Shirley Rosario
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California State Poker Championship

H.O.R.S.E. Poker Tournaments 2010

by Shirley Rosario

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HORSE Poker TournamentThis year, Commerce Casino’s California State Poker Championship had only one H.O.R.S.E. event. Of all the events, it was the one I wanted to win most because I had won the $1,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event last year.

The tournament didn’t start out too great. Before the cards were even dealt, the woman from the cashier cage approached me and asked, “Are these your sunglasses?” I guess I had left them on the counter while buying into the event. I replied, “Yes they are. Thanks.” She continued, “How about this phone?” I nodded my head. “And this wad of money?” I thanked her again and joked that I think I lost my brain also. About two minutes later, the valet guy walks up to me and says “Do you have your car key?” I reached into my purse and handed him my key (along with a nice tip) and apologized for not leaving it in the car for him. I was flustered and we hadn’t even started playing yet. My friend Halli managed to put me at ease with her usual type of smart ass comment, “Holy shit. I hope you play poker better than you act like a normal human being.” I can always count on her to make me laugh and lighten the moment. I was now ready to play some poker.

My first table was alright and there were definitely some soft spots. There was one guy who was really weak in most of the games. He would consistently ask questions and a few of the players were bothered by him. I thought he was pretty sweet and when he asked what the limits were for the 20th time in a row, I still found him endearing. I would never be bothered by a guy who means no harm and who is also willing to donate his chips to me. On the other hand, I would be bothered by a guy who plays decent and has a dry (and not in a good way) personality. This was the case with the player sitting directly across from me. His banter was annoying me so bad that I had to put my headphones on so I could concentrate. And that is exactly what I did. I concentrated on what I could do to win as many chips as possible and I built my stack up to a little more than average.

I kept chipping away and was playing solid poker. I didn’t get involved in any significant pots, I was just accumulating chips at a slow and steady pace. Our table ended up breaking and I sat at a new table that also had a few weak spots. The most exciting hand from that table was a hand that I wasn’t involved in. There was a three way Stud 8 or Better hand where the pot was very large. The guy to my right made this hero overcall with his low hand. He was thoroughly excited that he read the player correctly and that he made the call. He was happy for about 20 seconds until I said “The problem with your low is that we are playing 8 or better.” He had totally forgotten that he actually had to qualify for the low and was thinking that his nine low would earn him half of that huge pot.

We redrew tables when we got to 24 players and I got a new table with new opponents. There was a time on the new table where I wasn’t getting any hands and one of the players was pushing me around. It appeared that he was thinking I was a typical tight female player and that I wouldn’t push back. I pushed back at the right time and won a huge pot from him that ended up giving me enough chips to work with to secure my seat at the final table. The eight of us were scheduled to come back the following day to complete the tournament.

The final table was an interesting mix. There were two guys that I thought would give me the most trouble. One of them was the guy who misread his Stud 08 hand. He was a very solid player in most games, but appeared to be a little weak in the split games. His biggest strength was that he was extremely focused and that is where I am lacking which means he could be trouble for me in a heads-up situation. The other was the aggressive player who was trying to push me around the night before. I just told myself to concentrate and play my best game and hopefully I would end up with one of the weaker opponents if/when I got to be heads-up. I went into the day second in chips and as each player was eliminated, my chip stack grew. One of the key hands for me was during a Stud hand when we were four handed. I started with T98 and I completed the bet and the player (the aggressive guy) who brought it in protected his bring in. I hit a king on fourth and I continued to bet and he called. On fifth, I paired my eight (which was in the hole) and he raised me. I wasn’t thrilled with my hand at this time, but I thought there was a good possibility that he just hit his fourth diamond and was raising on a semi-bluff. I called his raise hoping to improve on sixth. I hit a nine (also in the hole so no pair was showing). He bet and I called with the intention of calling him on the river because there was a good chance that he only had a busted flush draw. When I peeked at the final card, I saw a nine which gave me the full house. I checked to him knowing that he was going to bet. He bet, I raised and he mucked his cards. I guess I was right in my assumption that he only had the four diamonds because he would have had to call with any pair there.

Commerce Casino California State Poker ChampionshipThere was another big important hand and it was in Stud 08. Three of us went crazy and on sixth, I had a lock low against both opponents. Neither one of my opponents could make a low hand and the aggressive player had just bet all-in for $5,500. I sat there and pondered what to do. The other guy was showing pocket jacks and I only had Ace jack high. Was I supposed to raise and eliminate the pocket jacks hand in hopes that if I hit my ace or jack I would scoop (I had no idea what the all-in player had because it looked like he was originally going for low, but he was still betting when he hit consecutive high cards) or was I supposed to just call and hope that the pocket jacks guy could beat the all-in player and eliminate him? I decided to just call to let the last player in and I didn’t improve on seventh. The all-in player showed a pair of kings and I chopped the pot with him. The guy with the pocket jacks was left with only a stack of chips and was eliminated a few hands later when we were playing Holdem. His elimination was great for me because he was the focused player that I didn’t want to get heads up with. When we got down to three players, I had most of the chips. Of the $350,000 in play, I had $220,000. I was crowned champion just a short time later.

I am very proud of this win. I have worked really hard over the past couple of years to improve each and every game in the HORSE line-up. During the last 12 months, I have played four HORSE events at Commerce and have won two of them and finished fourth in another. Do I think my game is where it should be? Certainly not. I will continue to work hard at improving each and every game in the H.O.R.S.E. mix, but I would definitely say that my game has come a long way.

1 - Shirley Rosario $9,385
2 - Thomas Bodnar $5,020
3 - Jay Hong $3,370
4 - Todd Iger $2,380
5 - George  Shahrezay $1,830
6 - Lee Fazio $1,450
7 - Carl Wirz $1,120
8 - Alexi Dimitrov $810

Also read my reports HORSE event in 2009 and 2011 LA Poker Classic HORSE event