Saturday, February 5, 2011

Championship Recap (Event 21)

Borgata Winter Poker Open Championship

Vadim Shlez (Manalapan, NJ)

Solid as a rock, that's how Vadim Shlez (Manalapan, NJ) played in the Championship Event of the Borgata Winter Open to win the title. Shlez defeated LJ Sande (New Haven, CT) heads up to take home the $533,210 first prize.

"I don't know how I'm talking right now, I'm kind of speechless," said the 6 year poker pro, "It means a lot, but I don't know what it means yet because it hasn't sunk in yet."

Shlez, with his Siberian rock card protector, was able to overcome a final table short stack of just 11 big blinds, that saw the final four players trade chips for 4 1/2 hours. The key hand came when Trevor Savage (Thorofare, NJ) moved all in with 5 3 off suit, but ran into Shlez's pocket kings.

"I don't know how I came back," said the Ukraine born player, "at that point it seemed dim, but I never lost confidence in my decisions and in myself."

The hand propelled Shlez to an average stack and after Bobby Suer (Dana Point, CA) was knocked out by Savage in fourth place ($156,286), Shlez continued to apply pressure on the remaining short stacks. Shlez finished off Savage in third place ($189,611) to set up a 4 to 1 chip advantage over Sande.

"He's an amazing player" said Sande, who earned $310,273 for second place, "He made excellent reads and all the right plays. The chip deficit was just too hard to overcome."

The Championship Event began with 718 players and the field included a dozen WSOP Bracelet holders including Michael Mizrachi, Gavin Smith and Vanessa Selbst. Smith made the deepest run (21st/$12,181), while Selbst helped the women take center stage early in the tournament.

Selbst and Roslyn Quarto (Edison, NJ) were not only the last two woman remaining in the field, but were both in the top 10 in chips after Day 2 with Quarto leading the way. Selbst was eliminated Day 3 when she flopped a straight and was eliminated by quads.

Quarto stayed near the top of the chip counts heading into Day 4, but was coolered by several big hands and finished 23rd ($12,181). Other Borgata regulars who made deep runs included Tony Campagna (Manorville, NY - 13th/$20,685), Steve Ryan (New York , NY - 7th/$82,740) and Gil Sacks (Bala Cynwyd, PA - 5th/$126,407).

But in the end it was Shlez who took home the biggest piece of the $2,369,400 total buy-in and who had a strong rooting section including his girlfriend Julie Lisichkina who gave him the sentimental rock.

"When we first met I told her about poker and how I needed some valuable thing to serve as a card protector. This rock was important to her right before that and it symbolizes our relationship and is more than a card protector."

Shlez already had plans move to Las Vegas before playing in the Borgata Championship Event, and now the extra half million dollars will make it a lot easier to head west.

Shlez (left) with Girlfriend Lisichkina (bottom - center)
and friends Zviad Izoria & Kathryn Dougherty

Sentimental Rock