Friday, November 18, 2005

WPT Foxwoods World Poker Finals - Final Table

Foxwoods is my home casino. It's not just the birthplace of poker-porn-funk, it's also where I developed into a real card player. It's also been the original source of material for my poker blog. Without Foxwoods, the Tao of Poker would never exist. I used to blog my trip reorts on my main blog, the Tao of Pauly. My non-poker-playing friends staretd a mutiny and begged me to move my poker stuff onto a different blog. Thus, the Tao of Poker was born in August 2003 and the rest has been history.

When I first started to play poker seriously two summers ago, this was the place where I spent many hours improving my low-limit Hold'em game and witnessed the poker boom shake up Foxwoods. I eventually moved up in the ranks from 2/4 to 4/8 to 5/10 to 20/40, while the players in those middle limits got fishier and fishier. I also played dozens No Limit tournaments at Foxwoods including live SNGs satellites to try to get into the main event at the World Poker Finals. I eventually introduced Foxwoods to Derek and again this was way before either of us played online at Party Poker or Poker Stars.

Yeah, it's been a long strange trip.

Two years ago, I was so broke that I'd buy a Greyhound bus ticket on my credit card or borrow $26 for a bus ticket from my ex-girlfriend (and part-time soap opera actress) Haley. I had no concept of bankroll management and I would buy-in my entire bankroll and sit at a 4/8 table. This was way before I started playing online, so I took weekly trips to Foxwoods and slowly built up my bankroll while grinding away in the underground clubs in New York City or at home games like the Blue Parrot. I never once expected that two years later, I would walk into the poker room at Foxwoods, be spotted by regular readers of my blog, then pick up a copy of Poker Player Newspaper to discover my article on the front page.

All roads on my poker journey lead back to Foxwoods.

There was a time, many moons ago, when I first played $1-5 Stud at Foxwoods. That's when they allowed smoking in the poker room, and it looked like London on a foggy evening. Back then the room wasn't as crowded because you also had the option to play at Mohegan Sun 15 minutes down the road, which also had a poker room. In fact, Senor and I prefered playing at Mohegan Sun (the $3/6 game was excellent) but the tribal commission closed their room due to a slight scandal involving cocaine and hookers (and I'm not making that up or exaggerating) and we're still waiting for them to open up their poker room.

And now I get to live blog the final table of the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods. Sure I've covered the last ever WSOP main event final table in Benny's Bullpen, blogged the UPC at the Plaza, done WPT events at the Borgata and Bellagio, and even announced a final table on the EPT in Barcelona... but this has been the most special week for me as a blogger, writer, and poker player. Foxwoods is a homecoming of sorts.

In many ways the past year of success has flown by so fast and after living out of a suitcase and traveling all the time, it's been extremely hard for me to adjust to all of this and fully live in the moment to soak it all up. This past week, I was very conscious of how lucky I am and how cool it feels to return to the place where it all began. It didn't sink in until I stepped back into the poker room for the first time and a wave of humility bombarded me.

Just a quick note, there are a few tournaments over the next three days:
Friday @ 4pm ET
Poker Stars
WWdN: HeyKidsItsBG! Invitational
$10 + 1
Tourney #14992726 (check under private tournament tab)
Password = monkey

Saturday @ 1pm EST
Poker Stars
Saturday's with Dr. Pauly
Tournament #14328938 (check under private tournament tab)
$10 +1 NL Hold'em
Password = hiltons
Winner #1: SirWaffle
Winner #2: on_thg

Sunday @ 3pm EST
Full Tilt Poker
WPBT Shootout
$10 +1 NL
Only open to people who will be attending the Dec. 10th WPBT event in Vegas. Email Bill for password (for those who played last week, same password). This is the last one so if you miss out, you miss out.

Moving on...

We're at the Grand Pequot Ballroom at majestic Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut for the final table of the main event of the World Poker Finals. I'll be sitting in press row on the set of the WPT providing some live blogging updates and a picture of two.

Here are some quick stats:
Entrants: 783
Remaining Players: 6
Chipleader: Nick Schulman $3.5M
Current Level: Blinds $15K/$30K with a $5K ante
Average Stack: $1.3M

Top 6 Chipleaders:
1. Nick Schulman (New York City) $3.502M
2. Anthony "Tony" Licastro (Long Valley, New Jersey) $1.412M
3. Allen Cunningham (Las Vegas, NV) $795K
4. Lenny Cortellino (Lewiston, Maine) $773K
5. Bill Gazes (Old Westbury, NY) $693K
6. Lyle Berman (Las Vegas, NV) $659K

1st $2,142,000 + $25K Seat in the WPT Championships at the Bellagio
2nd $1,035,000
3rd $759,000
4th $483,000
5th $345,000
6th $276,000
***** Live Blogging Updates *****

3:30pm... Arrived early and set up in press row. Sitting in between Larry Kang from Bluff and Heather from Poker Wire. I got Lyle Berman in the media pool. Here's who has who:
Sharla: Anthony Licastro $1.412M
Jen: Allen Cunningham $795K
Larry: Lenny Cortellino $773K
BJ: Bill Gazes $693K
Pauly: Lyle Berman $659K
4:01pm... I signed up to play in Wil Wheaton's tournament since we are running late. I got seated at the same table as my brother which always sucks.

