Grinder plays in Turlock

By Barbara Engler

One of the biggest names in poker came to the Turlock Poker Room on Oct. 13 for a special event named after him. Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi was on hand with DeepStacks CEO Chris Torina for the First Annual Grinder Open.

Mizrachi (he says even his own kids call him Grinder) and Torina agreed to come for the tournament after Mizrachi was unable to make it at the last minute to their annual DeepStacks poker camp and tournament in May.

The tournament had a buy-in of $450 + $40 and attracted 92 players, creating a total prize pool of $41,400. In addition, TPR put a $500 bounty on Mizrachi.

Right away, Mizrachi showed why he’s one of the top pros in the business as his stack grew and grew. He seemed to be raising regularly with any two cards and ­winning pots through either relentless aggression or fortunate flops.

We caught up with him on the dinner break when they were down to 12 players after the money bubble burst. He said he had been on the road for a while before coming to Turlock. “I was on a long, long trip. I just got home from France, Spain, Romania, Israel, and Cypress and I still found a way to make the six hour flight here, knowing the fact that I’m going to win this tournament,” he said with all modesty.

He also praised the Turlock Poker Room and their patrons: “The players have been really nice and they’ve been nice to me outside the poker table and even when I’m playing with them.”

The style of play he ran into isn’t what he’s used to, since he is usually up against the other top players in the game. “It seems people here are more for recreation, just to enjoy themselves and have a good time. Obviously these players don’t do it for a living and I respect that. Everyone has other jobs and I respect what they do and they respect what I do. At the poker table, if they’re versus me they’re an underdog, but anyone can get lucky, but so far it’s fell my way.”

After the break Mizrachi continued one of the longest and best heaters you’ll ever see. He could do no wrong and the chips and player eliminations just kept on coming. When they got down to three players something finally changed and suddenly he was losing pots instead of winning them. It took quite a while, but eventually the three chip stacks were just about even.

Then the seemingly impossible happened and Mina Inthavong (a TPR dealer who had one a satellite to get in) had eliminate The Grinder and claimed the $500 bounty. Afterward she said, “It felt good. I wonder if he ever lost to a female before—just kidding. It was a tough battle.”

Mizrachi took it in stride, but the toll of weeks on the road was visible on his face. “I wanted to leave. I’m tired. I’m dead. Before it gets too late I’m trying to get back to San Francisco, so I raised every hand. I gambled every hand.”

Right after Mizrachi’s elimination the two remaining players chopped and the tournament was over. The players making the money (first through 12th) and their payouts were: Mina I. $9,062, Seay V. $9,062, Mike M. $5,790, Sanjay K $4,550, Tony M. $3,725, Matt W. $2,690, Richard P. $1,860, Matt S. $1,230, Gus P. $995, Jimmy A. $745, Leslie H. $630, and Nick A. $560.

TPR’s operations manager John Sil­veira said, “It was a blast. Obviously having DeepStacks here is just a great experience for us, for our players, for the community. I was ecstatic with our turnout and it was a great event. Any time these guys come in and prove there’s something to be said for the way they play what they preach when they do their poker courses. We’ll do another camp May 17 to 19 and possibly get them back in October for the second annual Grinder Open. All in all it was a great success.”