In one of the best comebacks of the Los Angeles Poker Classic (LAPC) tournament, Mel Judah won the 7-card stud event at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.
Judah, down to $6,000 after losing to Spring Cheong’s flush, made a remarkable comeback to take down the 15th event of the LAPC.
"I noticed a lot of the short stacks were playing a waiting game, so I decided to go for it, instead of getting picked off by the big stacks," he said later. He credited a lot of his success to hitting second pairs when he started with split pairs. He was still lowest-chipped when the first level ended, but went on a rush after that and was unstoppable.
Judah, an Australian-born pro and former hairdresser now living in London, has a huge resume of major cash-ins, including two stud bracelets at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and a win in the $5,000 Legends/World Poker Tour event at the Bicycle Casino. Interestingly the top three finishers in this event all have bracelets. Dan Torla won his for 7-stud in 2002 and Ted Forrest won the 5k 7-stud event in ’93. Esther Rossi, who finished fourth, has a second in stud at the WSOP.
At the final table, play started with $200 antes, a $300 low-card bring-in and limits of $1,000-$2,000. Spring Cheong, one of the short-stacks, had been chip leader at the second table before going card-dead. She soon went all in, but stayed alive by catching a second king on fifth street.
First out was Joe Baron, who won a stud event at Commerce last year. Starting with the smallest stack, he was all-in with split treys on the sixth hand. He made a second small pair, but lost to Rossi’s trip 8s.
On hand 10, Judah hit his low point. He started and ended with split kings as Cheong’s flush got her back up to 18k. Judah had only $300 left soon after, when he hit open kings on fifth street and bet, but Joe Rocco folded. On the next hand, Judah’s split queens were enough to leave Rocco, an investor, in seventh place.
In early going, either Forrest or Rossi would hold the lead. Rossi edged ahead with about 60k after her open treys beat Judah’s split deuces. Later, Judah said he should have tried a bluff when Rossi checked the river.
Meanwhile, Torla was playing extremely tight. Hand 28 was the first one he played, and he picked a good one. Starting with (4-5)3 in three-way action, he scooped with a straight. "I didn’t have many chips, so the first hand had to be right," he said later.
George Rechnitzer, a real estate investor and manager, was all-in for $500 on third street with (92)5, got nowhere and was eliminated when Judah paired a 7 on fifth street.
A hand later, Cheong, a writer for a Korea Times, took a big hit when she lost with a set of 9s. Forrest had a straight flush draw and hit a flush on the river. Then, after losing to Rossi’s two pair, Cheong was down to about $1,400. She finished fifth on the next hand. All in on third street, she couldn’t make anything and was eliminated by Torla’s buried jacks.
A couple of hands later the limits went to $1,500-$3,000. The count was about: Rossi, 66k; Forrest, 48k; Torla, 30k; and Judah, 22k. Now Judah began his move. After beating Forrest with aces and kings and Rossi with jacks-up, he was close to the lead with about 50k, and was never far behind after that.
Chips went back and forth, with Forrest having the largest swings. Then Judah got lucky, won a big hand and took the lead for good. Rossi had pocket aces and couldn’t improve, while Judah, with split 5s, ended up with aces-up. Had Rossi made a second pair herself, Judah would have been in big trouble.
The count now had Judah with about 75k to 50k for Forrest and 35k for Rossi. Torla, meanwhile, hadn’t been having any luck and was down to 5k. He later went all in with three-way action and survived when his queens-up beat Judah’s jacks-up.
"He kept alive because he wasn’t getting any low cards," Judah later observed. "Esther and I were getting all of them."
Now the limits went to $2,000-$4,000, with $300 antes and a $500 bring-in. The count at this point was: Judah, 85k; Forrest, 57.5k; Rossi, 12.2k; and Torla, 11.5k.
Torla survived a second time when his jacks-up beat Forrest’s 7s-up. Then, on the next hand, he hit a heart flush on the river to beat Rossi’s aces-up and knock her out in third place.
Later, when Forrest beat Torla with trip 6s, Judah analyzed the up cards and said he thought Forrest had been going for a gut-shot straight. "You thought I’d raise with 4-4-5?" Judah said in amazement. "I want you in my regular game. I don’t go for gut-shot straights."
Forrest later wondered if they’d be allowed to keep the limits at $2,000-$4,000, but Judah advised him it wouldn’t be permitted.
By the time limits went to $3,000-$6,000, Forrest had dipped down to 20.5k while Torla had 36.5k and Judah all the rest of the 166,500 chips in play
Forrest couldn’t do anything after that. On his final hand, he was chasing an open-end straight with (5-6)A-4-7, missed and went out when Judah made kings-up. Judah then proposed a deal, Torla went for it and Mel had one more trophy.
LA POKER CLASSIC
Prize Pool: $107,670
1. Mel Judah, $41,991, London, England
2. Dan Torla, $21,534, Huntington Beach, CA
3. Ted Forrest, $10,767, Las Vegas, CA
4. Esther Rossi, $7,106, Las Vegas, NV
5. Spring Cheong, $5,384, San Francisco CA
6. George Rechnitzer, $4,307, Beverly Hills, CA
7. Joe Rocco, $3,230, Calabasas, CA
8. Joe Baron, $2,155, Huntington Beach, CA
9. Guo Jian, $1,615
10. Maria Feterman, $1,615
11. Larry Eubanks, $1,615
12. Rocky Domingo, $1,615
13. Hieu "Tony" Ma, $1,184
14. David Quan, $1,323
15. George Shahrezay, $1,323
16. Jesse Jone, $1,323