A Vicarious Victory: Brett Jungblut Tops World-Class Field in Omaha-High Low Championship

"The Crew" wins third gold bracelet as father watches with pride

Brett Jungblut's WSOP Bracelet Official Report by Nolan Dalla, Media Director - 2004 World Series of Poker

At 11 pm on a Wednesday night in Las Vegas, a father watched his 25-year-old son playing in a poker game. Not just any poker game, but one of the biggest poker games of all : the final table of a world championship event Art Young watched with fatherly pride as his son Brett Jungblut was playing heads-up against one of the best tournament players in the world, a three-time gold bracelet winner named "Miami John" Cernuto.

Art Young knew the feeling of playing heads up for a world championship. Twice before, he had taken his seat at the final table under the bright lights in Las Vegas. And two times, he had walked away from that final table with a feeling of disappointment. A feeling of pain. A feeling of sadness. Sure, a second place finish is worth a lot of money. But nothing beats the thrill of victory.

For poker players, the coveted WSOP gold bracelet given to the winner is the benchmark that demarcates "world class" status and peer respect. For all his in-the-money finishes and years in tournaments and cash games, Art Young was just another poker player standing along the rail inside the second floor ballroom of the Horseshoe Casino except for one thing: His son was sitting down at the final table, playing for the World Championship.

The tournament was billed as the "Omaha High-Low World Championship," since it's the event with the highest buy-in of three Omaha High-Low events at the 2004 World Series of Poker. The tournament began with 121 entries, and 112 were eliminated on day one. The final table consisted of nine players. The finalists were eliminated in the following order:

9th - Karen Longfellow, a retiree from Plant City, FL was eliminated by the thinnest of margins. She went all all in with her last $12K with two pair Qs and 7s. Longfellow was inched out by Erick Lindgren's two pair Qs and 8s.

8th - Minh Nguyen was making his third final table at this year's WSOP. The two-time gold bracelet winner (2003 Pot-Limit Hold'em and 2005 Omaha High-Low) fell short in his bid to join Scott Fischman (who has won teice) in this year's bracelet battle. Nguyen started the day low with just $18K and failed to establish any momentum during his hour in the finale. The key to winning in Omaha High-Low is 'scooping' pots, not splitting them. Nguyen didn't scoop all day. He received $17,060 for 8th place, and remains the points leader in the race for Best All Around Player.

7th - Thor Hansen is one of several Norwegians at this year's World Series. He's easily the most widely known Scandinavian player having won two gold bracelets (1988 Seven-Card Stud and 2002 Ace-to-Five Lowball). Lowest on chips, Hansen was forced to go in with a dog hand, which failed to bark. Hansen, who now lives in Los Angles and plays most of the big events, finished in 7th place with $22,740.

6th - Erick Lindgren came to the final table second in chips, but was never able to establish any momentum. He split most of the pots he was involved in, and saw his stack slowly dwindle from $115K at the start of day two -- to just over $15K on the final hand he was dealt. Lindgren's A-3-6-Q was hammered by Huck Seed's full house, which meant a 6th place finish. Lindgren received $28,440.

5th -Mike Wattel - Despite being cheered on by recent gold bracelet winner, Cyndy Violette, Wattel had a rough day. Wattel, a 33-year-old poker pro from Phoenix, began as the chip leader. But much like Lindgren who also had chips early, he watched helplessly as his chip stacks slowly disappeared. Wattel missed a low draw on his final hand of the night and ended up with 5th place prize money -- $34,120.

4th - Huckleberry Seed won the world championship in 1996. He's been through some ups and downs since that breakthrough victory eight years ago. His bid to win this event came up short when he suffered a horrible last hour at the final table. He went from a stack size of about $120K down to the felt, and on his last hand made two pair (aces and kings) ' which lost to Brent Carter's flush. Seed took $45,500 for 4th place.

