The conclusion of Legends 31, the All-Around Points Playoff at the Bicycle Casino, was more an economic summit than a poker tournament. With three players left, James Mena had the lead and in line to win the top prize of a 2003 Hummer listed at $53,500. Which he didn’t really want and instead asked for offers from Mike Sexton and Surinder Sunar.
Thrown into the complex mix were the resale value of the car, the California state tax liability, the value of the seats in the Championship/WPT event for the second and third spots, Sexton’s commitment as a WPT commentator and the fact that Mars was at its closest rendezvous with earth in 60,000 years.
After lengthy negotiations, a deal was made and Sunar was declared the winner. And don’t ask this writer for details because he couldn’t explain them if he tried. Let’s just say that all three are top-notch players who had lots of chips and any one of them could easily have won the tournament had it been played out.
The points playoff was a $100 + $20 buy-in event which anyone with 10 or more points could enter. All entrants received $300 in chips plus 10 times their points total. This was a departure from prior years where the point leader automatically won. With this format, anyone with 10 points could theoretically win.
At the same time, the more points a player accumulated, the greater advantage he or she had. Interestingly, the highest points finishers at the final table were Spring Cheong and Rocky Enciso, only in 32nd and 72nd place respectively.
Initially, the game was H.O.S.E., with 20-minute alternating rounds of limit hold’em, Omaha hi-lo, 7-card stud and stud hi-lo. At the final table the players got down to business, playing 40-minute rounds of no-limit hold’em.
The final 10 started with $100 antes and blinds of $300-$600. Lowest-chipped Cheong went out on hand eight with A-10 in the small blind after Sexton moved her in with pocket fives and made a six-high straight. Six hands later, Ben Tang moved in for about 7k with pocket fours and Mena pushed in his much larger stack with pocket eights. Eights won, eight were left.
In early going, Mena used his large stack as a cudgel, re-raising all in three times to pick up a lot of chips. After blinds went to 4-8k, Toto Leonidas got totaled. He made a 4k raise all in holding Qd-4d. Sunar made a somewhat reluctant call with A-J and hit two pair.
At the break, Mena still led with about 35k followed by Rusty Mandap with about 25k. Phi Nguyen was shortest-chipped with about 2k, and he went out on the first hand. He was in the $1,200 big blind with Ad-2d. Mena, with pocket nines, raised Nguyen’s last chips and won when blanks came. Mena, who could not seem to lose a hand, now claimed his third victim. Enciso raised 4k with K-J and Mena put him all in for about 7k more with A-10. Encino made two pair on a flop of K-J-10, but then a queen on fourth street gave Mena a straight.
On hand 47, Sexton made it 3k to go and Mandap called. "Let’s gamble," said Tony Cousineau, raising his last $900 with A-7. Sexton had K-J and bet out when a K-9-4 flopped. Mandap folded and Cousineau folded his tent after a four and three came.
With 1-2k blinds, Mena took his first big hit when he raised to 5k with A-5, called Sunar’s all in-raise of 13.8k more and lost when Sunar, with K-Q, made three queens. He was now about even with Mena, and took a slight lead two hands later. But a few hands after that, after Mena again raised to 5k with Qs-Js, Mandap moved in for about 28k more with Ks-10s. Mena called, busted Mandap and regained the lead when a jack flopped. Negotiations began, and the rest is history. ””Max Shapiro
Surinder Sunar is one of Europe’s top players, though he has yet to win a World Series bracelet. He came very close this year when he finished second to Johnny Chan in the $5,000 no-limit hold’em event, cashing out for $112,000. Other major cash-outs include about $100,000 for winning the British Open and $150,000 for a second at the Taj’s U.S. Open championship. Sunar, a native of India now living in London, is a former electronic engineer. Having lost some of his patience for tournaments, he now plays mostly side games, limiting his tournament play largely to championship events.
He said he was never in trouble during the tournament. He mostly was "cruising" during the earlier H.O.S.E. rounds because limit games are not his cup of tea, and he came into his own once he started playing the no-limit he prefers.