Bay 101 Shooting Stars
2006, Jason Kirk  

The Shooting Star tournament at Bay 101 has a reputation for being popular among both players and spectators. The professional players like the tournament because the field is guaranteed to be small, thanks mostly to the limited space available inside the card room. Local players (and internet qualifiers) like the chance to take home a bounty for knocking out a big-name pro player. Finally, spectators love the tournament because play at the table is halted whenever one of the Shooting Stars might possibly be eliminated so the tournament director can announce the hand to the gallery of eager fans. There's a lot to like about San Jose's World Poker Tour stop, no matter whether you're at a table or standing on the rail.

Day 1 was broken into two flights of 250 players this year. Day 1A began at 11:15 AM PST on Monday. Twenty-five professional players had bounties on their heads as play began - one for each table.

Doyle Brunson
Todd Brunson
Allen Cunningham
Antonio Esfandiari
Scott Fischman
Chau Giang
Mike Gracz
Gus Hansen
Phil Hellmuth Jr.
Phil Ivey
Kathy Liebert
Joanne Liu
Tom McEvoy
Michael Mizrachi
Daniel Negreanu
Men Nguyen
Scotty Nguyen
Danny Nguyen
David Pham
Erik Seidel
J. C. Tran
Amir Vahedi
Cindy Violette
David Williams
Robert Williamson III

The first star to leave for the day was Kathy Liebert, the first woman ever to win $1 million in a poker tournament. She held K-T on a Q-T-4-3 board, giving her second pair, but her opponent's two pair with 4-3 held up to send her to the rail as the only star shot down on the first level. The second level saw a few more bounties awarded. Robert Williamson III had his J-J cracked by Raul Paez's K-Q of spades when the board brought a runner-runner flush, and David "The Dragon" Pham ran his J-J into K-K. Scott Fischman was then outkicked by Shane Schleger, and Phil Ivey's flush draw never came home against Scott Levy's top pair.

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi exited on the third level after taking a roller-coaster ride throughout the first two levels. On the fourth level, Antonio Esfandiari took a particularly brutal beat. He flopped a set with T-T, got his opponent to call all-in with a mere K-J for top pair, and then watched the board come with two consecutive spades to give his opponent a flush and send Esfandiari home. To his credit, Esfandiari handled himself well despite his opponent's hysterics. Amir Vahedi was also eliminated on Level 4. As the second break of the day came and went, 171 players remained of the original 250. The next two levels saw the exits of several more bounty players, including Chau Giang, JC Tran, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, and Todd Brunson.

The biggest story of the day was Phil Hellmuth. He arrived late, as usual, but quickly doubled up to make himself a contender. He then proceeded to run his stack up over $50,000 and take the chip lead, much to the consternation of his tablemates. Then came the turning point in his day, a minor hand against Scott Reese. In a small pot, both players checked the river. "I've got sixes," Hellmuth announced. "Really?" Reese asked, and Hellmuth rolled over his 6-6. Reese then showed his A-A to take the pot, and Hellmuth jumped off the cliff of sanity into another world that only he inhabits. He called for the floor, demanding that they give Reese a penalty for slow-rolling. Tournament Director Matt Savage listened to the claims of both parties - including claims from both men that threats had been exchanged - and then warned both players that if either of them started anything else they would both receive 20-minute penalties.

From that point on, Hellmuth was on pure steam power. He bled away $35,000 over the next hour. "To be honest," one of his tablemates told me, "I think he was saved by the dinner break." Hellmuth apparently never cooled down during his hour away from the table - when he returned he kept trying to run over his opponents and they kept refusing to cooperate. Less than thirty minutes later, Hellmuth was gone. During one orbit, Hellmuth played 3 hands against Chip Reese. On the first two he folded to Reese before the river. On the third hand, he folded to Reese on a board reading A-Q-T-6-2 and Reese flashed a single card - a 7. After that series of hands, Hellmuth butted heads with his nemesis from earlier, Scott Reese. Hellmuth tried to take the pot with bets on the flop and turn with a king and a queen showing on the board, but Reese called each time. Both players checked the river, and Hellmuth mucked when Reese showed 7-7. Hellmuth was finally eliminated when Chip Reese flopped a Broadway straight against his middle pair and flush draw that never came home.

To his credit, Hellmuth didn't blow up when he was eliminated. He was obviously unhappy, but he signed the "I Busted Phil Hellmuth" bounty t-shirt as Reese collected the $5,000 without saying much of anything - even as the players around him indirectly ribbed him. He did, however, take one of the $100 bills from Reese's bounty and sign it with this inscription:

"Chip - You're a lucky son of a bitch. Phil Hellmuth."

It was a classic Hellmuth moment to be sure.

Once the Poker Brat was eliminated, the rest of the night went quietly by. Only 5 Shooting Stars remained at the end - Gus Hansen, Doyle Brunson, David Williams, Joanne "JJ" Liu, and Allen Cunningham. They will return along with 55 other players on Wednesday at 12 PM PST to continue play on Day 2.

End of Day 1A Chip Counts

1 Stuart Fahmy $ 125,100
2 Farzad Bonyadi $ 107,600
3 Kirk Morrison $ 104,600
4 Larry Elliott $ 100,600
5 John Smith $ 91,500
6 Jason Stern $ 89,100
7 Brad 'Yukon' Booth $ 88,700
8 Todd Arnold $ 83,600
9 Xin Shen $ 81,500
10 Luong Trinh $ 72,100
11 Chip Reese $ 68,400
12 Kent Lin $ 67,500
13 Gus Hansen $ 65,100
14 Nam Le $ 64,900
15 John Ku $ 59,900
16 Allen Kessler $ 57,900
17 Ralph Macri $ 52,900
18 Steve Kwak $ 52,400
19 Sam Zoudo $ 51,100
20 Gabe Thaler $ 49,000
21 Allen Cunninghan $ 47,500
22 Jason Norris $ 47,100
23 Amnon Filippi $ 43,700
24 Chad Brown $ 42,700
25 Joanne 'JJ' Liu $ 41,800
26 TR Congas $ 40,700
27 Mickey Seagle $ 38,200
28 Dan Maloney $ 37,300
29 Bernard Ko $ 34,800
30 Harry Thomas $ 33,500
31 Bill Derego $ 33,100
32 Ron Ware $ 32,600
33 Doyle Brunson $ 30,500
34 Sam Von Duhn $ 30,200
35 Christian Kruel $ 29,300
36 Roy Obriecht $ 27,100
37 Stephan Ovepyan $ 25,300
38 Tony Nguyen $ 25,300
39 Hoa Nguyen $ 25,100
40 Alan Cummins $ 24,200
41 Wai Yip $ 24,200
42 Daniel Needleman $ 23,900
43 Nghia Chu $ 23,800
44 Todd Bui $ 22,500
45 Steve Crockett $ 21,800
46 Shane Schleger $ 20,600
47 Andrew Sindoni $ 19,300
48 David Williams $ 18,800
49 Jim Pechac $ 18,500
50 Mark Gregorich $ 18,100
51 William Gustafik $ 17,200
52 Serena Liu $ 16,600
53 David Daneshfar $ 13,700
54 Kia Zolfaghari $ 13,700
55 Kevin O'Donnell $ 11,100
56 Alex Morales $ 10,700
57 Brad Redmon $ 9,300
58 Alfred Beddow Jr. $ 8,800
59 Brian Stonaff $ 8,500
60 John Brewster $ 6,600

Full Tilt Poker Logo
Carbon Poker
100% up to $600
Doyles Room Logo
Aced Poker
150% up to $750
BetUS Logo
PDC Poker
100% up to $600