Satellite Qualifier Ascends Above the Stars in San Jose
Level 31: 60,000-120,000, 20,000 ante
When you’re a satellite qualifier, sometimes it just feels like the deck is stacked against you. Sure, there are the satellite wonders like Chris Moneymaker or Leron Washington who take their shot in the big event and turn it into a big win, but that doesn’t change the fact that taking a seat with the pros can be intimidating.
Featured Blog, Alan Sternberg, Vivek Rajkumar, Mike Matusow, Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, Tony Dunst, Steven Kelly, Casey McCarrel, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
For Bay 101 satellite qualifier Alan Sternberg, it was one of those uphill battles, not some glamorous Cinderella story. He came into the final table sandwiched between Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton and the hottest player on the tour, Vivek Rajkumar. Then he dropped most of his stack to Rajkumar in a brutal hand where Rajkumar hit running queens to crack Sternberg’s flopped set of sixes.
For most people, that would be the end of their final table run. Not Alan Sternberg. He rallied from being down to 1.3 million chips and on the bottom of the totem pole to claim the chip lead, capture a bounty, and catapult his name into the WPT history books by picking up the Bay 101 Shooting Star title.
When the final table began, the focus was less on how play would go on the final table and more on how the play-by-play would go from the booth. With Mike Sexton busy with the final table, commentating honors went to Tony Dunst, who went from Raw Deal to real deal in the blink of an eye, taking the seat next to Vince Van Patten.
Sexton’s run at this final table would be a short one though, thanks to a bad beat at the hands of the other Shooting Star at this final table, Mike Matusow. The two got it all-in preflop for the last os Sexton’s dwindling stack and Sexton looked in good shape to double up with KQ to Matusow’s KJ. Sexton faded what he needed to with an A84 flop and a 2 on the turn, but a J on the river gave Matusow just the river he needed to take the pot and collect the $5,000 bounty on Sexton’s head. Sexton decided to enjoy the rest of his day off and headed home following the bust, leaving Vince and Tony to handle the commentary.
Casey McCarrel exited shortly after Sexton, making his last stand by reraising all-in over the top of a three-bet from Steven Kelly with AQ. Kelly felt priced in to call with J10 and spiked a ten on the flop to send McCarrel to the rail.
With the two short stacks out of the way, the lone remaining Shooting Star, Mike Matusow, was left to contend with the trio of aggressive young pros he deemed the Three Stooges. While Matusow sat back and patiently picked his spots, the other three clashed in big pot after big pot.
In one big hand in particular, Alan Sternberg raised out of the small blind and Vivek Rajkumar reraised out of the big blind. Sternberg thought a while before calling and the two saw the flop come A65. Sternberg checked, Rajkumar bet one-third of the pot, 105,000, and Sternberg check-raised to 277,000. Rajkumar called and the turn card brought the Q. Sternberg bet 475,000 and Rajkumar called. The river Q brought a flurry of action, as Sternberg announced “all-in” and Rajkumar beat him into the pot with QQ for quad queens. Sternberg showed his 66 and sat there with his jaw on the table for more than a minute as Rajkumar’s stack was counted down.
That hand put Sternberg on the short stack, but he was certainly not down for the count. He rallied and managed to not only retake the chip lead, but pull out to a substantial lead with very few showdowns and absolutely no all-in confrontations. At one point, his stack was so big it had the combined stacks of everyone else at the table covered.
Kelly pulled within striking distance of Sternberg when he eliminated Rajkumar in fourth place. Running low on chips, Rajkumar shoved all-in on the button and Steven Kelly called out of the small blind. Matusow was in the big blind and said he was going to call, but folded his K-Q face-up. Kelly thought that was a bad omen for his own KQ, but he ended up being up against Rajkumar’s KJ. There was no jack on the river this time around and Rajkumar was gone in fourth place. The finish is good enough to put him second in the WPT Player of the Year race with 2,000 points. He is so close to frontrunner Andy Frankenberger, that even a cash for 100 points could tie him with the Legends of Poker Champ.
