caroline, telling their story for the 100th time. While nice, it was only delaying what they really wanted to do. They wanted to finish the dream.

The Battle from Seattle

They got their chance within a few minutes. After a few hands of friendly sparring, Schaefer raised to 50,000 and Olson called. The flop came down 82A. Both players checked and saw the turn, a deuce. Olson checked and Schaefer bet 60,000. Olson called. They saw a four on the river. Olson checked and Schaefer bet 250,000. Olson fell into the tank, burying his forehead in his hands, covering his mouth, staring at the board as if it would tell him what to do. Finally he called, turning over K5 for king-high. It seemingly had to be a loser. Instead, Schaefer mucked his hand and Olson raked a good-sized pot.

Olson in the tank, but reading his buddy like a dimestore novel

It would prove to be the beginninig of an all-out war, in which Olson overcame Schaefer's 4-1 chip-lead and took over as the chip leader for a few hands. However, it wouldn't last.

A few hands later, Schaefer raised to 90K pre-flop and Olson called. The flop came down J2T with one club. Olson checked, Schaefer bet out and Olson called. The turn was an eight of clubs. Olson bet out 240,000 and Schaefer cold-called the bet. When the river came as a king of clubs, Olson checked and Schaefer announced he was all-in. Olson fell into several minutes of self torture. He later said he held two-pair, but there was both a straight and flush on the board. After moore than five minutes Olson folded. While it gave Schaefer an insurmoutable chip-lead, Olson would've lost anyway if he had called, for Schaefer later said he held a set of jacks.

A friendly fight under the TV lights

After a few more back and forth hands, Schaefer finally put Olson out of his misery. Schaefer raised to 90,000 preflop and Olson called. The flop came down 376 with two hearts. Olson bet out 120,000 and Schaefer announced he was all-in. With a rueful smile, Olson said, "I'll call."

Olson showed 34 of hearts for bottom pair, a gutshot straight draw, and a flush draw. Schaefer showed T7 of diamonds for top pair. The turn and river didn't help Olson and he finished in second place, taking home 80,000 Euro.

That left first place and the 144,000 Euro prize to FPP qualifier, Brandon Schaefer. He later said he felt like Olson outplayed him.

But that's what friends are supposed to say, right?

The dream continues

While it was the final hand, it was not the end of the story. See, before this contest began, it was announced the winner would get a seat in the 10,000 Euro EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo. A fine prize, to be sure.

So, as the friends went heads-up, it might've been a serious source of contention. Talk about souring a friendship.

That's when the EPT announced that both Olson and Schaefer would get seats in the Grand Final. So, in the end, heads-up play was all about pride.

As a gentle snow falls over Deauville tonight, both players leave significantly more wealthy and with their dream still intact.

We'll see them both in Monte Carlo in March where the dream will continue.

French Open Money Finishers

144,000 Euro

1--Brandon Schaefer, USA (PokerStars online qualifier)

80,000 Euro

2--Carl Olson, USA (PokerStars online qualifier)

40,500 Euro

3--Mark Ristine, USA (PokerStars online qualifier)

31,500 Euro

4--Justin Bonomo, USA (PokerStars online qualifier)

27,000 Euro

5--Jeremy Tuckman, England

22,500 Euro

6--Bob Coobes, England

18,000 Euro

7--Peter Eichhardt, Sweden (Pokerstars online qualifer)

13,500 Euro

8--Luca Pagano, Italy

9500 Euro

9--Sami Torbey, France

5400 Euro

10--Keith "The Camel" Hawkins (Pokerstars online qualifier)
11-Willie Tann
12-Mike "Lucky Blind" Lacey, Ireland (PokerStars online qualifier)

4500 Euro

13-Sam Orams, England
14--Peter Dalhuijsen, Holland
15--Jerome Zerbib, France

3600 Euro
16--Eric Vanderburg, Holland
17--Tony "Tikay" Kendall, England
18--Melanie Lofthouse, England

Be sure to join us here in a couple of weeks when the EPT visits Vienna, Austria