Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Will 'imahustla1' Givens Achieves WSOP Redemption With Victory Over Angela Prada-Moed

One thing I have learned these two weeks covering the WSOP––you can never tell which matches will be the most memorable. A $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament that began on the weekend with 1,841 runners, WSOP Event #45 provides unexpected drama in the home stretch. The field has been whittled down to a final three that includes chip leader Angela Prada-Moed, who sits on 2.4 million chips. An accomplished recreational player, Moed’s biggest cash to date has been a fourth place finish for $47,000 in the 2012 WSOP Ladies No-Limit Hold'em Championship. She and her husband (also a  poker enthusiast) are successful entrepreneurs, operating Sweet Times Cupcakes & Coffee in Miami. One of the most popular cupcake purveyors in America, the establishment is “moving all-in to capture the South Florida cupcake crown.” Tight and unpredictable, Moed has boosted her stack significantly by hitting trip fives vs. A-8 and knocking out fourth place contender David Hass. Her deep finish in an open WSOP event ensures her membership in a group of elite lady players such as Barbara Enright, Loni Harwood Jackie Glazer, Maria Ho, and Vanessa Selbst. Feared, respected, dare I say admired––Selbst won her third gold bracelet a couple weeks ago in the $25,000 Mixed Max event.

Angela Prada-Moed - poker enthusiast & cupcake entrepreneur
Sitting in second place is Will 'imahustla1' Givens with 1.6 million chips. Having achieved a first place finish in a $1,500 Heartland Poker Tour event in 2009, Givens faced a challenging life-grind thereafter that almost led to him giving up poker. It's no secret––a simple Google search brings to surface issues surrounding WSOP/Venetian stakes in 2011. Whatever trials he went through, all that is past––Givens is back with a vengeance this WSOP––he cashed 10 days ago for $84,680 with a fourth place finish in Event #33, also a $1,000 NLHE event. 

Will 'imahustla1' Givens ––shot at redemption

In third place is Paul Sokoloff, who has a number of WSOP circuit final tables to his credit and took third in the WSOP 2012 $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event for nearly $184,000. Leaking chips at an unsustainable rate, he is down to under 1 million and gets involved with Moed holding 10-7. When  a 9-2-8 straight draw hits he check raises all in and gets looked up by Moen's trip nines. Poised to eliminate Sokoloff, Moen is rebuffed when a jack hits on the turn to ensure a full double up for Sokoloff to 1.6 million. 

Sokoloff and Moed mix it up

Sokoloff ––full double up

Meanwhile Will Givens is driving action through aggressive play––a little luck doesn’t hurt either. He raises to 115,000 with A-J spades and is re-raised to 350,000 by Sokoloff. Givens doesn’t take the hint and promptly shoves all-in for 1.6 million. Sokoloff snaps Givens off with his pocket kings and hits trips on a flop that also gives Givens a nut flush draw. The eight of spades comes on the turn and Sokoloff fails to fill up on the river––just like that he is down to 750,000 chips and Givens the dominant chip leader.  After the tournament, I ask Givens just what he was thinking, re-shoving on what was likely a strong Sokoloff holding. He shrugs and say, "I don't know, I felt that in this tournament there was an angel looking after me." Not in the literal sense, but in the sense of destiny forging a path for him to come out victorious. 

In this roller coaster final table race, Paul Sokoloff is far from down and out––finding a way to double up in a hand where he is completely dominated preflop, K-6 vs. Givens’ A-6. With a king hitting on the flop, Sokoloff is back to a comfortable stack of 1.5 million. Sokoloff also doubles through Moed A-10 against pocket sixes, with the 4-8-J board first pairing the eight on the turn and then pairing the jack on the river. This negates the pockets and makes ace high the ultimate winner. Unfortunately, luck comes back to bite Sokoloff on the ass as he stakes his remaining 1 million chips on A-9 and is up against Givens' 7-7. The pocket pair holds up and he leaves with a take home of $131,110. 

One step closer –– Givens' 7-7 holds

Heads, up, Moed quickly tangles with Givens in a game of chicken that can only end in pain. She holds 9-6  and raises over the top of Givens' 275,000 lead out on a 4-3-5 board that gives Givens top pair and a baby flush draw. When Givens re-shoves all in, she is forced to lay her straight draw down. Just like that, Moed has lost half her stack and is down to 740,000. Fortunately, the poker gods are fickle––Moed goes all the next hand A-4 and is looked up by Givens' A-10. An A-2-9 flop has her completely dominated, but a miracle four peels on the turn and she stays alive. Quickly all-in again with pocket sevens vs. pocket fives, Moed climbs to a respectable 2 million in chips. The crowd now swells, with supporters split nearly evenly between Moed and Givens and the tension palpable. Over the past two weeks I have observed heads up confrontations involving top pros such as Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Davidi Kitai, and Joe Cada. I have to say that crowd interest in this event, featuring two relatable, yet relatively unknown, contenders gunning for a bracelet far surpasses what I witnessed at the other events.

quiet before the storm––chips, down, all in

Unfortunately, the crackling energy and high wire drama, with each had eliciting boisterous cheers from the rail, proves short lived. Moed loses a significant chunk of her stack with K-Q, calling 150,000 on an A-8-4-A flop. When a blank five comes on the river, she calls Givens overbet of more than half a million chips with her “nut no pair” of K-Q. Moed sees the bad news that her bluff catcher is no good, as Givens turns over A-9. I’m not sure what Moed was thinking in this situation––perhaps she doubted Givens' previous all-in where she was pushed off her 9-6 straight draw and didn't want to be bullied again. In any case, this ultimate hero call (granted, heads up) is a critical blow that hastens her subsequent exit. On the penultimate hand, Moed shoves all in with a flush draw that does not hit, with Givens connecting on the flop with a jack. As his friends go wild Givens celebrates with fist pump, basking in a redeeming victory that he has waited six grueling years to achieve.

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