WSOP Event #34: Emad Tahtouh sits down at final table
Updates below the cut
by Alison Lightman
After a dreamless nine hours of sleep, Emad Tahtouh is as cool as a cucumber today, entering the biggest poker game of his life with the chip disadvantage.
"I'm in a good spot," he said before taking his seat at the final table of the $5 000 Pot-Limit Hold'em event at the WSOP. "A lot of them are just waiting for me to be knocked out, so my strategy today is to be really aggressive."
Though he has the shortest stack with 97,000, Gregg Turk is not far ahead with 122,000 and Kirril Gerasimov is only a nose in front with 124,000.
"They haven't got a lot more so they won't want to tangle with me."
"Kirril Gerasimov is on my left," Emad said, "and he's always a worry, but I have played with him for hours and watched him closely. The chip leader [Alan Sass, with 431,000] is on my right, but he is tight, and solid, so, I am not worried about him.
"You'll see me re-raising more than raising today. If I sense that someone is weak I'll just come right over the top of them."
So did 25-year-old Emad seek any words of wisdom about the final table, from close mate and World Champion Joe Hachem, who credits Emad with persuading him to enter the Main Event last year?
"Yes, Joe came over to see me. He told just tighten up when I was short and wait for the hands. He just said 'don't do anything stupid.'"
Emad out in 7th place ($71 064) "Rollercoaster ride"is one way to describe Emad's experience of the final table. Going in with the shortest stack, he knew he had to wait for a hand and make a move.
He thought his moment had come when he found KcQc after a couple of rounds and raised to 26k (leaving 42k behind). His confidence eroded slightly when Kirill Gerasimov to his left raised again, and seriously, when Tommy Smith made it 200k. Emad knew he was in bad shape and, realizing that he could well be drawing almost dead, but otherwise might move up a spot, he folded.
And he saw that was the correct move when Tommy turned over QQ and Kirril showed AK. Gerasminov went home first, and Emad moved up one space.
Unfortunately KQ was the best hand Emad was to see all day.
"Not a pair, not even deuces" he said, moments after being eliminated. "I was looking for anything, suited connectors, any Ace, but they didn't come."
He went out in the last hand before players took their first break for the day, a hand some players refuse to play no matter what their hole cards. Not Emad. "I love the last hand before the break" he said. "I did it with junk yesterday, because people could be a) stealing, or b) they might have a hand but don't want to go broke in that position."
We all know that sinking feeling and for Emad, it was a showdown with Michael Tedesco, with whom he'd tangled several times yesterday in the battle for a final table seat.
"Every time, he managed to have the better hand. Poker sucks" he added, with a huge grin. "If you don't get hit with the cards, you have to get lucky".
He was lucky a couple of times, getting all his chips in with J 8 against Tommy Smith's A 10 and spiking an 8, and a second time with a suited K6 against Greg Turk's AK, when he hit a 6 on the river to double up.
Yet he struggled to get beyond his starting stack of 97k.
As the first round drew to a close, he found a suited K5 in middle position and bet out 42k. Michael made it 90k and Emad called, all in for his last 42k.
"I tried the patience thing, but I was getting 84o, 73o, I didn't want to get so short stacked that I got desperate."
Michael showed AJo and hit his Ace on the flop. The turn was no help to Emad and Michael hit his second pair when a Jack came on the river.
It's another fantastic effort by PokerStars' Australian contingent. Just over a year ago, the WSOP was a distant dream for Emad, and his good friend Joe Hachem, who has made two final tables so far in this year's WSOP. The last time any reigning World Champion managed that was Scotty Nguyen, 8 years ago when, he'd surely admit, competition was a lot less fierce.
Emad is taking home $71 064, and a whole lot of information to ponder as he prepares for the Main Event.
They're down to 7, after the elimination of Tommy Smith, one of the early chip leaders, by Alan Sass, and Emad has just doubled up through Greg Turk.
Emad found a K6c in middle position and moved all in for 42k. Turk came over the top for his last 68k, and showed AKo. The board came 9h 7h 4s 10h 6d, giving Emad a pair of sixes on the river to double up.
Emad has taken an early hit in the opening minutes of the final table, but recovered quickly.
He got involved in the fifth hand , raising to 36k, more than a third of his stack, from middle position. Emad was re-reraised by Kirril Gerasimov on his left to 111k, and than raised up again by Tommy Smith to 200k.
Emad put down his hand and Gerasimov called for all his chips, showing AKo. Smith turned over pocket ladies and flopped a set, and then the board paired, giving Smith a full house and sending Gerasimov out first.
Just a few hands later and Emad pushes all in for 39k from the button and is called by Smith from the big blind. Smith shows A 10o, and Emad turns over J 8o, and hits his 8 on the turn to double his stack. He's now sitting on 84k.