Grinding Out the Borgata

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi is a 25-year-old professional poker player from Miami.  In this article, he recants his recent victory at the World Poker Tour's Borgata event in Atlantic City. 

As you can see by Mizrachi's victory, winning a major event usually requires a number of things, including:  surviving a bad beat, plenty of aggression, making great plays, and a good deal of luck.


Day 1:
The Borgata event started like most other events I play. I went through my normal routine, which is playing many hands during the first few levels. I use this to gauge my table image, and see how people will play against me. Are they aggressive? Passive? Will they let me take control of the table?

I saw that I could control the table early, which I did. I played a lot of pots, and made a lot of moves throughout Day 1. I was fortunate enough to flop a few sets, the chips started flowing my way, and I was first in the tournament to break the 100,000 mark. I found myself sitting as the chip leader during most the first part of Day 1.

Then I ran into a bit of trouble with a pretty tight, solid player named Jeff King. Jeff raised, and I smooth-called on the button with Q-10. The flop came A-J-K. Now because I know how Jeff plays, I knew he had a big hand; I put him on a set of kings or maybe A-K. He bet the flop, and I raised him with my straight, knowing he would most likely push. Sure enough, he moved in, and I called. Unfortunately, the board paired on the river, and he filled up. Losing that pot brought my stack down to about 20,000.

I didn't give up, though. I kept my head up and went back to work. It's very easy to tilt off the rest of your chips in this situation, but I controlled my stack, tightened up, and was very disciplined. I eventually doubled up when I moved in with pocket kings, and was called by jacks. Despite this, at the end of Day 1, my chip stack was nowhere near where I wanted it to be. I had an average stack going into Day 2, and my work was cut out for me.

Day 2:
I drew a pretty tough table the next day, which included Ted Forrest. It felt like I battled Ted all day. There was one key pot, when I raised with J-J, and Ted smooth-called me. The flop came jack-high, with two clubs, and I led out. Ted smooth-called me again! The turn was the 9c, and I checked. Forrest bet about 20,000, and I moved in for about 14,000 more. Ted called with pocket kings, and I'm pretty sure he knew he was beat when he called. That pot brought me back above the 100,000 mark, and things started going my way. I won two more huge pots when I was all-in with two queens versus two jacks, and the queens held both times. That evening we were in the money, and I think I ended the day with about 400,000.

Day 3:
The very first hand of Day 3, I raised on the button with 8c-2c. The big blind called me with 6-6. The flop came 2-2-8. He checked the flop, I bet about half the pot, and he called. The turn was the last deuce, giving me quads. I bet both the turn and the river and was called down all the way. He ended up giving me more than half of his chips on that pot. I had plenty of ammunition at this point, and I began playing a lot of pots, trying to build a huge stack for the final table. When you get to this stage in a tournament, most players are just trying to get to the final six, but I always want to get to the final six with a huge stack. You need to have a number of lifelines when you make the final table. There are so many players that get to the final table with just one lifeline, and only get to play one hand when they get there. In order to play your game, you need chips to maneuver with. So Day 3 was my day to really accumulate.

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I don't remember too many key pots, but I do remember eliminating a number of players and building my stack to over 1 million in chips. One pot that I do recall was against Don Mullis. I raised to about 100,000 with two queens, and Mullis moved in for about 900,000. I knew there was no way he had two kings or two aces.

Don likes to slowplay his monster hands. I put him on A-K, pocket 10s or pocket jacks. I was right: I called, and he flipped over pocket jacks. The queens held up again, and I took over the chip lead, with over 2 million.

Final Table:
I entered the final table second in chip position, behind E-Dog (Erick Lindgren). The funny thing about the final six was that we were all pretty good friends. Lindgren, Amnon Filippi, Stuart Patterson and J-Dags (John D'Agostino) are all buddies of mine.

I started off making a lot of flat calls with position to keep everyone at the table guessing at what I had. I was playing a lot of pots, keeping my chips in good shape. We were down to four-handed when the biggest pot of the tournament occurred between Lindgren and me. Erick raised with A-Q, and I looked down to see my favorite hand: 4-4. Blinds were pretty high at this point, and I moved in my stack. Erick called and the flop came Q-5-2. The turn was another 5, and I needed a 4 to survive. I honestly felt the 4 coming, and everyone started screaming when it landed on the river. It was amazing!

From that point on, I just battled through. Lindgren made his standard raise, and I smooth-called with the Ks-3s. The board came down with two spades, and we both checked. The turn brought another spade, and I had made the second nuts. Erick led out for about 200,000. I raised, making it about 725,000. E-Dog went into the tank for about a minute before pushing all-in. I called; he held the dry ace of spades and needed to catch a spade to survive, which he missed. That left E-Dog crippled, and a few hands later he was out third.

When D'Agostino and I played heads-up, everything went right for me. I was mixing up my raises with smooth calls, and winning most of the pots in heads-up play. I honestly don't think I ever lost more than a big blind during the 15 or so hands we played. It wasn't the WPT record for the shortest heads-up battle -- that goes to the one heads-up hand that Scotty Nguyen and I played in Tunica; but I have to say I was a little happier with the results this time around.


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-Grinding Out the Borgata
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