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World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star
09 March 2012

Full house

The Bay 101 Shooting Star event is a perennial favorite of San Francisco Bay Area poker fans and players alike. From the first hand of day 1A to the final dramatic hand at the TV table, the rail was 3 deep and the grandstands were packed. And as always, local fans and players were rewarded for their loyalty to the World Poker Tour and Bay 101 Casino.

The distinctive Bay 101 dolphin fountain and facade

Ten fast levels

Tournament Director extraordinaire Matt Savage designed the Shooting Star structure to play fast on the first few days, then to slow down as the average stack size increases. This rewards the better players who survive the early levels by giving them plenty of play. The flip side is that day 1a and 1b thin the field rapidly.

Day 1b had a larger field, as you'd expect. Players from out of town play day 1b to avoid spending an extra day in San Jose before playing day 2. But the Shooting Stars bounties came thick and fast on both day 1's.

The winner's names are engraved forever on the WPT Champions Cup base

Maria Ho was eliminated on day 1a, her birthday (March 5th). Phil Hellmuth on left, Gavin Smith in the middle.

Charity LOL donkament

Some of the busted pros who stuck around for day 1b played a pro-am event benefiting a local charity. It was vastly more fun to watch than the actual WPT event, and Daniel Negreanu among others blew off some major steam playing it. The one and only Phil Hellmuth was the tournament director, and he was genuinely enjoying himself.

Insanely fun charity tournament: Negreanu vs. Pilgrim as Flack, Matusow, and Harman look on. Hellmuth was the TD.

We're in the money

Day 2 brought the remaining 94 players from day 1a and 1b together. It was "chip up or die trying" day, as the field was still far from the money and even farther from the coveted "TV six." And as always, play slowed down drastically on the money bubble when 37 players remained. Tables played hand-for-hand until 2009 Shooting Star runner-up Kathy Liebert busted. She had the best of it with AK vs. fellow Shooting Star Men Nguyen's AT. But Nguyen spiked a ten and Liebert walked out with nothing to show for a day and a half of tough poker.

The players redrew for the signature 6-max tables of the final levels of the Bay 101 event, which triggered a wave of bustouts. The payouts for 36th through 31st were all the same, $19k, which was all the shortest stacks needed to go to push-and-pray mode. Play continued until the end of level 18, just before 1AM. 20 players remained.

Ready for our closeup

Day 3 brought the next major bubble which was, of course, the TV table bubble. So near yet so far. Shooting Star J.C. Tran busted in 16th place, and that was pretty much the first time we actually saw him. He kept his hoodie up most of the time and was so quiet and stealthy that we completely missed him on his previous 2 days of play.

The last Shooting Star to fall to Earth was 2010 WSOP Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel. Local regular Ubaid "Obie" Habib busted Duhamel in 13th place and proudly wore the signed "I busted Jonathan Duhamel" bounty shirt. To their credit each Shooting Star we saw go bust graciously signed their bounty shirt for the winner. (With the possible exception of Men Nguyen, after his AA was cracked by JJ, in a karmic rebound for busting Kathy Liebert with the worst of it.)

When 7 players were left, the players redrew for the final table of 7 seats. Play continued for several hours until Amir Khaziri, a local Bay 101 regular, busted out.

Obie the merciless

We couldn't help but notice that "Obie" Habib played a lot of hands. He also relentlessly raised two specific players at the final 7-max table. Joe Serock, two seats to his right, would 2-bet preflop occasionally. Habib responded every single time with a 3-bet, and Serock almost always folded. This happened over and over and over again. Serock kept running into the Habib wall-of-3-bets. And Habib is a big blind defender. His defensive raises worked nearly every time Serock attempted a steal. (And all of this set up a key hand at the TV table. Stay tuned.)

Habib also continually hammered Joseph Elpayaa two seats to his left. He stole Elpayaa's big blind every time someone else didn't. Elpayaa would almost always either snap-fold or tank-fold. Habib's constant pressure definitely helped him chip up and make the TV table. We noticed him 3-betting Serock and stealing the blinds on previous days as well, and for him, it worked.

Josh Arieh fought hard but didn't last through day 3

TV table

Two local players made the final six, and they each had their own large and loud cheering sections. Bay 101 regulars Moon Kim, of Dublin CA, and Ubaid "Obie" Habib, of Tracy CA were the hometown heroes. Tough young players Joseph Elpayaa, Joe Serock, and Andrew Badecker represented new-generation Las Vegas pros. And Erik Cajelais of Montréal, Canada rounded out the field with the most tournament experience and the biggest chip stack.

Shuffle up and deal!

666: number of the set

Flopped sets of sixes played a role in two key pots for Joseph Elpayaa. In the first of these hands, he shoved with 66 and Erik Cajelais snap-called with QQ. Elpayaa spiked a 6 on the flop and he doubled through, which helped accelerate Cajelais' eventual demise. In the second "666" hand, it was Elpayaa who got crippled. He and Serock got it all in, with Elpayaa holding AQ and Serock holding 66. The flop came A65, and the 9 on the turn meant that Elpayaa was drawing dead on the river. Serock doubled through, leaving Elpayaa with the short stack of about 500k. (Elpayaa would bust soon after in, ironically, 6th place.)

The wheel of doom

Two key hands featured the 5-high straight aka "the wheel." Kim shoved with pocket 4s and Andrew Badecker called all-in with AK. Kim fell way behind when the flop came A52, then turned the wheel to double up when a 3 peeled. This knocked Badecker out in 5th place.

