By Raymond T. Akers
With his reign coming to an end, 2010 NorCal Player of the Year Mark Lamb took on the field once more, this time at his “home,” Casino 580 in Livermore. On Nov. 19, 63 players each ponied up $125 for the opportunity to eliminate the champ and claim his $480 bounty.
That prize went to Livermore’s Mario Schiopu, who also went on to chop the top two places with Johny Martinez of Dublin. Third place went to Robert Hancock of Napa and fourth was Gus Sherwood from Livermore.
Tournament director Rommel Naravel was very pleased with the turnout, which was noticeably larger than average for a Saturday afternoon event. “We have quite a few new faces here that I haven’t seen. I’d say probably at least one-third of the field,” he said.
Martinez said he was extremely happy with the result after coming into the final table short stacked. Schiopu had even more to be pleased with, having claimed the big bounty.
As for his tournament strategy, Schiopu said, “I try to get into the pots correct, with the best hand, and after that I let the chips fall where they may. The best I can do is get it in with the best hand, make the proper moves at the right time. It’s all about gathering chips and ending up at the final table.”
As for eliminating his good friend Lamb and claiming the bounty, he added, “That felt great. Mark is Mark—he’s a great player, so you have to play Mark at his level. Any time you can play against a really good player like Mark Lamb—especially having the title of Player of the Year—and knocking him out, it just gives you a lot more confidence in your game.”
Lamb was also pleased with the tournament, and appropriately calm when assessing how things turned out for him. “I had to adjust early on because the bounty was so much bigger this time. I wasn’t able to make a lot of raises early on to protect my hands or isolate,” he said.
“So I kind of limped in and hoped my hands held up—they weren’t. I lost about half my stack early on. When I found out we were doing re-entries I played a little more aggressive and built my stack back up and got back in the fight.”
On the fateful hand that ended his tournament, Schiopu raised about two-and-a-half times the big blind with A-Q and Lamb flat called with A-J. Lamb said, “I had position on him and I thought I had the best hand. Flop came out K-K-2 with two clubs [Lamb’s ace was a club]. He checked and I checked behind—mistake number one. Turn was a queen which hit his hand. He checked again so I fired 20 [thousand] of the 45 I had left—it was also the queen of clubs so I could catch another club or make a straight, or he could just fold right there which would have been the best case scenario for me. He ended up coming back over the top all-in and since I had so much invested I called him and the river was a blank.
“Mario is a good friend of mine. I just went out to Lucky Chances with him to play a tournament the other day. We’ve been close for a long time so I had no trouble with him getting my bounty. I love the guy to death.”
Players should be aware that Casino 580 recently moved from the old Lucky Buck location to a new one on Canyons Parkway near the freeway (see Cardroom Directory for address).