Thursday, November 18, 2010

Witnessing Final Table Domination, NAPT style

I drove to Los Angeles from Las Vegas yesterday to witness my buddy (who I've spoken about before) Joe Tehan win the $5k NAPT main event for $725k. Another Vegas friend and I decided to take the trip to sweat him and another friend, Ray Henson that was on the same final table. It just so happens the 4 of us are all in the nickel 8 team fantasy football league.

It's about a 4 hr drive from Vegas to LA so we were hoping that one of them won it, notably Joe because he's my closest friend in poker. Ray started the day 3rd in chips and Joe 5th in chips among the 8 final tablists. The well known players there included Michael Binger (3rd place at the WSOP main event the year Jamie Gold won it) and Jason Mercier.

Anyway they moved the venue to Crystal Park Hotel and Casino which is located in Compton of all places. To say that it might be a little scary to walk out of that place w/ hundreds of thousands of dollars is an understatement. Anyway the tournament was played at the Bike in LA but they moved the ft to accommodate ESPN since they were not contractually allowed to film at the Bike due to conflicts w/ WPT.

*Ray using his phone and Joe w/ the blue shirt at forefront*

Well we got there and Joe ended up playing a big pot right off the bat getting it aipf w KK vs chipleader's AK and doubling up. Our entire cheering crowd went wild, all 3 of us...Jon (Vegas friend), Lisa (Joe's fiancee) and me. Little did we know that he would plan on showing a clinic on how to run a final table. Shortly thereafter he busted the 1st guy w/ AQ vs JJ aipf. Next he busted Jason Mercier which was probably the pot of the day at the ft because of the stacks and players involved (2 of the best players there). Jason and Joe got it aipf and Joe's JJ bested Jason to end Jason's coin flipping winning streak at 7 (from what I read on the news coverage of the tournament). Now at this point Joe had a big chip lead w/ about 11 mil vs 2nd place's 5mil and various others at 1-3mil. He absolutely played his big stack to perfection open raising well over 75% of his hands, and mostly shoving when the others behind him had 15bbs or less.

He ended up busting in succession, Binger, Ray (we were all sad to see him bust because he was a good friend to all of us, including Joe), Poker Stars pro Van Nguyen (another friend of ours), and Al Grimes. That's right, he busted everybody up to that point! He was hu vs Chris Demaci w/ about 16mil vs Chris' 6 mil.

Now Joe and I were pretty confident he was going to win barring some kind of coolers. Joe is my best friend in poker and we talk poker all the time. Whereas I've read books, hhs, forums, and thought about the game away from the tables and felt like I had to learn to get better, Joe was a natural at poker. From what I know he really hasn't read any book nor studied the game anywhere but just figured everything out on his own. We are both pretty much self taught but we have talked so much poker w/ each other that we have helped each others' games significantly, especially the last 4 years. I guess if I had to point out a person that impacted my game the most it would be him, and vice versa. So anyway I was pretty confident he was going to win because I knew he had more of an edge now w/ deeper stacks and hu where you're forced to play a lot of hands. If there's something he excels at it's playing postflop and playing all kinds of hands. Also assuming his opponent at best was your typical live tournament pro (which we assumed) and not being an expert at postflop play nor hu play, Joe was a pretty big fav.

Little did I realize how outmatched Chris was. I tried to watch the 1st 30 minutes intently, trying to pick up physical tells and tendencies Chris may have had to try to help Joe but after watching for 30 minutes I knew that this guy was just about drawing dead hu. Both were minraising their buttons but Chris was folding sometimes, including 3 straight times on the button. That alone showed me that Chris was not aware of how to play hu very well. Joe played 100% of his buttons hu. Both tried to take the same approach, small ball poker but I felt early on the only way Chris was going to have a shot to win was to try to play big pots and get lucky that way but I guess Chris felt like he was a good player (and overall he was, he was just outmatched by a better player) and good players tend to play small ball in tournaments. The only problem was Chris was not very good postflop while Joe played every hand perfectly postflop from what I saw.

