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Poker Pro-Am Equalizer Tourney Uni-Bombed

Phil Laak Will Play For $500,000 Thursday


Phil Laak won his qualifying heat at the Pro-Am Equalizer tournament earlier this evening. He won a seat to the final table of the event which is worth at least $25,000 and a chance to win $500,000.

He outlasted model Cindy Margolis, Jennifer Harman (who was eliminated before the button made one lap), Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer and actor Jeremy Sisto.

The Pro-Am Equalizer structure puts four pros and two amateur players at each qualifying heat. The amateurs start with 150,000 chips, the pros, 100,000. Only the winner of the qualifying match makes it to the final. The Pro-Am Equalizer will be shown on ABC starting in November.

The show is being filmed at the South Coast Casino in Las Vegas and the last two qualifying heats take place today.

The match started off with a bang as Jeremy Sisto knocked out Jennifer Harman before the button made one lap around the table. They both found their way all-in preflop. Sisto held aces and Harman, queens, and the aces held up.

Sisto then knocked out another pro after he counterfeited Ferguson's flopped two-pair when he hit a better combo on the turn after calling an all-in. That put the "Equalizer" at around 280,000 in chips.

But a seemingly run of cold cards put Sisto on the sideline for the next few rounds of blinds as the pros continued to pressure the amateurs, slowly building their chip stacks.

The next big hand vaulted Laak to the lead after he reraised Sisto all-in when blinds were 4,000-8,000 (they started at 1,500-3,000). Laak pushed all-in with A3, and knew he was in trouble when Sisto went into the tank for more than five minutes, pacing the set, talking to himself aloud, all the while Margolis telling him to call.

Sisto took so long that the crowd got to see Laak perform some push-ups and sit-ups during the delay. He finally made the right call with AJ, but a miracle flop of A3K came for Laak, giving him two-pair. Sisto got no help and all of a sudden, Laak was in control.

Margolis, who got into the poker business with her own online poker site this earlier this year, said she prepared for the tournament by reading an abridged version of "Poker for Dummies" on the plane ride to Vegas. The site's no longer running, and it's a miracle Margolis made it all the way to third.

The pros had to help her with everything, including when to post the blinds, when to act, and even how to look at her cards without exposing them. She got to third mostly by staying out of the way.

She got knocked out holding QT against Laak's A3 after she called an all-in raise with the flop of A24.

That gave Laak about 440,000 in chips versus 220,000 for Lederer. With these two pros, the match potentially could've gone on for most of the night, but it ended in the first hand of heads-up just when blinds increased to 6,000-12,000.

Laak checked his flopped two-pair to Lederer, who moved all-in after thinking about it for a minute. Laak instantly called, but he saw the hand was far from over after Lederer showed J9 with a flop of T58. Laak held T8. But Lederer missed his straight and Laak now has a chance at $500,000.

He was asked if he had a plan coming into the match to battle the amateurs, and Laak said no.

"It's almost wrong to have a plan. It's kind of like skiing down the backside of the mountain," he said.

The show will air on ABC weekends starting Nov. 11, for a total of 14 hours of poker action. The broadcast schedule is as follows (all times are EST): Sat. Nov. 11, 2-3 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 12, 1:30-3:30 p.m.; Sat. Nov. 18, 2-3 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 19, 4-6 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 3, 4-6 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 17, 1-3 p.m.; and the final takes place Saturday, Dec. 23, 2-4 p.m. will have a report after each match. Check back all week to see how the Pro-Am Equalizer turns out.