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Shirley Rosario
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LA Poker Classic

H.O.R.S.E. Event 2011

by Shirley Rosario


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HORSE Poker EventThere were two scheduled H.O.R.S.E. events at the LA Poker Classic held at Commerce Casino in 2011 and they were the tournaments I had my heart set on winning. Of course winning any tournament would be great, but I always have my heart set on the HORSE events because you have to play five games well in order to succeed.

Over the past two years, I have won two HORSE events at Commerce, but both of them were at the California State Championship. For those wins, I received my cash prize and a nice Remington bear trophy. I wanted to add the Remington horse trophy to my collection and the only way that was going to happen was if I won an event at the Classic.

The tournament started out like almost all of the other mixed events I played that series; I arrived late and received my seating card which was at Frankie O’Dell’s table. However, this time I was seated across from him rather than directly beside him. We joked around a bit at first, but it didn’t take long for both of us to realize that we needed to be focused on the games at hand. Mixed events are a little harder to play because you always need to pay attention for the game switches (every eight hands) and also since there are three Stud variation games you constantly need to pay attention to the up cards.

During the first several hours, nothing exciting happened. I did manage to give Frankie a semi-tough beat in Holdem when he slowplayed his hand, but even that wasn’t too thrilling. The other thing that I remember (and unfortunately will never forget) about those first several hours of play was when Matt Lefkowitz asked me if I was after Allen Kessler’s job after I corrected the dealer on a mistake she made when she awarded the pot in Omaha Hi-Low. Considering Allen Kessler is the biggest nit in poker AND he is just plain annoying, it was about the worst thing he could have said to me. I replied, “You know, I used to like you before that comment.”

I don’t remember any key hands before our dinner break which probably explains why I only had $1,900 in chips at that time. I was very disappointed that I was going to have to take a dinner break because most likely I was going to take the break and then bust from the tournament immediately because I only had enough chips to play one hand. I didn’t want to be forced to spend any more time at the Commerce Casino than necessary and wished we could have just continued play. I called Steve on break and complained to him how I didn’t have any chips and how I had to waste an hour waiting for play to resume and he said “Go eat something and enjoy your break because you are going to be there all night long.” I went down to the Arena bar and visited the bartenders I used to work with and ate a bowl of pasta while catching up with them.

When break was over, we resumed play and I was able to pick up a few antes in Razz because some of our players weren’t back from break yet. Finding a playable hand in Razz is much easier when there are only a total of four players at the table. Within 15 minutes, I built my stack up to a whopping 3k in chips. Our table broke and I was moved to a new table where I built my chips up to 5k immediately. After that, I sat there and folded and folded and folded. It seemed like I couldn’t get a hand and I kept thinking, “Just keep your patience.” Finally I got a hand in Stud 08 and scooped the pot with a flush and a six low. Two hands later, I was dealt 763 and played a multi-way limped pot. I remember thinking “Steve would kill me for this.” When you don’t have any chips (which was still the case for me), he has taught me to make sure I have an ace in my hand if I am going low. I caught an eight on fourth street which wasn’t a horrible card, but wasn’t great either. It looked like my opponents were going high and if I made the low, my hand would be good for at least half. I paired the eight on fifth street and then caught a nine on sixth street giving me the open end straight draw and a low draw which was now guaranteed to be good if I made it. The remaining two players were definitely going high and it looked like they didn’t have anything more than a pair or a draw. I ended up missing the low which I originally was going for and made a ten high straight. I scooped the pot again and FINALLY after 8 hours of play, I had more than average chips.

Shirley SirousSoon after, our table broke and we got our seat assignments for the remaining two tables. It appeared I got the best draw of the remaining two tables because most of the large chips stacks were at the other table. I didn’t think I was going to have to face very much pressure at my table because nobody had a really large stack of chips and most of the players were tighter than they were at the other table. Despite the fact that I was at the best table of the two, I wasn’t sitting amongst a group of donkeys. These final two tables were a tough group and almost all of them are known for their abilities in mixed game play. Some of the remaining players were Thor Hanson, Sirous B, Matt Lefkowitz, Allen Kessler, Tony Ma, and Bryan Devonshire.

I was seated at Allen Kessler’s table which is never a great draw because I have to listen to him complain. He was one of the first players to be eliminated when he faced me and another player in a Stud 08 hand. The other player didn’t have any idea that the game had changed from Stud Hi to Stud 08 and played a hand that he shouldn’t have played. The two of us split the pot and Allen sat there disgusted that he lost his chips because the guy didn’t know what game he was playing.

