WSOP Diary Day 29: Roxy24, aka Mandy Thomas, beats up on the big boys
When 15 players returned yesterday afternoon to begin the final day of event #41, the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better, all eyes were focused on two players: the Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein, and the "poker brat" Phil Hellmuth.
With 11 WSOP bracelets, Hellmuth has more examples of that particular item of jewelry than any other player, and he is also a giant in physical stature. I'd say he's about 6'4", maybe even bigger, and there was therefore more than one reason not to notice the seat to Hellmuth's left, which was occupied by the tiny figure of a woman named Mandy Thomas.
In stark contrast to Hellmuth, Thomas probably does need some introduction, at least in the live poker environment. But really she shouldn't. She has a World Series bracelet of her own, won in 1998, when first place in the ladies' seven-card stud event would get you $40,000, and in recent years she has been tearing it up at the online tables.
"People are usually so surprised when they see Mandy is so diminutive," said a close friend watching from the rail. "Because 'Roxy' is so aggressive."
'Roxy' is actually 'roxy24', Thomas' online moniker. After some staggering results around some of the highest buy in cash tables on PokerStars (yeah, the $75-$150 Omaha tables and the like) she was made an inaugural member of Team PokerStars Online. This is her first World Series with the familiar patch on her shoulder - and mixing it with the big boys was no problem at all.
Despite nursing a short stack at the start of the day (the result of a wicked hand late on day two), Thomas secured an early double up, then watched as player after player bust around her. Suddenly there were only ten of them left and the instruction was issued to bag up and head to the television stage, where they'd play down to a winner.
Thomas still didn't fancy her chances much. She had the fewest chips of the last ten, and when I asked to schedule a quick chat for the next break, 40 minutes from then, she said she would probably be out before that.
But she wasn't. Thomas could simply not be budged. When Jeffrey Baker bust in 10th, they were at an official final table of nine, meaning the cameras swooped in. They were still predictably in love with Hellmuth, but Thomas was now garnering much of the attention too and had a solid chance to become the first female winner of an open event at the WSOP this year.
Those chances only improved as Thomas managed another couple of double ups. Meanwhile Joel Ettedgi, Ryan Karp and then Hellmuth departed, and they were down to six. Thomas' cheering section had now swelled to about 10 people: adversaries from the online games, a former roommate, opponents from games back home in Michigan. But sixth was as far as the story went.
Soon after the dinner break, Thomas found herself one of the relative short stacks again and got her chips in from the small blind with J♠8♠3♦2♦. The problem was that Ben Lamb had woken up in the big blind with A♠7♠5♦3♥ and after the board ran 6♦2♠K♥J♦A♦, Thomas' run was halted. She took $40,169 for sixth place - and her stature grew about 12 feet to somewhere close to her standing in the online world.
What of Greenstein? Well, his exit from this event was not pretty. With 12 players left, and the field split over two tables of six, Greenstein got involved in a battle of the blinds with Jeffrey Baker.
Folded to Baker in the small blind, he raised, Greenstein re-potted, Baker shoved, Greenstein called. The stacks were pretty similar, but Baker had the Team PokerStars Pro covered.
Greenstein had A♠[10d]5♠4♦; Baker had the A♣7♣5♦2♠. The board ran Q♣9♠2♦6♦Q♠ and with no qualifying low, Baker's pair of deuces (with the queens on board) scooped. Bye-bye Barry.
HAND OF THE DAY
At least one of Mandy Thomas's supporters didn't want this hand reported; he questioned the decision to ship her short stack in in this spot. But let's just slip into some results oriented thinking here. This hand was crucial.
Returning with only 60,000 chips, in 14th place of 15 remaining, and with blinds of 6,000-12,000, Thomas knew she needed to get her chips in early. And so she did, from under-the-gun, shoving for 42,000. Phil Hellmuth defended his big blind, and cards were on their backs:
Thomas's queens were ahead for the high, but Hellmuth had an overcard, plus the best low draw. However, he missed everything as the board ran: 7♠K♥9♠3♠[10h] and the queens scooped. It didn't give Thomas much room to wriggle, but it was soon after that players started busting left and right. Without that pot, she almost certainly would not have got anywhere near that television stage.
AROUND THE TABLES
The $2,500 mixed hold 'em event, which alternates between limit and no-limit, brought out a distinguished field, many of them no limit junkies grumbling that they had to play a limit round. They're the rules guys.
As usual, despite a field of more than 500, some fascinating little clusters developed, including:
Corner most likely for a five-bet: In a row on table 30 were Christian Harder, Team Pro's Anh Van Nguyen and Yevgeniy Timoshenko.
Snapper's corner: The cameras were out to capture this little lot, all in a line: Praz Bansi, Liz Lieu, David Benyamine and Liv Boeree.
And this table isn't bad either: Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Joe Sebok and Ylon Schwartz.
It was only day one of the tournament, but by the end of it, a massive swathe of the field had departed. Eli Elezra leads, from Jim "Mr_BigQueso" Collopy, but the Team PokerStars Pro Alexandre Gomes (65,000) is well placed going into day two. Team Online's Randy Lew is also in contention with 47,200.
The Amazon Room hosted the second day of both the $10,000 HORSE championship and the latest $1,500 no limit hold 'em event. And the action was frantic on both sides of the dividing line.
