"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.