Limit Hold'em

$5,000 Limit Hold'em: "The Other Ones Don't Reach Me"

Before I jump into today’s article, two comments for people who were looking for stories over the weekend. I did write and immediately send for posting a story about the $3,000 No-Limit event, and if you’re reading this, that one should now be up, but some sort of problem at casino.com kept it from going up on time. Sorry for the delay.

I did skip the Omaha Eight or Better event, because I wanted a break. I’m playing in the 10,000 No-Limit Championship event that starts tomorrow (Monday) morning, and I’ll have enough of an uphill battle without starting exhausted.

I was a bit of a Nostradamus on the Omaha event, though. If you read my article on the previous Omaha Eight or Better event, you might remember that I wrote:

“It’s hard to feel badly for someone with the talent and earnings of Howard Lederer, but I do. Lederer is one of the most respected and talented high-limit players around, but someone has never managed to push the ball across the goal line in a World Series tournament…. I get the feeling the time will come when Lederer will win two bracelets in a week, and it might even be this week, but the streak didn’t start today."

Well, it still might be this week. Lederer waited a whole five days to win a bracelet, in the $5,000 Omaha Eight or Better event that I skipped, and if he wins the Big One I’m gonna count it on the one week thing, as the Big One at least STARTS within that week.

The results in that event:

Howard Lederer, $198,000

Allen Cunningham, $113,850

Layne Flack, $59,400

Jack Culp, $34,650

Vince Oliver, $27,225

Danny Dang, $22,275

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, $17,325

Mel Judah, $12,375

Mark Wilds, $9,900

If Lederer and I are both out of the main event early enough (and yes I realize most of the “last longer” equity in that twosome belongs to Howard), I’ll try to get you a separate story on one of poker’s best, and most interesting, players.

I didn’t get to the start of the final table of today’s $5,000 Limit Hold’em Event because I was busy getting to the final table of the highly prestigious No-Limit Hold’em Press Tournament. Various poker historians have told me that anyone who gets past the first table of the press tournament conclusively cannot play poker, so I’m not sure exactly how I feel about my 5th place finish. Card Player writers came 3-4-5 as Linda Johnson and Jeff Shulman exited right after me, as Card Player earned some measure of revenge for Poker Digest’s Lee Munzer winning last year.

When we started play in the REAL tournament, the Limit Hold’em event, the seats and chip counts, playing for 25 more minutes with $3,000-6,000 blinds, were:

Harry Thomas, $57,000

Men “the Master” Nguyen, $170,000

Gustavo Echeverri, $36,000

Jay Heimowitz, $86,000

Michael Danino, $75,000

Steve Zolotow, $66,000

“Fast” Freddie Brown, $121,000

Melissa Hayden, $35,000

Hung La, $64,000

By the time I arrived at the finale, the blinds were $5,000-10,000, and we had four survivors, with estimated chip counts of:

Seat 2, Men “the Master” Nguyen, $355,000

Seat 4, Jay Heimowitz, $200,000

Seat 6, Steve Zolotow, $100,000

Seat 8, Melissa Hayden, $50,000

When you’re playing 5&10 blinds, $10,000-20,000, things can turn around in a hurry, and they did. Heimowitz, the owner of a Budweiser distributorship in upstate New York and four World Series titles, hooked up with the Master on a hand only the two blinds could have loved. With Men having called from the small blind pre-flop, he fired at a 7s-3c-6h flop, Jay raised, and Men called. The Qs hit the turn, Men bet and was called, and the same thing happened with the 8h hit the river.

Heimowitz turned over K-7 offsuit, and the Master mucked his hand as the Bud Man took down a $140,000 pot that had in a single stroke pulled him into a virtual tie for the lead.

Maybe Jay Heimowitz should have been playing the slots today; he certainly had a thing for sevens. He’d hurt Nguyen with a seven, and he took a small bite out of Melissa Hayden’s stack when his pocket sevens stood up to a K-K-J-J-9 board (checked down on the flop, turn and river), but picked a lot more three minutes later with exactly the same hand.

With five of Zolotow’s remaining 11 chips sitting out there in the small blind, the Master made it $20,000 to go from one off the button, Jay called from the button, and Zolotow, playing a desperate game of hoping two of the leaders would knock one another out so he could move up a pricey, no-deal ladder, mucked. Hayden called from big blind.

The flop came down Ad-3d-6c, Melissa checked to Nguyen, who bet, with Jay calling and Hayden mucking. The 4h hit on the turn, Men bet $20,000, and Jay raised him $20,000 more. Men called, and a pot that had started out looking like an effort to knock out player #4 suddenly was going to have a lot to do with who was going to be chip leader.

The six of spades hit on the river, Men checked, and Heimowitz flipped over his 7-7. A visibly upset Nguyen showed his Kd-10d, a busted nut-flush draw. Those of you who think you play this game well, ask yourselves if you could have raised into that scary board on the turn.

The still-hot Nguyen and Heimowitz hooked up again on the very next hand, with Jay, who’d flipped one raise in pre-flop, calling Men down the whole way with the board coming 3s-9d-Qs-Qc-4h. Jay flipped over pocket kings and Men angrily tossed his open-ended 10-J onto the table. Although you couldn’t blame Men for being upset about the number of chips that had leaked out of his stack in a very small time, he’d actually gotten lucky on the river here; if a king had hit, he almost certainly would have lost most of the rest of his chips with his straight going down to Jay’s full house.

