Playing in his customary go-for-broke fashion, Hon Le, aka The Kamikaze Kid, broke players left and right as he piled up an enormous chip lead in the 12th event of the 2004 California State Poker Championship, $1,000 no-limit hold’em, held at the Commerce Casino in Southern California.
Then he ran into a stalwart octogenarian named Gene Resnick who fought back and took the lead for a second time before being done in by a couple of bad beats. On his final hand, Resnick held pocket queens but to his dismay Hon Le outdrew him and he finished third.
Heads-up, Hon Le enjoyed a huge chip advantage and made a deal with Tim Phan to end the event. Mark Seif got lucky right after blinds went to $800-$1,600 with $200 antes. He moved in with 9s-8s. Phan had him with Ac-Qc, but a 9 turned to keep Seif in action.
After an hour and 15 minutes of play, 12 all ins and two limit increases, not a single player had Emeliano Calitis Jr. with $52,000 and Seif and Arnold Spee with close to $40,000 each.
Two hours and 17 all-ins went by, still with no casualties. At last a new dealer came in who knew what he was doing and promptly busted Danish pro Henrik Olsen. Olsen moved in for about $8,000 with K-J. Hon Le had Ac-Qc, made a flush and retook the lead with around $90,000.
A few hands later, Seif raised and then moved in for $25,000 on a flop of 9-3-5. "You have king-queen," Hon Le kept saying, trying to get a read. He stalled so long that Spee impatiently called for a clock. Hon Le waited until the last second, then folded.
When blinds went up again to $1,500-$3,000 with $500 antes, there were still nine players in action and Hon Le still led, now with $102,000.
Six hands later the next player finally went out, and as usual the Kamikaze Kid was involved. Hon Le raised to $15,000 with K-9 and Mo Fathipour went all in with 3-3. Two pair hit the board and the king played.
Later, a clock had to be put on Nick Joanides, who raised to $6,000 and also pondered before folding when Phan moved in on him.
Three hours into the final table, Seif moved all in for the last time with $20,000. "Might as well gamble," said Joanides, as he matched the bet. Hon Le was suspicious. "Just call?" he asked. "Why not move in?" Not being able to stand being left out of the action, Hon Le also called.
On a flop of 10-5-3, Joanides moved in for about $30,000 and Hon Le called. The hands were turned up: A-9 for Seif, pocket 9s for Joanides and K-9 for Hon Le. "I didn’t want Hon Le to draw out on me," Joanides said, explaining his bet. The turn was a jack, and then a king on the river gave Hon Le top pair. As onlookers exploded in excitement, Seif cashed out eighth and Joanides seventh while the Kamikaze Kid, now having knocked out all four players, stacked up about 185,000 of the 278,000 chips in play.
The excitement hadn’t yet abated when Emeliano Calitas Jr. moved in for $37,000 with K-Q on the next hand. Phan, calling with pocket 5s, just had him covered. The board came 8-6-2-3-9 and Calitas was out in sixth place.
As the 100th hand was drawing near, Hon Le moved in with A-A. Emad Rayyan looked at pocket jacks and called. A board of K-K-4-5-10 was dealt and Hon Le had disposed of one more player. He now had a tall picket fence of chips, nearly $200,000 altogether.
A few hands later the table got down to three handed after Spee moved in for his last $10,000 with 10-9. Resnick called with J-7 and won with jack-high on a board of K-6-5-K-K.
It looked like Hon Le would ride off with a quick win, but things did not turn out that simple. By the time blinds went to $1,000-$4,000 with $500 antes, Resnick had picked up some chips and now had about $93,000 to $215,000 for Hon Le and approximately $72,000 for Phan.
Later, as Resnick was pondering a move, Hon Le warned him, "You move in and I call you." "OK," Resnick said, "I move in." Hon Le did not call.
Resnick eventually pulled about even when he re-raised all in for about $150,000 and Hon Le folded. Another all-in re-raise that went uncalled, and now Resnick had the lead.
Hon Le struck back and pulled in front when he came over the top for $50,000 pre-flop after Resnick had opened for $20,000. The flop came K-Q-J. Hon Le announced all in and Resnick mucked.
Resnick then suffered a really bad beat against Phan. After Phan moved in for about $40,000 with A-10, Resnick quickly called with pocket kings. On fourth street Resnick had a set and Phan was dead to an inside straight draw. "No queen," Resnick called out. That’s exactly what came, giving Phan a straight and cutting Resnick’s stacks down considerably.
As play went on, player after player moved in without there being a confrontation.
Then, on the final hand, Hon Le opened for $30,000 with A-2 and Resnick moved in for $73,000 with pocket queens. Hon Le called and promptly flopped an ace. Resnick was beside himself, because it was not the first time in the tournament that Hon Le had drawn out on him in this fashion.
Badly trailing, Phan accepted a deal and the aptly named Kamikaze Kid had the win.