3rd -Brent Carter has been one of poker's most consistent performers over the past decade. He's made countless final tables and has finished in the money as much as anyone who plays tournament poker full time. For all his achievements, Carter hasn't won a gold bracelet in ten years and was determined to break the streak. It didn't happen. Carter had a terrible run of cards in his final half-hour - the key hand losing with a straight to Jungblut's full house. Third place for Carter, the former racehorse owner and trainer originally from Chicagoland. He collected $56,860.

When heads up play began, the chip counts were as follows:


The heads up match was an interesting contrast. It was Cernuto's age and experience versus Jungblut's youth and determination. Although Jungblut had made final tables before (and won an event a year ago in California) nothing could match the pressure of playing heads-up at the World Series of Poker. Furthermore, Jungblut faced the player who is widely acknowledged to be one of the top five Omaha High-Low tournament players in the world - Cernuto. The former PATCO air traffic controller from Miami who went out on strike in 1982 and was fired by President Ronald Reagan, turned to poker and became rich and famous in the process. He's won three gold bracelets in his storied WSOP past. Gee thanks, Mr. President.

Back to the final table: The duel lasted about 90 minutes. Cernuto desperately tried to make headway against the tough and aggressive Jungblut. But each time it looked like Cernuto might seize the chip lead, he lost a key hand and then struggled to protect his stack. He wavered between a 3 to 1 and 4 to 1 chip disadvantage most of the match, and at one point seemed to realize that he would not be able to overcome Jungblut's dominant position.

The final hand was dealt at about 11 pm, with Art Young watching ten feet away. Down to just $40K, the hand developed as follows:

JUNGBLUT: 10-9-5-3
CERNUTO: Q-10-8-2

The final board showed 9-9-8-J-3. Cernuto made a queen-high straight. But Jungblut had a full-house, 9s over 3s and won the last pot of the night.

The room literally exploded with cheers when the hands were revealed. Many in the audience were clapping because a relative newcomer to the tournament scene (Jungblut) had managed to overcome the odds and defeat one of the most formidable lineups in poker. Recall, when play was three handed, Jungblut faced Huck Seed, Brent Carter, and 'Miami John' Cernuto - not exactly the pushovers at the poker table. Others in the room were standing and cheering too, namely 'The Crew' from Los Angeles, which includes two-time bracelet winner Scott Fischman. The Crew, which originally started out with six players sharing a house, now has three of the 22 gold bracelets that have been won at this year's World Series. But there was one man who was happiest of all. His name was Art Young, Brett Jungblut's father.

'The support I had was incredible,' Jungblut said afterward. 'The Crew is here. My father is here. My mom, too. The support I've had is huge and that means a lot of me.'

'There is a huge sense of camaraderie with all of us. I was thrilled to see Scott (Fischman) win. But I also realized that now, he's got two bracelets more than me. And these (gold bracelets) aren't the easiest things to win. Well, now, he's one ahead of me.'

Jungblut, who stands at well over 6 feet tall, went to college on a basketball scholarship. However, he realized he would never become a pro player. So, he turned to poker to satisfy his competitive instincts. 'Poker fueled a competitive void that I had after college,' Jungblut said. 'Poker ended up what I fell in love with ' I can't get enough of it.'

Jungblut said he plays poker online, under the screen name GANK. Hence, his unusual nickname. Incredibly, of the three Omaha High-Low events at this year's World Series, Jungblut has cashed in all three.

'Omaha High-Low is my best game. Right now, I think I can play with anyone in the world. I'm out to prove I'm the best in the world at this game.'

Maybe it's in the blood. Or, maybe it's in the name. Later, it was revealed that Art Young named his son Brett after a certain mythological poker player from the old west - Brett Maverick.

'I would really have loved to have won back when I was there,' Art Young told a group of reporters gathered around the final table. But honestly, I don't think anything beats seeing your son win the championship.' Call it a vicarious victory.

When Dutch Boyd Ruled the World

Once upon a time, in a land, far, far away, Dutch Boyd was cool. And, so was I.

He saw Rounders and wanted to be a star of the poker world. The similarities between the silver screen and his real life are compelling. A law school student more intrigued by a turn of the card than a twist in a case. More apt to pay attention to a ruling from a tournament director than a ruling from the Court.

