Winamax - Sismix

Winamax - Sismix

Monday, 28 July 2014

All the action from Marrakech.

Let's face it, poker tournaments are not always in the most glamorous of locations (I won't name any names, but there's certainly been some right motorway specials over the years). So when I heard that Winamax were planning to hold a festival in the heart of the exotic 'Red City' of Marrakech, I couldn't wait to go and sample the action. All in the name of intrepid journalism, of course.

In fact, the Winamax SISMIX Festival proposed to have a number of unique things about it.

1) As you may have guessed by its name, every single tournament – including the Main Event – was 6-Max.
2) It wasn't just a poker festival. It was a poker AND electro music festival, with the line-up featuring 20 of Europe's best electro DJs.
3) There was plenty of poker to be played, but if you didn't fancy it that day, then the party went on 24/7. Seriously. The music and entertainment kicked off every afternoon, and never ended until the early hours.

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Once I got there, it was as clear as a vodka ice sculpture that no expense had been spared. The event was hosted at the stunningly beautiful Es Saadi Palace and Hotel, a 5-star resort close to the centre of Marrakech with ample casino facilities. Attached to the hotel is the famous Theatro nightclub, which hosted the party once the sun went down by the pool. The room, which is lavishly decked out with an abundance of mirrors and plush furnishings, comes with its own Cirque du Soleil style dance troupe; these costumed acrobats made their debut on the opening night party, daringly swooping and strutting while the hordes of players partied below.

But it was the next day that the action really kicked off. Players (some predictably looking a little worse for wear after last night's Grey Goose fuelled antics) gathered excitedly in the marble amphitheatre outside the Espace Jean Bauchet tournament room, ready to play some poker. The Main Event carried a fairly hefty 6,000 Dirham buy-in (that's about €550 to you and I), but I'd guess that the vast majority of the field was made up by Winamax qualifiers, some of whom qualified for as little as €2. Not too shabby.

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Among the field was a number of familiar faces from Team Winamax Pro, including poker rock star Davidi Kitai, as well as famous Frenchies Ludovic Lacay, Sylvain Loosli, and Gaelle Baumann. The event was single re-entry, in case you busted prematurely on the first day. However, even an early exit wasn't a huge disaster when you could soothe the sting by heading to the pool for a cocktail or four. Cards flew, and play quickly got underway on the custom-made hexagonal tables.

I even jumped into the fray to play my first ever 'Win the Button' tournament. For those of you that aren't familiar with the format, it's pretty straightforward – whoever wins the pot, also wins the button for the next hand. This rewards a loose-aggressive style, as if you win a lot of pots then you can claim positional advantage nearly all the time. Not one to normally jostle for the role of Table Captain, I hurriedly read some strategy, and resigned myself to the fact that my best chance was to hope for a hyper-aggro player to my left whose coat-tails I could ride on.

Unfortunately, once I sat down it quickly became clear that I had landed the nut worst seat draw. Two to my right was possibly the most aggressive player I have ever encountered. Conversely, the guy to my left was a passive elderly gentleman who, while I was there, didn't raise a SINGLE pot. As a result, the first couple of levels involved me being the big blind approximately five billion times.

Downtrodden and dejected, I decided that I needed to play back against this maniac, cards be damned! With the fire of the oppressed in my belly, I chose a suited one-gapper hand to take a stand with. 'That's right!' I thought triumphantly. 'I won't be bullied any longer!' Alas, he then snapped with Kings. Whoops. I was out, after a solid 40 minutes. Despite my dismal performance, however, I enjoyed the format – it was a fun variation on the usual, and even if you're not in the hand, each pot is interesting when who the eventual winner is will directly affect you.

By the time registration for the Main was done with, enough players had thrown their hats into the ring for 670 entries, absolutely shattering the 3,000,000 MAD (€268,000) guarantee. With a juicy prize pool to play for, the action rolled on until there were just 15 players left at the end of Day 2. Unbelievably, after bagging and tagging was complete, Team Winamax Pro accounted for a massive 20% of the remaining field: Ludovic 'Sit Cuts' Lacay sat 2nd in chips behind chip leader Mathieu Papineau, closely followed by Davidi Kitai in 3rd, and Michel Abecassis in 10th.

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The Final Table played out in the opulently-outfitted Egyptian Room, a gold-ceilinged haven decorated in regal blue and red. Both Lacay and Kitai made it through to the final six, commanding most of the initial attention by getting into frequent tussles with each other. Unluckily for Lacay, he couldn't get the better of his teammate, exiting in 5th after running Jacks into Kitai's Aces. Timothée Marlin was to be the next casualty of the Belgian pro after losing a flip to crash out in 4th, joined soon after by Mathieu Papineau in 3rd.

The beginning of heads up play signalled a true David vs. Goliath showdown. While Davidi Kitai is a triple crown winner with close to $5 million in live tournament winnings, his opponent, Portugese player Vitor Hugo Marques Rebelo, had a largest recorded cash of just €752 a few months prior. Kitai started a 1.5 to 1 chip lead, but play was tense and grimly-fought, with neither player willing to concede many pots. Eventually though, Rebelo's Cinderella story was to come to an end, when he tank-called Kitai's check-raise all in on a 5s-9c-2d-8d-Jc board. Although Rebelo's Ac-9d had been ahead on the flop and turn, he was outdrawn by Kitai's Jh-5h for the trophy and 635,000 MAD (€56,700) first prize.

Upon winning, the stage was rushed by the rest of Team Winamax, resulting in Davidi dropping his newly-acquired golden SISMIX trophy in all the confusion. Evidently, this definitely didn't give him any bad luck, as he went on to claim his 3rd WSOP bracelet and $508k less than two weeks later. All hail the mighty Kitbul!

All in all, Winamax took a big risk with SISMIX, given that it would be such a journey for most of the players and it was their first time hosting it. Having said that, the gamble undeniably paid off – not only was there an amazing turn-out, but the party atmosphere lasted all week long (and then some). Kudos Winamax, and here's to the next one!

Winamax SISMIX Main Event - 6,000 Moroccan Dirhams (€550) - 670 entries
1st: Davidi Kitai (Belgium) – 635,000 Dirhams
2nd: Vitor Hugo Marques Rebelo (Portugal) – 440,000 Dirhams
3rd: Mathieu Papineau (France) – 300,000 Dirhams
4th: Timothée Marlin (France) – 220,000 Dirhams
5th: Ludovic Lacay (France) – 160,000 Dirhams
6th: Samy Battikh (France) – 125,000 Dirhams

Tags: Winamax Sismix, Davidi Kitai, Ludovic Lacay