With Rajkumar gone, Matusow was once again the short stack and was running out of time to pick up a hand and double up. Looking to pick up some chips, Matusow shoved all-in with one of the worst starting hands—92. Sternberg called him with KQ and flopped a pair of queens to silence The Mouth in third place and pick up his first Shooting Star bounty of the tournament.
Things only got better for Sternberg from there. He and Kelly began heads-up play dead even in chips, but Sternberg jumped to a big lead early thanks to a couple of big pots in which Kelly flopped big draws but ended up with just nine-high.
Running low on chips, Kelly thought he found a great spot to double up when he got it all-in preflop holding AQ to Sternberg’s 810. The Q87 looked good for Kelly and the 7 on the turn only helped him even more. However, it was not to be for Kelly, as the river brought one of Sternberg’s two outs—the 8. His trip eights took the pot and a shocked Sternberg could barely say anything as he reveled in his first WPT victory.
Here are the final table results from the Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event:
1st: Alan Sternberg - $1,039,000
2nd: Steven Kelly - $595,300
3rd: Mike Matusow - $369,800
4th: Vivek Rajkumar - $295,800
5th: Casey McCarrel - $221,800
6th: Mike Sexton - $148,000
03:42 AM, 03/19/11
Hand #27: Mike Sexton Eliminated in 6th Place ($148,000)
Level 24: 12,000-24,000, 4,000 ante
Mike Matusow raises from the button to 55,000, Mike Sexton moves all in from the small blind for about 200,000, and Matusow calls with KJ. But Sexton dominates him with KQ, and Sexton needs his hand to hold up to stay alive.
Featured Blog, Mike Sexton, Mike Matusow, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
The board comes A842J -- and Sexton cruises until the river card bites him with a bad beat. Mike Matusow wins the pot with a pair of jacks to eliminate Mike Sexton, collecting his $5,000 bounty in the process. Sexton also autographs the "I Busted Mike Sexton" t-shirt for Matusow.
Seat 1. Mike Matusow - 2,496,000
Seat 2. Mike Sexton - Out in 6th Place ($148,000)
Seat 3. Alan Sternberg - 3,553,000
Seat 4. Vivek Rajkumar - 1,906,000
Seat 5. Steven Kelly - 4,154,000
Seat 6. Casey McCarrel - 343,000
05:56 PM, 03/18/11
Who Is Phil Hellmuth Rooting For?
Level 23: 10,000-20,000, 3,000 ante
Phil Hellmuth is in the audience sweating the final table. Tournament Director Matt Savage is on the mic calling the action and asks Hellmuth who he is here cheering on.
Mike Matusow, Mike Sexton, Phil Hellmuth, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
"I'm rooting for Mike the Mouth," Hellmuth tells him. There are a few moments of silence before the backpeddling begins.
"But let me just say, I love Mike Sexton too."
05:09 PM, 03/18/11
Who Replaces Mike Sexton in the Announcer's Booth?
Level 23: 10,000-20,000, 3,000 ante
Now that Mike Sexton has made the televised WPT final table, the big question on everyone's mind has been "Who will replace him in the announcer's booth with Vince Van Patten?"
Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, Tony Dunst, Featured Blog, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
Well, we have an answer. Right now, Tony Dunst (@Bond_18) is seated next to Van Patten and ready to call the action at this final table.
The production crew is running behind, but the Royal Flush Girls are in place on stage, and it looks like the players are about to be introduced to the crowd.
Play should begin in about 10 minutes or so.
04:41 PM, 03/18/11
Photo Recap: Day 3 of the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star
Level 23: 10,000-20,000, 3,000 ante
By BJ Nemeth
Featured Blog, Mike Matusow, Alan Sternberg, Mike Sexton, Vivek Rajkumar, Steven Kelly, Casey McCarrel, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
Day 3 of the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star began with 24 players, and they played six-max tables with two-hour levels, really changing the dynamic compared to most WPT events. It's a format that really lets the best players rise to the top, evidenced by the strong lineup at the final table. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a photographic look back at Day 3:
With 20 players remaining, Chris Trapani (top left, obscured by his cheering brother, Marko Trapani, Jr.) moved all in from the big blind with AK, and ran into the KK of Galen Hall (far right). But Trapani spiked an ace on the turn to win the pot and double up in chips.
