Friday, June 13, 2014

An Action-packed NLHE Six Handed Final Table With “luckychewy” Lichtenberger, Kevin Eyester, and the Free Wheelin’ Pierre Neuville

With players vying for a $622,998 first prize, the unofficial final table of WSOP Event #24: No-Limit Hold'em Six Handed began with a sick field that included well known online players Bryn Kenney, Andrew Lichtenberger (luckychewy), Mustapha Kanit (lasagnammm) and Kevin Eyster (1SickDisease). Also at the table was Southern California grinder Jeremy Kottler, Poker Edge author David Borrat, and 71-year-old Pierre Neuville. Despite being a dark horse due to his advanced age, the latter Belgian player has quite a reputation in Europe and has amassed 1.6 million in live tournament winnings. 

                                          Lichtenberger “I aspire to live in infinite truth and love"

The Cerebral Bryn Kenney

Louisiana born and bred Kevin Eyster 

Early table play was extremely cautious, with Eyester and Kenney both sitting on just under 2 million chips, and Borrat in third with just over 1 million. An early confrontation involved Lichtenberger, Kenney, and Borrat all waking up with A-Q. Kenney raised 75,000 with A-Q diamonds, Lichtenberger three-bet to 120,000 with his A-Q hearts and Borrat simply folded his A-Q offsuit to the preflop pressure. Kenney then four bet to 253,000 and got a call. With the 6-K-4 flop containing two diamonds, Kenney bet out again and Lichtenberger folded. This hand illustrated a dynamic that would continue at the table, with Borrat playing quite cautiously and perhaps missing squeeze play possibilities, and Lichtenberger playing actively preflop but making well thought out assessments post flop and often folding the hand. that was behind. Short stacked at half a million, Mustapha Kanit was the first to go when he hit a spade J-4 flush draw on the flop and was up against Eyster’s higher A-6 flush draw. 

                                                                      See ya Mustapha

Six-handed, play loosened up somewhat, with Kottler and Borrat engaging in an intriguing leveling war. With minimal action on a 2-8-3 flop, with two spades, a third spade 10 brought unexpected action from both players, neither of whom in fact held a spade or a piece of the flop. When Kottler led 80,000 with K-J, Borrat raised 165,000 with pocket sixes, which triggered a Kottler three-bet to 380,000. Borrat reluctantly laid down and Kottler’s “LA style” aggression paid off. 

Seeking to ladder up, short stacked septuagenarian Neuville displayed admirable (or perhaps excessive) discipline, folding pocket tens to chip leader Eyster’s A-K preflop three bet Eyster had been playing snug to the vest, so Neuville probably assumed that the bet meant nines or better and that he would be––at best––in a coin flip situation. Still, to today’s generation of players, the fold seems unbelievably nitty, given the shortness of his stack. As luck would have it, Neuville’s strategy paid off next hand, as he moved all in with A-Q on Lichtenberger’s button raise of 85,000. Up against pocket sevens and an 8-8-8 flop, Neuville paired his queen on the river to earn a much needed double up. This pivotal hand changed the tournament dynamics, placing “luckychewy” Lichtenberger on the defensive for the first time as one of the shorter stacks. 

Eyester, Neuville (hidden), Borrat, Kenney, Lichtenberger,  Kanit

At this point Borrat, sitting on about half a million chips and a short stack of 15 big binds, made some inexplicable min raise lay downs preflop (that somehow turned out to be the right decisions). First, he raised pocket deuces in the hijack and folded to a three bet by Eyster, who held 10-10. Next hand, he raised A-9 suited and folded again to late pressure by Eyster, who held A-J. While both lay downs were technically correct, the question remains: why min raise at all if you are not willing to go all in? Pocket twos play particularly bad post flop and are best wielded either as a short-stack jamming hand or as a set-mining hand (with a significantly larger stack). Arguably some tournament players such as Phil Helmuth have made a living off of sick live reads and super tight lay downs, but Borrat––a noted poker author––lost a third of his stack through these middling raises. The next hand he shoved his last 350,000 with K-10 with and was called by Kottler’s pocket queens, Failing to connect, Borrat was out of the tournament in sixth for a still healthy payday of $77,145. 

At this juncture, the septuagenarian Neuville––a surprisingly creative and resilient player who often caught opponents on the wrong foot––was up to 2.4 million in chips, with Bryn Kenney and Kevin Eyster trailing at around two million chips apiece. Kottler and Lichtenberger both had 700,000 to 800,000 to play with. 

