The Bicycle Casino kicked of its annual Legends of Poker signature series with Mega Million No Limit Hold’em re-entry event. The 20-flight event spread over ten days boasted a $1,000,000 Guarantee for the mind-blowingly low buy-in of $125 plus one $100 optional add-on/rebuy. When all was said and done, a total of 7,239 players participated in the inaugural event, 5,939 of whom exercised their option to purchase additional chips. Several recognizable faces were in the field, including Maria Ho - 2008 WSOP Last Woman Standing; Tiffany Michelle - 2009 WSOP Last Woman Standing; and Cuong (Soi) Nguyen - 2010 WSOP Main Event Ninth Place Finisher. The guaranteed million dollar prize pool overflowed to an astonishing $1,453,811, with top prize set at $340,191.
When the 10-day entry period concluded on August 6th, 280 players advanced to the semi-finals. Included in the semi-finalist field were notable poker professionals, including Scott Clements – 2-time WSOP bracelet winner and 2-time WPT Champion; Frankie O’Dell – 2-time WSOP bracelet winner and 2006 Legends of Poker WPT Main Event runner-up; and Brent Carter – 2-time WSOP bracelet winner. Of the 280 semi-finalists, only 36 would proceed to Day-4, and of those only nine would return for the Live at the Bike Final Table.
The Final Table
The nine-handed final table convened at 2:00 p.m. on August 9, 2011, at the Bicycle Casino’s Live at the Bike stage and was streamed via live webcast on liveatthebike.com with a 1-hour delay. Play resumed at Level 39, with blinds at 100K/200K and a 50K ante. Josh Hale entered the final table as the chip leader holding 15,340,000 of the 75,690,000 remaining chips in play.
It took a while for the players to settle in so the first orbit took an exceptionally long time. There were two all-ins within the first few hands, both involving Antonio Castaneda (Seat 1) and Rocky Le (Seat 5). The first time Castaneda pushed all-in on the flop against Le, Le elected to fold, losing nearly a third of his chips. The second time, Le raised to 550K in mid-position and Castaneda called from the big-blind. The flop was 2♦ 3♦ 2♠. Casteneda checked, and Le bet out 2.0M to which Casteneda quietly announced, “All-In.” Le tanked. He told Casteneda, “I know you’re on a draw…this would be an easy fold if I didn’t have a hand.” After a long thought process, Le made the call. Casteneda flipped up 6♦ 2♣ and Le shook his head as he revealed his A♣ 3♣. The Turn and River were inconsequential and Le was the first to be eliminated, taking 9th place.
By the second orbit, the remaining players had their game faces on and each were set on taking home the Wild Bill Hickock Dead-Man’s Hand trophy. The second elimination came at 3:05 p.m., when short-stacked Tule Tule, Jr. (Seat 2) pushed all-in for 1.2M, when the tabled folded around to his small blind. Fausto Saucedo (Seat 3) made the call from the big blind. Tule turned over K♠ J♦ and Saucedo pitched open his 7♠ 4♦. It was clear that it was not in the cards for Tule when the flop came 7♦ 4♠ T♣, and the running 9♣, 9♦ did nothing to save Tule from finishing in 8th place.
The second to the last hand of level 39 saw the third knockout of the day. With the button in Seat 6, Greg Sessler (Seat 4) raised to 500K from the cut-off. Adam Bush (Seat 7) defended his small blind with an all-in. The big blind got the heck-outta-Dodge and Sessler asked for a count. The Dealer reached over and counted out Bush’s stack then announced,“2.235 million, all-in.” Sessler thought a bit, tapped the top of his chips as he counted his own stack, then shrugged, “I call,” and thumbed over his pocket fives (5♦ 5♣). Bush stood up from his chair and slapped down T♥ T♠. The Sessler rail, sitting behind the red-ropes, clamored to their feet to see the action. The dealer posted J♠ 9♣ 2♠ to the flop as the audience hollered for a five, FIVE, FIIIIVE! The crowd hushed to a mumble, then the dealer peeled off the turn. It was a FIVE, but it was the 5♠. All the heads then turned to look at Bush’s hand to see that sure enough, he had a spade. But not to worry, Sessler filled up when the 9♥ binked on the river. As Bush shook Sessler’s hand and headed towards the cage to collect his winnings for 7th place, both exhausted sighs and sounds of elation came from the crowd behind him.
The level ended one hand later and the players took a break.
Play resumed from break at 4:30 p.m. and sure enough, the first hand after the break in Level 40 (50K+150K/300K) was an action hand. The action folded around to Sessler, in hijack position, who min-raised to 600K. To his left, Josh Hale (Seat 8) re-popped it to 1.0M. As Hale’s pink chips cascaded in two rows of five 100K chips, Tony Phan flatly announced, “All-in.” Sessler asked for a count. Phan answered, “about 3.2 million.” Sessler then turned to Hale, gave his chips a look-see, then tanked. After several minutes, Sessler nudged his cards toward the dealer and the action passed over to Hale who made the call. Phan turned over the prettiest cards in the deck, A♠ A♥; Hale opened J♠ J♦ and called out “jack-ball!” Sessler sighed and said he folded Queens. The flop was K♦ 5♦ 3♥. Hale repeated his plea for a Jack and added that running diamonds would also suffice. But, no…the board bricked out, 3♣, 8♠ and Phan doubled through Hale.
