This has been a very good year for John Hoang, a computer engineer who only recently started playing tournament poker.
Hoang had three cash-ins in the L.A. Poker Classic; then earned best all-around honors in the Bicycle Casino’s Mini Series of Poker; and finished third in the earlier 7-stud event. But last week, Hoang won his first California State Poker Championship tournament at the Commerce Casino, taking the 7-card stud hi-lo (event no. 6) and cashing in for $22,455.
Hoang also took the lead in the points race with 90 points.
Hoang came to the final table with a slight chip lead. He said he had lots of chips throughout the event and tried not to gamble, a mistake he made when he busted out against David Levy in the earlier 7-stud event.
Tim Fu finished ninth after suffering a very tough beat. When Frank Rite bet with a split pair of eights, Fu raised all-in for $1,000 with a tremendous starting hand of 2-3/4-6. But he then caught a six, a nine (picking up a flush draw) and then an off-suit trey on the river for just two small pair, while Rite made aces up.
The final table started with $150 antes, $300 low card and limits of $1,000-$2,000, 16:07 remaining.
Ron Ryneal, winner of the previous lowball event, started in third chip position, but after taking a big pot on the first hand, looked for a time like he might make it two straight.
In three-way action, Ryneal started off chasing a low with 4-7/6. Instead, he ended up with a surprising jack-high straight. Rit Ratford folded on sixth street, but Rite chased to the end.
When Ryneal bet the river showing 6-10-8-9, Rite, with a board of Q-J-J-8, made a reluctant call after a long pause, and Ryneal scooped in a pot big enough to give him nearly three times the average count.
But after a while he took some hits, had to struggle just to stay in action and eventually finished fourth.
Rite, after paying off Ryneal and missing a flush draw, was in bad shape. He went broke on hand eight after limits went to $1,500-$3,000, with $200 antes and a $500 bring-in. He started with 3-4/7, made two pair and lost to Param Gill’s river flush.
On hand 19, William Cole got a nasty surprise. He had only $600 left after calling Rit’s river bet. Rit looked low with Q-8-5-3, but then turned up two more eights. All-in on the next hand, the best that Cole could make was two sixes, and Hoang’s pocket kings sent him home.
Limits then went to $2,000-$4,000 with $300 antes and a $500 bring-in. Albert Umel immediately busted out when he missed his low, ended with jacks and was chopped up by Mike S’s eight-low and Hoang’s two pair.
Hoang now had the chip lead with close to $70,000, while at the other end, Ryneal was hanging on with about $17,000. He went all in on the next two hands, surviving with splits both times, once with a flush, the next with a royal flush.
He outlasted Rit, who missed a low draw and was chased away by Mike S. who made a seven-low and two pair. Mike S. now had the lead with about $67,000 to Hoang’s $62,000, while Gill and Ryneal were perilously low with around $16,000 and $8,000 respectively.
With limits at $3,000-$6,000, $500 antes and a $1,000 bring-in, Ryneal went quietly when he couldn’t beat Mike S.’s two pair.
With not much to lose, Gill, who said his occupation was trying to get staked in tournaments, announced he planned to gamble and raise every hand. A man of his word, he then proceeded to do just that, getting away with it six times.
The first time he called for and got a four on the river for a wheel, but had to split against Hoang, who was trying to fill his set of nines but instead made a straight on the river. The seventh time he went all in with split jacks after the pot was capped. Hoang had split sevens and made a full house to get the tournament heads-up.
Mike S., a retiree who had been self-employed, had roughly a 3-2 chip lead with about $90,000 to Hoang’s $60,000. But he went into a nosedive a few hands after heads-up play began, folding on the river four times in a row before finally playing a hand out, going all in and splitting with an eight-low.
Finally down to six chips, Mike S. managed to last three more hands. On the final one, he made two pair, but it wasn’t good enough against Hoang’s kings-up, and the sixth event of Cal State 2003 was in the books as Hoang continued his string of cash-outs this year.
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