Tuesday, October 3, 2017 2:18 AM Local Time
Recreational grinder plays the role of underdog, upsets stacked final table
Late Monday night, Joe Gotlieb became the WSOP Circuit’s newest first-time winner. And he announced his arrival in a big way. Gotlieb won the $1,675 Main Event at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, claiming the gold ring and the top prize of $257,638. He also earned a free seat to the season-ending Global Casino Championship.
Gotlieb, 52, is a small business owner from Hollywood, Florida. By day, he deals in cell phone parts. By night, he’s a poker player. The business has been struggling a bit lately, and Gotlieb decided to explore his options as a full-time grinder.
“I wanted to give it a shot at going pro,” he said. “This was it. This was my shot at that.”
A Main Event win on the the WSOP Circuit is always something to brag about, but Gotlieb’s performance was particularly impressive. He plays a unique style, something that may have helped him outlast a final table that was stacked with danger.
Triple bracelet winner Brian Hastings was among them before dropping out in fourth place, just ahead of Brett Bader and Chad Eveslage, two dangerous pros in their own right. At the end of the long day, Gotlieb found himself heads-up with Asher Conniff, a former WPT World Champion and one of the game’s more dangerous young players.
Conniff began the heads-up match with a significant lead, but the duel was entirely lopsided in Gotlieb’s favor. Fittingly, it ended in a coin flip for 95 percent of the total chips in play.
Conniff was dealt ace-king, Gotlieb pocket sevens, and the two got it all in preflop. The latter flopped a set to put himself two cards from the win, but Conniff did turn outs to a gutshot straight. The river was a miss for him, though, giving the pot and the title to the underdog.
Competitive gaming has been in Gotlieb’s blood since childhood. He’s a former chess champion and math trophy winner, and he finds poker to be a comparable mental outlet. “Whenever I played games, I was always good at them,” he said. “And when I wasn’t, I found a way to win anyway.
In the moments after claiming the title, Gotlieb struggled to find the words to capture his emotions. He spent a long while gazing silently at his payout ticket, which showed the details of his big score. It’s a career-best by a big margin, and Gotlieb finally found one quiet word to sum up his feelings.
Monday, October 2, 2017 9:04 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff limps the button, and Joe Gotlieb raises to 1,050,000 from the big blind. Conniff moves all in for 8,600,000, and Gotlieb calls to put him at risk, putting 95 percent of the total chips in the middle. Suitably, it's a coin flip.
"Racing for all of it," Conniff tells his rail. "Literally all of it."
The board runs out , and Gotlieb wins that race.
The dealer begins counting down the stacks, but Conniff knows the result already. "He has me covered," he says quietly. The dealer verifies, and that's that.
Gotlieb wins the Main Event, collecting the diamond-studded ring, $257,638 in cash, and a seat to the Global Casino Championship.
Conniff finishes as the runner-up, earning $159,357.
Monday, October 2, 2017 8:36 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff limps from the button, and Joe Gotlieb raises to 450,000 from the big blind. Conniff calls.
The flop is . Gotlieb checks and Conniff bets 350,000. Gotlieb then check-raises to 1,100,000. Conniff thinks for a minute, then calls.
Both players check the on the turn, and the river is the . Gotlieb checks again and Conniff bets 2,000,000. Gotlieb folds and Conniff takes the pot.
Asher Conniff - 9,380,000 (62 bb)
Joe Gotlieb - 8,700,000 (58 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 8:32 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff limps from the button and Joe Gotlieb checks his option in the big blind.
The flop is and both players check. Gotlieb checks again on the turn. Conniff bets 250,000 and Gotlieb calls.
The river is the and Gotlieb checks a third time. Conniff continues for 900,000, and Gotlieb calls again. "You got it," Conniff tells him. Gotlieb shows for a pair of threes, and Conniff slides his cards to the muck.
Gotlieb has now effectively reversed the lead that Conniff had held when heads-up play began.
Joe Gotlieb - 11,400,000 (76 bb)
Asher Conniff - 6,680,000 (44 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 8:24 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff opens the button to 350,000, and Joe Gotlieb defends his big blind.
The flop is . Gotlieb checks, Conniff continues for 400,000, and Gotlieb calls.
The turn is the , and Gotlieb checks again. Conniff bets 1,100,000, and Gotlieb spends a few minutes in the tank before calling.