Even so, it wasn’t pretty for Nguyen, who after losing two straight big drawing hands he had pushed aggressively and failed to win either with the bet or by making his draw, was down to about $140,000. Steve Z still had his $6,000, and Hayden about $65,000. Heimowitz had almost 500k.

It got uglier. For the third consecutive hand, Men got involved as the aggressor. Zolotow’s 6k sat out there as a short big blind. Hayden, unwilling to sit passively back and let Heimowitz play Sheriff for Z’s last chips, made it $20,000 to go under the gun. Men called, Jay mucked, and Steve sat there as the $28,000 side pot got separated.

The flop came down Jd-3s-9s. Now, follow carefully….

Hayden bet, Men raised.

Hayden re-raised, Men re-raised.

Hayden re-raised, Men re-raised.

Hayden re-raised, Men called.

Gotta love the action.

The 3d hit on the turn, Hayden bet, and Men decided that it couldn’t have been two of them in there raising with a flush draw. He showed Ks-5s, and folded, realizing he could well be drawing dead, and he was: Hayden showed pretty much what we expected, J-J.

The hand eliminated Zolotow and reversed chip positions for Nguyen and Hayden. Men had flopped three consecutive big draws, and wound up with three consecutive gouges out of his stack.

A dust-up with Heimowitz cost Men about another $40,000, and he survived an all-in situation against Hayden to double up to $62,000, but Hayden eliminated him when she bet at a 3c-4c-4s flop, Men raised, Melissa re-raised, Men re-raised… you get the idea, it all went in on the flop. Men turned over a red A-Q, and Hayden showed the K-4 she’d called with from the big blind. Men actually picked up a draw to a five when the 2c hit on the turn, but a harmless jack fell on the river, and the chip leader both when play started on the day and when I’d arrived four-handed was our third-place finisher.

Hayden had played tenaciously all day (at least the part I saw, and you don’t survive to the final four when you start in last chip position without playing tenaciously) and wasn’t about to stop now. Down to her last $70,000, she doubled through Jay when her Q-9 made a straight on the turn, but that proved to be the last big hand she could make.

Heimowitz pushed, and Melissa couldn’t find much to push back with. Down to her last $40,000, she check-raised a Js-10s-4c flop, and Jay called. The 4s hit the turn, and as her last few chips went in, Jay announced “I have a flush,” turning over his 7s-8s (one last useful seven), and Melissa said “I’m drawing dead,” turning over her Qh-7h. The irrelevant Ah hit the river, and Heimowitz had his fifth bracelet.

Although I’d missed the start of this final table, I hadn’t missed the start of Hayden’s day. We held the press banquet today and Melissa sat with Jim McManus, Katie Lederer and me. When we mentioned that we wouldn’t be able to be there at the 4:00 start, since the Press tournament started at the same time. “You mean I have to survive with the short stack until at least 5:00 for you to get there?” she asked.

“Well, from what I understand of the press tournament, you might only have to survive until 4:05,” I said, but she promised to do her best. “It’s limit hold’em, it’ll play itself,” she said. “It’s not like it’s no-limit with all the moves. I think the play will be pretty automatic. Actually, it’s a bit of an upset that I’m even here, I wasn’t even going to play this event—I asked myself, why did I want to play a limit event against the best limit players in the world—but late two nights ago I decided I wanted to jump in, called a friend and asked if he’d take half, and he did.”

Good judgment by the friend: Melissa’s backer’s investment of $2,500 netted him $71,000. “I’ve always wanted to play this event,” Hayden said afterwards, “but when I sat down at my table, I thought, ‘what an awful table.’ Then I looked around the rest of the tables and saw they were all awful tables, just great players everywhere. So it feels good to do this well.”

This final was a bit intramural. Melissa Hayden more or less grew up playing poker in New York’s Mayfair Club, and while she still maintains a New York residence, she spends more of her time in her Las Vegas home. Jay Heimowitz, the Bud Man, is also a Mayfair player. Amazingly (considering the five bracelets) he only plays once a week there, in a 150-300 rotation game, and the only tournaments he plays are at the World Series.

“The other ones (other tournaments) don’t reach me,” Heimowitz said. “This is the only one I get up for.”

Poker has proven to be pretty good to Jay Heimowitz. The 62 year-old bought a 25% share in his Bud distributorship in 1961 with $10,000 he won playing poker in the Army and a loan for $40,000, and he parlayed that into a family business that his son now mostly runs. So poker got him started in the business world, and he’s maintained a poker-business-family life balance that a lot of talented full-time players would envy. Five bracelets is VERY rarified air. The only players with more are Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan, with six each, and Doyle Brunson, with eight.

While I’m left wondering just what kind of poker legend Jay Heimowitz would be, if the other tournaments “reached” him, for all you do, Jay, this fifth bracelet is for you.

By the Numbers

Entries: 142

Total Prize Pool $710,000

1. Jay Heimowitz, $284,000

2. Melissa Hayden, $142,000

3. Men “the Master” Nguyen, $71,000

4. Steve Zolotow, $42,600

5. Gustavo Echeverri, $31,950

6. “Fast” Freddie Brown, $24,850

7. Michael Danino, $17,750

8. Hung La, $14,200

9. Harry Thomas, $11,360

10th-12th, $8,520: Kevin Song, Thomas McCormick, Jim “Snake” Courtney

13th-15th, $7,810: Annie Duke, Scott Mayfield, Dan Heimiller

16th-18th, $7,100: Matthew Glantz, “Miami” John Cernuto, Jerri Thomas.