You get an indication of the quality of the HORSE turnout when you look at some of the players who busted. None of Sebastian Ruthenberg, Ville Wahlbeck, Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem, Nacho Barbero, Alex Kravchenko, Daniel Negreanu or Victor Ramdin could make it.
Better news in the hold 'em, where Veronica Dabul and Arnaud Mattern steered themselves into the cash, earning $5,751 and $9,529 for 77th and 53rd respectively (there were 2,521 starters), while Humberto Brenes comes back for day three.
Brenes began near the top of the counts and he finished there too, returning with 764,000, which is fifth overall.
Last year's November Niner Kevin Schaffel was also back in the money in this event. He was the last to bust on day two and took $17,298 for 26th.
RIO SIGHT: THE DAILY SLOT TOURNAMENT
You see all sorts in the corridors of the Rio. This occasional series describes some of those sights.
I've been coming to Las Vegas for ten years, but until Tuesday afternoon I realised I hadn't seen half of what this city has to offer - until I accidently stumbled on the daily slots tournament at the Rio.
The first inkling that something was up came on turning out of the main casino area down the corridor that leads (after about a mile) to the Convention Center and the complex of hangars that holds the WSOP. Outside Buzios fish restaurant, where overflow Main Event tables have occasionally been arranged in previous years, there was a unseemly gathering of folk, agitated, excited, pumped. Yeah, pumped.
A man in a tropical shirt was chortling through a microphone: "Start your deep breathing exercises. We had people doing tai chi earlier; whatever you need to keep you focused."
Before him sat two banks of slot machines, 34 in back-to-back rows, and four at either end, totalling 72 players. I quickly discerned the rules: these punters had ten minutes to spin, spin, spin and watch and hope their three reels delivered them to seven heaven.
"Once I count you down, start pressing. Hard, soft, fast, slow - anything you can to keep those reels spinning."
One man was chattering on a bluetooth as he prepared; another limbered up with a text message (presumably something like: "im in a slot tournament. lol.") There were railbirds too. One woman broke the suggested three-feet line between spectators and competitors in order to cool her husband with a miniature fan.
As the time approached, the MC offered one last order: to turn to each of your neighbours and give them a pre-tournament smile. It was only slightly observed; some had game faces that would not crack.
And then it began. Oh my.
It was a concentrated frenzy of slot action. Blue, red and white boggled past 72 pairs of bifocals. Hands flew over big round buttons, but there were variations in technique here. Some players adopted a single-finger depression, others slapped with their palm. Some went for a double-handed thwack-thwack-thwack, slipping into a frenetic rhythm. Others pecked away with hands contorted like shadow-puppet emus.
One player was a late arrival and was greeted by sneers of derision. His two minute deficit would prove impossible to make up. What a loser. At around about the five minute mark, the casino music system played The Beatles' "I Fell Fine" but plainly some competitors didn't. Spirits were flagging. Even when three sevens span in, there was barely time for a whoop or a high five. He who hesitates, perishes.
Round about seven minutes, the average score was about 3,500, while the leaders were in the 8,000s. With less than a minute left the final stretch approached and the competitors steeled themselves for the last sprint to the line. It got furious again, but then suddenly ended with a whimper - the machines stopped, the reels drifted to a halt and weary bones cracked their relief.
I was desperate to find out the winner, but then the announcer shot down all our hopes. A man would be coming round with a clipboard on which contestants would be required to write and sign for their overnight scores. "You take your top score today and carry it into tomorrow."
This was a two day event. I had no idea. I drifted away without knowing where the $30,000 prize money would be going.
WILL NOT BE CONTINUED...
TOUCHING MOMENT OF THE DAY
One table, one plate of fruit salad, two forks. Joe Hachem and Huck Seed shared a platter of cantaloupe on the HORSE feature table. It was, well, beautiful.
TWEETS OF THE DAY
@RaSZi (Lex Veldhuis) focuses on the positives and glosses over an early elimination: "Watched Holland win yay!! Then played 2.5k MixedHE, then played 25-25-50 PLO at Rio, now getting ready for dinner with friends. Brazilian."
The same @RaSZi (Lex Veldhuis) gives Mr Minieri a rub-down after Italy crash out of World Cup: "I was gonna sidebet Dario on Italy and Holland. GUESS ITS OFF ROFL."
@RealKidPoker (Daniel Negreanu) on the international language of poker: "Funniest moment for me in WSOP: (Vladimir) Schmelev just came 4th in Razz and sat at my horse table. Heard his two first words in English 'F-ing dealer.'"
Previous WSOP Diary entries
WSOP Diary: Day 28: Barry Greenstein eyes final as shark attacks the Rio
WSOP Diary: Day 27: PokerStars party goes Dogg style
WSOP Diary Day 26: Bill Chen: Poker player, wedding planner, bridesmaid
WSOP Diary Day 25: Cutting through the throngs
WSOP Diary Day 24: Last chance to join us in Las Vegas
WSOP Diary Day 23: Anh Van Nguyen, remember the name
WSOP Diary Day 22: Love to hate Phil Hellmuth? You gotta see this
WSOP Diary Day 21: Classic rub down for Daniel Negreanu
WSOP Diary Day 20: Maria Mayrinck, something in the water
WSOP Diary Day 19: Who needs a rest anyway?
WSOP Diary Day 18: An apology
WSOP Diary Day 17: George Danzer just misses first bracelet for PokerStars