After losing a race with pocket nines to Danny Minh Nguyen's ace-king suited, Eric Blair (center) was crippled and all in with 108 against the 33 of Mike Matusow (bottom left). Blair flopped a pair of eights for the lead, but the board came 8425A to give Matusow a straight, and Blair finished in 20th place.
With 19 players remaining, there are only four or five players per table. This gives the playdown day of the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star tournament a much different dynamic than the rest of the World Poker Tour events.
Joris Springael (left) started the day as chipleader with nearly 1.5 million in chips, which wasn't too much less than the average would be at the final table. But Springael couldn't seem to get anything going as the field got smaller and smaller. Here, after a flop of KJ9, Springael three-bets all in with 32 (flush draw), only to run into the K9 (two pair) of Andrew Weisner (right). Weisner's hand held up to double his stack and knock Springael down toward the middle of the leaderboard.
Zach Clark (center) was eliminated on a bad beat, but took it with class. Clark was all in preflop with JJ against the KJ of Alan Sternberg (foreground, right). Sternberg flopped a king to win the pot, eliminate Clark, and take the chip lead.
Ben Hamnett (center, right) got his short stack all in with AA against the JJ of Casey McCarrel (foreground, right). Hamnett cheered as the best hand held up to double his stack.
Chris Trapani (far right) doubles up with 99 all in preflop against the 66 of Joris Springael (far left). Trapani was treading water with a relatively short stack while start-of-the-day chipleader Springael was in a downward spiral.
Noah Lathrop (left) was short stacked and all in with Q7 against the K10 of Steven Kelly (center). Lathrop would need a queen or a seven on the river to stay alive, and Vivek Rajkumar (right) tried to sprinkle a little luck for him. Unfortunately for Lathrop, it didn't work, and he was eliminated in 16th place. As for Kelly, he was now chipleader with 15 players remaining.
While Mike Matusow plays his way toward the televised WPT final table, his girlfriend Annie LePage sweats him from the rail.
Day 1a chipleader Brian Schmidt (left) studies the board after Mike Sexton bets the river on a board of AK593, seemingly unsure of what to do. Schmidt would eventually call to see Sexton's AJ (pair of aces), and Schmidt would muck. Sexton never had a lot of chips on Day 3, but value bets like this let him make the most of what he did have.
There were three Shooting Stars in the field when the day began with 24 players -- Mike Sexton, Mike Matusow, and Kathy Liebert (left). Unfortunately, Liebert was eliminated in 15th place when she moved all in with an ace on a final board of A552Q -- and ran into the quad fives of Ben Hamnett, who had 55. Hamnett collected the $5,000 bounty, and celebrated in his own way while Liebert autographed his "I Busted Kathy Liebert" t-shirt.
With a full house on the board -- A22AA and about 120,000 already in the pot, Mike Sexton (left) bets 170,000, and Ty Reiman (right) tanks for a couple of minutes before calling. Sexton shows A2 for a flopped full house that improved to quad aces, while Reiman flashes 77 -- a higher full house than the board, but a loser here.
With the board showing 665Q, Kevin MacPhee (standing, right) check-raises all in. Steven Kelly (foreground, left, wearing the same black-and-gray sweatshirt) calls with KK, while MacPhee was semi-bluffing with A10 for a flush draw with an overcard. The river card was the J, and Kelly celebrates with a fist pump while MacPhee dejectedly turns away.
Chris Trapani (standing, right) was the Cinderella story of the tournament, playing the tournament in honor of his late father, Marko Trapani, the owner of the Bay 101 casino who first created this Shooting Star tournament. Trapani was the Day 1b chipleader and played his way all the way to the final two tables. He got lucky earlier with ace-king suited against pocket kings, but not this time.
