Shirley Rosario
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H.O.R.S.E. Tournament 2009

California State Poker Championship

by Shirley Rosario

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California State Championship HORSE EventThe California State Championship is held at the Commerce Casino on a yearly basis and is their second largest tournament series behind the LA Poker Classic. The series offers has tournaments in various games including Texas Hold'em (Limit and No Limit), Stud, Omaha Hi-Low, and HORSE which is a mixed tournament where players play Holdem, Omaha Eight or Better, Razz, Stud, and Eight or Better Stud.

In 2009, I played two Omaha Hi/Low tournaments and two HORSE events. While playing the tournaments, I saw great things and also saw things that needed to be improved in order to run a better series. I know I am in the minority here, but poker tournament series definitely needs more non-Holdem games. Poker isn't only about Holdem despite what ESPN tries to shove down our throats. There are some great talented Holdem players (Phil Hellmuth comes to mind), but truly great poker players (in my humble opinion) are the ones that can play many games well. Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson and the phenomenal Phil Ivey are the best the game has to offer and all of these players have succeeded in a wide variety of games. Yes, the tournament series offered a few of the other games, but not nearly enough and I would love to see a Razz tournament or a Pot Limit Omaha tournament added to the mix.

Other than the lack of non-Holdem games, the biggest problem I saw had to do with the way they seated players. If they expected 120 players, they had a tendency to open ten tables which could accommodate 100. They seated 8 players per table and then filled in the last two seats once all tables had their eight. That doesn't sound so bad right? The big problem was they filled those seats  way too early which meant that the people that registered later usually were seated next to the players they were in line with. This means it was possible for players to angle-shoot by standing in line with their friends and dump their chips to each other while sitting at the same table. Most players aren't angle-shooters, but it happens and the tournament directors should do everything they can to avoid even the possibility of it.

As far as the way the tournament was ran, it was generally good. In fact, it was better than good. The structures were fantastic and the players got a lot of playing time. The rounds were longer, there were added levels (the $500-1,000 level for one), and the players got good starting chips. I won the second H.O.R.S.E. event so I had plenty of first hand information regarding the structures. Our tournament was one of the few that started at 5pm and by 5am, I was exhausted. We were still three away from the money and all of us still had plenty of chips. I knew that it was going to be a long time until those last few people were eliminated and we got to go home to get some rest before playing the final table. I was correct and we finished at approximately 8am. Fifteen hours of poker is mentally exhausting and I felt like I was hit by a train. So yeah, the structures are great, but 5pm is too late to start tournaments with structures like that.

On day two of the event, the tournament director, Matt Savage asked us what we thought of the HORSE tournament and all of us agreed that it was great and had great structures, but it needed to be started before 5pm. I thought it was great that the tournament director was interested in our input and hopefully he will use it for the next California State Championship. The second day went a little faster. Maybe we were playing quicker since we all had our rest, but we lost three players within an hour and a half. I was up and down like a yo-yo, but managed to keep my composure and keep my head in the game. There are some times when I just know things are going to work out for me. This was one of those days. I was playing well and I got lucky in two key pots and there was nothing that was going to stand in my way of winning the event. When we got down to three players we all talked about the possibility of making a deal, but we all wanted the same thing. We wanted the win and we wanted that Remington bronze trophy, so the talk about a deal was put to rest quickly. My opponent took out the third place finisher and I ended up with the first place finish AND the beautiful trophy.

1 - Shirley Rosario $21,534
2 - Nikhil Gera $11,524
3 - Michael Lemkin $7,741
4 - Mike Leah $5,471
5 - Chris Tryba $4,190
6 - Robert Deacon $3,317
7 - David Moskowitz $2,561
8 - Joseph Aronesty $1,862

Also see the reports from my HORSE win at the 2010 California State Poker Championship and from the 2011 LA Poker Classic HORSE event