I saw Rounders, and enjoyed it as well, but it didn’t have such a profound impact on me. Hell, I also liked Star Wars. The fondness for the movie, however, did not inspire me to get a light saber and confront evil throughout the universe.

Yet, there he was on TV, sporting the bandana and aviator glasses. He was wearing my uniform. I, too, wore the white bandana. It helped to keep the bushy mane of hair out of my eyes. I, too, wore the aviators. As a nod to Hunter, but, mostly, to conceal my bloodshot eyes and the dark circles surrounding them.

Chris Moneymaker receives most of the credit for the explosion of poker popularity, but, for me, it was Dutch. Moneymaker was a geek. The type of guy that wears socks with his sandals. A genuine, bean-counting tool. I wanted to play because of Dutch. I wanted to play to make people like Moneymaker cry.

Today, as the poker community begins to plan for the 2009 World Series of Poker, I find myself rooting for a Dutch Boyd Redux, and a New Crew, that, once again, shows up in Vegas on a simple mission: to take over the world.

Time changes everything. But, I still wear bandanas and aviators. And, so does Dutch. The bandana has become a way to conceal my rapidly receding hairline and the aviators protect me from my irrational, media-induced fear of the evil UV rays.

But, distant youth could be recaptured, greatness could be reborn. This hope can be realized by Dutch once again ruling the world. Because, if he can do it, so can I.

Russell "Dutch" Boyd was cool once. And, god damn it, so was I.

Why Jamie Gold is Better than You Think

Poker players, and gamblers in general, are probably some of the most honest people you will ever meet. This shouldn’t be confused with them being “good” people, although I’m sure there are a few completely altruistic souls. Their motivation for honesty is one of self-preservation. For example, if you lose a bet that you decide to not pay off, your reputation will suffer and your action will consequently dry up. If Pope Benedict and Doyle Brunson both owed me $10,000, payable tomorrow at noon, I would be more concerned about the Holy Father coming through than Todd’s Father.

All the truthfulness and honesty is abandoned as soon as you get a group of players to the felt. Poker, by its very nature, is a game of deceit. There will be times when you tell a story with your chips that is complete fiction, but you hope that it is believable. Someone once said that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction because it has to make sense. This is also true of your “chip story”. It has to logically fit into the chain of events to be successful.

If you read the poker instructional books and articles, watch all of the videos, and listen to the poker podcast, one thing is next to universally accepted: you do the exact opposite of what the table (your opponents) is doing. If the table is playing tight, you loosen your game. If you’re at a table full of maniacs, you tighten up and pick your spots. I’ve heard this advice, as I’m sure you have, more times than I can count. So much that it is accepted as a basic pillar in your poker strategy.

What if your table can’t be categorized as loose or tight? What strategy could you employ to be completely opposite of the behavior of your table? According to the Book of Gold, honesty is the best policy. At first, that sounds slightly ridiculous, but let’s analyze a little deeper. All the players at the table are trying to deceive you. They’re throwing out “false” tells, but, hell, you know that weak means strong. And, they know that you know that. On the other hand, you know that they know that you know that weak means strong. So, where does it end? Does the uneasy sigh as they push all-in really mean that they are weak?

Wouldn’t it be a wrench in the works if a player was honest about his holdings? That, to me, was the genius of Gold. For instance, you’re dealt pocket 10’s. A 3x big blind raise narrows the field down to one other player. The flop comes 3-7-10 and you put out a pot-sized bet. Your opponent intently studies you: how you put the chips in the pot, how you breathe, etc. You look him right in the eye and say, “You don’t want to call that. I’ve got top set.” Invariably, not only will he call your bet, he’ll probably raise you.

No matter what you think of Gold, you have to give him credit for the strategy he employed to win the Main Event. It was different. It was original. And, as all the “good” poker books direct, it was the exact opposite of the behavior of his opponents.

Because nowhere on Earth is honesty so out of place and unwelcome as at the poker table.

