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Out of the six members of the World Poker Tour's Bay 101 Shooting Star final table, five were part of the PocketFives community. In the end, Taylor taypaur Paur (pictured) came out on top and took home a rock solid $1.2 million. Paur came into the final table with the second largest stack and sent Ravee Mathi, the only person who wasn't a member of PocketFives, home in sixth place. On a board of J-6-5-6-5, Mathi shoved all-in and Paur called with 8-5 for the win. Mathi showed A-8 in the hand and earned $168,000. Thirteen hands later, Faraz The-ToiletJaka was all-in with 4-4 and up against Jacob bazemanBazeley's pocket tens. Neither player improved and Jaka busted out of his fourth WPT final table in fifth place for $216,000. Paur then sent Sorel Imper1um Mizzi home after coming out on top in a race with pocket fives against A-J. Paur was ahead the entire way and hit a five on the river to boot, sending Mizzi home in fourth place for $310,000. On the 171st hand of final table play, Bazeley pushed all-in with K-7 of clubs, but Paur was once again the executioner, this time with A-10 of spades. Paur flopped one ace and rivered another to make a boat and send Bazeley away, $461,000 richer for his wear. It was Bazeley's second career WPT final table. Paur had a 2:1 lead over Isaac mr. menlo Baron entering heads-up play and it took all of nine hands to determine a winner. Baron shoved on the river of a 9-7-2-3-5 board with A-9, but Paur snap-called with 10-9 of hearts for a flush. Bay 101 marked Paur's first WPT final table. Here's how the group cashed out: 1: Taylor Paur - $1,214,200 2: Isaac Baron - $704,200 3: Jake Bazeley - $461,470 4: Sorel Mizzi - $310,060 5: Faraz Jaka - $216,320 6: Ravee Mathi - $168,260 Paur won a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2013 in a $1,000 No Limit Hold'em event. Online, he has won two FTOPS events, the PokerStarsSuper Tuesday and Sunday 500, and the Full Tilt Sunday Brawl and $1K Monday, just to name a few. Congrats to him on his first WPT title! Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
[caption width="640"] The Bay 101 Shooting Star event is one of the most unique WPT events on the schedule[/caption] Some of the biggest stars in poker - most of them in fact - are on their way to San Jose, California to play in one of the longest-running World Poker Tour events. This isn’t just some standard WPT event, though. The WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star is the closest thing poker has to an all-star game. That is, if any basketball player that wanted to could just show up and play in the NBA all-star game or if every beer league hockey player could pull a John Scott and play in the NHL all-star game. The Shooting Star concept is simple. A group of players, dubbed the “Shooting Stars”, are bounties in the $7,500 buy-in event and busting one of them is worth $2,500 to whomever eliminates them. This year’s group of "Shooting Stars" includes WSOP Main Event champ Joe McKeehen, Anthony Zinno, Kelly Minkin, Mike Leah and Erik Seidel. The man at the center of choosing the Shooting Stars each year is WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage. While his highest profile gig is with WPT, he’s been the Bay 101 Tournament Director for 13 years. With some 50 "Stars" each year, selecting the players can be a little bit of a challenge - especially with players campaigning for spots. “It usually starts sometime around November going into December. And then when the calendar turns to the next year, people are texting me and emailing me and tweeting me with requests that they want to be a part of the shooting star program,” said Savage. “It’s strange because some people are a little more active about it, some people that you might not expect are pretty much in my year round about why they’re not a shooting star.” Due to his role with WPT, Savage is as in tune with the poker industry as anybody, and that makes putting together a shortlist of possible Shooting Stars easy. Throughout the year, he’s on the road talking to players, talking to fans to determine who should make the final cut. “I do polls and stuff like that on Twitter and TwoPlusTwo to figure out who they think belongs and who doesn’t, just to get the talk going, and it always seems to work,” said Savage. “People always want to bring it up and complain who got snubbed and who got in and stuff like that. So it makes it interesting.” Players with great results - even great recent results - aren’t necessarily guaranteed to get an invite. Being a Shooting Star has more to do with being a superstar in the eyes of fans than any ranking system