The 21st hand of the final table had effectively cooled everybody jets. The players tightened up and the button quickly passed around three times before the next big pot of the evening. Then, at 5:09 (still in Level 40), Sessler made it 600K to go from the cut off. Hale folded, Phan folded, and Eddy Asady (Seat 9) called in the big blind. The flop was 8♦ 9♥ 7♣, Asady tapped his fingers on the felt and the action passed to Sessler. Sessler shuffled and flipped his chips for a moment, then stacked up 700K and pushed the stack of seven pink chips forward. Asady thought for a bid, counted his chips (he only had about 4.5M in front), then pushed his stack forward with both hands and said, “I’m all-in.” Sessler didn’t take long before making the call. Asady showed his 6♦ 4♠ and Sessler gleefully turned over his J♠ J♦. Asady didn’t have as many outs as he thought he did. The turn was the A♥, followed by the Q♣. With that, Sessler took possession of the pot while Asady claimed 6th place.
Throughout the first 39 hands, Phan had rarely used his button to steel the blinds and antes. Perhaps this is why, when the button moved to Phan, Hale decided to cut off the button’s steal with a steal of his own by raising to 650K. Since Asady had been eliminated on his big blind in the hand prior, there was only a single big blind and it was squarely set in front of Casteneda. While Phan was obliged to fold, Casteneda was not one to let people make plays at his chips. Sure enough, Casteneda made the call and the players saw a flop. It was a rainbow 8♣ 4♦ 6♥. Casteneda checked, and Hale bet 2.0M. With a sweep of his hand, Casteneda announced that he was all-in. Hale was in a bit of a pickle, as he had put almost half his chips into the pot and Casteneda had him covered 4 to 1. Hale shifted in his chair and thought for several minutes before announcing his call. He was disappointed when Casteneda turned over 6♠ 4♣ to out flop Hale’s 5♠ 8♠. Hale was going to have to catch an eight, a seven, or a five if was to stay alive. The 6♦ on the turn reduced Hale’s outs to a hope and a prayer, only an eight could save him, but the deck did not cooperate and the 2♣ sent Hale to the rail. Beginning the final table as the chipleader, then falling prey to a series of unfortunate beats, Hale took his leave in 5th place.
The fourth place knockout can be summed up in a single word, “Rivered.” If, after Saucedo and Sessler folded around to him, Phan knew how this hand was going to play out, he probably would not have completed his small blind. Just twelve hands into Level 41, with the blinds at 200K/400K and a 50K ante, Phan called from the small blind and Casteneda checked behind. At the flop, Phan bet out 400K into the 6♦ 5♠ T♦ board and after some thought Casteneda called. The K♣ peeled off on the turn and Phan c-bet 1.2M. Casteneda re-raised to 2.4 and Phan went all-in for a total of 4.175M. Casteneda didn’t bat an eyelash, he snap called the all-in, but was disappointed when Phan showed two pair with his T ♦5 ♦ to beat out Casteneda’s K♠ 8♦. That is, of course, until the 8♦ hit on the river. Wow! Phan’s chips put Casteneda at 27.2M and second in chips to Sessler. Phan exited in 4th place while Greg Sessler, Fausto Saucedo and Antonio Casteneda prepared for 3-handed play.
We would have to wait through two level increases and twenty-two hands to see our next player eliminated. Casteneda’s stack was crippled three hands into Level 42 after Sauceda spiked an Ace after going all-in pre-flop with A♥ J♦ to outflop Casteneda’s pocket nines. That hand slowed Cateneda’s aggressive play and it took another ninety minutes of maneuvering, before Casteneda found him all-in with his last 5.350M chips. At 8:04 p.m., early in Level 43 with the blinds at 300K/600K with a 50K ante, Saucedo raised to 2.0 on the button. Sessler folded on the small blind and Casteneda moved all-in. The quite steely-eyed Casteneda showed snowmen (8♦ 8♥) and Saucedo opened A♥ 4♥. The K♣ 4♠ 5♣ flop didn’t help Saucedo, but the Bicycle Casino’s Plaza erupted with astonishment when Saucedo spiked the 4♦ on the turn. The 2♥ bricked the river (those deuces really wanted a lot of camera time), and Casteneda was the 3rd place finisher.
The next roller-coaster built should be called “Heads-Up,” because Saucedo and Sessler took the Live at the Bike audience for one heck of a ride. For almost four 50 minute levels, those two went at it and played some amazing poker.
After a brief break for the money presentation, the players resumed at Level 43 (50+300/600). Going into heads-up, Fausto Saucedo had the lead with 45.9M, but Greg Sessler was not far behind with 30.6M. For the first hour the players saw flops 80% of the time. During that time, Saucedo admittedly got hit with the deck and Sessler dropped to as low as ~10M, however by end of Level 44 (100K+350K/700K) Sessler had made a comeback to 32.5M.
Then, in what looked to be a decisive hand, Sessler took the lead in Level 45 (100K+400K/800K). In the 112th hand of the day, at 10:20 p.m., Sessler raised from the button to 1.6M. Saucedo re-raised to 4.4M and Sessler made 9M to go. Saucedo jammed and Sessler made the call. Saucedo was behind with A♥ 9♣ to Sessler’s A♠ K♦. The flop came 4♠ K♣ 8♦, and the T♦ on the turn meant Saucedo was drawing dead. The 9♠ on the river was irrelevant. Saucedo had just under ~11M. However, just as Sessler had done in the round before, Saucedo battled back and eventually won.
The decisive hand came during the 176th hand of the evening. It was Level 47, the blinds were at 1M/500K with a 100K ante. Saucedo had ~53M and raised on the button to 2.0 and Sessler pushed all-in for ~22M. After some thought, Saucedo called. Saucedo showed 3♦ 3♥ and Sessler showed A♥ J♠. The board was 9♦ 9♠ 9♣. Sessler’s rail called for running fours and the 4♦ hit the turn. Feeling empowered, they called for another nine, but “missed it by that much” when the 8♣ ended the match. Sessler received a $140,000 payday for 2nd while Fausto Saucedo claimed the 1st place title and the trophy.