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Epic Poker League Series 3 Final Day
18 December 2011

Table for five

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Final day play broke the 4-max format. 3 players at one table and 2 at the other would have been unfair to the heads-up players. There's vastly more variance heads-up, and the blinds come around 33% faster. Better to go +1 until the 5th place finisher busts.

Epic Poker League co-founder Annie Duke gave the "Shuffle up and deal!" order at about 12:20 pm, and everyone expected Scott @BigRiskky Clements to bust out first. He started with 131k chips, a distant fifth behind Joe Tehan's fourth-biggest stack of 820k. And, as you might expect, the rest of the players stayed out of each others' way and focused on busting Scott. He played well, but never managed to chip up. He finally shoved with K9, got called by Andrew @LuckyChewy Lichtenberger with K10, and momentarily had hopes of doubling when a 9 flopped. Unfortunately for Scott, it wasn't to be. A 10 peeled on the turn, the river was a brick, and Scott was out. He took home a hard-earned $89,680 for his efforts.

Scott "@BigRiskky" Clements during day 3 play. He was first out in 5th.

We've only just begun

After Scott was eliminated, 4-max play began again. With deep stacks all around at 1.25 million average, gradually ramping blinds (still only a measly 3k-6k / 1k), and two hour levels. At the start of final day play, Andrew Lichtenberger held 40% of the chips in play. But Matt Savage set the over-under at 3am for the end of the event. This was the first Epic Poker League Mix-Max event, and the best-of-three heads-up matches could easily take many hours. Each.

It would all depend on how many chips the heads-up players would start with, how big the players would want to make each pot, and of course on the cards they would be dealt. At one point The Carpenters' lite rock classic "We've Only Just Begun" played over the PA system. It was an amusing and ominous reminder that play could literally last all night.

Ground down

Most of the time, the four remaining players were quite happy to play small-to-medium pots. Even with relatively strong hands for 4-handed play. In particular, it seemed that Chris @SLOPPYKLOD Klodnicki would just check-call rivered trips or pocket kings all the way to showdown. It almost felt like the players were missing bets. Like high stakes cash pros waiting for the rich out-of-town businessman to arrive.

Still, there were occasional massive pots with no showdown. We have no idea, but it felt like bluffs running into made hands. It will be interesting to see one particular Grinder vs. Tehan hand, in which the board ended up J♦8♤5♥9♤2♥. There had been some fairly serious betting, Tehan bet 390k on the river, and Grinder tank-folded. That pot was roughly 700k, and it cost Grinder a significant portion of his stack.

Grinder got a walk and showed AA. Aces and no action is always painful. Such a lost opportunity. And Grinder lost another big pot when he ran into Lichtenberger's KK. It seemed like Grinder might have lost his concentration and/or confidence. His stack had shrunk to 152k and the blinds and antes had risen to 4k-8k / 1k.

If you asked us, we'd say that Grinder's reads were off. He seems to be the kind of player who really, really wants to call big bets. Unless there's a clear sign that he's behind. And on this particular day, those calls were sometimes costly. He'd call a big bet with top pair and lose to a straight, for example. It seemed like Klodnicki's (and others') conservative small-pot play of strong hands like straights and trips was throwing Grinder's reads off.

Michael "@TheGrinder44" Mizrachi during day 3 play. He took home $174,640 for 4th.

Power trio

With three players left, the average stack was nearly 1.7 million and the blinds were still only at 4k-8k / 1k. And for some reason, most pots were won either preflop after a series of raises, or at showdown with very little post-flop action. Probably, again, due to the deep stacks in relation to the blinds. At one point, Joe said "Play 40-80. For all the money." No takers.

At the dinner break, Chris had a large lead over both Chewy and Joe. At one point Chris' stack was ~3 million vs. Chewy and Joe's ~1 million each. Joe lost some pots and became the clear #3 in chips. He doubled up with pocket 9s when Chewy put him all in with KQ. But pocket 9s struck back when he busted with A7 vs. Chris' 99. Joe spiked a 7 on the turn, but it wasn't enough and he exited in 3rd place.

@JoeTehan during day 3 play. He won $306,800 for 3rd.

Heads-up for the win(s)

The nightmare scenario of equal stacks going into heads-up play never happened. When Annie Duke gave the "Shuffle up and deal!" order, Chris had ~3.47 million to Chewy's 1.53 million. Very deep for the 2k/6k-12k ante/blinds, but the blinds ramp every 30 minutes in mix-max heads-up play. Still, the final two players would play a best-of-3 series, and that could take until mid-morning. Especially if the 3rd sudden-death match was needed. That 3rd match would give the players equal stacks at the same 2k/6k-12k blind level they started heads-up play at.

We couldn't help but notice two characteristics of the heads-up players. Chewy would strike the exact same pose whenever he bet big. Hands in front, on his hole cards, staring at the center of the table. And he rarely looked at his opponents. Not even as he was raking pots or mucking a losing hand. It's possible that he is missing vital information by not observing other players more closely during and after hands.

