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7-Card Stud Hi-Lo

$1,500 Entry 7-Card Stud Hi-Lo Split: “Holland Tunnels Through the Big Stacks”

The lantern-jawed, ruggedly handsome Randy Holland is no stranger to tough situations. He survived law school and quite a few years of life as a lawyer before he shifted to the more socially useful life of a professional poker player eight years ago. But at today’s final table of the $1,500 entry, 7-Card Stud, Eight-or-Better for low tournament, Holland faced adversity equal to anything that a Professor Kingsfield could dish out.

Holland arrived at the eight-man final table in 5th chip position, but his $28,500 didn’t really put him in the middle of the pack. Two-time bracelet winner Eli Balas had $92,500, and Balas and the other three leaders owned 73% of the chips. Even the other short stacks didn’t promise to be easy pickings: bracelet winner Hassan Kamoei was right behind Holland at $24,500.

To make matters worse, Holland ran into some big hands early on, and found himself all-in four separate times in the early going. But he picked his all-in spots carefully, moved his chips aggressively, and the comeback began.

“That’s just tournament poker,” Holland said. “You get a short stack, you’ve got to fire out. You’ve got nothing to lose. In some ways it’s easier to come back in stud because if you raise people out you’re collecting antes and bring-ins, and not blinds.

“Eight or Better is a completely different tournament game than it is in a ring game,” Holland continued. “You don’t have lots of multi-way pots with people drawing at two-way hands, and so it’s a little easier to know where you’re at.”

Eventually Holland fought his way back into a virtual three-way dead heat with Balas and Kansas City’s Steve Hohn. Although Hohn’s tournament resume doesn’t rival Balas’ or Holland’s, he had retired three years ago to play the tournament circuit full-time, and already had a second-place finish in Stud Eight or Better in the ’96 Series, so both the chips and the talent made this a promising horserace.

The chips moved back and forth without anything too dramatic happening for about an hour, and during that time the silent warriors hardly spoke a word. They certainly never even paused to talk about a deal. Suddenly, in what must be some sort of World Series record, the trio went from the opening suggestion of a deal to an agreed upon three-way save of $58,000 for Hohn, $62,000 for Balas, and $60,000 for Holland in less than 30 seconds. The deal suggestion was made, Holland glanced briefly at the relatively equal stacks, suggested the numbers, and like a shot, everyone agreed to them without negotiation or a moment’s hesitation. This left $34,190 and the bracelet in play.

Playing $8,000-16,000 with $1,500 antes, Holland put a hurt on Hohn. Starting with A-2-4, and looking low all the way, Randy wound up making two pair, and Hohn, who had started with wired Aces, never improved. Not long thereafter Balas put a similar beat on Hohn, leaving him short just as the trio played the hand of the tournament.

Hohn, showing the 2s, brought the hand in for the mandatory minimum of $3,000, Balas completed the bet to 8k showing the Jd, and Holland called showing the 4h. Hohn tossed the other 5k in to give us three-way action.

On 4th street, Hohn caught the 2h for open deuces, Balas caught the Jc for open Jacks, and Holland caught the 3h for two low hearts. Balas checked and his opponents, smelling the trap, gladly checked along.

On 5th street, Hohn caught the 4d for a 2-2-4 board, Balas caught an innocent looking 5c for J-J-5, and Holland caught the 10h for 4-3-10 of hearts. Balas led out with a $16,000 bet, and everyone called.

On 6th street, Hohn caught the 7c for 2-2-4-7, Balas caught the Jh for three open Jacks, and Holland received a useful-looking 6s for 4-3-10-6. Balas led out again, and again everyone called, a scenario repeated on the river, although Hohn thought long and hard before calling with his 7-6 low and 8-high straight.

“I was pretty sure I was in trouble against Randy,” Hohn said. “I had a feeling he was slow-playing a six. But he could have been on a heart draw, or had a rough seven himself, and there was at least a chance that Eli had only the three Jacks, although I didn’t think so. The Jack was his doorcard, and he didn’t seem too worried about straights or flushes. But there were so many chips already in the pot, and I would have been so short-stacked if I let it go, that I felt I had to take a shot.”

A perfect analysis, it turned out, but with the expected bad result: Holland turned over a 6-4 low, and Balas flipped up his fourth Jack. Hohn was more or less finished, and a Balas flush a few hands later completed the formality.

Hohn’s exit marked the end of the play at 8-16, and when we resumed, the antes were $2,000, the bring-in $4,000, playing $10,000-20,000. Balas held the chip lead, but Holland finally started catching some of the cards that had hadn’t come in the early action. With $327,000 in chips on the table in a split pot match-up of seasoned professionals, we thought we might be in for a 3-hour marathon, but the end came fairly quickly: Holland won all the major confrontations, and finally ended it when his wired jacks took on Balas’ wired aces, and he spiked a jack on sixth street.

