By Ozzie Yildiz
I couldn’t help but feel a little excited when I heard that PartyPoker.com was running qualifiers for the inaugural PokerNews Cup. The tournament venue was the fabulous Crown Casino, Melbourne, my old employer. It had been 15 months since I left them to start my career at PartyPoker.com, so it would be an emotional homecoming.
Ozzie Yildiz: Aussie who soon found it was good to be home
DAY 1 – Wednesday, 24th November:
Wednesday gave the PartyPoker.com qualifiers, who had travelled from as far away as Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the UK, a chance to relax and acclimatize to their lavish surroundings.
When I checked in to the five-star Crown Towers Hotel, my first thought was “Wow!” Words cannot do justice to the spacious, luxurious and stylish rooms with their spectacular panoramic views of the gorgeous Melbourne skyline.
DAY 2 – Thursday, 25th October:
PartyPoker.com hosted a function for all its online qualifiers at the Breezes restaurant. It was an opportunity for the Party Army (PartyPoker.com’s online qualifiers) to meet one another and pick up some merchandise. It was great to meet the players in a casual and relaxed environment and discuss any concerns they have about the site, their accounts and general poker experiences. Each PartyPoker.com qualifier also received an exclusive invite to a special PokerNews Cup Party. An open bar encouraged all the PartyPoker.com qualifiers to make an appearance at the venue.
DAY 3 – Friday, 26th October:
Friday was rest day, which gave all the players a chance to recuperate before the start of the $3,000 Main Event. I had no plans to play in the event, so after watching a movie and having dinner, I decided to have some fun on the tables. Net result… I didn’t even leave the poker room bar! Still, I figured I could always play poker the next day…
DAY 4 – Saturday, 27th October: PokerNews Cup Main Event Day 1:
The Main Event of the PokerNews Cup started today. There was a great turnout, with 427 players each putting up $3,000 to create a prize pool of over $1 million. Ten minutes into the first level, Tony G approached me and asked if I was playing. I told him that I wasn’t on this occasion, but I might next time. Tony G is nothing like his public persona; he’s a loveable and generous bloke. He offered to buy me into the main event for the full $3,000 amount.
Now, what would you do? I jumped at the chance! With 20,000 starting chips, one-hour levels and blinds starting at 50/100, it could well have been my only chance to play a superbly structured tournament. My inclusion meant the final number of entrants was finalized at 428.
I was eager to get into the thick of the action after missing the initial few hands. After all, I was freerolling! By the end of the first level, I had increased my stack to a healthy 24,000 and was feeling comfortable. An interesting hand took place at the start of the second level (blinds 100/200). On the small blind, I found 8-8 in the hole. The chip leader on the table (the only person who had me covered) was in the cut-off and raised it 700 pre-flop. I called and we went heads-up. I thought about re-raising, but I didn’t want to get too involved in a large pot with the chip leader so early into the tournament, especially while I was out of position. I wanted to see a flop and take it from there.
Before the dealer dealt the flop, I announced ”Check”. The flop came Qs-8s-xx. My opponent also checked. “What?” I thought, “No bet, what happened to the continuation bet?” This was not part of the plan…
The turn card brought the 6s. This wasn’t exactly the card I wanted to see… Anyhow, I fired out with a 2,200 bet (an oversize bet with the pot currently at 1,600). My opponent’s smooth call left me anxious, but I was still confident I would stay in front as long as a spade wasn’t on the river. The river brought a red 10. I fired out 3,700 chips, and my opponent responded with the simple words: “I’m all-in!”
After a minute or so of deliberating, I decided to fold my hand and wait for a better spot to put my chips on the line. I still wanted to soak up the atmosphere and, with just over 17,000 in chips and low blinds, I was still comfortable.
I was moved to another table, full of young, solid and aggressive internet players. This wasn’t an ideal situation. With the blinds at 200/400, I found myself in the small blind with A-5 off suit. With four other players limping into the pot, I called the extra 200 and with the check from the big blind we were six-handed on the flop.
The flop comes A-5-8 rainbow. Bingo, I’d hit the flop big time! I checked, BB bet out 1,700 into a 2,400 pot. Everyone folded to me and I decided to call. I checked without seeing the turn card, giving the impression I was on a draw. The turn brought an irrelevant 2. The BB checked straight back. The river was a 7, meaning the board read A-5-8-2-7.
I was certain I had the best hand; the issue was getting as much as possible from my cards. I bet 3,500 into the 5,800 pot. After some serious contemplating, the BB eventually called, claiming I played the hand like I had 6-7. Imagine his shock when I turned over two pair, aces up!
After a few steals and positional bluffs, my defining hand of the tournament came up. I found K-K in middle position. Under the gun went all-in for 22,000, a massive raise considering the blinds were only 300/600. The player to my left, who was on the button, started mumbling and fidgeting about, insinuating he had a big hand and he wanted to call. This is the exactly why people shouldn’t talk in the middle of a hand. A player can influence the pending actions and it isn’t fair to other players on the table.