Chris, on the other hand, looked at his opponents often. He'd glance at Chewy, then look at the board, then glance at Chewy again. It's possible that he might have a strength tell, but we'll need to watch him play more (and see his hole cards) to verify it. Either way, he's probably gaining extra information during and after hands from all that observation.

Several key heads-up hands featured big draws vs. made hands. Chewy doubled up with 4♤2♥ vs. Chris' K♦J♦ on 4♦8♦2♤ flop. Turn and river bricked, and Chewy's 2 pair held. That hand helped Chewy take the chip lead briefly in heads-up match 1. (The 4-2 played a key role in ending day 3 play in "The Hand.")

Then Chris took a slight lead and they got it all in one last time. Chewy had J♧9♧ for the flush draw, and Chris had an overpair with K♤K♦ on a 4♦4♧8♧ flop. Turn and river bricked, Chewy missed his flush, and Chris had taken a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three heads-up series.

Andrew "@LuckyChewy" Lichtenberger during day 3 play. His runner-up prize was $501,480.

Let's do it again

Blinds and stacks were reset to where they were when Joe Tehan had been eliminated. Back to roughly 3.47 million for Chris, 1.53 million for Chewy, and blinds / antes at 6k-12k / 2k. And once again there were many small pots being traded preflop. Until Chewy blew Chris off an all-spade 6♤4♤A♤ flop. There was already 500K in the pot, Chewy opened for 250K, and Chris raised to 550K. The dreaded min-raise. Chewy thought for a moment, then mucked. We really want to see those hole cards.

The final hand started with a massive preflop raising war. Before the flop was spread, there was already 1.5 million in the pot. We all knew it would be the key hand of the match, whoever won it. On the 8♧7♦3♦ flop, Chris bet out 500k, Chewy shoved, and Chris insta-called. Chris was drawing to the nut diamond flush with A♦4♦, Chewy had a dominating ace but no draws with A♧K♥. Turn was the 4♧ giving Chris a pair of 4s for the lead. Chewy had exactly 2 outs: the 2 remaining non-diamond kings in the deck. And neither of them came out. The river 2♧ fell, and Chris had swept the heads-up series 2-0 to win the event.

It was only about 2:40am, a relatively early night compared to other marathon events we've railed. And because of the high level of play, it could easily have gone on for hours more. But it was a very satisfying and historic event, so we would have stayed to the end no matter how long it took.

Chris "@SLOPPYKLOD" Klodnicki stacks chips on day 3. He won $801,680 for first place.

Random observations

Final table play, for the most part, was quiet but still good-natured. No crowd surfing, no fist-pumping, no "That's what I'm talkin' about!" moments. And there was zero Hollywooding, unlike this year's WSOP Main Event November Nine play.

10s and 8s came out of the deck at lot during final table play. On two or three hands, if you held 10-8 you would have flopped or turned 8s full of 10s or 10s full of 8s. 10-8 just happens to be our "favorite hand" because it has saved us in many situations and because you can make semi-hidden face card to medium card straights. All manner of boards featuring 10s and 8s were dealt all night.

Of the five final day players, Joe Tehan had the largest rooting section, including his expecting wife. And most of them were wearing "Joe Tehan Fan Club" t-shirts. The rooting section with the most famous people was Lucky Chewy's. Aaron Jones of Leggo Poker, Tony @Bond_18 Dunst of the WPT, and several other well-known poker personalities dropped by and sat in Chewy's rooting section. We were lucky enough to be sitting near the Mizrachis, and although they were a fairly small group, they were the most generous (giving us a One Drop t-shirt and hat and bottled water.) And there were, as always, some great looking women in their group.

The future looks bright

Epic Poker, the league and also the site, have spent enormous amounts of time, money, and effort to ensure that their poker tournament series is a success. They've hired top talent on-camera and behind the scenes, and it really shows. The Epic Poker League has given the invited players innovative and unique events in which to test their skills, with huge cash overlays to sweeten the deal. It doesn't travel all around the world like the WPT, and it isn't limited to one particular time of the year like the U.S. WSOP. The Epic Poker League events are held at the Palms, in Las Vegas, over a good portion of the year.

And Epic Poker isn't just about the live tournament series. The site features poker blogs, worldwide poker news, player interview videos, and webisodes of the Epic Poker League televised shows. There's even a FaceBook Epic Poker free money game now, which got us to thinking (always dangerous.) We have a sneaking suspicion that, if and when online poker becomes legal and regulated in the U.S., Epic Poker just might be able to build out their own online poker site. They could make big money from the rake, they could satellite online players into their televised live events, and their televised live events could be used as great publicity for their online poker site.

This is all just a theory of ours, since we have zero insider information. But seriously. Isn't that what you would do?

Please visit www.epicpoker.com for all Epic Poker League information and hand-by-hand details and event videos.
Follow @EpicPoker on Twitter for up-to-the-minute live updates.
And visit The Palms for the Epic Poker League, great accommodations, and great cash games.

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