After a flop of AQ8, Trapani moved all in with A8 (two pair), and he was ahead of the AK of Mike Matusow (foreground, left). The turn card was the Q, pairing the board and counterfeiting Trapani's two pair. Trapani was eliminated in 12th place, but received a very warm ovation from the crowd.
The torch was passed from the Day 2 chipleader to the Day 3 chipleader as Joris Springael (left) was eliminated with AK to the 99 of Steven Kelly (far right). Springael collected $48,100 for 10th place, while Kelly opened up a huge lead with nine players remaining.
With the board showing 874Q on the turn, Andrew Weisner (standing, right) three-bets all in with 87 (two pair). But Alan Sternberg (seated, far left, in blue) quickly calls with QQ for a set of queens, and Weisner was drawing dead. It was the biggest pot of the tournament to that point, and the stacks had to be counted down to see who was covered. Weisner had fewer chips, so he was eliminated as Sternberg catapulted to the top of the leaderboard to contend for the chip lead with Steven Kelly.
After Danny Minh Nguyen's elimination in eighth place, the final seven players combined to a single table to battle for the six seats at the televised WPT final table. The players, in seat order: (1) Ty Reiman, (2) Mike Matusow, (3) Mike Sexton, (4) Alan Sternberg, (5) Vivek Rajkumar, (6) Steven Kelly, (7) Casey McCarrel.
In Hand #37 of the final table, Mike Sexton (center) made a standard raise under the gun, and Mike Matusow called from the big blind. The flop came J65, and Matusow check-raised to 160,000. Sexton reraised to 275,000, and Matusow moved all in.
Sexton was in the tank for about five minutes, eventually saying, "There's only an outside chance you'd try this with seven-eight, but I don't think so." Sexton folded, later claiming he had pocket kings, and Matusow took the pot, later claiming he had pocket aces. This hand cost Sexton a lot of chips, but at least he was still alive to play on.
In the final break of the day, some of the chips were colored up to light yellow plaques worth 100,000 each. Chipleader Steven Kelly picks up one of his new plaques to get a feel for them, wondering how difficult it would be to shuffle them.
While Mike Sexton (foreground, center) battles on the bubble of the televised WPT final table, his partner for nine seasons in the broadcast booth, Vince Van Patten, sweats from the rail. One of the big questions on everyone's mind was who would sit in the chair next to Van Patten if Sexton made the final table? We'll find out when the final table begins at 4:00 pm PT on Friday.
In Hand #91 of the final table, Mike Sexton (left) studies Vivek Rajkumar (right) as he contemplates his options after Alan Sternberg bets the river on a board of QJ101010. Meanwhile, Sternberg practices shuffling the plaques worth 100,000 each. Rajkumar would eventually fold
Mike Matusow (right) celebrates with his arms in the air after he eliminated Ty Reiman in seventh place. Reiman moved all in preflop with 1010, but ran into Matusow 's QQ. Matusow turned a queen to win the pot with an unnecessary set, and loudly declared, "It's my time, boys and girls! It's my time!"
Steven Kelly (right), who won a WSOP bracelet last summer, fills out his WPT bio sheet. Kelly goes into the final table with the chip lead, followed by Alan Sternberg (left). Here are the official chip counts and seating positions for the TV final table:
Seat 1. Mike Matusow - 2,173,000 (109 BBs)
Seat 2. Mike Sexton - 363,000 (18 BBs)
Seat 3. Alan Sternberg - 3,701,000 (185 BBs)
Seat 4. Vivek Rajkumar - 1,616,000 (81 BBs)
Seat 5. Steven Kelly - 4,169,000 (209 BBs)
Seat 6. Casey McCarrel - 430,000 (22 BBs)
While this final table is headlined by the two Shooting Stars, Mike Sexton and Mike Matusow, nobody should overlook Vivek Rajkumar, the only player at the table who already has a WPT title under his belt. Rajkumar is hot right now -- two weeks ago, he was the runner-up at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic.
