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Mandalay Bay Poker Championship Day Two Madness

Five Quick Levels Take Things Down to the Final Four Tables

One hundred eight players remained at the start of day two at the World Poker Tour Mandalay Bay Poker Championship. By the end of the day, 33 players would remain after swimming through a number of shark tanks and sick rivers. A river ran straight through the tournament hopes of Noah Schwartz about five minutes into day two. He held pocket kings against the pocket queens of Juan Carlos Alvarado. But the river card gave Alvarado the third lady he needed and sent Schwartz home early.

Table 35 was a sight to behold in the early going. This corner table was once again basking in the neon blue radiance of the MBPC sign that glowed in the background. This made the table look like many of the fish tanks scattered throughout the Mandalay Bay lobby. Only this tank was full of sharks, and one fish. Joining Alvarado were John Juanda, Chantel McNulty, Erica Schoenberg, and Scott Fischman. Jennifer Tilly joined the fun a little later in the day after building her stack to $120,000. Unfortunately Tilly, Fischman, and Schoenberg would all be sent home before the table broke for the day and the feeding frenzy finished.

Phil "The Unabomber" Laak had been quiet during day one, but that all changed during level seven. Seat No. 1 raised to $2,800 and both Jamie Gold and Laak called. The flop was K K 8 and Laak led out for $5,400. Both players folded and Laak raised his arms in celebration. He then ranted about how he loved poker and how powerful he felt for winning the small pot. The ruckus attracted Thomas Whalroos, who inquired about what had happened. After Laak described his "Herculean" exploits, Whalroos looked at him and said, "You need help sir." Laak then became mobile and constantly scanned the room by foot to check on the tournament field. Laak looked to be involved in a constant game of musical chairs all by his lonesome. At one point, he sprinted across the floor and dived for his seat. He knocked over the majority of his chip stack in the process, though. He then calmly looked at his hole cards and said, "Never miss a hand."

Halfway through the day, 62 players remained and Sean McCabe, Allen Kessler, JC Tran, Max Pescatori, and Allen Cunningham had joined the railbirds. Table 40 looked like it was about to break with the amount of chips it had sitting on top of the felt. Ryan Daut ($258,000), Tim Hebert ($214,000), and Matthew Graham ($187,000) had all been seated together, and the sparks looked ready to fly. Daut went on a tear and grabbed the chip lead with $332,000. The 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion eliminated Chris McCormack and Antonio "Bagels" Cavezza along the way.

Joe Sebok, David Benyamine, Kathy Liebert, and Gold were eliminated as day two advanced into its twilight. It looked like Juanda might join these players when he ran into a call from Chris Bell. Bell bet $3,000 on the button and Thomas Schreiber folded in the small blind. John Juanda then moved all in from the button for well over $100,000. Bell quickly called, putting his last $79,400 and tournament life on the line with pocket queens. Juanda flipped over pocket sixes and the board was dealt 8 4 2 2 7. The final bell had yet to toll for Juanda; he opened for $4,500 from middle position a few hands later with $33,500 behind him. Jared Hamby pushed all in from the small blind. Juanda insta-called with A A and Hamby turned over 7 7. The board was dealt K 6 3 5 8 and Juanda doubled up to $68,000.

There were now just 36 players remaining and everyone redrew for new seats at the final four tables. Fate would have it that Juanda, Laak, Alvarado, Daut, Michael Mizrachi, Danny Wong, and John Racener were seated together. Alvarado quickly doubled up Laak when The Unabomber's pocket kings held up over the K 9 of Alvarado. The Unabomber now held $50,000. The end was near, but the journey was far from over.

Wong, who started the day with $12,075 and rallied back to $178,000, drew a 5 to determine that five more hands would take place before the end of the day. Three of those hands transpired in relative anonymity, but Wong was put on a tough decision on the fourth hand. He folded aces up and conceded $40,000 to John Gordon on a board that screamed three of a kind. That was nothing compared to what came next. On the last hand of the night, Laak moved all in from the big blind on a flop of Q 6 2 and Juanda went into the tank on the button. As Juanda counted out his chips a crowd began to gather. Players, fans, members of the media, Gavin Smith with a drink in hand, and a partridge in a pear tree, were now sweating the table. Juanda exclaimed, "So sweet," and flipped over A 7. Laak turned over 6 3 and the turn and river cards were dealt 2 J. Laak was eliminated on the final hand of the day and Juanda finished day two with $227,300, good for sixth place on the leader board.

Daut finished the day as the chip leader with $322,300, and he was joined in the top three by Shawn Buchanan ($278,500) and Tim Hebert ($278,500). Daut had this to say about the differences he noticed between this tournament and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. "Here, when we cash there's 27 people left and it's so close to the final table. This is a lot more tense. I'm just going to play my game and see what happens." Daut will get his chance tomorrow when he joins the other 32 players at noon for day three action. They will definitely reach the money, and barring an ice age they will also reach the final table of 10. You know the place to catch all the live updates, chip counts, photos, and videos:


almost 14 years ago

Well written and intriguing. Dean