Seven Card Stud

$2,500 Seven Card Stud “And the Meek Shall Inherit the Bracelet”

The night before the World Series began, I stood by the door to Binion’s tournament room, talking with a couple of friends about just about everything but poker. Jack Fox, Chris Ferguson and I talked movies, books, and philosophy, exchanged friendly greetings with other players just showing up, and for about 90 minutes had a grand old time chatting about Life, the Universe, and Everything.

After a while, Fox commented that it was nice to be able to talk and greet people without poker coming up.

“Let’s enjoy it while we can, boys,” I said, “because in about two days, all any of us are going to be hearing about are bad beats.”

Ferguson, whose nickname is “Jesus” because of his long flowing hair, cracked up. “Yeah, it’s sad but you’re right,” said the man ranked #1 in Nolan Dalla’s 1999 list of 7-Stud players.

After tonight’s $2,500 entry Seven Card Stud tournament, it’s a safe bet that not only is Chris off to a flying start in Nolan’s 2000 ratings, but also that we can count Chris out of the group telling bad beat stories, and instead group him with a rapidly growing number of players who can relate inspiring tales about coming back from near hopeless odds.

Ferguson’s day didn’t start out like a comeback would be necessary. Early on, he hooked up on two pots with chip leader Fred Brown, first smacking him down with rolled up aces despite staring into a scary K-J-Q-Q board. On the second, Fred paired his doorcard, a 4, on 5th street, and did turn out to have the trips, but Ferguson made a flush, and we had a new leader.

Ferguson kept the momentum going, knocking out two players on one hand, when his aces-up polished off both Perretti Pierre and “Fast Freddie” Brown. Pierre’s straight never got there, and the only consolation Fast Freddie could find with his sevens and fours was that since he’d started the hand with more chips, he got 6th instead of 7th, but it had to be a disappointing early exit for early leader, whose aggressive moves at the lower limits certainly lived up to his sobriquet. Brown accumulated the big stack with the aggressive moves, but gave it back the same way.

Kim Nguyen, who had also been relatively short on chips at the time, offered enthusiastic thanks to Ferguson for the double knockout. It moved her up into 5th, and when her pair of queens and flush draw never improved, Chris’ aces and kings sent her home.

As the blinds moved to $5,000-10,000, Perry Friedman stepped up his speed and started making a move, much of which came at the expense of Kevin Song, who faced one of the more classic stud nightmares. Holding rolled up fives, Kevin not only had trips, but also held three of the eight cards that one must hold to have a straight (just try making a straight without a five or a ten in the deck). But Perry didn’t bother to try to beat trips with a straight; he started pretty strongly himself, A-2-A, caught a second pair with a deuce on 4th street, and yet another deuce on 6th. His deuces full put a bad hurt on Kevin, who never could improve the trip fives. Reduced to about $20,000, he exited soon thereafter.

Three-handed, Perry Friedman held a small chip lead, but the chips were close, and Ferguson briefly proposed a deal. Al Decarlo wanted to play, though, and for a while, this looked like a terrific refusal. Perry’s heart flush ran down Chris’ open kings, and suddenly Perry was a chip monster.

Friedman’s monster status lasted all of 20 minutes. In a nice little whipsaw, Al caught the running kings, gutting Chris and leaving him short. Ferguson hadn’t been able to win with, or defeat, open running kings. Ferguson had about $35,000, and decided to go conservative.

“Perry and Al were taking shots at each other just about every pot,” Chris said. “With so few chips, I felt like I was playing for second. My best chance was just to hang on and hope that Al’s rush would keep up and he would run over Perry.”

Rush he did. As Godzilla-like as Perry had seemed 20 minutes before, Decarlo was now King Kong and Mothra rolled up into one. Perry had only $50,000 left from his huge pile, and Decarlo had to be feeling pretty smart about his decision to gamble it up.

Chris finally found a hand to play, but Perry showed down an ace-high straight, and his Broadway had Ferguson feeling like anything but Jesus Christ Superstar, with only $28,000 left.

Chris kept shaking his head, and it was hard to blame him. Short-handed with two relative unknowns, and having had his deal offer declined, he then found his cards get colder than a prom queen asked out by a dweeb king. Al was firing away at every pot, and Chris didn’t have enough chips to serve fish with. His best hope remained that a Decarlo-Friedman confrontation would move him $37,750 up the deal-less ladder.

Ferguson almost got his wish when his opponents hooked up yet again, and Decarlo had the best of it, but running nines on 6th and 7th street kept Friedman alive. The buzzer sounded, and now we were playing $8,000-16,000, with $2,000 antes and $3,000 bring-ins, as the chip count stood at

Decarlo, $292000

Ferguson, $47,000

Friedman, $46,000

The trailers suddenly decided they wanted no part of action with the leader, whose big stack was able to push the little guys around. The first big confrontation of trailers went to Friedman, whose flush on the river left Ferguson low man again. He started inching back up with an all-in hand against Decarlo, cut into Friedman’s stack with wired aces, and then the loaves and fishes started multiplying.

