The sixth tournament of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City had two wildly contrasting time frames. It took only 45 minutes for the first seven players to get knocked out, but nearly two hours and 97 hands of heads-up play before this $500 no-limit hold'em tournament ended. At the finish, Menan "Speed" Saydam, a very patient 38-year from Istanbul who moved here from London in 1992, was the winner. Victory brought him $53,630 and a handsome diamond-and gold trophy ring.
His final opponent was Josh Briskis, who arrived at the final table as chip leader. He held it all the way until early in heads-up play when Saydam flopped a set, taking athe lead which he then held until the end.
Saydam, who now lives in Arlington, Virginia, owns Music 1 D.C. an entertainment services company that provides live bands, DJs, photography and similar services for weddings and other events. A friend taught him poker 15 years ago. He's played seven or more Circuits and has two prior cashes in them, along with a final table at the Executive Poker Tour in Atlantic City. He plays mostly high-limit hold'em cash games as well as a regular Monday night home game that includes the likes of Rhett Butler, who won $3.2 million for finishing fifth in the 2006 WSOP main event. Saydam used to play two or three times a week in side games, has cut back this year because he's been going back and forth to his native country. He also welcomed his first child, a son, four months ago.
Tonight, apart from a couple of moves, he said he played solidly until he got heads-up, then began pushing his final opponent around by moving in with hands like 4-2. He also had high praise for the way the tournament was run, and said the dealers at the final table were "fantastic."
This event drew 346 players who created a prize pool of $173,000. The 27 players remaining on day one got to the final nine after Dimitrios Haskaris went out. He moved in with K-Q and had two callers. A flop of 6-5-3 gave Brikis, who had 7-4 in the small blind, a straight, and the final table was set. Brikis led with 827,000 chips while at the other end was Ray "Sage" Williams, near the cloth with 7,000 after losing more than 100,000 in the prior hand when his A-Q fell to Frank Randazzo's A-K.
There was one minute left at level 17, and a hand later blinds went to 10,000-20,000 with 3,000 antes.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1. Pat Williams 7,000
Seat 2 . Emmanuel Jannes 147,000
Seat 3. Michael Nessim 210,000
Seat 4. Frank Randazzo 267,000
Seat 5. Robert Castoire 560,000
Seat 6. David Zeitlin 335,000
Seat 7. Josh Brikis 827,000
Seat 8. Michael Demeza 132,000
Seat 9. Menan Saydam 306,000
Starting action was unbelievably furious and deadly, with five players left by the roadside in just 20 minutes! And, if it weren't for two big draw-outs, seven players would have departed in 25 minutes.
Here's how it happened. Not surprisingly, Williams was first to go. He was all in from the big blind on the second deal with a mere J-2 against A-K and couldn't hit anything. Ninth paid him $3,460. Williams, 50, from Buffalo, New York, has been playing tournaments for six years. This is his fourth Circuit and best finish. His other hobby is fishing.
Two hands later, Michael "News" Demeza, a pro from Martinsburg, Virginia pushed in for about 140,000 with pocket 10s. He ran into pocket queens held by Brikis. All little cards hit the board, and suddenly two were out. Demeza collected $5,190 for eighth. Demeza, 50, has been playing for 25 years learning in family games. He is married with four children and likes to golf.
Immediately after, Emmanuel "Manny" Jannes, holding Ah-2h, committed his last 140,000 chips and was looked up by David Zeitlin with A-Q. The board came 4-10-5-9-7 and Jannes finished seventh, worth $6,920. Ten minutes, and three players gone. Jannes, 36, is a manager from West Hempstead, New York. He's played poker four years and "enough" tournaments.
There was now a very long lull as it took all of six minutes to lose the next player. This time it was Randazzo. He moved in for 180,000 with A-Q, losing to Robert Castoire's pocket jacks when the board showed 9-2-10-7-5. Sixth paid $8,650. Randazzo, 38, is from Jamison, Pennsylvania. His nickname is "Pizza Man," and, not surprisingly, his occupation is pizza man. He learned poker 30 years ago from family and friends, this is his first Circuit, and his poker highlights are cashing back-to-back at Foxwoods and winning a Bellagio daily $450 event. His hobby is soccer, he's married with three children, and he boasts of making the best pizza in the world.