4:11pm... Wil Wheaton won a pot with A-A.

4:20pm... This is Bill Gazes and Allen Cunningham's second WPT final table. Lenny Cortellino won a $5K event last week and is the WPT World Poker Finals Player of the Year. Tony Licastro cashed in a WSOP event this year and also finished 11th at the WSOP Circuit in San Diego.

4:24pm... I was busted early in Wil's tourney when my A-Q lost to WhoisPain's J-J.

4:25pm... Cards are in the air.

4:30pm... Here are some pictures of the players from today's final table:

Allen Cunningham

Lenny Cortellino

Anthony Licastro

Lyle Berman

Chipleader: Nick Schulman

Beind the scenes at Foxwoods

The Final Table

4:37pm... After picking up a few early pots, Allen Cunningham reached the million dollar mark.

4:48pm... On Hand #14, Tony Licastro moved all in preflop with 10-10 and Lenny Cortellino called with 8-8. They both flopped sets! Alas Lenny's hand did not improve and he finished in 6th place. He won $276,000. Tony Licastro now has about $2.1M in chips.

4:54pm... Bill Gazes doubled up against Tony Licastro when his K-K held up against Q-Q. Bill now has about a million in chips. Nick has $3.6M.

5:14... On hand #25, Nick Schulman had A-K against Lyle Berman's A-J. Lyle Berman's hand did not improve and he was eliminated. He won $345K for 5th place.

5:26pm... Players are on a break. Here's an updated chipcount:
1 Nick Schulman $4.6M
2 Tony Licastro $1.2M
3 Allen Cunningham $ 1M
4 Bill Gazes $930K
5:40pm... Play has resumed. Blinds are $25K/50K with $5K antes.

5:49pm... On hand #38, Allen Cunningham moved all in preflop for $970K with J-10 against Nick Schulman's K-K. Cunningham's hand did not improve and he finished in 4th place winning $483K. So far Jen, Larry, and myself are out of the pool. Three players remain and Nick has well over $5 million in chips.

5:59pm... Updated chip count:
1. Nick Schulman $5.92M
2. Tony Licastro $1.05M
3. Bill Gazes $650K
6:00pm... BTW, if you want to download the curent issue of Poker Player Newspaper, you can click here to snag the pdf. I wrote the cover story.

6:15pm... Bill Gazes doubled up when his 3-3 held up against Tony Liscastro's Ah-Jh. Tony turned a nut flush draw, but it didn't hit. Bill moved up to $945K. Tony slipped to $850K. Ad Nick has all the remainder of the chips.

6:30pm... Bill Gazes moved all in with A-A and Tony Licastro called with K-10. Bill had him covered. Tony flopped a straight when 9-Q-J fell. Bill's aces got cracked and he doubled up Tony. Bill has $1.1 million. Tony has $1.3M and Nick has about $5M plus.

6:48pm... Players are on a break. When the resume, we will be on a new level. Blinds are $40K/80K with $10K antes. Nick had $5.36M. Tony has $1.35M and Bill has $1.12M.

6:54pm... The biggest pot of the day so far just went down. Nick Schulman raised and Tony Licastro moved all in for over the top of Nick for $1M with A-9. Nick called with A-5s. Tony's hand held up and he doubled up against Nick. Tony has $2.1 to Nick's $4.3M. That was the first big hand that Nick lost today. He had stayed out of trouble and avoided playing big pots and won several small ones until he doubled up Tony.

7:20pm... We were om a short crew break as they changed tapes. Here's an updated chpcount courtesy of Poker Wire:
1 Nick Schulman $4.11M
2 Tony Licastro $2.75M
3 Bill Gazes $980K
7:35pm... On hand #85, Nick Schulman just busted Bill Gazes in 3rd place. Bill had K-8 and Nick flipped over A-Q. Nick flopped an ace and his hand held up. Bill Gazes won $759K for third place. We have reached heads up play. Nick has about a 2 to 1 chip lead over Tony Licastro.... with $5.1M to $2.6M.

7:50pm... Play was paused for the money presentation. Three Native American women were dressed up in the traditonal Pequot garb and presented the money in three hand woven baskets.

7:58pm... On hand #89 and the fourth hand of heads up play, we have a winner! Nick Shulman turned a flush against Tony Liscastro's two pair to knock him out in second place. Tony $1,035,000 for second place and Nick took home $2,142,000 and a $25K Seat in the WPT Championships at the Bellagio! Congrats Nick!

Nick Shulman: 2005 WPT Foxwoods World Poker Finals Champion

8:44pm... That's it from Foxwoods. It's been a fun week, one of the best assignments that I've been on this year! Thanks to the WPT, Foxwoods, and everyone in the media. Thanks for reading and stopping by all week. You can read a final recap on Las Vegas and Poker Blog in a few hours. Now I'm going to Amy Ruth's with BJ for some fried chicken, waffles, and sweet tea.

The next poker tournament I am covering will be the WPT Five Diamond Classic at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in mid-December. See ya then.

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