That puts Rajkumar in an elite group of six players who have made back-to-back WPT final tables. (The others are Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Antonio Esfandiari, Danny Wong, and the only player to do it twice, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.)
The final table begins Friday at 4:00 pm PT. Return to WorldPokerTour.com for continuing live coverage, including hand updates, frequent chip counts, and a victory interview with WPT Anchor Kimberly Lansing.
12:38 PM, 03/18/11
Mike and Mike Headline Shooting Star Final Table
Level 23: 10,000-20,000, 3,000 ante
Featured Blog, Mike Matusow, Alan Sternberg, Mike Sexton, Vivek Rajkumar, Steven Kelly, Danny Minh Nguyen, Casey McCarrel, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
With Ty Reiman's elimination in 7th place, Day 3 of play draws to a close and all eyes are focused squarely on tomorrow's final table, which has already made its mark on WPT history.
For the first time in nine seasons, WPT host Mike Sexton will be appearing at the final table not in the commentators' booth in an open event, but seated at the table as a competitor. Sexton has only been playing in WPT events the past couple of seasons, but he is already leaving quite a mark in the WPT record books, picking up his first cash earlier this season at the Borgata Poker Open and now making a final table appearance here at Bay 101.
Sexton is also one of two Shooting Stars at the final table. He is joined by Shooting Star Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, who is calling his shot right now, proclaiming, "It's my time boys and girls" after eliminating Reiman on the final table bubble.
These poker superstars are not the only big names at the final table though. Vivek Rajkumar already has a WPT title to his credit, having won the Borgata Poker Open in Season VII, and he is fresh off a runner-up finish at the LA Poker Classic a couple of weeks ago.
Rajkumar joins an elite list of players that have made back-to-back final tables that includes John Juanda, Phil Ivey, Antonio Esfandiari, Danny Wong, and Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, who has accomplished the feat twice.
Joining these three at the final table are local grinder Casey McCarrel, the big stack Alan Sternberg, and the young and aggressive chip leader, WSOP bracelet winner Steven Kelly.
The final table is set to get underway at 4PM tomorrow. Here are the chip counts and seat assignments. When play resumes, blinds will be at 10,000-20,000 ante 3,000:
Seat 1: Mike Matusow – 2,173,000 (109 BBs)
Seat 2: Mike Sexton – 363,000 (18 BBs)
Seat 3: Alan Sternberg – 3,701,000 (185 BBs)
Seat 4: Vivek Rajkumar – 1,616,000 (81 BBs)
Seat 5: Steven Kelly – 4,169,000 (209 BBs)
Seat 6: Casey McCarrel – 430,000 (22 BBs)
11:45 PM, 03/17/11
Hand #91: Alan Sternberg vs. Vivek Rajkumar
Level 23: 10,000-20,000, 3,000 ante
Mike Sexton, Alan Sternberg, Vivek Rajkumar, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
Mike Sexton (left) studies Vivek Rajkumar (right) as he contemplates his options after Alan Sternberg bets the river on a board of QJ101010. Sternberg has been practicing how to shuffle the 100,000 plaques, and is doing fairly well with them.
11:01 PM, 03/17/11
Level 23: 10,000-20,000, 3,000 ante
Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, Matt Savage, Bay 101, Tournaments, Bay 101 Shooting Star, Season IX
Vince Van Patten has been here since early in the day, sweating his partner-in-commentating Mike Sexton as he tries to make the televised TV final table.
Most railbirds don't get the same access as the show's announcer, and have to stand further back behind the rail. (Otherwise, they wouldn't be railbirds.) The Bay 101 is known for having the biggest poker fans on the tournament circuit, and the most knowledgeable.
The view from the rail isn't perfect, but the big hands are announced by TD Matt Savage to keep them aware of what's going on.
10:42 PM, 03/17/11