November 28, 2001. After two days of non success in the first two events I’m just looking to make a good showing in event number 3. I start my day with breakfast at Resorts Casino, I had a comped room over there and the place is spotless, even the chips look hand washed. I order the eggs benedict and some coffee. The waitstaff was friendly and my stomach was satisfied. Good start already.
I then stroll outside on the Boardwalk over to the Taj which became my morning ritual. Another beautiful day for late November, kids are still surfing! I proceed to the Poker Room and go right to the cage to pony up for my entry. The event starts promptly at 1100am. I sit down at one of the far tables by the Race Book.
A couple of familiar faces at my table, two young pros from California. A seasoned looking player from either NJ or Ny in the 10 hole. There was also a young gentleman in the 7 seat with a Philly FireFighter cap on, God bless him. Early on I catch my first break of the day.
I make a standard raise in early position, (Ace, King unsuited). Everyone folds around to the small blind who raises all in for $500.00. I ponder for a few moments and call. He shows KK. I sigh, and flip over my AK. Flop comes no help, but turn and river come Ace, Ace. My first double up.
This was my only “behind hand” of the day. After this blessing of good fortune I get some good play out of my blind hands and add to my stake. I was lucky my first table was passive and received some free rolls out of my blinds and lukily flopped some real hands.
By 3:00 pm and a ten minute break I have some ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล chips so I give a call to my wife to let her know I’m fairing well and to wish me some luck. When I get back, I’m in a table with Mellisa Hayden. I know her reputation and I know she is a respected player. I’m seated to her right.
Right away she starts off aggressively stealing blinds and making large raises preflop. I’m thinking I’m only going to get involved with a real hand.
Two 8’s come along and I get in cheaply to see the flop, and the flop comes perfect 8, rag, rag. Beautiful.
I take down about a 1500.00 pot with no call. My stack is looking pretty good. I only steal the blinds on rare occasion and each time no callers. Getting towards dinner break now and I’m in very good shape around 5000 in chips. Dinner comes and I’m elated. Twelve tables left out of a field of 256 players.
I decide to go eat over at Resorts so I can have some peace. Good plan, not a single Poker Player over there. After a nice quiet meal Im ready for the home stretch of the tourney. Im excited, but say to myself play solid and watch your body language. I stay focused so as not to give away any of my hands. I maintain my stack and make it down to the final 6 tables.
I’m seated next to Howard Mann who I know from working at Foxwoods and playing in our tournaments up there. He is seated to my right and is picking off my blinds on every round. I finally come over the top on him with nothing and hold my ground. He folds to my preflop re-raise. I pick up some pots and my stack steadily grows to about 15,000.
It seems like maybe little less than an hour and a half and we are down to two tables. Players are dropping like mad now. My next big confrontation comes. I’m in late position with A 10 of spades, it is passed to me and I make a standard 3x the big blind raise to about 4,000, just hoping to steal the blinds.
A younger fellow from New York reraises me out the button position for 4,000. The blinds fold and its on me.
I think for a few moments. I think the blinds were 500 and 1,000 at this point with the ante. I call. The flop comes 4 of hearts, 10 of clubs and 5 of hearts. I hesitate for a moment and push all-in. Before I can push all-in he calls. Oh no, I ran into a real hand I think to myself. I turn over my A 10 of spades with some hesitation. He is not to quick to roll over his hand, but finally exposes J 10 of hearts.
What a draw he has! I stand up, and plead for the dealer not to put up a heart, my prayers are answered and I double up. Final table here I come.
Final table is as follows:
Seat 1 Nick Pompo $3,700
Seat 2 Men “Master” Nguyen $29,000
Seat 3 “Doc” Partenope $19,900
Seat 4 David Ferrante $11,700
Seat 5 Howard Mann $7,100
Seat 6 Kenneth Kolbert $6,700
Seat 7 Dan Negreaunu $16,600
Seat 8 Mark Rathbun $ 31,100
Seat 9 Jerry Brinkman $2,300
Wow, I’m elated, final table and the chip lead. More dramatics to follow.
Unbelievable! Here I am at my first ever No-Limit final table in a casino. I have won No-Limit tourneys on PokerPages but, this is the real deal. $28,000 to the winner! I can’t believe it. I feel confident and not one bit out of place. I guess 10 yrs in the World’s largest casino, Foxwoods, and being a Shift Manager for over 5yrs in Poker helps your confidence.
After all, I live, breathe and think Poker, what a great game, and I get paid for it! I stack my chips neatly. I get some friendly advice from one of the players, telling me to stack my orange chips on top ($1,000) for intimidation purposes.
