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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Cantu Can Do at Bay 101 Shooting Star

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After years of Bay 101 proving that it hosts one of the players’ favorite poker tournaments on the WPT circuit, everyone always seems to find their way to San Jose. The 2008 World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star event was no different.

Not only do the players love the structure and rules set up by Tournament Director Matt Savage, but the players are generally treated quite nicely at Bay 101. Numerous players are listed as “Shooting Stars” which puts a $5,000 bounty on their heads for the players who knock them out, and the player with the most chips on each Day 1 and Day 2 of the tournament is awarded a $10,000 bonus. With the various nuances of the event, most players enjoy it immensely.

And the fans love it, too. They come from miles around to meet their favorite poker players, request autographs and photos, and watch the best in the world at work. There are probably more fans at the Bay 101 stop on the World Poker Tour than any other, and the players seem to enjoy the attention as well.

A total of 376 players competed in the 2008 Bay 101 Shooting Star tournament, and the small casino split that field into two Day 1 flights. By the end of Day 1A on March 10th, there were only 47 of the original 146 players remaining, and Brandon Cantu – 2006 World Series of Poker $1500 no-limit hold’em bracelet winner – sat atop the leader board with 242,300 in chips. Thanh Che was the only other player to cross the 200,000 chip mark that day. Cantu had accumulated two bounties during the day for knocking out Bill Edler and John Juanda, as well as the $10,000 bonus for being the day’s chip leader.

Day 1B saw the remainder of the field enter into action, including Ted Forrest who won the 2007 WPT Shooting Star event at Bay 101. He finished the day with 118,600 in chips, but he wasn’t in the top five. Down to the wire, it was Clonie Gowen and Blair Hinkle grappling over the chip lead, and it was Hinkle who ended up winning the $10,000 bonus. Out of 230 starting players, only 91 survived.

A total of 138 players returned on Day 2 to play down to the final 36. With only 45 players to cash in the tournament, the money bubble burst, and it didn’t take long to dwindle the field to meet the day’s goal. Isabelle Mercier took a rough beat from Michael Baker to become the final elimination of the day, and Baker took the chip lead – far ahead of the rest of the pack with 952,500 – to claim the $10,000 Day 2 bonus.

Day 3 would bring the remaining 36 players back who would play until the final TV six were determined. All tables were six-handed and levels were extended to two hours each. Some of the notable eliminations took place late in the day as the players could almost visualize being under the lights and cameras of the WPT production set the next day. Clonie Gowen was eliminated in 14th place by John Phan, and CardPlayer’s Rich Belsky was taken out by Cantu in 13th place. Both received $24,000 for their efforts.

The next eliminations were as follows:

Eric Nickelson (by Cantu) 12th place $33,000
Thanh Phung (by Jennifer Harman) 11th place $33,000
Jason Gray (by Lee Watkinson) 10th place $44,000
Lee Watkinson (by Baker) 9th place $44,000
David Tran (by Cantu) 8th place $68,000
J.C. Tran (by Cantu) 7th place $68,000

Cantu dominated play on Day 3 with an incredible run of cards. He eliminated three more bounties at $5,000 each in Phil Laak, Joe Hachem, and J.C. Tran. In the evening hours, he got on a roll and won 17 hands in a row with some aggressive play and determination that many had not seen from him since the 2006 WSOP. He would take that dominating performance to the final table as the massive chip leader with 44% of the chips in play.

The final table began on Friday, March 14th in the late afternoon with the following players and chip counts:

Seat 1: Noah Jefferson 842,000
Seat 2: John Phan 374,000
Seat 3: Brandon Cantu 3,323,000
Seat 4: Steve Sung 474,000
Seat 5: Jennifer Harman 541,000
Seat 6: Michael Baker 1,964,000

Players were fairly conservative in the beginning of the final table action, though Brandon Cantu was using his massive stack of chips to push his competitors around a bit. Soon, it was Jennifer Harman who took a stand and after a flop of 9-6-4 with two clubs. Cantu bet and Harman raised all-in with pocket 6’s for a set. Cantu showed 10-2 of clubs for the flush draw. The turn and river came 10-9, Cantu didn’t get there, and Harmon doubled up to 1 million in chips with a full house.

