Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Joe Cada Becomes First Main Event Champ Since 2001 to Take Home a WSOP Bracelet

Down to seven worthy $10,000 Six Handed NLHE bracelet contenders, WSOP action moved to the ESPN stage, with Max Silver in the lead with 2.3 million, followed by Jeremy Ausmus with nearly 1.8 million. Erick Lindgren sat on 1.5 million and Joe Cada had 900,000. Small stacks included Dario Sammartino and JC Tran at around 600,000. The Swede Martin Jacobson was in critical condition with 178,000, or less than 10 big blinds. 

Some of the toughest: Ausmus, Tran, Cada, Silver, Jacobson

Early action saw short stacks move toward stable footing, with Cada getting a huge double up to 1.9 million against Ausmus, A-A vs. J-J. This took Ausmus down to a medium stack of 800,000. Ironically, the action in this hand had started with Ausmus’ 45,000 bet under-the-gun, which was called by Max Silver’s pocket fours. Had Ausmus respected Cada’s big blind three-bet raise to 145,000 and smooth called––rather than four betting to 300,000––Silver would have been priced in and hit trips on the flop. Just like that, Cada would’ve been taken out and the tournament would have followed a very different path. These are the small decisions that have huge consequences in the often maddening game of poker. 

Next, Jacobson’s pocket queens held against Sammartino’s K-J, giving him a much needed double up. Sammartino was not down and out for long however––getting a full double up A-K vs. A-J, against Joe Cada. Finally, even Jacobson’s small-stack double ups were not enough and his A-5 came up against Sammartino’s pocket tens. Flopping an ace Jacobson was ahead until Sammartino hit trips on the turn and the Swede left with $66,382.

 Short stacks Jacobson and Sammartino get it on

Down to 675,000 in chips, high stakes cash game veteran Ausmus sorely needed a double up and he got his wish when Joe Cada raised 65,000 from the button and Ausmus pushed in the small blind with pocket nines. Cada made the call with A-9, where before he had folded A-J to Sammartino’s all-in shove with A-10, on a similar stack. The reason for the earlier fold was perhaps that Sammartino had been playing tight and come over the top of an early position raiser and caller in shoving his stack. In Ausmus’ case, not only was there minimal action prior to his late position shove, but Ausmus could easily be on tilt after losing a number of coin flips in the past half hour. In addition, Cada’s raising range would be perceived as wide on the button. For these reasons, two very different decisions––a fold to all-in pressure with A-J and a later call to similar pressure with A-9 make perfect sense. Despite both decisions turning out to be incorrect (given the actual holdings), Cada made defensible decisions in both situations. 

                           Ausmus (left) licks his chops, as he has his opponent dominated.

Dario Sammartino, supported by a boisterous Italian rail that included Mustapha Kanit (who has made a number of WSOP final tables the past two weeks), was the next to go. His pocket jacks were all-in against Ausmus’ queens preflop in a classic cooler situation. 

Sammartino waving to his boisterous Italia crew following a double up.

                                Sammartino congratulated for his nice finish in a very tough field.

A major confrontation took place between Max Silver and Jeremy Ausmus––with Silver raising 60,000 with A-J and Ausmus calling with 8-6, and Cada calling as well. The flop hit Silver hard, A-9-7 with two spades on board. Cada bet air 105,000 and both Silver and Ausmus called. A seven paired the board on the turn and Silver bet out 205,000, with Ausmus stationing him with a straight draw. When a 6 of spades come out on the river, a number of potential draws came home, including a flush, a straight, and the already present trips and full house. Ausmus, on complete air, bet 500,000 into a 1 million pot and Silver, looking a bit like Woody Allen at his most perplexed, tanked, smiled, scratched his head, and folded. With that well-timed bluff, Ausmus chipped up to 3 million and Silver dropped to 1.8 million. While some might argue that a fold with an ace and high kicker was too conservative––given that this was an excellent bluffing spot––I would dare anyone to make such a seemingly suicidal call in a real high stakes tournament situation. My only problem with Silver’s play is that he should have been much more active on the flop, pushing pretenders off of potential bluffing hands. 

On life support, Lindgren was the next to go, shoving his last 680,000 with 10-9 and losing to Silver’s K-4. With that, Silver was back up to a healthy 2.4 million stack and within striking distance of Ausmus again.

                               Lindgren on a mission to double up vs. Silver or go home

                               Lindgren takes the long walk to rail, for consolation from his wife.

When Cada raised the pot to 100,000 with A-K, Silver defended with Q-8 and he called a 150,000 continuation bet on a 2-Q-K flop. When a 6 peeled off, Cada put in a 275,000 bet that Silver should arguably have gotten away from, with middle pair and middling kicker. Instead, Silver stationed him and called down for 725,000 when Cada shoved on a 3 river. This seemingly poor read of a situation almost never to his advantage likely had to do to the fact that SIlver had been bluffed off a couple key hands and was determined to fight back. He simply picked the wrong time. 

With Silver the new short stack on 700,000 chips, it was JC Tran who went out next, staking his tournament life on A-Q and losing out to Ausmus’ pocket jacks. This solid performance gave Tran a fourth place finish for $273,000 and solidified his position as one of the contenders for the WSOP Player of the Year award. 

JC Tran out against Ausmus

With very few chips left and blinds rising, Silver went all-in with 10-6 in the small blind and was bested by Cada’s A-8. It was now time for an epic heads up confrontation, with Ausmus sitting on 4.8 million and Cada on just over 3 million chips. Cada had been steadily chipping up over the past hour when a major all-in virtually ended the competition. Cada’s pocket eights held up against Ausmus’ A-J, vaulting him to 7.3 million chips and bringing Ausmus down to half a million chips. Despite a critical double up to take him off life support, Ausmus was out when his pocket jacks went up against Cada’s pocket queens. The win was a landmark accomplishment, with Cada pocketing $670,000 and earning bragging rights as the first WSOP Main Event bracelet champion since 2001 to take home a bracelet following his Main Event victory. 

                                        The indomitable Joe Cada

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