could ever handle. “We have such good fans (at Bay 101) that I want it to be people that, if you were a fan of poker, you’d want to come and see. So, in addition to those names, you get a lot of the old timers and the bigger names,” said Savage. “Then you have the new guys; the young up-and-coming stars and the WSOP Champion. I try to also include people that really support the WPT and Bay 101. It’s kind of a mixture of all of those things, but for the most part it’s a popularity contest really. Savage begins sending out invitations early in the year and always leaves a few spots open right up until the week before the tournament. But not every player who is asked to be a Shooting Star is ready to accept the challenge. Savage gets a few players each year that turn down the invite. “I do get people that reject it from time to time because some of them don’t actually want the pressure of having the shooting star on them. They feel like they play better if it’s not,” said Savage. “Like Nam Le, he’s turned it down, Ted Forrest at one point turned it down. He thought he’d have a better chance by not having it.” Though Le and Forrest are among a handful of players who have said “no thanks” to the Shooting Star honor, Savage says there’s far more players clamoring for spots than those who aren’t interested. “The opposite is far and away much more people saying they want to be a Shooting Star. They want to be recognized, they want to have that and sometimes they’re even saying, ‘Why am I not a shooting star? I’ve done this or that’. There’s a lot of those guys too,” said Savage. Being a bounty does have some perks. Each Shooting Star is given $1,000 for each time they enter (all players are allowed one re-entry) as well as some Bay 101 or WPT merchandise. There is a bit of a strategic advantage too. While you’re likely going to be the target of other players at your table, you’re assured that no other Shooting Stars will be at your starting table. The number of poker superstars that come out for the event, combined with the fact that this is the longest-running WPT event in Northern California, leads to a very different atmosphere from an event in Las Vegas or even Los Angeles. From Day 1 of the tournament, the rail is four or five deep with poker fans snapping pictures of Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey. Fans eagerly wait for breaks to ask a player for an autograph or a selfie. Savage admits that the players who get into it love it. “You get a guy like Antonio, Phil Laak, Daniel, they never miss the tournament because I think they really like that kinda thing. It’s kinda cool, when they walk in there are people standing there with photographs and autographs cards,” said Savage. “I think in some respect there was a point in poker where they may have not liked that as much, but I think over time they’ve realized it’s not going to be around forever. That’s kind of something that comes and goes so I think that those guys like that stuff, the fandom.” While the notoriety is nice and the $1,000 comes in handy, the pros also love coming to the Bay 101 event because it’s full of satellite qualifiers. Savage estimates that each year they qualify between 250 and 300 players via satellites at the host property. “Our satellite program is the best in the country. There’s not a place in the country where you could run satellites almost three months in advance and get 300 players to come in and play. And we were able to do that at Bay 101. You couldn’t even do that for the World Series of Poker Main Event to be honest. So I think people really look forward to that event on the calendar, for those guys, because it’s more of a locals' event,” said Savage. [caption width="640"] Fans pack the Bay 101 casino in San Jose every year to get a glimpse of their poker heroes[/caption] Over the years, Savage feels like he’s had every pro poker player he’s ever wanted as a Shooting Star. Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Tom Dwan, Phil Hellmuth, Vanessa Selbst, Chris Moorman and Doyle Brunson have all been part of the program. There is, however, one potential Shooting Star that has eluded him. “I always want to get the celebrities to come out and play. So, I’ve always wished that Tobey Maguire would come out and play to be honest,” said Savage. “Because I thought not only is (Maguire) a good actor, he is also a really good poker player and a lot of people don’t know that he’s one of the biggest winning players in the game.” The tournament also has a unique structure. The chip leaders at the end of Day 1A and 1B are given $10,000 and when there are just 36 players left, the tournament goes six-handed until it finishes.