Several hands later, John Phan, who had been unable to get anything going for his short stack, made an effort. He took his last 70,000 and moved all-in with Q-8 suited, and Noah Jefferson called from the big blind with pocket 6’s. The board came K-3-2-6-3 to give Jefferson the full house and Phan a trip home in sixth place with $135,000.

After Mike Baker had consistently lost chips since the final table began, he eventually tangled with Cantu. Baker raised, Cantu reraised, Baker reraised again, and Cantu gave it some thought before making another reraise to 500,000. Baker eventually called. Upon a flop of Q-10-2 with two diamonds, Baker checked, and Cantu asked for a count on Baker, which came to approximately 1.2 million. Cantu moved all-in with pocket A’s, and Baker called with K-2 of diamonds for the draw. The turn and river brought two black 5’s, and Baker was eliminated in fifth place for $200,000.

Cantu was then up to over 5 million in chips, Jefferson and Harman stayed close to 1 million, and Steve Sung was the short stack with just over 500,000. Play continued… and continued… and continued. Nearing the 100th hand of the night, the four players remained, and what had changed was that Sung slowly came close to 1 million in chips while Jefferson and Harmon dropped to a little over half that each. It was turning into a long night.

Another 20 hands later, after an initial raise from Jefferson, Sung moved all-in from the big blind with pocket 7’s, and Jefferson called quickly with A-K suited. The cards came J-5-3-9-7 with no suits to help Jefferson, and Sung took the pot with a set of 7’s. Jefferson was sent to the rail in fourth place with $265,000.

In the meantime, Harman had dropped to less than 250,000 in chips, and she looked for a spot. She found it in the big blind with A-8 and moved all-in, and Cantu called with J-10. The cards were dealt Q-8-7-6-4, and Harman doubled up to 418,000 with her pair of 8’s.

She fought a good fight but on the 145th hand of the night, she was down to about 308,000 and moved again. She pushed all-in with A-K, and Cantu moved all-in with pocket 9’s to get Sung out of the pot. It worked, and Harman’s tournament was at stake. The board produced K-J-9-4-K, and her set of K’s wasn’t good against Cantu’s full house. Cantu collected his sixth bounty of the Shooting Star tournament, and Harman was forced out in third place with $330,000.

Heads-up action began with a 3,000 ante, blinds at 10,000/20,000, and the following chip counts:

Brandon Cantu 6,133,000
Steve Sung 1,385,000

Several hands into two-handed play, Sung lost a significant pot to Cantu when the latter made a set of J’s on the river, and Sung simply mucked his cards. He was down to about 560,000, and Cantu sat with approximately 7 million.

Sung couldn’t find appropriate places to make his move and let Cantu have five or six walks in a row. Finally, he took that chance. He made a small raise pre-flop, and Cantu called. After seeing a flop of K-Q-9, Cantu checked, Sung bet, and Cantu raised all-in. Sung put his remaining 316,000 in the pot and called with K-5 for top pair. Cantu showed J-9 for the straight draw. The turn and river brought an 8 and 6, and Sung was able to double up.

With a little more confidence, Sung moved all-in on the 161st hand of the night after Cantu made an initial raise. Cantu called with pocket 4’s, and Sung cringed as he showed his pocket 3’s. The board came A-9-7-6-8, and Sung was out in second place but $585,000 richer.

Brandon Cantu happily took the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star title, $1 million prize money (plus $40,000 in bounties and bonuses), and a seat into the WPT World Championship in April. He took his day one lead, skills, and amazing run of cards all the way to first place. The young player added a WPT title to his resume that already boasted of a WSOP bracelet, and he walked away a million dollars richer.

Congratulations, Brandon!

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