And, for your entertainment:

Some “Gold”en Moments…


The Best Online Tournament Poker Players - Limit Hold 'Em

You wouldn't necessarily think Limit Hold Em is an entirely different game than No Limit, but it truly is. Limit Hold Em is a funny thing. People berate Limit Hold Em as being second class. Often people will show in a Limit tournament and complain that they didn't realize it was Limit and state how they hate Limit and Limit is gay, etc. I have had considerable success in No Limit Hold em. Having learned Hold Em playing Limit, some of my earliest and biggest wins were in Limit tournaments. It requires a special talent to be consistently good at Limit hold em, especially on PokerStars, where the blind levels increase quickly as compared to other sites. This might seem to the casual observer to be a minor difference, but it isn't. For example, on PokerStars, yours truly has had precious little success in limit tournaments, but I win limit tournaments on PartyPoker quite often. Oh, I make the money some on PokerStars, but I just can't seem to adjust my game there to have the same success I have on PartyPoker.

I'd say this speaks to the fact that I don't play enough limit on PokerStars, but it also illustrates how much talent is required to be a successful Limit Hold Em player. The best of these players have figured out the difference between Limit and No Limit, and how to adjust their games to the site they are on and the blind structure therein. In my opinion, because of the nature of Limit, consistent wining at Limit is more impressive than it would be in No Limit. And as before, my opinion is based mostly on higher buy ins and mostly on PokerStars and PartyPoker.

Gank is an impressive player at any game, but he has definitely had quality success in Limit Hold Em. One thing that makes me want to give him a shout here is that he plays lower buy ins and wins regularly. This is particularly difficult in Limit because of the crazy play and the amount of chasing that occurs, even when the odds don't justify the chase. It's like tiptoeing through a minefield. But, as talented as he is, there are better Limit players.

AmuLeto and smoesmom have had great results in Limit tournaments, but only over a short period of time, so you can't say for sure whether that represents quality long term play or a slight statistical anomaly. Miss Bec31 and pokerponcho have had solid results over a longer period of time, but their play doesn't stand out in my mind as much as two others.

This final choice is a tough one. Colson10 is one of the best No Limit Hold em players around, and his success at No Limit is actually eclipsed by his Limit success. On PartyPoker and PokerStars, he has huge wins and consistency that would seem to defy the inherent difficulty of the game.

It is a close call, but colson10 is second best, in my opinion, to AppSt2004. Limit seems to be his specialty. He has been playing limit longer than just about anyone, and has had consistent success over that entire stretch. I have come to expect to see him with a big stack late in the biggest buy in limit online tournaments. He does what I need to learn. He saves bets by laying down a hand when a bad river comes. He also plays aggressively, but doesn't simply try to run people over like a bull in a china shop. He appears to have a good idea of when he is ahead and will punish players who chase from behind. He also appears to have a good idea of the players around him, knowing who will chase, who the rocks are, and who the calling stations are, and he knows how to combat them all.

Don't be surprised to hear of final table appearances for AppSt2004 in coming years in the Limit hold em format of the PartyPoker Million cruises. Check him out, and if you can pick up some tips you would do yourself a huge favor.

And as an aside, for those of you who don't like Limit, think again. The judgment, specialized skills and discipline needed in Limit tournaments actually compliment your No Limit game. I play better No Limit when I play some Limit tournaments as well. I think it has to do with patience and discipline, but it absolutely helps my No Limit game that I play some Limit. Maybe that doesn't make sense to you, and I don't have a full explanation for why that is, but I have talked with many Hold Em players who agree with me. Try playing some Limit mixed in with your No Limit, and I bet you'll see an improvement in your Hold em game overall.

The Best Online Tournament Players - Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo is a fun game. If you have never tried it, you're missing out on some good action. I have written about it before and it still applies. People like the action in Omaha, that they have four cards and the fact that they always have a chance with split pots. This game attracts action seekers, and they often do not play well. It is a good opportunity to make money, and I play the game often, though mostly on PartyPoker where they have $100 buy in multi-table tournaments. The biggest buy in on PokerStars is $50.

