‘Grinder’ wins LAPC main event

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“The Grinder” is
Michael Mizrachi’s nickname, and it is well deserved. It derives from his
straight-ahead, mechanical, non-flashy play. In the final day of the five-day
Los Angeles Poker Classic Championship (a World Poker Tour event), he came to
the final table with 2,190,000 in chips, nearly twice as many as any of his five
opponents. When he got heads-up with Canadian Haralabos Voulgaris, he still
enjoyed a slight lead. Then, after many hands of play with minor back-and forth
chip lead changes, he suddenly lost a pot of over 4 million chips, and found
himself down nearly 4-1.

With his work cut out, Mizrachi
slowly worked his way back into contention, then regained the lead by taking
down another 4 million chip pot, and finally claimed victory. First place was
worth $1,859,909 plus a $25,000 entry into the WPT championship at the Bellagio
in April.

Mizrachi, a resident of
Hollywood, Florida, is 24, the same age as his final opponent. His biggest win
up until now was in a $2,000 no-limit event at the Bellagio’s Five Diamond in
2004.

The final day was structured by
the WPT, starting with full hour rounds, later changing to 30 minutes. Opening
blinds were 10k/20k, with 1k antes.

Mizrachi didn’t waste time. On
hand three he re-raised Erick Lindgren to 200k, then moved in on the flop.
“You’re an animal,” Lindgren complimented him as he folded.

Harley Hall, a pro with a fifth
in the 2002 World Series championship event, arrived extremely low-chipped with
only 120k. He doubled up a few times, but couldn’t accumulate many chips and
was first out.

When blinds went to 15k/30k with
2k antes, the chip count was: Mizrachi, 2.17 million; Lingren, 924k; Ted
Forrest, 843k; Hung La, 645k; Voulgaris, 664k; and Hall, 134k. At this point,
Hall moved in for 131k with pocket deuces. “Time to go to Plan B,” he
said, as Mizrachi turned up pocket jacks. Plan B didn’t work either, and there
were five left as Hall cashed out for $154,992.

Play turned cautious as another
10 hands went by without a flop. Then, on hand 41, La opened under the gun for
80k with Ah-10h. Lindgren, on dangerous ground, called with A-9. He was in
trouble when the flop came A-5-3. He called La’s 100k bet and was in more
trouble when another ace turned. Le moved in for 525k and Lindgren called with
his last 520k. The 10 kicker played. Fifth place was worth $206,657 for
Lindgren, a former blackjack dealer who collected $1 million for winning the
Party Poker Million III event.

The rough count now was: Mizrachi,
2.3 million; La, 1.4 million; Forrest, 925k; and Voulgaris, 700k. A few hands
later, Forrest got tied to pocket 10s and it cost him his seat. He opened for
70k. Mizrachi made it 240k to go and Forrest moved in. Mizrachi’s pocket kings
held up, he hauled in a pot of 1.9 million, and Forrest, who has five WSOP
bracelets, collected $263,487 for finishing fourth.

Voulgaris, who has a degree in
philosophy and would love to be a playwright, did a little acting on hand 60
after Mizrachi raised him to 200k. Twice Voulgaris wrapped his hands around his
stacks as if ready to move in, while looking at Mizrachi for a tell. Getting no
reaction, he folded.

We now had the traditional
bringing-in-the money ceremony as a long line of long-legged girls brought in
trays full of money which they dumped on the table, threatening to capsize it
with the weight of $5 million.

Heads-up, Mizrachi now had a very
small lead, 2.795 million to 2.585 for Voulgaris. The match-up would last almost
as long as all the preceding hands. Over the next couple of dozen hands, there
would be very little change, with one or the other of the players in the lead,
but never by much.

This pattern continued after
blinds became 40k/80k with 10k antes and 30-minute rounds.

The end came a couple of hands
later. Voulgaris tried a desperation all-in bluff with just 10-3. Mizrachi
called with A-9, and when the board showed A-2-K-2, it was all over and Mizrachi
was $1,859,909 richer.

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