Emil Lebovich is only 21, but he's quickly building up a solid resume. He's already made final tables at a $1,000 Turning Stone event, and at the televised Continental Poker Championship, where he won $27,000. Tonight he had his biggest night ever, winning $86,380 and a diamond-and-gold trophy ring for his victory in the second event of the WSOP Circuit Tour at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, $500 no-limit hold-em. Lebovich, originally from Brooklyn, now lives in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
A college dropout at Boston College, he describes himself as a "degenerate gambler" (translation: full-time player). Most of his poker time is spent in high-limit cash games, such as $10-$20 no-limit. He learned poker four years ago playing with friends and also likes to paint.
Tonight, Lebovich was low-chipped in early going at the final table, but then went on a late rush as he knocked out the last five players. His strategy, he said, was to play position, steal blinds, play aggressively, and try to get a feel for the players. He also acknowledged that the cards broke very well for him tonight.
This second event attracted another strong field, with 617 players creating a prize pool of $308,500. Day one ended with 47 players left, and it took five more hours the next day to reach the final nine after Michael Fortuna's K-J was beaten by K-Q held by Tim B (his real last name) after the board came Q-J-10-4-K, .Virtually tied for the lead were Larry Roberts and Abraham Korotki with 974,000 and 970,000 chips respectively. Blinds were 15,000-30,000 with 4,000 antes, 13:10 on the clock.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1..Emil Lebovich 181,000
Seat 2. Jonas Wexler 480,000
Seat 3. Alex Gomez 468,000
Seat 4. Jimmy Nunez 600,000
Seat 5. Larry Roberts 974,000
Seat 6. Doug Pitchford 174,000
Seat 7. Tim B 900,000
Seat 8. Abraham Korotki 970,000
Seat 9. Peter Fianu 167,000
The level ended with everyone still left. Two players went all in, but both doubled through, Doug "Lucky Douggy" Pitchford when his Kd-Jd made a flush to beat A-K, and Lebovich when his A-K held up against A-2. Players returned from dinner break to blinds of 20,000-40,000 and 5,000 antes, now playing hour rounds.
Play started cautiously. For nearly 20 minutes there were several pre-flop raises and four all-in bets, but nobody called and there were no flops. Finally, Jimmy Nunez moved in with Kd-7s, worse than a 3-1 underdog when Larry Roberts called with Kc-10c, but escaped when a 7 turned. As the round dragged on, there were only three more flops, and each time an all-in player got away.
Then, with eight minutes left in the round, Jonas Wexler pushed in from the small blind with Ah-7h and was called by Jimmy Nunez, who had limped with A-J. The higher kicker did the job when the board came A-2-3-2-10, and one player was finally gone. Wexler, 30, is a former plumber (Jonas the plumber, not Joe the plumber), who is now a full-time player. He is from Southampton, Pennsylvania, has been playing four years, and his highlight is "sucking out" (but not tonight). He also plays tennis. Ninth place paid him $6,170.
Blinds moved to 30,000-60,000 with 5,000 antes. Halfway through the level, Pitchford moved in with A-10 and Alex Gomez called with As-9s. Pitchford flopped a 10 and turned another to leave Gomez in the eighth spot, paying $9,255. Gomez, 35, originally from Mexico City, now lives in Brooklyn where he is a management consultant. He's been playing five years, has entered more than 10 Circuits, and his highlight was finishing second at a Circuit main event here in 2006 that paid $202,433. His other interest is pool.
As play continued, a vcry low-chipped Lebovich tripled up against two opponents when he flopped two pair to his K-8. Then "Lucky Douggy" Pitchford got lucky again. Holding A-J against Korotki's A-K, he earned a split when the board showed a full-house 7-6-7-2-2..
Another level kicked in, with blinds of 40,000-80,000 with 10,000 antes. Pitchford, who had started the final table near the bottom, now was on top with 1.5 million of the 4.9 million chips in play. Then there was a reversal of fortune.when Lebovich, all in again, flopped a set of jacks to outdraw Pitchford's pocket kings and take the lead with 1.8 million. On the next hand, Pitchford got hit again by pocket jacks, this time held by B, also all in. But Pitchford finally recovered by doubling through Lebovich when he paired an ace to beat Lebovich's pocket 6s.
Soon after, Roberts was down to 60,000 when he moved in with K-10 and lost to Peter Fianu's A-7, Thoise chips went in a couple of hands later. Roberts had A-J to B's Ah-7h, and went out seventh when B made a flush on the river. He took home $12,340. Roberts, 59 and retired, is from White Plains, New York and began playing 40 years ago in his father's home game. This is his first Circuit. He has two children.
Next to go was Nunez after a board of 3-8-Q-Q-7 didn't help his K-9 overcome Lebovich's A-5. Nunez, collecting $15,425 for sixth, is a 39-year-old IT consultant fromWinthrop, Massachusetts who began playing poker three years ago with friends and in small tournaments. Golf is his other hobby.
The biggest pot of the night so far then came down when Pitchford moved in for 840,000 with A-10 and got called by Korotki, who had pocket queens. Pitchford was ready to exit when the board showed 6-K-9-9, and then a river ace not only saved him but vaulted him back into the lead again with nearly 2 million chips.
The level ended at midnight, and blinds climbed to a staggering 60,000-120,000 with 20,000 antes. Another player soon went out when Korotki matched his pocket jacks against Lebovich's Ad-8d. The board came A-Q-Q-K-K, Korotki was out in fifth place, which paid $18,510, and Lebovich now took a small lead.
Korotki, 62, originally from Florence, Italy, now lives in Ventnor, New Jersey where he is a real estate developer. He taught himself poker three years ago and has entered 30 Circuits, He's had a good number of cashes, and 2006 was a banner year for him, when he won the Circuit championship here which paid $433,008, along with a $2,000 WPT Borgata event worth $122,100.
Next, B moved in with K-J and Lebovich called with pocket 5s. Did the pot go to B or not to B? Not. A board of A-7-7-2-3 missed both players, and the 5s held up as B finished fourth, worth $21,595, while Lebovich, knocking out his third straight player, increased his lead. B, whose nickname is "TB," is an IT consultant from Atlanta.
Lebovich's next victim was Pitchford. He limped on the button with A-5, then called when Pitchford raised all in for 880,000 more holding K-J. Once again a board of 4-4-Q-9-7 changed nothing, and Pitchford went out third, taking $24,680 with him. Pitchford, 23, is a college student/waiter from Plainsboro, New Jersey who learned poker from his grandfather 20 years ago. This is his second Circuit, and his poker highlight is cashing in the first one and making the final table in the second. He also likes football and baseball.
Heads-up, Lebovich had about 4 million chips to a million for Fianu. About 10 hands went by with nothing major happening. Finally, Fianu tried an all-in move with 7c-6c. Lebovich called with A-7, once again a board of 8-Q-3-3-K didn't make difference, and Lebovich pulled in the remaining chips. Fianu was paid $44,733 for second. Fianca, 41, is a chief information officer from Baltimore playing his first Circuit.