There are a few players, including myself, who find their way to many final tables of the $100 buy in tournament on PartyPoker regularly. These players include StuSutcliffe, PeakOilisNow, CABINONE, and GOIN_POSTAL. Almost every night, you find these folks at the final table, often among the top 3. As far as I can tell, these players don't play on PokerStars, or if so, very little. If you ever want to watch and learn the game, any of these players would be a fine one to observe. But, for the purpose of our discussion, I turn to PokerStars where there are more tournaments from which to form my opinion.

The choice for the best Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo player is easy. There are many very good players with high returns on their money over a fair period of time on PokerStars. These include Checkbook, real-nic, taz9, fit582, and Jareem Weaver. Two players who seem to come in a notch above these guys are Playfast and Uncforte. They have a better record over a longer period.

The best, though, may sound familiar. I would be shocked if there were two Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo multi-table tournaments in a row and The Omaholic wasn't at the final table of one or both of them. He plays more of these tournaments than anyone and no one has better results - by a long shot.

He is ever conscious of the keys to Omaha Hi-Lo. The way to win at Omaha Hi-Lo, after all, is to scoop pots, or get three quarters of them, not to split them. The Omaholic will not be the guy getting quartered, he is always the one with the free roll, i.e. he has half the pot locked up and has a draw to a hand that can scoop the other end of the pot also. Few people know how to play the game well, and fewer can maintain the discipline to have great success over time. No one does what The Omaholic does.

As good a player as he is, he is equally as friendly and freely discusses the game as he plays. Stopping by his table is a must for anyone looking to pick up the game. Tell him The Shrike sent you and said he was the best ' then sit back and take in whatever you read.

The Best Online Tournament Players - Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Naming the best Omaha Hi-Lo Fixed online multi-table tournament player is a bit tricky. I used to play this game more often about a year ago on PokerStars at the $40, $50 and $200 buy in levels. I really liked the game, and it seemed like I was making the money in about half of the tournaments I played. Recently, I have played only the $200 buy in tournaments there and the occasional smaller buy in, and little else in fixed limit, as I have discovered that I have better success in Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo. So keep this in mind as you hear the following.

Gank is a monster at this game obviously, and having that bracelet makes him special period. I'd back him anytime and have swapped percentages with him greedily at the WSOP in the past. But in terms of consistent big finishes at Omaha Hi/Lo Limit, based on what I've seen in the last year and a half or so, the same names keep rising to the top. Allinnoouts has a proven track record of success, as does Karl Marx. Both have had great finishes, and many of them, for a long time.

A notch above them is PokerKing, just based on the sheer numbers and size of wins. The problem with picking PokerKing is I find his style of play incorrect and reckless. Clearly, he has put up some big wins, and I respect that. Analyzing the numbers alone might not always yield the perfect answer. A few big wins based on lucky stretches could make a person's numbers look better than they should, say for example with two huge $8,000 wins and not the consistency. Maybe some very lucky stretches make his numbers over inflated, or maybe I am missing something about how good he really is. But this is my opinion. I am impressed with the solid play of duggins_edge, and like his style, patient and intelligent, but his win totals are not as impressive as my selection for the best ' The Omaholic. He limps when he should limp, he pushes when he should push, and he understands the concepts behind the game. I can't say the same for PokerKing.

Too many times I've seen PokerKing push hard not paying any attention to the fact that he was obviously quartering himself, 4 betting with no high hand and a low he was splitting with another player. The Omaholic rarely makes those obvious mistakes. So read the numbers however you like, but the 'best' doesn't make those kinds of mistakes regularly, no matter what any numbers say.

All of these guys are great Omaha players to be sure, and as someone who enjoys the game, if I was as good as any of these guys I'd be thrilled.

But my choice is the The Omaholic.

The Best Online Tournament Poker Players - Stud Hi

Naming the best online Stud Hi multi-table tournament player is a bit more difficult than the Stud Hi-Lo selection. I play a bit less Stud Hi, partly because there are few higher buy in tournaments. For this game, there is no clear choice in my mind.

