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Five Thoughts: Serock Gets Over the Hump, Wins First Live Tournament

Posted at 11:01 2012-05-10 by Rich Ryan

Something very unique and special separates poker tournaments from cash games. In a cash game, you’re capable of winning dozens of buy-ins in one sitting, but unless you’re playing a winner-take-all format — which is very rare — your opponents can always rebuy, and keep the game going. In a tournament, you play until one person has every chip in the room — until one person in the winner.

When Phil Hellmuth busted from the last year's Main Event, Kara Scott grabbed him for an exit interview and asked him to reflect on the 2011 World Series of Poker. Hellmuth, despite earning over $1.5 million during the summer, hesitated, and then said “We’ll let history be the judge of the World Series. Three seconds…it hurts a lot.”

Hellmuth had never earned this much money at the WSOP, and he scored his first career million-dollar payday when he finished second in the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship, but it didn’t matter because he failed to win an event. He failed to achieve the ultimate goal: accrue every chip in the room. Winning is what tournament poker is about.

On Sunday, Joe Serock got over the hump, and won his first live tournament ever. This picture, taken by Darryll “DFish” Fish, says it all.

1. #Winning!

The Players Poker Championship Main Event in Aruba only attracted 31 players, and first place was worth $40,594, but Serock was all smiles when PPC Commissioners Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Outlon presented him with the check and the trophy for winning.

Before PPC Aruba, Serock was at the final table of the World Poker Tour Seminole Hard Rock Showdown, where he finished third for $306,240. It was his second WPT final table of 2012 — he also finished third at the Bay 101 Shooting Stars for $320,400.

Serock’s largest cash to date came when he finished runner-up to Brock Parker in a $2,500 no limit hold’em six-handed event at the 2009 WSOP, earning $341,783. He again finished runner-up for a bracelet in 2010, when Jeffrey Lisandro defeated him in a £5,000 pot-limit Omaha event at the World Series of Poker Europe. Serock has over $1.6 million in career live tournament earnings, and finally a victory.

According to the PPC Aruba blog, Serock had a 6.7:1 chip advantage over Jesse Chinni entering heads-up play. On the final hand, both players held an ace, but Serock’s {a-Spades}{3-Clubs} out-flopped Chinni’s {a-Diamonds}{k-Spades} when the dealer fanned {j-Clubs}{3-Spades}{7-Spades}, and the turn and river bricked {9-Hearts}, {6-Diamonds}, respectively. Chinni, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, who’s appeared at two WSOP final tables, took home $24,357 for his efforts.

Serock appears to be in a zone, and it will be interesting to see if the kid with a skateboard in his backpack can parlay his successes here in 2012 into a deep run or two at the 2012 WSOP.

2. lol Blomaments

When Viktor “Isildur1” Blom signed with PokerStars and was revealed in January of 2011, I predicted that he would lose $2 million[/URL] on Stars. He didn’t, and after a long break in the middle of the year, he returned with a +$585,366 week in late December. Blom has defeated everyone he’s faced in the SuperStar Showdown at least once — including Isaac Haxton who faced him in a $1 million showdown earlier this year — and he won the $100,000 Super High Roller at the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, earning him $1,254,400.

Blom is in the middle of a pretty big downswing, however, and after dropping over $140,000 last week, he’s down nearly $800,000 for the year.

That was a good decision by Mr. Blom, because on Monday, he shipped Event 2M of the 2012 Spring Championship of Online Poker. Over 8,000 players registered, creating a prize pool of $1,648.000, and the excitement started to build when Blom made Day 2 with over 1.5 million chips (75 bbs). The beginning of the day was fairly quiet, but as the final table approached, Blom seized the chip lead. He had a two-million chip advantage over his closest competitor ("Fred_Brink") when the final table started, and relinquished the lead quickly. There was no quit in Blom, though, and he roared back to take the lead, and extended it even more when the play was four-handed.

Blom five-bet jammed with {a-Diamonds}{q-Hearts} against the aforementioned "Fred_Brink" who called with {a-Spades}{k-Diamonds}, and there were two queens on the flop. It was full steam ahead from there, and after two more knockouts, Blom earned his first big online tournament win and $247,200. All the while, the Nordic wonder was building a big stack in Event 3H, and when play concluded on Monday, he championed the third-largest stack with 46 players remaining.

This is insanity. If Blom continues to have success like this in tournaments, then look out universe. The Phil Iveys of the world should pray that he never masters stud variants of poker.

3. The min-raise challenge

Last weekend, for the first time ever, PokerStars ran the PokerStars Limit Hold’em Challenge. Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu, who has two limit hold’em WSOP bracelets, took on a “young German genius” named "rUaBot", a limit hold’em specialist. The blinds were $200/$400, both players started with $75,000, and the match wouldn’t end until someone had it all. Less than 1,000 hands into the match, it was over, and "rUaBot" was the victor.

rUaBot: gg
rUaBot: sorry for the sick run
KidPoker: its ok just glad its over!
KidPoker: have never in my life played 2 tables HU LH and I never will again

There are merits to hosting a limit hold’em challenge — most notably, more showdowns — but overall, it’s not an exciting format for the fans or the players. Even though we don’t get to see Blom’s hand every time he six-bets, or we’ll never know what Phil Galfond check-raised pot with on a four-flush board, we like the excitement that comes with big bets. We like to senselessly scream “call!” at our computer screens, and we like to guess what certain players have. Incomplete information is what makes games like hold’em and Omaha great, but in limit hold’em, the amount of showdowns reduces the ambiguity.

If you want to have an exciting limit hold’em showdown, make it a best of three series of heads-up sit-n-goes. Make the bets matter. In a limit hold’em cash game, you can afford to splash around a little and make thin calls because you can just reload. I understand there’s a cap in the challenge, and you only have so many bullets, but I think play would be much better and much more competitive in a sit-n-go format.

4. Lock Pocker to purchase Cake Poker Network

In April, Lock Poker was supposed to run the LockOps tournament series, but the Merge Gaming Network forced them to cancel it just days before the 33-event schedule began. On Monday, Lock confirmed that it will be purchasing the Cake Poker Network. We assume this means they will be leaving the Merge Gaming Network, whose online traffic has increased by more the 5 percent over the last year, according to PokerScout.com.

Lock itself has been growing rapidly — Annette Obrestad recently signed on to become a member of the LockPRO ELITE team, joining the likes of Chris Moorman, Melanie Weisner, Eric “Rizen” Lynch, Tim West, Paul Volpe and Matt Stout.

What is Lock Poker’s future, however? Will it be capable of saving the Cake Poker Network and sustaining itself as one of the only skins available in the United States, or will it suffer the same fate as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Ultimate Bet, and eventually be seized by the Department of Justice? Perhaps only our good friend Preet Bharara knows the answer to those questions, so for now, American players should make their decisions cautiously.

Scared money may not make money, but making money isn’t always the hardest part. Sometimes, getting out of town with it is.

5. Negreanu vs. Bonomo

Daniel Negreanu and Justin Bonomo square off in our latest heads-up battle.

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