I forgot who gave me the advice, but if you read this I can’t thank you enough. Final table action begins. I know not to mess with the larger stacks and hope I can just tangle with the smaller ones. The first 10-15 minutes or so I’m just an innocent bystander. It is a nice position to have the chip lead with no need to rush. I can wait for real hands.
Kenneth Kolbert from Brooklyn Ny. goes out ninth. Down to eight. Next to exit is the shortest stack to come to the final table, Jerry Brinkman, myself and Howard Mann call his all-in and check it down to the river. I know well enough not to bet Howard off the hand, and plus I have absolutely nothing going after to the flop and I’m more than happy to check it down and hopefully eliminate another player.
Howard ends up with the pot at showdown; down to seven! Here comes a HUGE hand for the “great unknown” player at the table. Daniel Negreanu makes a standard raise, the blinds are 1,000 – 2,000 with a $500.00 ante. I’m on the button and look down to see two beautiful kings. Wow, no brainer! I confidently declare “all-in”.
Ball is in Danny’s court now. He has nearly half his stack committed already. He thinks for a few moments and calls my all-in. I’m 99.9% sure my kings are good. I turn them over. Danny says you have me beat. He shows AQ. I’m feeling real good. KK vs AQ. Flop comes no help for either of us. Turn comes the queen.
I stand up and say don’t put an ace or queen on the river. The river is dry. WOW! I pick up 16,000 or so in chips. I’m on top of the World, just knocked out one of the best tournament players on the planet. The next to be eliminated was the other short stack at the table, Nick Pompo.
Down to five.
The antes and blinds sure to creep up on you at these levels, and here we go up again. Now playing $1500-3000 with a $500.00 ante. Here comes my next confrontation.
Howard Mann, who had been to my immediate right for 2 out three final tables. I had the opportunity to study him for awhile and he loved to steal my blinds. He is two off the big blind and raises all-in. He has about 11,000. I look down and see Ace, 10. Not too shabby, and I know Howard is an aggressive player with medium holdings. I like my Ace. I’m hoping he is holding a King, but not two!
I think for a few moments and decide to call. I’m not terribly confident about the hand, but he is short stacked and I know he needs to make a stand. He turns over KJ. Bingo! I turn over my A10. I spike an Ace on the flop. Turn comes no help and now he is drawing dead on the river.
This final table stuff is the “nuts”. Up to $51,000 in chips now and the boys want to make a deal with the new kid. They offer me 2nd place money, $14,952.00 and a chance to play for $10,000.00.
They would take $10,000 a piece and the same chance to play for the remaining $10,000. Now I have a major decision to make. I’ve never been in this spot before. I ask for a short break and all agree. I need someone to talk to! Quick!
I find Jim Boyd in a satellite. He graciously gets up out of the satellite to give me advice. People like Jim make Poker the great game that it is. Thanks again Jim, I owe you. He likes the deal and tells me to take it.
Billy Seymour, another well known tourney player agrees and tells me the same, “take the deal Mark”.
What to do what to do, I see a good friend, Pat Perrot. He wants me to play it out, no deal.
After all I am the chip leader by about 20,000. My gut says no deal. I think deals cheapen tournament poker. You really can’t say you are the champ. Thanks to the good Lord above, $28,000 is not going to change my life anyway, just pay a few bills. Not like I can retire from it. So I think a moment longer and say “no deal, lets play it”.
I sit down and the first hand I’m dealt is two picture cards. I’m under the gun, I make a standard raise and here comes Men smelling blood. He moves all-in. I’m about to blow off 8,000 in chips with a hand I’m not going to marry. I feel a little flustered, I think about the deal I passed up only 2 minutes earlier and could have very easily lost my composure. I toss the hand in after a fleeting moment.
I jump back inside my head, dont panic, play your game, and dont you dare play passive again into Men.
Next to go is “Doc” Partentope. At this point Doc and David Ferrante are about even in chips.
Now we are down to three. Men talks to David about a deal not involving me! Whats up with that?
I dont say a word but in hind sight that was “dirty pool”. Before I know it David is gone, and it’s me and the “Master” heads up. He now has about a 3-1 chip lead on me. We play a few hands heads up. I’m very cautious, not overly aggressive. Just waiting for a playable hand.
I’m the big blind with K3. He smooth calls. Flop comes xKx. I move all-in. He is thinking. I might get a call here. Did he slow play a big pair? He is thinking for some time.
He asks for a count down of my chips. I start to break them down and he says let the dealer do it. …