Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dan Smith and Mustapha Kanit on a Wild Final Table Ride

Attracting a very respectable 550 runners, Event #35: No-Limit Hold'em Eight Handed is down to its final two tables, with 15 players left. Winner of the 2013 $1,111 buy-in Little One for One Drop event Brian Yoon has a dominating chip stack of 2.2 million, nearly double that of his nearest contender, Timo Pfutzenreuter. Yoon has had the good fortune of a double up with hidden trips against former big stack Jeff Madsen, who exited 20th. In third is the affable Italian Mustapha Kanit, who has several WSOP final table finishes to his credit so far this month. Also in the running are former chess prodigy and high stakes tournament crusher Dan Smith (340,000 chips) and former soccer pro and Big One Drop second-place finisher Sam Trickett (525,000 chips). I spoke to Trickett just before this tournament started three days ago and he was determined to make his mark, having had an abysmal run at the WSOP events so far. A final table finish in this prestigious event, with a total purse of more than $2.5 million, would certainly go a long way toward making Trickett’s time in Vegas profitable, as he fine tunes his game and moves toward the $1 million One Drop. 

Sam Trickett––fearless

The action resumes after a 20 minute break with sustained fury, as the tournament field drops from 15 to 9  in less than an hour. Sam Stein puts his last 200,000 chips in the middle with pocket twos and is eliminated in 14th by Ardit Kurshumi's A-10. Ten minutes later, Jay Conley risks his last 160,000 with K-J and loses to Nick Grippo. Sitting on 20 big blinds, Josh Arieh calls the agressive Pfutzenreuter’s raise to 27,000 preflop and calls a similar bet on a 5-5-4 board. Pfutzenreuter bets 52,000 when a 6 peels off and Arieh check raises to 131,000. Pfutzenreuter thinks for a minute and comes over the top, putting Arieh at risk. With a K river, Arieh turns over 2-3 for the low straight and Pfutzenreuter mucks 6-3. This hand was a bit puzzling to me. While a pair and an open-ended straight draw is a strong turn holding, I’m not sure about the wisdom of Pfutzenreuter’s river shove, given that Arieh is repping a very strong hand. When the river blanked, he could have saved 140,000 chips on a hand that was ultimately an extremely unlikely bluff catcher. 

Arieh in backwards cap and Pfutzenreuter in black.

Amidst the nonstop action, some lively banter arises, with conversation between Dan Smith and Timo Pfutzenreuter centering on the upcoming $1 million One Drop event. Apparently, some pros competing in the event have a laissez faire attitude about WSOP preparation. “I want to be playing every day before the One Drop," he says, contrasting his live tourney work ethic with (good friend) Ike Haxton's with mild disgust––”he just flies in before events. That would be his f---kin’ move.” Ever optimistic, but not slated to play, Pfutzenreuter quips ”I might have a million by then––I’m working on it.” Dan Smith comments, "I’m hoping to have a big score––if I do well, I'll put it in play––otherwise if you’re American, you can’t really gamble on that.” I ask Smith on a break whether he is playing in the One Drop and he gives me a grimace that seems more yes than no––he has not officially registered, but he would clearly like to make his mark.

Pfutzenreuter––I’m working on it

Next to go is David Peters, who shoves his last 296,000 with A-J and is looked up by Dan Smith’s A-Q. With this, Smith chips up to a very respectable 1 million in chips and becomes a potent threat in the tournament. Down to 167,000, Sam Trickett is by far the most active player, moving all in seemingly every other hand and finally doubling through Bergman’s big blind 10-7 with pocket nines. At the next table, young guns Smith and Pfutzenreuter lock horns, with Pfutzenreuter calling 41,000 in the big blind. Donning sunglasses, he very deliberately calls down Smith’s bets on all three streets on a Q-10-4-8 board. Ultimately he mucks to Smith’s A-Q and is down 300,000, to half a million chips. 

Smith and Pfutzenreuter lock horns

Formerly the tournament chip leader, Sam Trickett cannot ignore the push or fold imperative of his short stack and ultimately falls to Yoon’s A-9 in 11th. Justin Kindred is out in a similar short stack coin flip, K-Q vs. A-7 and we are down to our unofficial final table.


Sam Trickett vs. Mustapha Kanit.. take it, just take it.