We finally made it down to the final table and continued our play. At this point, we had been playing for about 13 hours, but we were continuing play until we got down to the final five players. The next several hours were some of the longest poker hours I have ever played. Despite being a little tired, I continued to play well and on top of that I couldn’t lose against one particular player, Bryan Devonshire. On one of the Razz hands, I started with 62A and hit a jack on fourth street while he hit an 8. After he bet, I thought, “I am going to see one more card because it was two bet on third street.” He hit a king and I hit a four. He said, “It must be nice,” and I replied “Yeah. It is.” On sixth street, he paired one of his cards and I caught a seven. Once again, he said “It must be nice” and I replied, “Yeah. It is.” He immediately folded his hand when I went for my chips.

When we got down to six players, Tony Ma suggested pulling money from the top to pay the sixth place finisher. Normally, I wouldn’t agree to taking money off the top especially since I was one of the chip leaders, but I was so tired. If we agreed to that, we were going to bag our chips for the night and continue play the following day which didn’t sound so bad. Bryan objected to the chip count and we continued play. Tony was sitting next to him and I could hear him continue to pester Bryan. He was borderline begging him to agree to it and finally Bryan said loudly, “I don’t want to do it. I will probably be the sixth person out and you can all laugh at me for not agreeing, but I don’t want to do it.” I totally understand not wanting to do the deal and I don’t think he should have been pressured by Tony. I politely spoke up and said “Some people don’t like to do deals. That’s ok Tony.”
I continued to run really well against Bryan and crippled him in a Stud 08 hand. I started with A25 and paired my five on fourth street. He started with an ace showing and hit a nine on fourth street. I liked my hand and bet and he called. On fifth street, I hit a deuce, I bet and he raised me. I tried to figure out what his hand was and I was pretty certain I had the best of it, but I wasn’t positive. He hadn’t gotten out line on any hands, but the only possible hands that I could come up with was a pair of aces or possibly a pair of nines which didn’t make too much sense. On sixth, I hit an eight and I check called his bet. On the end, I checked blind. He bet and I called without even looking at my seventh card. I knew I was going to call on the end regardless of what my last card was and he said “Aces and nines.” I said, “Well it looks like I need to improve, I had fives and deuces with a low draw.” I then flipped up my seventh card and it was a five giving me fives full. I didn’t like how I played the hand or evaluated it, but nothing was going to change. I had already decided that I wasn’t folding on the end, but I should have looked at my card in case I wanted to raise (in this case, I wouldn’t have). I also should have thought about the possibility of him having aces and nines which really didn’t cross my mind. As I said, the hand wouldn’t have changed at all, but I definitely made mistakes. The bottom line though was I scooped another big pot from him and he was eliminated a few hands later.

We bagged our chips and as we were doing so, one of the players asked to do a chip count deal so we didn’t have to go back the following day. I was chip leader by a pretty large margin and I never mind doing a chip count deal if I am the leader, so I agreed, but one of the players objected. We finally left at about 6:30 am after more than 15 hours of play.

The next day of play was really short. We played about 15 hands of poker and the short stack was eliminated. He was the guy who objected to the chip count deal the night before. As soon as he was eliminated, Tony asked all of us again if we wanted to do a chip count deal. We all agreed to listen to the numbers. At this point, I had 136k in chips and Tony who was second in chips had about 85k. Matt Savage came back to the table and broke it all down for us. I would be the winner of the event and would receive about $12,000. It didn’t sound too bad to me and after contemplating for about 30 seconds I agreed to the deal (which the other players had already agreed to).

Adding another HORSE win to my resume is such an accomplishment for me. I started out playing Omaha Hi/Low and have worked really hard to become a well rounded player. It took me quite some time to develop my Holdem and Stud game and there are many times when I still doubt my abilities. After this win, I called Steve and said “I know I doubt myself so much when playing poker, but I must be better than I give myself credit for.” He said, “I agree with that” which meant the world to me. I know there are going to be some people who will say, “The fields are so much smaller in the HORSE events than in the Holdem events,” but it doesn’t diminish my pride one bit. I know how tough all of the HORSE fields were. Mixed game players are well-rounded players and generally speaking are much better poker players than strictly Holdem players are. I had to face players who excel at all the games and I didn’t have to face just one of these types of players amongst a room full of donkeys, I had to continually face a table FULL of them. And the final table of this event was one of the toughest I have ever faced. The five of us combined have cashed nearly 600 times in a wide variety of poker games (tournaments) and Tony Ma has been playing so well that he won the player of the series a few days later

As stated earlier, I made a few mistakes in this tournament. My game is not perfect (and probably never will be), but that doesn't deter me much. I will continue to work and improve all of my games to the best of my ability. Hopefully one of these days, I can add the title I want the most; a horse win at the WSOP. Adding a gold bracelet (especially in H.O.R.S.E.) to my resume would be my ultimate poker dream.

1 - Shirley Rosario $11,920
2 - Tony Ma $10,000
3 - Bruce Levitt $9,000
4 - Sirous Baghchehsaraie $8,5000
5 - Thomas Chung $2,080

Also read my report from my win in the HORSE event in 2009 and HORSE tournament in 2010