After some deliberation, the next player moved all-in for 34,000. Wow. Now what could I do? Under the gun went all-in, the next player re-raised all-in and there was a player yet to act who mentioned he had a big hand. All I could think was: “Can my K-K hold up against three different hands?” I put the guy on the button on Q-Q, under the gun on J-J and the guy who re-raised all-in on at least A-K if not A-A.
At this stage I had 36,000, which was slightly above the average chip stack. I felt that I was playing good poker, mixing up my game, raising when I needed to and folding when I thought I was behind. I didn’t want to take a chance and risk my whole tournament in a multi-way all-in. There was still plenty of play time.
As I folded I showed the PokerNews reporter my cards, as did the player on the button. The hands were as follows:
UTG + 1: Q-Q
I had made a bad fold, and when the flop came 5-5-3, my heart sunk. Then the turn brought a Q, making me the happiest man in the world! Although I had messed up the fold, my tournament was still alive and kicking!
The river was the ace, meaning my pair of kings would have been beaten two ways. The amazing thing was that if the player on the button had kept his comments to himself, I would have been left with 2,000 in chips: my tournament would effectively have been over. It’s a bit of luck like that that meant I finished the first day of the Main Event with 29,500 in chips, a little under the average but still relatively comfortable.
Our man: PartyPoker.com’s Ozzie Yildiz building chips
DAY 5 – Sunday, 28th October: PokerNews Cup Main Event Day 2:
Our table has been moved to the TV table. The blinds were 1,000/2,000 with a 100 ante. After a few rounds I found pocket 7s as everyone folded to me on the button. I had about 23,000 in chips and decided to raise to 7,000. The small blind folded and the big blind re-raised me to 15,000 in total.
The size of this raise was very fishy. The BB wanted me to go over the top and go all–in, or at least call. Something inside me said fold; after all the BB was playing a tight aggressive game and 95% of the time would fold to a raise on his BB. I folded my cards and turned them over to show my 7-7 lay-down. The BB shows amazement at my fold and turns over A-A. I’d dodged another bullet.
With only 15,500 in chips, I needed a hand and I needed it quick. I found K-K on the BB, a fantastic start. UTG raised to 8,000 pre flop, and it gets folded around to me. I went all in for 7,500 extra. The UTG player didn’t hesitate and placed his chips quicker than I did. He showed Ac-Kc against my K-K. My kings held up to give me a chip stack of 30,000, still very much under the average.
After a few more rounds, I found myself on the big blind with the 9-4 off-suit rubbish which had troubled me throughout the day’s play. Everyone folded to the small blind, who called. I checked. The flop came down as 9h-9d-4h, meaning I had somehow landed a monster full house!
The small blind checked. I checked right back. Turn card was the 5d. Once again, we both checked to see the river. I was praying for the river to bring the card which would help the small blind and allow him to bet in order to steal the pot. The river was the 7h and sure enough he fired out 5,000 into the pot. I decided to re-raise a small amount in order to extract a call from him. I needed some chips and didn’t want to risk going all-in and not getting paid off.
The small blind, who was chip leader at the time, re-raised me to put me all-in. I instantly called and turned over my full house. He turned over 10h-8h for a flush. It was just what I needed. My chip stack stood at over 50,000, still below average but enough to start playing some pots to pick up more chips. It was the turning point in the tournament for me.
As only the top 40 players were getting paid, by the time we reached the last 48 lots of people were playing to hit the cash. I increased the frequency of my play, making bold bluffs and positional steals. It was a golden period of play for me, as I increased my stack from 130,000 to over 280,000. I wanted the bubble to last forever: players were all too happy to give up their blinds in an attempt to guarantee themselves some money.
Once we hit the money, I tightened up as the play around me loosened. Players were going all-in everywhere as the short stacks tried win more chips and the big stacks tried to assert their control on the table. I stayed out of trouble for the rest of the night and managed to squeeze myself onto the final table with 560,000 in chips. I was sixth in chips with just eight players remaining.
DAY 6 – Monday, 29th October: PokerNews Cup Main Event Day 3:
My plan for the final day was simple: I wanted to play a tight, aggressive game, only play strong hands and raise whenever I wanted to enter a pot in order to put the pressure on the other players. Ideally, I wanted to double up early and give myself a cushion in order to play more hands.
The three big stack players all attempted to take control of the table, attacking the short stacks at every opportunity. My two best hands were J-J and A-Q. On both occasions I received no action from the other players, meaning I was always short stacked.
Sadly, my run came to an end when I raised all-in on the small blind for 760,000 (blinds were at 50,000/100,000 with an ante of 10,000) with As-6s and was called by the eventual winner with A-K off suit. My dream was over, although the $71,900 prize money was satisfactory compensation for my efforts!
My thanks go to Tony G for the unbelievable experience his generosity has given me.
Winner: Rory Zayner
Final table results from the PokerNews Cup (payouts in Australian dollars):
1 Rory Zayner, $300,000
2 Kenny Ng, $203,700
3 Grant Levy, $131,800
4 John Maver, $95,800
5 Ozzie Yildiz, $71,900
6 Jordan Lamberg $47,900
7 Mouris Ahou, $35,900
8 Tanya Hill, $23,800