Showing a board of 4-9-4-Q, and staring into Decarlo’s 10-7-6-Q with three clubs, Ferguson led out on every street. After the river, Decarlo paused and said “I’m not sure if I should raise you or just call. Ferguson’s trademark black cowboy hat must not have quivered sufficiently, because Decarlo just called with his straight. Chris turned over the 4-9 he started with and the four he caught on the river, and his full house gave us a new leader.

An hour before, Perry Friedman had had a snowball rolling downhill, but the problem with rolling a snowball downhill is that eventually most hills level out, and after bluffing off most of his chips to Ferguson, Friedman trailed 242-120-16. Perry’s last chance came when he got most of his remaining in early with aces against Ferguson’s deuces, but he didn’t have enough ammo to push Chris out of the pot, and hanging to the river, Chris caught a third deuce to make it a two-handed game.

“I was really trying to play for second for a very long time,” Ferguson said. “Al had us both like $40,000 each when he had $300,000, and he and Perry kept playing. Of course, once it got two-handed, I started focusing on first.”

Ferguson now had a 3-1 chip lead, and having been rebuffed twice, wasn’t in the mood to talk deal, although Decarlo stayed true to form and never asked.

The end was near. Decarlo started with the Ah, raised, and Chris called with the Kd. Both players checked irrelevant-looking cards on 4th street, the 3c and 4c. When Decarlo caught the 9h to Ferguson’s 7c on 5th street, he led out with another $16,000, and Chris called. The 5c on 6th street drew a check from Decarlo, and Ferguson bet the innocent looking 10s, with Decarlo calling. Decarlo checked the river and called Ferguson’s bet on the end, but was unable to beat his kings, leaving Decarlo with $26,000 just as the limits went up.

Aces-up finished off Decarlo a few moments later, and for the first time this tournament, the tournament winner walked off with the full official total.

“It feels great,” Ferguson said. “It was my eighth final table at the Series, and the highest I’d finished before this was fourth. I was starting to feel jinxed. It really makes me appreciate how hard it is to win a World Series tournament, and how lucky you have to get to win one.”

Decarlo was philosophical about the lack of a deal. “For a while, I felt like my chip lead was too big to deal,” he said, “and then suddenly it swung too far in the other direction to matter. I just never caught a hand after I got that big lead.”

During the aforementioned long philosophical discussion with Jack Fox and me, Ferguson had confided that “he’d enjoy the game even if it weren’t played for money.” He studies endless computer simulations, enjoys the technical analysis, and concedes that his strength isn’t reading other players for nerves or tells, just a long-practiced ability to make the right technical plays at the right times.

I’m sure your lack of greed about the cash will make the money-driven players a bit sick with envy, Chris. I can just hear them now: “If it isn’t so important to him, why can’t I win it? It sure is important to me!”

When you think about the effect of money pressure and bad beat tilts on most players, the thoughtful players will probably realize they just answered their own question. I’m sure there were a lot of good guys at this final table. I can’t help admitting I enjoyed seeing one of them win. I might even have to read some of the books he recommended, and there wasn’t a poker book among them.

By the Numbers

Entries: 151

Total Prize Pool $377,500

1) Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, $151,000.

2) Al Decarlo, $75,500.

3) Perry Friedman, $37,750.

4) Kevin Song, 22,650.

5) Kim Nguyen, 18,875.

6) Fred Brown, $15,100.

7) Perretti Pierre, $11,330.

8) Larry Kantor, $7,555.

9th-12th, $5,660: John Gledhill, Mel Judah, James Pauton, Wei Wei.

13th-16th, $3,775: Frank Thompson, Peter Brown Stein, Brian Kaplan, Yueqi Zhu.

FUN AND GAMES AT THE WORLD SERIES

I didn’t file a report yesterday because, for the second time in a week, a self-promoter (who shall remain nameless, for now) with his own amateur video website started hopping up and down all over the final table, shooting pictures, interrupting play, and in general making a nuisance of himself. He’s a nice enough fellow, but doesn’t understand that the press’s job is to report the news, not interfere with it, and as a result, some miscommunication among Binion’s management resulted in all press, save for Press Director Mike Paulle, being barred from the final table.

I wasn’t about to watch from the peanut gallery: I can’t hear the player comments that add so much to these stories. Binion’s straightened the mess out today, apologized to me and the other members of the legitimate press, and so we’re back in business. The results of event #8, $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold’em:

1) Diego Cordovez, $293,040.

2) Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot, $150,480.

3) Simon Zhang, $75,240.

4) David Pham, $47,520.

5) Phillip Ivey, $35,640.

6) John Morgan, $27,720.

7) Nick Murphy, $19,800.

8) Bob Feduniak, $15,840.

9) Toto Leonidas, $12,675.

10th-12th: $9,505: Hassa Habib, Mickey Finn, Andrew Bloch.

13th-15th: $7,920: Robert K. Smith, Hung La, Hassan Chehab.

16th-18th: Ayman Qutami, Lance Murray, Harry Thomas.

19th-27th: David Villaincourt, Surinder Sunar, Roger Hellums, Wade Collier, Peter Vilandos, Donald O’Callagan, Bobby Hoff, Tom Lockhart, Steve Pestal.

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