“Tournaments are very streaky,” Holland said. “I’ve been running kind of cold for the last two months, but suddenly on Monday I finished sixth in a supersatellite, one off the money, and on Wednesday I won a supersatellite, and now today I won this. I never cease to be amazed how streaky they can be. I got a third at the Carnivale this year in Eight or Better, and that was my sixth final table at the Carnivale in the last two years. In the other five final tables, I never won a single hand, not one hand, at any of those tables. You have to know what you’re doing but you sure have to catch some cards to win one of these.”

Holland’s victory also brought a smile to the face of Chuck Humphrey, who manages Team Pegasus, a consortium of top players whom Humphrey backs, in whole or in part. Holland has been playing for Team Pegasus for about a year and a half.

“Originally I was playing 100% on Chuck’s money,” Holland said, “but I really didn’t like that. I didn’t feel good about it when I lost, and cost him the full entry fee, and didn’t feel good about it when I won, and didn’t get as much as I would have playing on my own. Now I play half for the team and half on my own money, and I’m much more comfortable with the arrangement.”

I asked Holland if he thought having the Team Pegasus backing helped his play.

“I don’t know that it helps my play,” he explained, “but it’s very expensive to play all the events on the tour. I’m financially comfortable, I could do it, but I like being comfortable and don’t really feel the need to put what I have at risk just to have a little more upside. So this seems like a good compromise.”

That sounds like an awfully sensible attitude, Randy. No wonder you had enough sense to leave the legal profession behind.

By The Numbers

Entries: 218

Prize Pool: $327,000

1) Randy Holland, $94,190 ($120,990 officially).

2) Eli Balas, $62,000 ($62,130 officially).

3) Steve Hohn, $58,000 ($31,070 officially).

4) Hassan Kamoei, $19,620.

5) Jimmy Balestrere, $16,350.

6) JoJo Cutri, $13,080.

7) Carlos Fuentes, $9,810.

8) Bud Moore, $6,870.

9th-12th, $4,580: Richie Korbin, John Chongchul Kim, Andrew Don Sacino, Gilbert Gross.

13th-16th, $3,270: Tony Davis, John Yarmosh, David Chiu, Luigi Grilla.

17th-24th, $1,960: Chuck Thompson, Alfred McCray, Alex Ting, Rick Roderick, “Miami” John Cernuto, Koby Toft, Artie Cobb, Ron McMillan.

FUN AND GAMES AT THE WORLD SERIES

Readers have been emailing with requests for some of the fun and flavor of the Series away from the final tables, so from time to time I’ll be adding this feature here.

The most fun side game I’ve seen yet was a dealer’s choice rotation game I saw today, a fun little $400-800 game. When I arrived, they were playing, I kid you not, “Triple Ace to Five Lowball Draw,” which is pretty much like the conventional lowball draw except that you get two extra draws and two extra betting rounds at the higher limit. The action was so good that on a 10-minute break from the Pot-Limit Omaha tournament going on across the room, Johnny Chan and Layne Flack ran over to sit in for a few hands.

Flack got to look at three hands without needing to post, mucked each, and then left. “Now that’s what I call a freeroll, baby,” he said. “I can’t believe these guys let me play three hands for free. I’m running so good, (name omitted) came up to me and gave me $5,000 he owed me that I’d forgotten all about.” The good run for Flack started the day before when, stuck $10,000, a player he barely knew allowed Layne to sit down and play his $15,000 in chips while he took a break.

“I got stuck another ten, but then in two rounds made that up and another $15,000,” he laughed. “I mean, I didn’t even know this guy. Gotta love the action.” And with that, Flack sped off to return to his tournament seat.

In a comical (for all but the victim) moment in this fun little triple draw game, one player announced, after the second draw betting was complete in a huge pot, “I have a bad eight,” and started to turn his hand over. “Wait, wait, there’s another draw,” the other competitors told him. Ooops. “Guess I don’t need to draw on my rough seven,” another player said, and indeed didn’t draw to a 7-6 that took the pot.

Johnny Chan laughed, looked up at me, shook his head, and said “put THAT on the Internet!” Anything you say, Johnny. By the way, the brief appearance in the triple draw lowball game didn’t break Chan’s tournament concentration. He’ll be sitting in 4th chip position for the finals of the Pot-Limit Omaha tournament tomorrow. It should be a terrific final table, with two former World Champions in the mix: Jim Bechtel is leading.

Guess I’ll wrap up for today. I want to get back down to the tournament room and see if there are any good “pass the trash” games going.

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