Michael Nessim looked like he would quickly be the next player out. He had Ah-2c, and fell behind to Zeitlin's Ks-Qs when the flop came 7s-Qc-3c. But then two running clubs gave Nessim a flush and saved him. On the next hand, the flop showed 8-7-6 and Brikis, holding 8-6 and making two pair, moved in. Zeitlin's A-9 gave him an open-end straight draw and he called with his last chips. An 8 turned to fill Brikis, and that did it for Zeitlin, who cashed fifth for $10,380. That's five players gone in 20 minuites.
Zeitlin was a 35-tear-old attorney from Brooklyn who found a legitimate occupation by turning pro three years ago. He learned to play at age 6 from his grandfather. He's entered "plenty" of Circuits and his biggest cash by far was $269,778 for second in a $1,000 event at the WSOP last year. He also has wins in the Foxwoods Poker Classic, Trump Classic and Borgata Winter Open. He's also a newlywed. "Shout out to my wife Janeen!"
A made-for-TV hand came down a few deals later. Brikis opened for 60,000 with pocket queens, Saydam moved in for 280,000 with pocket kings. Brikis called and moved in front by flopping a set of ladies. Then justice was served and the better starting hand won as Saydam caught a king on the turn and remained alive.
A few hands later Brikis raised 100,000 pre-flop and Robert Castiore, with Q-9, called. The flop came 5-5-3. Brikis bet a relatively modest 150,000 and Castiore, thinking it was a safe flop, tried an all-in move, raising about 250,000 more. "Nice call," he said as Brikis called his raise. It was pretty much a no-brainer because Brikis had pocket kings. Two babies on the turn and river made no difference, and Castiore was out in fourth place, paying $12,110. Castiore, 52, is a ship’s officer from Cecilia, Kentucky who learned poker “the hard way” 40 years ago. He’s played about eight Circuits and at Tunica had four consecutive cashes with back-to-back final tables.
Only a few beats later our seventh player departed. A flop of 3-4-8 gave Nessim, holding 5-2, an open-end straight draw and he went all in against Saydam who had 8-6 for a pair of 8s. Nessim missed his draw when a king and then a queen were dealt, and he went out third, paying $13,840. Nessim, 42, is an investor from New York City who learned poker three years ago watching TV. He's married with three kids and also likes to ski. This is his first Circuit.
Only 45 minutes had passed, but there was a long way yet to go. The players took an extra break and returned with Brikis holding a better than 2-1 chip lead. Ten minutes later, the turnaround hand was dealt. Brikis raised, Saydam came over the top for 200,000 more, and Brikis popped it for another 200,000. The flop came 8-3-10. Brikis moved in with with A-J, and Saydam, who had flopped a set of 8s, called for his last 440,000. Brikis was dead to a runner-runner straight which didn't come, and Saydam took over the lead with about 1.7 million chips to a million for Brikis.
As play went on, Brikis dropped down to about 400,000 at one point before recovering somewhat. The level ended, and blinds were now 15,000-30,000 with 4,000 antes.
It would be an understatement to say that play now tightened. The entire hour level went by with not a single all-in call. The players returned from break to blinds of 20,000-40,000 and 5,000 antes. Saydam still led with about 2 million chips to 760,000 for Brikis.
Brikis dipped down very low before doubling through twice, once when his pocket queens won when Saydam missed his straight draw, then again when he flopped a king to his K-8 to outrun Saydam's pocket 6s. Still, he never could close the gap. On the final hand, with 13 minutes left in the level, he pushed in for 445,000 holding Kd-5d, a big underdog to Saydam's Ks-Js. Saydam flopped a royal flush draw when the cards came As-Qs-Ah, but settled for a simple nut flush when a 3s arrived on the river. For finishing second, Brikis cashed for $27,680.
Brikis is a 28-year-old pro from Pittsburgh. He scored a win in the Mountaineer Deep Stack III event in Chester, West Virginia, and has eight prior WSOP Circuit cashes.