Any good stud player has to measure up well to the following. He or she would have a good idea of the competition, know when he is ahead and behind and when it makes sense to play a draw, play aggressively when it is wise, and patiently when patience is called for.

CookieMaker has been doing quite well recently, but I don't believe his long term record is established. Another player of similar ilk is foxplayer. TigerScream, pbtoau, and mickbt23 all have solid records of success, with some quality recent wins, but not a long track record. If I were going to back someone in a Stud tournament, these choices would come to mind quickly.

The best player, though, in my opinion, is Castor. Stud, it seems, is his specialty, as opposed to many other players for whom Stud is one of many games they play regularly. He seems to have played more Stud than anyone else, and has had more success over a long period of time than anyone. As long as I've been playing Stud, he has been there high on the board. He hasn't been tearing it up with huge wins, especially recently, but his long track record of quality Stud play and making it into the money makes him the choice. Check him out sometime.

Jeff Henry

note by gank: The best online tournament players is often a matter of debate though there are scoring systems which rank online poker tournament players based on performance.

Trail to Victory World Poker Open

First off, I can't start my first article without thanking the Poker Trails editor, Jon Eaton, for allowing me this opportunity to write for such a great new website. The Pokertrails writing staff is top notch, and I am honored to have the chance to offer my views on the game along with all of them. I should also say that this article may seem a bit late, as the Jack Binion's World Poker Open happened over four months ago, however, my rags-to-riches success story of winning my first ever 10k event is the most interesting material I've got!

My dad convinced me to skip a half-week of class to go to the WPO with him, since he had won his entry to the main event online and wanted some company on the trip. I don't think my mom thought he was being a good influence, but I couldn't complain. My dad had bought my action in Costa Rica for a tournament before (where I took fourth and $15k), and put me in the $3k event. I busted out of that early on, and he put me in a $1k super-satellite. I won my entry and we were set to split the profits 50/50.

For three years I had been playing limit ring games exclusively, semi-professionally (my "real" job was being a full time student at the University of Wisconsin) at limits ranging from $30-60 to $100-200. I had played a few tournaments online with mild success, with my best finish being eighth place out of 1,350 in a $215 tournament on Party. Costa Rica had been my first ever larger buy-in live tournament. Still, I knew I had a lot to learn.

I couldn't even believe I was there, sitting across from T.J. Cloutier in the main event in Tunica, Mississippi. "This sure beats sitting in lecture," I thought to myself, feeling a little bit guilty for missing class. I started off playing very cautiously. Even though I only recognized Cloutier and Derek Tomko, both sitting across the table, I was very nervous that I would be outclassed in this field. After all, I was just beginning to play in no limit tournaments.

The first hand I was involved in didn't give me much more confidence. The unknown player in position 2 limped in and I looked down to the Qd-Jd in the cutoff. I limped along for 50 and Cloutier checked in the big blind. The flop came K-T-4 rainbow, with one diamond. It was checked to me and I bet 150 on a semi-bluff. T.J. called and the other limper folded. I thought it was very likely that he had second pair, a weak king, or maybe even a hand like A4 or AJ if he thought I was just betting my position. The turn card was a blank and again he checked to me. I thought there was a good chance I could win with a bet. The pot was 475 and I fired 425 into him. T.J. asked, "How much is that'" The dealer started to say 425, but fanned my chips out to reveal that one of the chips was actually a 1k chip. "1,325 is the bet." Whoops. T.J. asked me if that was intentional, and I tried to give nothing away even though the whole world knew it was a mistake. "I have to call you," said a confident T.J. The river was another blank and T.J. checked again. I felt this was no time do make another stupid mistake, so I gave up on the hand. T.J.'s K-Q won the pot and I was red with embarrassment and down to 8,400.

Luckily, just after that hand, and only about ten minutes into the event, I was moved to another table. I was glad to get away from that table where everyone "knew" I was the sucker! After about two minutes I could tell I was going to like my table. I recognized no one (David Plastik and Dan Heimiller were there, but I didn't know them at the time) and the player to my immediate right was obviously clueless. The four seat was empty, and a few people were commenting that the game would change when Phil arrives. I didn't like to hear that Phil Hellmuth would be coming (he's notorious for being late), but at least he would be across from me as I was in the nine seat. I didn't get too many hands early, and was hovering around 9k when Phil arrived near the end of round 1. To my surprise, however, it was a Phil Ivey, not Hellmuth.