Both players check through the river.
Gotlieb shows , winning the pot with two pair, jacks and nines. He's now the chip leader for the first time in this duel.
Joe Gotlieb - 10,830,000 (72 bb)
Asher Conniff - 7,250,000 (48 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 8:15 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff raises to 375,000 from the button, and Joe Gotlieb calls from the big blind.
Both players check the flop, and the turn is the . Gotlieb checks and Conniff bets 550,000. Gotlieb calls.
Both players check the on the river. "Pair of deuces," Gotlieb says as he turns over . Conniff mucks his cards, and Gotlieb pulls in the pot.
Joe Gotlieb - 7,700,000 (51 bb)
Asher Conniff - 10,380,000 (69 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 8:03 PM Local Time
Monday, October 2, 2017 7:58 PM Local Time
On a flop, Asher Conniff bets 350,000, and Joe Gotlieb calls.
The turn is the , and Gotlieb calls another 950,000.
The river is the , and Coniff unloads the clip. He stacks up a big bet of something like 2,100,000 and slides it forward. Gotlieb folds, and Conniff flashes his cards to his rail as he collects the pot.
"Nice hand," Jessica Dawley says.
Asher Conniff - 12,275,000 (102 bb)
Joe Gotlieb - 5,805,000 (48 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 7:50 PM Local Time
Joe Gotlieb limps from the button, and Asher Conniff checks his option in the big blind.
Both players check the flop, and the turn is the . Conniff checks again, and Gotlieb bets 150,000. Conniff calls.
The river is the and Conniff checks a third time. Gotlieb continues for 205,000. Conniff takes about 30 seconds to think, then slides his cards to the muck.
Joe Gotlieb - 7,000,000 (58 bb)
Asher Conniff - 11,080,000 (92 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 7:44 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff opens the button to 250,000, and Mauricio Ameller three-bet shoves for 2,250,000 in the small blind. In the big blind, Joe Gotlieb starts to stack chips out in the staging area in the vicinity of his hole cards.
There is some confusion over whether or not Gotlieb has committed them to the pot, so Conniff asks him. Gotlieb doesn't move to answer, so Conniff tries again. "Is that a call?" Again, no response. For about 15 seconds, Conniff and the dealer exchange confused looks, and nobody is quite sure about the action.
There is a floor person standing nearby, and he's not sure, either. "Sir, is that a call?" the floor asks. Gotlieb sits like a statue, so the floor continues. "Did you intend to call the bet? Because it sure looked like a call to me. Sir?"
Finally, Gotlieb speaks, and he does so with daggers. "Can I raise?!" he asks. The floor tells him he can not, but the question was rhetorical. "Well, if I can't raise, then what is it?" he asks angrily.
"Look, I just want to make sure you're calling," Conniff says. "I can't tell if your chips are in the pot."
"It's not a raise, so what do you think it is?" Gotlieb grows even more unhappy.
Finally convinced, Conniff folds, and Gotlieb turns to the floorman to express further frustration. "You're not allowed to ask me that," he says. "I don't talk when I'm in a hand. I don't want to give off any tells. You can't do that."
The floor explains that Gotlieb's actions were unclear and advises him to be more definitive in the future.
While that tense situation is still lingering, Ameller is at risk for his tournament life.
The board runs out , and Gotlieb wins the pot with a pair of fives. Ameller is eliminated in third place.
Conniff and Gotlieb are now heads-up for the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood Main Event title.
Asher Conniff - 11,030,000 (92 bb)
Joe Gotlieb - 7,050,000 (59 bb)
Mauricio Ameller - Eliminated
Monday, October 2, 2017 7:25 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff raises to 250,000 from the button, and Brian Hastings moves all in from the small blind for about 2,600,000. Conniff calls.
The flop is , leaving Hastings in the lead with his pair of eights. But Conniff has a straight draw and will take the lead if he pairs up. The turn gives him a lock on the hand as the hits the felt, and the meaningless river is the .
Conniff wins with his Broadway straight, and Hastings is eliminated in fourth place. He earns $88,004 for his efforts.