“I have always said San Jose has the greatest poker fans in the world.” Matt Savage has called San Jose’s Bay 101 Casino home since he took a job dealing there back in 1994. This week, after its much-discussed one-year absence from the poker tournament calendar, Savage announced that the casino’s premier event, the Shooting Star, will return in 2019. Savage is one of Bay 101's key Tournament Directors in addition to his position as the Executive Tour Director for the World Poker Tour. “We have been working on the Shooting Stars and it has been championed by new Casino Manager Samuel Quinto to bring it back,” Savage said. “To be honest, we are not happy that it skipped a year but we are truly thrilled that the Shooting Star will return in 2019.” So while the Shooting Star is back, it’s not the same tournament as the one that left. Some slight tweaks to the structure, a single starting day and, perhaps most notably, it will not be a World Poker Tour event in 2019. “I have always said this is the most unique tournament in poker and many of the things that make this a one-of-a-kind event will return,” Savage said when talking about the resurrection of the Shooting Star. “It will have a $5,200 buy-in, 30 Shooting Stars that are worth $2,000 if you claim their last chips. The tournament will have a one day start and feature an excellent structure that will have 40,60 and 90-minute levels and play six-handed at 36 players. The 30 Stars will not only be poker greats but also some non-poker personalities and social media influencers.” The absence of the tournament in 2018 coincided with a venue shift for Bay 101. The old card room, which had its opening back in 1993, was a fixture of the Northern California poker landscape. It was a broad open space with high ceilings and an old-school card room vibe. The new location, located directly across the 101 freeway from the now-defunct card room, has adopted a more modern approach for their environment. When the new Bay 101 opened in September of 2017, the casino was slow to re-introduce daily tournaments. It quickly became apparent that the Shooting Star tournament would not be able to be incorporated into the casino’s plans in 2018. For many in the industry, the Shooting Star has always felt like a unique tournament on the schedule. Its ability to attract big names, award bounties and t-shirts for knockouts and drop to six-handed in the late stages of the tournament made it a favorite for pros and recs alike. The legendary rabid San Jose poker fanbase had made the event a can’t-miss tour stop. So, when it was dropped from the WPT schedule in 2018, its absence was felt by locals and pros alike. But for many of the players, including the locals that make up that legendary fan base, the lack of WPT affiliation won't stop them from registering. “I can tell by the messages I have already received that the event was sorely missed,” Savage said. Bay 101’s day-to-day Tournament Director Quoc Pham echoed Savage's sentiment. The local players are ready to have their Shooting Star back in the fold. “[The locals] were ecstatic, they couldn’t be happier,” Pham said. “A lot of people dream of playing the Shooting Star, the prestige of playing in a big buy-in tournament. They have a chance of playing for life-changing money.” One of the questions that will be answered soon will be who the Shooting Stars will be. In the past they’ve been some of the biggest names in the game, Savage promises that the bounties of 2019 will be just as impressive but give the tournament a brand new look. “Invites are just being sent out now and contracts need to be signed before we can release names but I can tell you that this year’s list of Stars will look entirely different than years past,” Savage said. Even without the WPT branding behind it, the Shooting Star is likely to be an appetizing event for big-name pros, if only for the number of qualifiers it is expected to bring in. The venue has 26 satellites on the schedule. “The satellite schedule is really aggressive and the Shooting Star is always strongly supported by our Bay Area locals making our field one of the best in poker,” Savage said. “We are hoping that we will give away about 200 seats into the event,” Pham added. ”Roughly half of the field will be from satellites.” Even though the Shooting Star is not an official WPT event, the 2019 scheduling of it makes it obvious that Savage kept the WPT Main Tour, and his own duties, in mind, placing the tournament in its traditional March timeslot. The World Poker Tour has both the Los Angeles Poker Classic and WPT Rolling Thunder taking place earlier in March, allowing the Shooting Star to, perhaps, capture some of the pros that make their way to California for those events. “It is important in the current tournament poker climate that dates, especially in the same region in the world, work in tandem. Fortunately, our relationship with the WPT made that easy and it will fit right between two of their events on the West Coast making it easy and convenient for traveling players.” When asked if the Shooting Star would return to the World Poker Tour, both Savage and Pham couldn’t say. There is a sentiment that they would be trying again to make that happen in 2020. The Bay 101 Shooting Star takes place from March 19-22 at the Bay 101 Casino in San Jose.
