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Poker Tour events at Commerce Casino have always been my favorite. The first year, Gus Hansen put himself on the "Poker
Superstar" radar. The second year, Antonio Esfandiari stole the show. The winner of the third year was almost guaranteed to
be rocketed into the limelight.
I attended the taping of the event, but I mistakenly left the tournament when there were only three players left. One player
had such a large chip lead; I thought it was going to be a boring match. I went home and did some work on my computer and
kept checking the updates. I was amazed at how long the match lasted and I was disappointed that I left early. When the
episode aired, it confirmed that I missed the best part of the match.
The start of the show was not very exciting. All of the players,
Mike "The Grinder" Mizrachi,
Hung La, Harley Hall,
Ted Forrest, and Haralabos Voulgaris and had such a strong grasp
of the game that it played out logically. The one thing that stood out more than anything else was how Erick seemed to make the right
move in almost every situation. He went
to battle a few times against the chip leader, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi and he lost fewer
chips than most people would have. On one
hand, Erick raised the $20,000 blind to $60,000 with AK. Michael raised to $220,000 with pocket queens and Eric just
flat called. A lot of players would
have risked their tournament with that hand and Eric
read the situation and didn't overplay his
hand. After a flop of 543 and an all-in move from "The Grinder", Erick laid down his hand. A short time later,
the two went to battle again. This time Erick won the hand.
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Harley was the first person eliminated on the show. He played his short stack well, but there wasn't much he could do.
Surprisingly, the next person to be eliminated was Erick. He played great poker, but he couldn't get anything going on any
of his hands. His final hand was when he called a small raise from the big blind with A9 of hearts. Hung La had AT. The flop
was A53. Erick checked, Hung bet $100,000, and Erick called. The turn was another ace. Erick checked, Hung moved all-in and
Erick called instantly. The river brought
no help and Erick finished in fifth place. Ted Forrest was the next casualty. All of his chips went in preflop with pocket
tens against "The Grinder's" pocket kings.
When there were only three players left, things started getting crazy. Haralabos switched gears and I am not talking from
first gear to second gear. He went from neutral to fourth gear. He made a few all-in moves, managed to double up through Michael
and then eliminated Hung La with a great trap move. He looked like he was going to be a tough opponent for "The Grinder."
heads up match looked like it lasted
about 30 minutes because of the editing of the show, but it actually lasted a lot longer than that. The first hand we saw,
Michael called with K8 and Haralabos checked 75. The flop was Q85. Haralabos bet $120,000 and Michael called. The turn was a
five and both players checked. The river was a king. Haralabos bet $225,000 and Michael just called. I was really impressed
with Michael's call in this spot. He did not win the pot, but he played the hand great.
Michael won the next couple hands too. On one, he raised to $150,000 with A9, Haralabos
reraised to $300,000 with a smaller ace, and
"The Grinder" moved all-in. Haralabos thought about it for awhile and then folded. The next hand Michael called with K6
and Haralabos checked 73. Michael bet $200,000 when he flopped a pair of kings. Haralabos raised to $400,000, Michael moved all-in and Haralabos folded.
finally doubled up when he called an all-in bet from Michael. Michael had KQ and Haralabos had A4. The board did not improve
either player's hand and Haralabos won with ace high. That hand left "The Grinder" short chipped and he decided to move in
with T7. It looked like it might be the end of him when Haralabos called, but Haralabos showed pocket fives. Michael was not
in very bad shape. Michael flopped a seven and rivered another seven and doubled up.
The next few hands shown were a series of all-in moves. The blinds were really large ($100,000-200,000), but it seemed like
they could have played a couple more hands out. Haralabos did a great job at switching gears earlier, but the problem was he
didn't switch back. His aggression probably cost him the tournament. He moved all-in with K2 and Michael called with AK and
took most of his chips. With approximately $1,000,000 left, he decided to move in from the small blind with T3. The Grinder
called with A9. The flop was AK2 and the turn was a deuce ending it all. Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi was the champion of
the LA Poker Classic World Poker Tour event.
See also Commerce Casino Season One and