In the next major hand, Neuville’s 10-6 ran into Kenney’s aces on a 10-8-7 flop. He bet out 280,000 on the flop and improved his pair to a flush draw on the turn 7. Inexplicably (he was getting good pot odds) Neuville called Kenney’s 215,000 bet on a river king blank––losing a 1.6 million pot and giving up the chip lead. Arguably, Neuville should have triple barreled on the turn if he hoped to win a hand in which he was probably behind an over pair that he could potentially make fold. Doubly so, considering that Kenney could also be on a still live flush draw. His call on the river with second pair and a weak kicker made absolutely no sense, as Kenney would be unlikely to bluff in that situation. 

                    Neuville (left): crafty play (and a few questionable calls) from the septuagenarian.

With Kenney up to 3 million and Eyster at 2 million, Neuville dropped down to 1.6 million. Fortunately, a questionable call by luckychewy paid off and Kottler was the next to go. Eyester began the preflop action by raising 2-2 and Kottler shoved Q-Q. Lichtenberger then called with A-10, which to me is a fold to this kind of preflop action, even on a short stack. Lichtenberger did hit his ace however to look like a genius and knocked Kottler out. Given this play and the hand that sent him out, I am not ready to buy into the hype machine surrounding Lichtenberger, who has yet to win a bracelet. Sure, he seems like a nice guy and has an uber-serious table demeanor, but he made some serious tactical mistakes on the final table. 

Eyester, with his tight image in snug New Orleans Saints cap, continued to win pots. He made a preflop squeeze to 350,000 with 10-8 unsuited in the big blind, which was called by Neuville and his pocket tens. When the board came A-2-6, Eyester repped an ace with a continuation bet and scooped the pot. Neuville gave Eyester too much respect in this situation and probably should have shoved all in preflop with his shortish stack. However, his folding pocket tens earlier on the final table had possibly kept him in the tournament, so who am I say? Considering how difficult tens are to play post flop, I would argue that Neuville would have been better off getting a read on Eyester and either shoving or folding. As fate had it, five minutes later it was Eyester who held tens and Neuville who called with A-7. When he hit an ace on the flop, he was back up to an above average stack size.

The cerebral Kenney, our former chip leader, was the next player to fall––victim of a mistimed hero call. His opponent Eyster’s A-3 hit a 2-A-10 flop, with the turn giving him a wheel draw and the river completing a straight. Kenney tanked on a 270,000 river bet before calling with a pair and mucking. Just like that, he was down to 12 big blinds and the next hand his A-5 ran into Neuville’s A-9, sending him out in fourth with a $160,000 consolation prize. With Kenney gone, the last three players sat on comfortable stacks of between two to three million, with Lichtenberger in the lead with 2.9 million. 

Unfortunately, Lichtenberger ran into an “ultimate cooler” hand that shook his confidence and ultimately sent him to the rail. Neuville raised 140,000 with pocket kings and luckychewy made the decision to defend his blind with 8-2 suited hearts.  With a flop of 3-9-J and two hearts, Lichtenberger was not going anywhere and called Neuville’s bet of 235,000. When a nine came on the turn, Lichtenberger took the lead on his still live flush draw (and not much else) by bombing 425,000, which brought a quick call by Neuville. A river king of hearts gave Neuville a boat and Lichtenberger a flush. Luckychewy led out for 600,000 in green chips and Neuville naturally shoved all in. Now came five agonizing minutes, as Lichtenberger examined the train wreck piece by piece and worked out Neuville’s holding. Cracking a rare smile, he muttered something about having 4-1 odds on a call. He picked up his cards, almost mucked them, and then laughed and drew them back, clearly faking himself out. Finally, Lichtenberger made the correct fold to a small flush that was––at this point in the hand––only a bluff catcher. He was crippled, down to 1.2 million, while Neuville had chipped up to a commanding 4.7 million stack. 

Still with a comfortable stack, Lichtenberger could have mounted a comeback, but his confidence was clearly shaken and 20 minutes later he made a horrendous call that took him to the exit. Holding A-8, he raised to 160,000 on the button and called a reraise to 360,000 by the conservative Eyester––who held pocket tens. The flop 4-Q-Q did not help him, but he made a reluctant call of 300,000 to Eyester’s bet. They both checked on the turn. When a king hit on the river, Eyester put luckychewy at risk for his remaining 620,000 chips with a shove. Lichtenberger tanked for a minute before making the ultimate hero call with nothing but an ace high bluff catcher. This astonished me, as Eyester had represented a premium hand from before the flop. The check on the turn may have fooled Lichtenberger, but it still seemed like a rare failure in common sense and discipline. Fortunately, luckychewy had his girlfriend and dog at hand on the rail to console him, as he made the long walk to the payout cage

Heads up over the next hour, Neuville made a number of missteps against Kevin "1SickDisease" Eyster and essentially reversed positions––Eyster sits on 5.5 million and Neuville on 2.6 million. With play finally suspended in the wee hours, we now head into an exciting heads-up confrontation that will start at 1:00 pm and be broadcast streaming on the WSOP site. 

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