Prior to last year, the Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event was a staple of the World Poker Tour schedule. After a one-year hiatus, the Shooting Star returned to the poker calendar this week, just without the WPT TV cameras in tow. That didn't prevent the final table from being a star-studded affair, though. Sandeep Pulusani beat out a final table that included two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Loni Harwood, WPT Five Diamond winner Ryan Tosoc and Super High Roller regular Dan Shak to win $354,400 and the third live title of his career. Only five players remained at the start of the final day of play Friday, with Harwood on top with 34.4% of the chips in play. Early action wasn't kind to Harwood as she lost 25% of her chips to Tosoc and then doubled up Pulusani. She got a chunk of those chips back through John Andress before the Pennsylvania-based poker pro met his demise. Andress was down to 80,000 in the big blind. With the tournament using the Big Blind Ante format, Andress was all in for 80,000 before seeing a card. Shak called the 40,000 from the button and Tosoc completed from the small blind. The flop came [poker card="ad"][poker card="qh"][poker card="jc"] and Tosoc checked. Shak bet 50,000, forcing Tosoc to fold, and tabled [poker card="qd"][poker card="2d"]. Andress turned over [poker card="7d"][poker card="2s"]. The turn was the [poker card="4s"] to officially end Andress' run in fifth place. The river was the [poker card="5s"]. Harwood managed to hang around another 90 minutes before losing a flip in heartbreaking fashion. Tosoc raised to 125,000 from the button before Harwood moved all in for just over 1,000,000 from the big blind. Tosoc called and turned over [poker card="8d"][poker card="8c"] while Harwood showed [poker card="kc"][poker card="qd"]. The [poker card="ts"][poker card="9c"][poker card="6s"] flop kept Tosoc ahead. The [poker card="ks"] turn, however, gave Harwood top pair but the [poker card="7c"] river filled Tosoc's straight and eliminated Harwood in fourth place. It took nearly an hour for the next elimination to occur. Shak raised to 150,000 from the button, Tosoc called from the small blind and Pulusani folded his big. Tosoc checked after the flop came [poker card="ks"][poker card="qh"][poker card="5h"] and Shak continued for 200,000. Tosoc raised to 725,000 and then called when Shak moved all in for 3,760,000. Tosoc tabled [poker card="kd"][poker card="qs"] for top two pair while Shak showd [poker card="kh"][poker card="jh"] for top pair with a flush draw. Neither the [poker card="9d"] turn or [poker card="jd"] river were of any help for Shak and he was out in third place. Tosoc started heads up play with a 2.5-1 chip lead over Pulusani and it took just over 15 minutes for the final two players to agree to a deal. Pulusani was guaranteed $304,300 and Tosoc locked up $336,500 with an additional $50,100 for the eventual champion. It took another two hours before Pulusani finished off his comeback. Tosoc raised to 300,000 from the button, Pulusani re-raised to 900,000 and Tosoc announced he was all in and Pulusani called. Tosoc showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="9s"] while Pulusani was well ahead with [poker card="ac"][poker card="as"]. The board ran out [poker card="ah"][poker card="qh"][poker card="5s"][poker card="8c"] to give Pulusani top set and eliminate Tosoc. The $354,400 score for Pulusani is the second six-figure score of his career and his first since he won a $3,000 NLHE event at the 2013 WSOP for $592,684. Despite not being a part of the WPT, the Shooting Star still drew 440 players for a total prize pool of $2,156,000. Final Table Payouts Sandeep Pulusani - $354,400* Ryan Tosoc - $336,500* Dan Shak - $200,055 Loni Harwood - $142,440 John Andress - $103,710 Steve Kim - $76,850 Hiroaki Harada - $57,980 Antonios Roungeris - $57,980 John Ko - $44,555