In our interview with PokerStars Big Game executive producer Mark Mayer, he let us know that some of the Loose Cannons brought a very high level of play to the table. Without a doubt, he was talking about this week’s amateur, Nadya Magnus, a resident of Illinois who moved to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union. Although Magnus only learned the game a scant two years ago, she was not afraid to mix it up with this week’s line-up of professionals, which included Justin Bonomo, Barry Greenstein, Jason Mercier, 2009 WSOP Main Event champion Joe Cada, and Daniel Alaei.
Heading into the last day of play, Magnus, playing a solid, aggressive style, had amassed a profit of $58,500, which was good enough to put her in the lead for the $50,000 NAPT passport that will go to the Loose Cannon who banks the most money this season. Among the pros, Bonomo was way out in front, up $232,000, having played with relentless aggression, and having felted Mercier during the previous episode, when Bonomo flopped the second-nut flush with on a board of . Mercier had , and turned top pair when the came. Mercier check-called bets from Bonomo on the flop and turn, and then bluff check-raised all-in when the fell on the river. Bonomo called, and raked in a pot of well over $200,000.
All of the other players at the table were in the red, and Cada, in fact, had left the table after being down $86,400 little more than halfway into the game. The young gun seemed to be outclassed playing against this group of players, repeatedly being pressured into laying down better hands, and becoming quite frustrated with his results. Limit cash-game specialist Joe Cassidy, who had been faring no better than Cada, as he was down almost $65,000 to begin the final day’s play, had replaced him.
In a typical example of how Bonomo dominated the table all week, after Alaei raised on the button to $1,500 with , Bonomo re-raised in the big blind to $5,300 with ! When the flop brought 6-Q-J, Bonomo checked, but called Alaei’s bet of $7,200. The on the turn caused both players to check, and when a third spade, the 8, fell on the river, Bonomo, reading the situation beautifully, fired out a bet of $20,000 into the pot of $25,800. With the straight and flush-heavy board looming over him, Alaei couldn’t find a call, and Bonomo took it down with the worse hand.
Magnus fell behind the profit of first week Loose Cannon Ernest Wiggins on a hand that she opened with a raise to $1,400 with pocket jacks. Mercier called with in the big blind, and hit top pair on a flop of Q-6-4. After Mercier checked, Magnus made the continuation bet of $2,200 and Mercier called. She fired again on the turn of the , this time $5,500, and Mercier called again. When the came on the river, Magnus checked behind Mercier, and Mercier took down the $19,000 pot.
During the week, the only player who consistently put pressure on Magnus was Greenstein, who occasionally three-bet her raises, either to take the pot down right there, or later in the hand. After Magnus raised to $1,400 with pocket fives, and Bonomo called in the cutoff with , Greenstein made it $6,500 with K-J on the button. Magnus folded, but Bonomo came along for the ride. However, the 7-4-3 flop allowed Greenstein to take it down with an $8,500 continuation bet, putting Greenstein back into the profit column for the week (+$13,000).
With Magnus down to just $41,000 in profit, she needed to make up some ground to get back in front of Wiggins, and she found some traction in a battle of the blinds with Alaei. After Alaei raised to $1,600 with , she made it $5,400 with pocket queens, and then hit her set when the board brought 9-5-Q, with two clubs. After Alaei’s check, Magnus bet $8,000, and Alaei called, hoping to hit his straight and possibly felt the amateur. However, the turn was a harmless , and her bet of $20,000 forced Alaei to fold his draw, vaulting her back over Wiggins with a profit of $54,200.
With just a few hands left, Magnus could have protected her position simply by folding the remainder of the hands, but she showed time and again during the week that that was not her style. After Cassidy raised to $1,400 with A-10, Alaei called on the button with pocket deuces. Magnus was out of position in the small blind, but still chose to re-raise to $6,600 with . Cassidy folded, but Alaei called. When the flop brought Q-10-Q, Magnus went right on firing, putting out a continuation bet of $15,600 and getting Alaei to fold his hand, moving her up to $63,200 to the good.
Cassidy had been having no luck at all since he replaced Cada, and he was about to get another intrusion of harsh reality. He raised to $1,400 with K-10 and Alaei, who had seen a wide assortment of tiny pocket pairs, called with pocket fives, and then hit the jackpot on a flop of 10-5-4. Cassidy bet out $2,500 with top pair, and Alaei smooth-called. The turn card was the and Cassidy slowed down and checked. Alaei bet $6,000 into the $9,000 already in the middle and Cassidy called. The came on the river, and Cassidy checked once more, only to have Alaei fire out a value bet of $16,500. Cassidy couldn’t let go of his three tens and called, and Alaei’s full house took down the $54,000 pot.
In the final analysis, Magnus emerged as the leader of the Loose Cannons thus far, banking a profit of $63,600 and choosing to walk away with her winnings. Bonomo, who played brilliantly all week, was the overall winner of the session, being up $227,700, and Greenstein also turned a profit of $32,600. On the losing side, Alaei was down $58,700, Mercier lost $77,400 due to his one ill-timed bluff and Cassidy was the big loser dropping $101,000. Once again, the show featured terrific poker and entertaining analysis from hosts Chris Rose and Joe Stapleton, and it was particularly enjoyable to watch players such as Bonomo, Mercier and Alaei, who haven’t been featured too often on other high-stakes shows. See you next week!