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WPT at Bay 101
CEO "Rocket Boy" 03.17.2007

How could I resist? Bay 101 is less than an hour's drive from FlopTech headquarters, so I decided to check out the Bay 101 Shooting Stars World Poker Tour event. I didn't see any of the first four days, but several big-name players made the final "TV six" so it was time to roll down there. I took some pix while I was there. Photography is OK as long as 1. you don't take pix during actual play, and 2. you don't use a flash.

The Place
If you want to attend future WPT tapings at Bay 101, just be sure you get there at least 3 hours before play starts on the TV table day. At Bellagio and Bay 101 that means 2pm since TV table play started at 5pm. Bay 101 is only a fraction of the size of Bellagio, and there aren't any ballrooms in which to build the WPT set. So they used one of the casino's two gaming floors. I was told that Bay 101 is the smallest WPT venue in the U.S. There were only two sets of bleachers, whereas Bellagio's set had three in the huge Tower Ballroom.

Doors opened at 4pm, about one hour before play started, but people with passes got in first. This included any and all railed players and their friends, final table players and their friends, and random VIPs. Only the first six of the general public got seats. We were all given numbered chips so we didn't need to stand in line (first in line got number 1, second in line got number 2, etc.) As players busted and their friends left, we were called in by number to keep the seats filled up. I didn't get in until an hour and a half after play started, and I had chip #20.

I heard that the local players were given 16 passes each, and there were three local players. That's an entire bleacher full of locals. Erick Lindgren, Gavin Smith, and several other well-known players were there to support their buddy Bill Edler.

0001
Gavin Smith



0002
Bill Edler





The Players
The final six was comprised of local boy Amir Shayesteh (2.7m), Ted Forrest (2.0m), Vincent Shaw (1.5m), James Van Alstyne (1.4m), Joanne "J.J." Liu (966k), and Bill Edler (638k). Surprisingly, the two "TV bubble" bustouts were Joe Sebok and Jeff Madsen, who had traded the chip lead on the previous day. Both are very strong young players and I had expected to see them fight it out. Apparently they suffered some bad beats and then overplayed a few marginal hands. Ted Forrest had been short stacked late in the tournament, but had a huge card rush to move right up into second chip position.

Far be it from me to criticize the players, as I've never even entered a WPT event. But even without knowing the hole cards, and after seeing the action from a distance, it did seem to me that Vince Shaw played too tight. He could have probably stolen more pots with his image. James Van Alstyne played his usual solid game, but he started steaming after he was forced to fold again and again after running into big raises. He insulted a dealer because he thought she made a mistake with the blinds at one point.

Amir Shayesteh started the day as chip leader, but he showed his inexperience by overplaying hands and getting snapped off when he bluffed big with nothing. Ted Forrest was his usual spooky good self, and J.J. Liu showed some real skill and toughness. She was 4 months pregnant, so to play great poker against these guys was an amazing feat.

0003
Amir Shayesteh



0004
J.J. Liu



0005
Ted Forrest



The Play
This was a really tough table. Some pro players have complained that the blinds move up so rapidly that it's just a crapshoot. Not this time. The Bellagio WPT event had a whole lot more action, and it ended in just about 4 hours. At Bay 101 it seemed to go on forever. Play lasted a record nine hours, a record 262 hands were dealt (smashing the previous record of 198), and Joanne "J.J." Liu surpassed Kathy Leibert and Mimi Tran to become the first woman to make the final two in an open WPT event.

I won't get into too much depth here, since this WPT episode will premiere on July 18, 2007. Bill Edler, who started with a drastically short stack, was the first bust-out, in sixth place for $160k. While I was waiting to get in I saw him, Erick, and Gavin leave together on some kind of South Bay adventure. He really had no choice but to push with a decent hand and hope to double up. He didn't, but he made a valiant effort.

Vince Shaw was the next to go out, just a few hands after he lost a big pot to Ted Forrest's nut straight. Shaw received $200k for his efforts. Hard to tell without knowing his hole cards, but it really did seem like he was playing too tight.

James Van Alstyne was out in 4th ($250k) with pocket tens vs. Forrest's AK. Van Alstyne moved in under the gun, got calls from Van Alstyne and Shayesteh, then Forrest forced Shayesteh off the pot with an apparent value bet. Forrest had flopped a king but Shayesteh called his relatively small flop bet. Van Alstyne almost got there, making an open-ended straight on the turn but didn't get the river he needed.

Amir Shayesteh was next to go, after losing most of his chips by apparently overplaying losing hands. Or maybe he simply got cold-decked and made some great laydowns. We won't know until the show premieres. Anyway, he got his chips in good: his ace-magnet kings got cracked by Forrest's A8 when an ace flopped. (Believe me, I know the feeling.) Shayesteh received $314k for third place.

The money presentation was made by some very cute but very serious looking Bay 101 waitresses. No cowgirls, no unicycle-riding butlers, no feathered Native American maidens. Come on, this is the capital of Silicon Valley here. Think of a gimmick!

It was getting pretty late by now, well past midnight. When heads-up play began, tournament director Matt Savage said "OK, let's get those cold decks out of the freezer and shuffle up and deal!" But these two were content to try to chip away at each other instead of going for the knockout blow too often. (Tuan Le was out very early in the tournament.) They played for several hours until the huge blinds simply forced them to gamble. J.J. had the lead when she turned the nut straight (with QSJS), Ted pushed all-in with the nut flush draw (with KC5C) and he got there on the river to double and take about a 7:1 chip lead.

J.J. doubled through Ted when her KJ held up vs. his KT, but right after that Ted's 77 beat J.J.'s A8 when she missed and Ted rivered an unnecessary third 7. She actually left the casino immediately after the last hand, after congratulating Ted and chatting with her friends and family. I can only imagine, but I'm certain that that being 4 months pregnant can only add enormous stress to an already grueling 9 hours of final table play.

By the time everyone was ready for the closing ceremony, it was an hour past "collection time." Security had already picked up any alcoholic beverages. So when you watch the broadcast, look carefully at the "Budweiser" they toasted with. It's actually apple juice!

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Sabina Gadecki



0007
Ted's Kodak Moment



Summary
This final table was completely different than the one I saw at Bellagio. The action was slower, the play seemed tighter, and there were fewer bad beats on the river. Still, I was very happy to have been there. If you want to attend future WPT tapings, just remember to get there about 2pm (or three hours before taping starts.)

Images copyright FlopTech Engineering. All rights reserved.