Later, Habib moved in after Serock min-raised. But this time Serock didn't fold. He called with AJ, Habib showed, as we suspected, a bluff with Q2o. A58 flopped to put Serock even further ahead, but Habib spiked runner-runner 4 on the turn and 3 on the river to give him the wheel. That brought the one of the loudest cheers we've ever heard at any poker event, and we've been to quite a few.

Serock strikes back

Serock continued to fold to Habib's 3-bets at the TV table. This kind of rope-a-dope only works if you 1) survive the punishment, and 2) launch an effective counter-attack. And Serock did both. He struck back on a key hand that doubled him up to bring him right back into the fight.

Just two hands after Habib spiked the wheel against him, Serock 2-bet preflop, Habib auto-3-bet him like always, and Serock called. AJ2 on the flop, with two diamonds, and Serock check-called Habib's bet. Jack on the turn to pair the board, and both players checked. 6d on the river, putting four diamonds on the board, and Serock check-raised Habib all-in. Habib snap-called with the diamond flush, jumped up, and raised his hands over his head in anticipation of a knockout. But Serock rolled over pocket aces for boss full house. BOOM. Serock doubled through to gain new life and momentum.

Adieu Monsieur Cajelais

Meanwhile, Erik Cajelais' tournament wasn't going the way he had hoped. At all. Although he never had a commanding lead, he did enter TV table play as the clear chip leader. It was his tournament to lose, and unfortunately for him that's precisely what happened.

Throughout the tournament, Cajelais made it clear that he wasn't afraid to move chips around. On the first hand of TV table play, he 3-bet shoved to blow Elpayaa off the hand. It *is* no-limit Hold'em after all, and Cajelais knew that nobody wanted to go broke on hand 1 of the TV table. He was right.

On Cajelais' last hand, he shoved and got called by both Moon and Habib, who then checked it down. The board ran KK7/5Q, hitting Habib's Q9 on the river. Moon showed A8, Cajelais showed just an ace before mucking, unable to beat Moon's kicker, and Cajelais was eliminated in 4th place.

Nice laydown

One hand that we're looking forward to seeing (since we couldn't watch the WPT live feed) just might have involved quite a lot of Hollywooding by Habib. (This is hand #177 according to the World Poker Tour live updates page.) Moon 3-bet to 655k preflop, and Habib tanked. And tanked, and tanked. He took several gulps of apple juice, hemmed and hawed, and asked Ali Nejad for the difference between 2nd and 3rd place prize money. This all seemed like a whole lot of show business to us, so we suspect he had a big pair and was hoping to induce a call. He shoved, with great flourish, after several minutes. Kim pretended to think for a few seconds and folded.

Battle of the regs

Joe Serock played a solid, quiet, determined game for four full days. He never steamed, never lost his composure (even after endlessly running into 3-bets from Habib), and simply kept playing poker as well as he could. And in the end, he got it in good but got out-drawn. He 3-bet shoved with 99, Kim called with KQ, and the king on the turn was enough for Kim to win the race. Serock earned $320k for his efforts, and got a good round of applause from the audience as he left.

And just like that it was the two locals who would battle it out for the win. Kim started heads-up play with slightly more than a 3:2 chip lead over Habib and kept the lead to the end. With the blinds at only 10k/40k/80k, and about 7 million chips for Kim and 4 million for Habib, play could have gone on for hours and hours. But after barely one hour of heads-up play, just before 1:30am PST (fairly early for a Bay 101 Shooting Star last hand), the match ended.

The two players saw a relatively cheap flop of 9d4c2d. Habib check-raised to 900k, Kim moved in, and Habib tank-called for all his chips. Kim showed Jd7d for the diamond flush draw, Habib showed Qc9h for bare top pair plus an overcard. The turn was a blank Ac, but the river, the 8d, gave Kim the flush, the pot, and the championship. And although we said that the earlier cheer for Habib was super-loud, Kim's fans virtually exploded when that last card came out.

Moon Kim celebrates with his friends and family

Random observations

- The name Kim means "gold" in Korean, Mr. Kim is a jeweler in his day job, and his final hand was a diamond flush. How appropriate was all that?

- The T100k plaques made their first appearance at the TV table. We love their visual heft and the distinctive clacking sound they make when they're tossed onto the felt.

- Moon Kim did, in fact, get quite lucky to even make the TV table. He was very lucky to not get knocked out on day 3.

- There were several beats at the final table, and Mike Sexton and Vince van Patten made this abundantly clear. This should be an interesting and dramatic series of WPT episodes, and we can't wait to watch them.

Girl Power

Four of the six WPT Royal Flush Girls were available for photos and general socializing from day 1a to the last hand of the final table. We managed to get a seat at the Social Bar on the final table set, and we chatted with all four of the Royal Flush Girls. They're all drop-dead gorgeous, energetic, and enthusiastic about poker and many other things. Our kind of gals.

Seriously, if you rail any of the WPT events, don't be shy. Hang out with the Royal Flush Girls and see for yourself.

Question - What's better than beauty and charm?
Answer - Beauty + charm + intelligence + talent + energy. Ivy Teves has it all.

Ivy's favorite WPT venue so far is Venice. That's where she got her spectacular diamond necklace.

Please visit www.worldpokertour.com for all World Poker Tour info plus near-live event streaming videos.

Follow @WPTLiveUpdates for live WPT event coverage.

Follow @WorldPokerTour for WPT news and updates from the WPT talent.

And visit Bay 101 Casino for details on their many tournaments and cash games.

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