Let’s shuffle up and deal …

George Pagan, left, peeks at his cards as Joel Gaeta waits for

San Jose
– It’s a long way from the Garlic City Club to the poker palaces
of Las Vegas. Or at least it used to be.
Gilroy’s Joel Gaeta and George Pagan will be in the field of
World Poker Tour hopefuls Monday morning when the ninth annual
Shooting Star Tournament opens a five-day run at Bay 101 casino in
San Jose.
San Jose – It’s a long way from the Garlic City Club to the poker palaces of Las Vegas. Or at least it used to be.

Gilroy’s Joel Gaeta and George Pagan will be in the field of World Poker Tour hopefuls Monday morning when the ninth annual Shooting Star Tournament opens a five-day run at Bay 101 casino in San Jose. They’ll be hoping to hit a run of success next week akin to the recent tournament wins by amateur players fresh from friendly games and Internet play. Poker’s popularity soars with each televised event … and the old pros increasingly grumble about the fresh faces at the table who are taking their money.

Gaeta, a restaurateur, qualified in November for a seat in the sold-out No-Limit Hold ‘Em event that runs Monday through Friday’s final table by surviving a 120-player satellite tournament last Sunday. Pagan, a contractor, earned a seat in the tournament in the final satellite event held Tuesday.

The tournament drew a field of 253 players last year when the entry fee was at $5,000. This year’s Bay 101 event carries a $10,000 per seat cost, yet has drawn a sold-out 440 entrants.

“Surprisingly wonderful,” said tournament director Matt Savage of the local response to the Shooting Star Tournament.

“It’s nice to know you can sell out a local event. A few years ago, we had to work to fill the 150 seats at $1,000 each. That shows you how much poker on TV has helped.”

The World Poker Tour is in its third season of broadcasting final table action at leading casino tournaments on the Travel Channel. Airing every Wednesday night at 9pm, the WPT is the highest-rated series in the network’s history. The Bay 101 Tournament is tentatively scheduled to air on June 8.

The Bay 101 opens its week-long event with a weekend slate of sold-out smaller events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Pagan is entered in the third event, a 150-player, $1,000 Spread Limit tournament starting at 11:15am on Sunday.

The Shooting Star Championship opens at 11:15am on Monday when the first half of the field begins play on 22 tables. The second group plays from Tuesday through nine levels, with play concluding at 10pm.

Gaeta will begin play on Monday. Pagan has not been given his first-day assignment.

Days Three and Four of the championship pare down the competition to the Final Table of six players, who begin play at 4pm on Friday, March 11. Seating will begin at 3:15pm, and although the public is welcome to attend on a first-come, first-serve basis, spectators are likely to be getting in line early that morning to get a possible seat.

One challenge at the Shooting Star Tournament is that each of the 44 tables of 10 players includes one “star” – a champion poker player or celebrity. If a player knocks out a star, the player collects an immediate bounty of $5,000.

“In one early tournament when there were only 15 stars, one player finished with six bounties,” said Savage of the potential of an entrant earning considerable prize money by knocking out famous names.

Poker stars in the field Monday include Phil Gordon, the 2004 Shooting Star champion, 2003 World Series of Poker champion and 2004 Shooting Star runner-up Chris Moneymaker, 2004 WSOP champion Greg Raymer, Dan Harrington, 2000 WSOP champion Chris Ferguson and Jennifer Harman.

The Tuesday field of stars includes actors James Woods and Mimi Rogers, and poker heavyweights T.J. Cloutier, Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Annie Duke, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen and Howard Lederer. Actor Tobey Maguire is also scheduled to begin play Tuesday.

Savage said that the local players are very qualified to battle for the championship.

“We would love to see a local player win the tournament,” said the tournament director, a 2003 inductee into the Poker Room Managers Hall of Fame. “They are very good players and can compete with the stars.”

Gaeta earned his Shooting Star chair by defeating Masoud Shojaei, last year’s third-place finisher in the Shooting Star, in head-to-head play.

While Pagan has been playing in poker tournaments for several years, Gaeta’s victory in November came in only his second live tournament try.

This year’s champion will pocket $1 million as well as a $25,000 seat at the season-ending WPT World Championship at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on April 24.


WPT Shooting Star Tournament


Bay 101, 1801 Bering Drive, San Jose


Monday, March 7 to Friday, March 11

The Hold ‘Em Rules

• Each player is dealt two down cards (hole cards) as their initial starting hand. There is a round of betting.

• Three community board cards (the flop) are now turned face up at once in the center of the table. There is a round of betting.

• A fourth board card (the turn) is turned face up. There is a round of betting.

• A fifth and final board card (the river) is turned face up. There is a final round of betting.

• The five boards cards are community cards and shared by all active players. A player may use any combination of the seven-total cards for a five-card hand.

• The two players to the left of the dealer button, which moves as the game progresses, must post bets (blinds) before any cards are dealt. As tournament play progresses, these bets increase in value.

• All players have the right to fold, check, call or raise a bet as circumstances dictate.

• In No Limit play, players may bet all their chips at any time.

Schedule of Events

Preliminary Tournaments

Friday: $1,000 Spread Limit Shoot-Out, 100-player field (sold out), starts at 11:15am

Saturday: $2,000 Spread Limit Hold ‘Em tournament, 150-player field (sold out), starts at 11:15am, Top 3 win $10,000 World Series of Poker seats

Sunday: $1,000 Spread Limit tournament, 150-player field, starts at 11:15am

Shooting Star Champ.

n$10,000 entry

n440-player field (sold out)

Monday: First half of field, 22 tables, 11:15am-10pm

Tuesday: Second half of field, 22 tables, 11:15am-10pm

Wednesday: Noon to final 36

Thursday: 36 players, six tables, noon to final six

Friday: Final table, six players, 4pm to overall winner

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