While most of us play poker for fun, hoping to make a little money along the way, the big guys do it for a living. Even with hefty scores behind them, however, things can go badly wrong. And it's not pleasant. Michael 'The Grinder' Mizrachi is one such player. Despite having more than $7million in lifetime winnings behind him, he fell into serious cash difficulties and was staring into the financial abyss. His run-ins with the US IRS (tax authorities) are well documented elsewhere, but suffice to say he needed a result, and soon.
Early this morning he did just that in the most high-pressure arena imaginable, winning the World Series of Poker $50,000 Poker Player's Championship for more than $1.5million. Talk about perfect timing. Mizrachi had shot through the toughest of fields to make a final table that not only included his brother Robert (they set a record for highest-finishing siblings), but the three PokerStars players David 'WhooooKidd' Baker, Daniel Alaei and the Russian Vladimir Schmelev.
While Alaei went in seventh for $221,105, followed by Baker in sixth (railed all the way from Lima in Peru by his girlfriend, Team PokerStars Pro Maria Mayrinck) for $272,275, it was Schmelev who looked a lock for the title.
Schmelev had a 3-1 heads-up chip lead over Mizrachi, but saw that disappear in a monster hand that doubled the American up. Mizrachi opened for 200,000, Schmelev re-raised to 750,000, Mizrachi moved all in. Call!
It looked like it was over, even if the K♣9♣T♦ flop opened a flush draw for Mizrachi. The turn was Q♥, filling Schmelev's straight, but the river was 5♣, making Mizrachi a flush. After that, he never looked back. He went into grinding mode, and that did not suit Schmelev one bit. "I knew if I played slow it would frustrate him," Mizrachi said. And that's exactly what happened. He began to open up a substantial chip lead, bit by bit, until eventually it was over. Mizrachi pushed with Q♠5♣, Schmelev called with Q♦8♠, but was outdrawn once again, the board running 9♥6♥4♣5♥4♦. Schmelev took home $963,375.
While you had to feel for Schmelev, a mixed game specialist who may not have appreciated the fact that the final table was purely no limit hold'em, unlike the mixed format of previous days, there was something humbling about Mizrachi's victory. I hope he's able to keep his finances in good shape from now on.
While $50,000 will be the biggest outlay of the WSOP events, the second highest buy-in so far began yesterday with the $5,000 No Limit Hold'em Shootout. Like the $50K, this one drew in a collection of the world's best live and online players, each table rammed with names. As the format dictates, only one play from each table would advance to today's day two, each of those now guaranteed a $16,607 payday.
Among those were Team PokerStars Pros John Duthie, in his first appearance of the WSOP so far, Dario Minieri and Chad Brown.
Duthie had a titanic battle heads-up with PokerStars player Terrence 'Unassigned' Chan before winning a critical hand. Chan had opened for 9,000. Call. The flop was 5♥4♣6♣ and Chan called Duthie's 8,000 bet. On the 2♦ turn Duthie stepped it up with a 16,000 bet. Chan moved all in. Call. Duthie had 7♦8♦ for the top straight, and Chan was drawing dead with Q♦3♥ for the baby straight. Chan fell soon after.
Minieri played in his usual flamboyant manner to dispose of a table that included fellow Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein, while Chad Brown eased through by beating Matt Waxman heads up, his Q♥T♥ making a flopped straight and improving to a flush on the river to beat Waxman's A♠J♦.
Other Team Pros not making it through included Daniel Negreanu, Lex Veldhuis, Noah Boeken and Greg Raymer. Negreanu had been having a decent day and got all the way to heads-up before falling to Chris Moore, crippled on a 5-4-2 flop with A-5 only to have walked into Moore's set of fours. That left Negreanu short, and he was unable to recover.
Meanwhile it was day two of the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event, and Team PokerStars Pro scored another cash in the shape of Costa Rican Humberto Brenes. In securing $2,880 for his 200th-place finish, Brenes bagged his 53rd WSOP cash, an impressive record that saw him move up to tie fifth with Erik Seidel for the number of times he has visited a WSOP payout cage.
The $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball also got under way. 291 started that one, and 87 made it through, including Friend of PokerStars Bill Chen (29,600) and Team PokerStars Pros George Danzer (24,400), Barry Greenstein (21,000) and Team PokerStars Online player Sebastian 'Seb86' Sabic with 9,000.
Those busting included Victor Ramdin, Richard Toth - who was up against Chen and Phil Ivey (when the latter was not multi-tabling by playing the $5K shootout as well) - and Negreanu. The Canadian had looked in decent shape before plummeting. "That was sick," he said. "I went through 20,000 in seven minutes!" Charles Lehr was the man who dealt the final blow. Lehr drew one and stood pat while Negreanu drew one all the way. Lehr ended with 9-7-6-3-2, Negreanu had 8-5-4-2, squeezed the last one and came up with another losing 8.
Today is another day. As well as the $5,000 shootout and Triple Draw day two, we have the $1,000 final table, as well as the beginning of another $1,500 No Limit Hold'em.
* * * *
Tweets of the Day
@barrygreenstein: End of day 1 in triple draw. I have t21k which is slightly under average with 95 left
@FossilMan: Never got anything going, missed most of the wheel draws. 1500 NLH tomorrow.
@Maridu: Well done my baby, I'm so proud, words can't describe. I'll be there soon to celebrate, this is a HUGE win, not even close to a loss MY HERO (see yesterday's PokerStars Blog post for an explanation of that one)
* * * *
Thought of the Day
Look after your money, kids
* * * *
Previous WSOP Diary entries
WSOP Diary: Team Pro Maridu needs Baker, Baker needs dough
WSOP Diary: Viva la revolution in Las Vegas
WSOP Diary: Safari, so good for Noah Boeken
WSOP Diary: Barry Greenstein mixes it up in the $50K
WSOP Diary: Going supersize in Las Vegas