"Well, that's no better than having Hellmuth," I thought. I wasn't happy when Phil had 22k in a matter of about 15 minutes, busting a guy with a queen-high flush against a 7-high flush and winning a big one off of the clueless gentleman to my right. It's very intimidating when someone as good as Phil Ivey has a lot of chips early.

In the middle of round two, I was involved in two key hands with Phil. I was in the small blind with sixes and four players, including Phil, limped in. I limped along and the big blind checked. The flop was a delightful T-6-2, but two clubs were on the board. I could make a pot-sized bet here, not wanting to give a free card to a hand like 9-8 or a club draw. However, I was fairly sure that one of the five limpers would have caught enough of the flop to bet it for me, and if a disastrous free card happens at least the pot is small, so I am not giving up too much. Everyone checks to the button, who bets 500 (Whew!). I don't want to mess around with any draws at this point, so I make an almost-pot-sized raise of 2k. To my surprise, Phil makes it 6k. The button folds and my only choice is to go all-in for about 9k total. Phil instantly calls the extra 3k with the Ac-9c. I was rather surprised that Phil would risk so much on a semi-bluff there at a weak table, but I suppose he thought I was trying to protect a vulnerable hand like K-T that I would get away from, or he could also put me on a lower flush draw than his. The turn and river blanked and I was cruising with about 19k. I was starting to feel a little bit more confident. Everyone looks like a genius when you flop a set. 'What skill'' I jokingly thought.

The second hand happened nine hands later when I was in the small blind again, in virtually the same scenario. This time there were 3 limpers (Phil again among them) and I had the Th-Td. A lot of people would make a big raise here, trying to pick up what's there, or get heads-up with what is most likely the best hand. While I think that play is a good one, I am of the philosophy that early in tournaments small and medium pairs have more value in busting people than they do picking up blinds. That is, the goal with pairs under kings or queens should be to flop a set and hopefully get action on it. It won't happen very often, but when it does you will win a very large pot (remember those sixes'), as opposed to the blinds, which are not much in the grand scheme of things. I limped along and let the other limpers see a flop for free.

The flop wasn't so good for my hand: Q-9-3 with two hearts. I was ready to give up on this pot, but it checked around. An innocent-looking 7s rolled off on the turn. I thought there was a strong chance that I had the best hand, as anyone with a queen would have probably bet to protect their hand against the draws. I made a pot-sized bet of 500. The two people folded to Phil who raised the pot to 1,600. The player behind Phil folded and it was 1,100 to me. I thought for about ten seconds and called. I don't like to think long; I truly felt this was a bluff or semi-bluff. He certainly would not check a queen on that flop with only one limper to act behind him. He would practically be forced to bet out. He could have pocket sevens, which would be the only hand that could beat me that would make sense based on the action. Upon reflection, I probably should have put in a third bet here to not let him see the river, since I was confident I had the best hand and he could be on a draw. An off-suit six came on the river and I checked immediately. There is no value in a bet since he probably can't call anyways, and if he can he has me beat. He thought for about 20 seconds, glancing back and forth from his chips to me. "I'm all-in," he said rather nonchalantly.

The bet was 4,300 (he had lost another pot to the clueless guy) and I had him quite covered. This time I thought longer, about 30 seconds. "Would Phil Ivey bluff all his chips away'!' Maybe he does have a set..." I stopped myself there. I had made a read and had to stick with it. I put him on a bluff. He just shook his head when I called and that was the end for a great player. Now, perhaps, I had reason to be confident.

Check back next week to see how the rest of the day went, and then my continuation into day two!

John Stolzmann

note by gank: John Stolzman won nearly 1.5 million dollars by taking 1st in the Jack Binion World Poker Open No Limit Holdem Championship in 2005. The final table had famous players like Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, and Michael Mizrachi. His brick and mortar tournament skills are very good and he will continue to have a great deal of success.