Asher Conniff - 11,200,000 (93 bb)
Brian Hastings - Eliminated
Monday, October 2, 2017 7:20 PM Local Time
Brett Bader moves all in for 1,350,000 under the gun, and action folds around to Asher Conniff in the big blind. He tables his hand, and as his cards are in midair, he announces a call to put Bader at risk.
The board runs out , and Conniff wins the pot with a pair of aces. Bader is eliminated in fifth place.
Asher Conniff - 9,100,000 (76 bb)
Brett Bader - Eliminated
Monday, October 2, 2017 7:06 PM Local Time
Asher Conniff raises to 250,000 from the button and Brian Hastings three-bets to 675,000 from the big blind. Conniff calls.
The flop is and Hastings continues for 500,000. Conniff calls again.
The turn is the and Hastings now checks. Conniff thinks for a minute, then bets 675,000, and Hastings folds.
Asher Conniff - 6,950,000 (57 bb)
Brian Hastings - 2,280,000 (19 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:51 PM Local Time
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:45 PM Local Time
Players are now on their third break of the day. Here are their current chip counts.
Mauricio Ameller - 3,565,000
Joe Gotlieb - 3,685,000
Asher Conniff - 5,355,000
Brett Bader - 1,800,000
Brian Hastings - 3,640,000
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:44 PM Local Time
Mauricio Ameller limps under the gun, and Brett Bader completes in the small blind. From the big blind, Brian Hastings raises to 425,000, and only Ameller calls.
Both players check through the flop, and the turn is the . Hastings checks, and Ameller bets what looks like 600,000. Hastings calls. The river is the . Hastings checks again, and Ameller moves all in for 1,455,000. Hastings spends a couple minutes deliberating, but he eventually surrenders his cards into the muck.
Ameller wins the pot.
Mauricio Ameller - 3,680,000 (37 bb)
Brian Hastings - 3,575,000 (36 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:29 PM Local Time
Brett Bader limps from the cutoff, Brian Hastings limps from the button, Mauricio Ameller limps from the small blind, and Joe Gotlieb checks his option in the big blind.
The four players see come out on the flop. It's checked around to Hastings, and he bets 175,000. Ameller and Gotlieb both call, and Bader folds.
The turn is the and it's again checked to Hastings. He continues for 550,000. Ameller quickly folds. Gotlieb asks the dealer to verify the amount of the bet, thinks for a minute, then folds.
Brian Hastings - 4,140,000 (41 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:22 PM Local Time
Joe Gotlieb limps under the gun, Brian Hastings completes in the small blind, and Mauricio Ameller checks his option in the big blind.
All three players check through the flop, and the turn is the . Hastings bets 225,000, and Ameller calls. Gotlieb, though, moves all. Hastings asks for the count, and Gotlieb cuts down his 1,640,000 for the table.
After several minutes in the tank, Hastings folds, and Ameller folds instantly. giving the pot to Gotlieb. He appears dissatisfied by the result, though, dropping his head to the table with a laugh.
"I almost called," Hastings smiles across the table. "I just didn't want to be drawing dead."
"So you didn't have a nine or a ten in your hand, then?" Conniff presumes.
Hastings confirms. "Jack and an open-ender."
"Ha," Conniff figures it out. "I was like, 'I thought he said he didn't have a nine in his hand."
It sounds like jack-five, but it's in the muck whatever it was, and Gotlieb collects the pot to earn a significant increase.
Joe Gotlieb - 2,465,000 (25 bb)
Brian Hastings - 3,940,000 (39 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:13 PM Local Time
A few minutes after losing most of his stack to Brian Hastings, Joe Gotlieb pushes all in for his last 790,000 from the cutoff. Hastings calls from the big blind, and the hands are tabled:
The flop is , and Gotlieb hits a set to leave Hastings drawing thin. The turn is the , and the river is the . Gotlieb wins with his set of queens and gets back some of the chips he lost a few hands ago.
Joe Gotlieb - 1,680,000 (16 bb)
Brian Hastings - 3,540,000 (35 bb)
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:08 PM Local Time
Brian Hastings raises to 220,000 from the cutoff. Joe Gotlieb raises to 1,950,000. Hastings quickly moves all in for 2,130,000, and Gotlieb quickly calls.
The board comes . Hastings pairs his ace to win the pot, and he doubles up.
Brian Hastings - 4,360,000 (43 bb)
Joe Gotlieb - 820,000 (8 bb)