David Levi’s only regret is that there is no best all-around trophy at the 2004 California State Poker Championship at the Commerce Casino, because he would probably be polishing it. He’s made four final tables, including three in three days, and scored two wins, first in $500 7-card stud hi-lo and then in the $2,500 no-limit hold’em event.
What’s more, the former Israeli soccer pro captured this no-limit event the hard way. He started the final table third lowest in chips and won no major pots. Instead he played a very astute and tough game, chipping away, knowing when he could pick up pots and when to get out of the way as he steadily climbed into the chip lead and then held it the rest of the way.
"My little daughter told me I would win it," Levi said afterwards.
When it became three-handed, Levi had a substantial lead and a deal was made. The other two finalists, incidentally, have very unusual resumes. Robert Roter, who finished second, had been an aerospace systems engineer for years, then turned a vintage comic strip hobby into a business venture and now is pursuing a pro poker career. He already has wins at Hollywood Park casino.
Martin Shafer, who finished second, is the co-founder and president of Castle Rock Entertainment, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, which has produced such hit films as When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men, along with such TV programming as Seinfeld. He only began playing poker a year ago at the urging of his wife, who is a player. He was 11th at a Bellagio event, the one that ended with a power outage.
The 10 players at the final table got down to the official nine after ace DeHollan’s K-Q was beaten by Shafer’s A-6. The finalists began with $200 antes and blinds of $600-$1,200. Shafer started as the chip leader with $78,500, but soon lost it when Steve Crockett won a $90,000 pot against Moji Seyedin. Crockett, a general contractor, had pocket kings, Seyedin pocket queens.
A chip-depleted Seyedin went out in ninth place not long after. Ted Forrest raised 5k with 5-5 and Seyedin tossed in his last 1.2k with A-6 and couldn’t connect.
Blinds went to $800-$1,600. Forrest, the noted sky-high side game player, opened for 5k with pocket 9s. Pro player Jim Misiti moved him in for about 18k more with pocket queens. The queens prevailed when 10-8-4-6-A came, and Forrest was our eighth place finisher.
On hand 31, Crockett took a big hit. He opened for 3k, Misiti raised to 6k with A-Q. A flop of Q-Q-5 gave Misiti trips and he bet 6k. He slow-played when an ace turned to fill him, then bet 15k on the river. Crocket made it 30k. Misiti added his last 7k and Crocket mucked when Misiti showed his filly.
Allen Cunningham later tried a move, betting all in for 16k with Ac-8c. Shafer called with 7-7, and Cunningham cashed in seventh when the board came 4-3-3-9-J.
On hand 48 the blinds went to $1,000-$2,000 with $300 antes. At this point Shafer led again with about 95k. Levi, grinding away, coming over the top, and moving in, was closing in with about 80k. Misiti had 59k; Roter, 35k; Crockett, 24; and Peter Costa, 22k.
Right after limits went to $1,000-$2,000, Crockett bowed out. Levi opened from the button for 7.5k and Crockett called from the big blind holding A-7. When the flop came 10-8-2, he moved in for 15k. Levi called with 10-9. Crockett took the lead when an ace turned, but a river 9 gave Levi a second pair.
Costa, who had to do a lot of scrambling, went all in for 21k and doubled up against Misiti by flopping a set of jacks. Badly depleted, Misiti hung on for a dozen hands. Holding pocket jacks, he finally went all in for the last time. He called for 4k after Shafer raised with pocket kings. A king flopped and Misiti cashed out fifth.
The four-handed count showed Shafer leading with about 110k to 90k for Levi; 67k for Costa and 38k for Roter. The four remaining players would end up battling each other for 80 more hands before Costa would get knocked out to end the tournament.
Roter rootered chips away from Shafer when Levi opened for 10k, Shafer raised 10k and Roter moved in for about 11k more holding pocket 10s. Levi got out of the way but Shafer, committed, called with A-Q and the 10s held up.
A few hands later, Levi took the lead with about 120k. On a flop of Kh-5h-3h, Roter bet 20k. Levi quickly moved in and showed a flush when Roter folded.
As action continued, play tightened up as the competitors avoided calling all-in bets. One exception came when Shafer, much lower in chips now, had A-5 and called when Costa raised all in with K-J. Ace-high won it and Shafer doubled up to more than 70k.
Costa, the pro from Leicester, England, making his second consecutive final table, was now perilously low with $11,500. He got even lower when he folded both blinds when the pots were raised.
He managed to get back up to 20k, then moved in and showed 9-4 when Shafer folded. Two hands later he moved in again. This time he had a hand””of sorts””pocket treys. This time Roter called, with A-8, and put Peter out to pasture when the board came J-10-8-5-6.
The chip count now was: Levi, 154k; Roter, 86k and Shafer, 75k. The usual prolonged negotiations began. Eventually they came to terms, the event ended and Levi had locked up win No. 2.