Trail to Victory

I decided for this column I would write about a recent tournament I played in. I wanted to share a load of hands from the tournament and tell why I was doing specific things, and hopefully I could help some novice tournament players out with their game. When deciding what tournament to play'I ended up winning one!

Early one Sunday morning, after a night out with some friends, I came home'with beer still flowing even at home. After calming down I sat down to a late-night tournament, since I am on such a weird sleeping schedule. I entered a $10 no-limit holdem tournament on Pokerstars, and won about $1,250. Not a bad score for a half-drunk, sleep-hungry guy!

So, for part one, I'll go through my early tournament woes. I was still trying to debate if I wanted to keep playing this tournament or go to bed. I wanted to win the $1,500 or whatever it was for first, but I was really tired as well. As a result, I gambled a lot early on. When I got a big stack, I decided to stay awake and play it out.

In the first hand, I had lost about half of my stack on a gamble in an earlier hand. I was more-or-less messing around, but had managed to lose 800 chips! So I looked down at an A7 of diamonds and my first thought was immediately to move all-in.

I know, you're probably wondering why I am saying this. Well, I was tired, and A7 was greatly above average. I had just moved all-in with ten-high the previous hand in a bluff attempt (but ended up in a situation I wanted to be in and simply lost), so I knew A7 would actually be much better than most people would give me credit for. My loose-image would hopefully pay off and someone would gamble with something.

Unfortunately they gambled with AKo! I was in bad shape, and managed to spike a 7 to stay alive. As you can see, this move isn't at all a' 'good' play. I did it because I had time concerned, but at the same time, this table had proven to gamble with much less than a hand that put A7 in bad shape in the past. My gamble paid off'not because I had a good hand, but because I got lucky!

Now, I was back to an even stack and loosening up a bit. I was ready to slow down when the very next hand, I looked at my screen and blinked five times'yes, they are aces! And, yes Jon, you are seeing this right'there's a raise in front of me!

Here is your lesson, people. When I moved all-in for a huge re-raise of the bettor, I wasn't doing it because it's a 'good' move. I guess putting your money in with the nuts is never wrong, but here, why would you make an obscene raise with the best hand'

It's because I had just shown them, in two consecutive hand, I was going to make this move with nothing. This sticks in their minds like honey sticks to your hands. That's why the bettor called with his tens'at least, if he wasn't calling already, he now was putting his chips in no matter what.

Unfortunately for me, he got lucky this time, and didn't double me up. The board read TJAKQ'yes, we flopped sets and he caught a runner-runner straight on the board to chop with me.

I sucked it up and kept playing, later finding myself in yet another compromising situation. With a below-average stack and a table of loose players, I was waiting to get action. In the cut-off seat, I decided to make a huge gamble. A player had moved all-in for about half of my stack in front of me. With his money and the blinds, I would have increased my stack to about average and wouldn't have to be playing quite so tight, if I could win it. So, I pushed all-in over the top with KTo, figuring him for a weak ace. If I was right, I would be in a race situation as about a 37% favorite to win. I was right, and everyone else folded. I spiked a ten to beat his AQ, and I was in decent shape again.

These early gambles are all far from sound-plays. They aren't in the least profitable moves. They are gambles that some players, often times very solid ones, will make when they get a read on a table and a player. If I think I can save myself some time by busting now or building a big stack (which, subsequently gives me great odds to win the tournament), then sometimes I will take the bad end of a 60-40 or worse situation pre-flop.

Next week, I will talk about my next few important pots and move further into the tournament. As this tournament wound down, I was a force at the top of the leader board the whole morning.

Jon Eaton

note by gank: Jon Eaton has been on a tear since 2006. He won over $136,000 in a Bellagio tournament and now wins multiple table tournaments online regularly. He just won over $13,000 in October 2007 playing online at pokerstars in a no limit holdem multiple table tournaments. He is a very talented poker writer who brings lively commentary and expert analysis, anything he writes is worth reading.