After 30 minutes I felt no need to really sweat intently because I knew it was a matter of time before Joe won w/o really having to gamble. He was chipping away very slowly w/o showing a hand and folding when he was usually beat. I started playing games and catching up on twitter and facebook on my IPhone because I was that confident Joe was going to win but that it might take some time because he was playing the perfect style of chipping away slowly w/ almost no risk. Actually Jon and Lisa sensed the same thing because they started playing on their phones as well! Imagine your best friend (fiance in Lisa's case) playing for $725k and everybody being just bored waiting for this thing to end in Joe's favor. Finally w/ Joe having 20 mil to Chris' 2 mil (again w/o any really big showdowns or pots) Joe got it in on a K high flop w/ KT vs Chris' K4 and won.

For pictures and a summary of the final table, you can see it here...

I know he won a few flips early and took out a couple of dangerous players early on, but after that he really put on a clinic on how to play table captain w/ the big stack and then showed how to dominate hu w/o gambling at all. I'm really happy for him because he is one of the nicest guys in poker (just about everybody in the poker world will attest to that, and he is well known in the live tournament scene) and he happens to be my best friend in poker. He is definitely not the type of person to become a "bigger" person w/ an inflated ego because of this win. I know because I was friends w/ him when he won $1mil in a WPT main event about 4 years ago and he didn't change one bit after that win as well. If anything he continued to stay ahead of the curve and the influx of smart kids and continuously talked poker w/ me after that.

If there's ever a person that deserves to be signed to a major poker site based on their ability and successes in poker, Joe is it. He won a WPT title, now an NAPT title, and has over $3mil in live tournament winnings. He is also a big winner in live cash games including nl and mix games, playing mid to high stakes. Also he doesn't play much online but he is a winner in midstakes 6max nl games, mix games, and mtts online (he final tabled 2 ftops on the same day last year). He actually flies under the radar probably because he doesn't play a full slate of live tournaments like other well known tournament pros do but tries to balance his poker career w/ tournaments and cash games. If you ask the well known live tournament pros they'll all say Joe's a great player and tough to play vs. but they don't realize how great he is at all forms of poker. I guess that's one of the reasons we talk poker so much because we talk about all forms of poker, live, online, tournaments, nl, mix games, etc.

The only differences we have in regards to poker is that he focuses primarily on live cash games and tournaments while I focus on online cash games and tournaments, mainly because it's hard for me to travel w/ having a family and all and I enjoy playing more than 1 table at a time. I'm hoping to change that a little and plan on playing some more live events and hoping that the roles will be reversed soon enough...that my friends will be sweating me winning a major live tournament.

On a different note my 2nd video for Cardrunners comes out tomorrow. I felt like I did a better job on this one vs my 1st one. Hopefully I'm getting better at making videos and hopefully I will help those that watch my videos improve their games, even if it's just a little.


  1. Good read, John! I play at a small card room in Ventura CA with Lisa (and Joe when he's in town). It was pretty cool when I woke up Thursday to the news that Joe had won. I've played with Lisa for years, and started reading this blog a few months ago and didn't know you guys knew each other. Though Lisa knows everyone in poker, so I should have known. ;). Thanks for posting such a detailed account of the final table experience.

  2. Hey man,

    Apologies if I already asked and you decided not to whack me up, but was hoping we could swap blog links. Have already got you on mine @ ... I get fairly decent traffic, can hopefully swing some of it your way!

    Gl at the tables,

  3. Hey Dragoo I actually know of the card room in Ventura. I grew up in Oxnard and have visited that room a few times, but it's been awhile since I was there. Joe and Lisa are always telling me about the action there.

    James I added your blog. Checked it out, I like it.

  4. Thanks man, appreciate that!

    Hope you had a % of Joe!


  5. Congrats to Joe. Thanks for the great post, John.

  6. I met Joe at one of the Venetian Deep Stack series a couple of years ago - he was a class act and very open to discussing all sorts of poker subjects. Good on him!