Of all the players, I have been most impressed by Mustapha "Musta" Kanit, who wields his growing stack by raising in position and squeezing when he senses weakness. Yoon maintains his sizable stack advantage by picking his spots carefully and calling bluffs without fear. With nine players left, play starts off cautiously until an ultimate cooler occurs. Kanit three-bets Yoon on the button with K-K and Bergman four bets Q-Q from the button. The flop comes out Q-8-4, with Bergman improving to quad queens on the river. Down to 240,000, Kanit next pushes Tony Cousineau all-in with K-J vs. 10-10. The flop comes Q-10-9, giving Kanit a flopped straight and Cousineau trips. When the nine pairs on the turn, Kanit is drawing dead––a river 10 for quads then adds insult to injury. Death by quads, twice in a row––an ignoble end. Amazingly, Kanit is not out, managing to double up his 30,000 stack and then double up again, Q-3 versus Smith’s A-9. Musta doubles up yet again through Smith with A-Q vs. 10-10. This brings Kanit back up to a not-quite respectable 240,000 chips and Smith down to just over 1 million chips. 

Mustapha Kanit on the razor's edge

“No Quit” Kanit achieves yet another clutch double up against Smith when his pocket tens hold against A-7 and now he is up to 444,000. Commenting "Looks like I'm back in beeznees,' Kanit does not let up on the throttle, calling Brian Yoon’s raise to 45,000 on the cutoff. Kanit bets a 5-J-3 flop and continues to barrel on a 6 turn. When Kanit shoves on a K river, Yoon ultimately folds, claiming that he held pocket tens. Musta chuckles, saying “it’s like a hero fold.” 

Yoon is still well in the lead with 2.5 million, but Kanit has finally found firm footing again, with a 25 big blind stack of 677,000. Mustapha Kanit does get a dose of reality when he drops back to 315,000 in an A-3 vs. A-9 cooler hand against Arieh, with both players hitting two pair. Cousineau falls in eighth when his pocket nines run against Yoon’s K-Q and a flopped straight. Cousineau takes home $55,000 while Yoon is up to over 3 million. Dan Smith has his chance for revenge when his A-9 is up against Kanit’s all-in K-J. The flop comes out A-10-4 with three spades and (with neither player holding spades) Smith seems poised to eliminate Kanit. Unfortunately for him, the board runs out runner-runner spade and they chop it up. 

Dan Smith (left)––consistently disappointed vs. Kanit

Musta is feeling his groove again and he chips up to 600,000 by knocking out Pfutzenreuter A-7 vs. 7-7. Pfutzenreuter has been reading “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas” at the final table and he is probably feeling something of the same, as he picks up a respectable payout of $71,940 that is still not enough to launch him into One Drop orbit. 

Pfutzenreuter and Kurshumi––Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Mad respect for Pfutzenreuter from Smith and Kanit

Smith & Yoon––high level poker

Kurshumi and Smith––Don't Fear the Reaper

Meanwhile, Dan Smith is leaking chips, losing more than 300,000 on pots in which Kanit and Yoon put in significant raises and push him off his holdings. Down to 420,000, the final nail in the coffin comes from no other than Kanit, with Musta’s pocket sevens holding up against Smith’s A-10 suited. With the turn putting out a flush draw, Smith calls vocally for a third diamond, but all is in vain. He leaves the table with handshakes all around and a forlorn “what the f---k?” to his friends on the rail. Somehow or another, the Musta show must and will continue.

Small edges––Smith (leaning back) somehow loses a sixth coin flip against Kanit

The Mustapha Show will continue!

Unfortunately, Mustapha Kanit ultimately hits the impenetrable wall that is Brian Yoon. Having observed Kanit's aggressive play carefully and seen a bluff or two in earlier rounds, he waits for Kanit to make a mistake, try to level him one time too many. 

Yoon inwardly pondering "Capable of a bluff?"

Finally things come to a head. Yoon bets 65,000 with A-Q and Kanit calls with 6-5 suited––with 4.8 million and 1.36 million in chips respectively. When a flop of A-8-7 comes down, Kanit––who has hit an open ended straight draw––check calls Yoon's 65,000 bet. A blank three comes out and Yoon bets out 150,000. Kanit then takes the unlikely angle of check raising to 345,000 with his straight draw. He is repping an ace with high kicker (unlikely, given the minimal pre flop action) or a random two pair. Yoon calls and a king hits on the river. Kanit now massively over bets the pot for his remaining 875,000 and puts his tournament life at risk. 

Yoon nearing a decision

Yoon tanks and ultimately calls. Basically, it is a close decision––despite Yoon's massive stack, a wrong call would amount to throwing away one-fourth of his remaining stack. In this case, Mustapha overestimates Yoon's willingness to fold to pressure, as well as the power of his still middling-at-best stack. While a 1 million shove might seem huge to him, it will not necessarily intimidate a chip leader. Many times it would get a player off a lone ace with weak kicker, so it may be profitable against Yoon's range. I spoke with Yee after his victory and he told me that he basically called off the bluff on a feel that Mustapha had been active and that "he's a good player, capable of that." And of course there was a million dead chips in the pot and he was getting good odds with an ace and a good kicker.

Mustapha––another strong but not quite dominating performance. Yoon––hello, chips.

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