June 30, 2011
Aaron Motoyama couldn't pass up a guaranteed win so it was easy for the
35-year-old poker professional from Alhambra to say yes to the biggest winning
hand of his career.
Motoyama walked away from last week's Million Dollar Tournament at Commerce Casino with a cool $146,870 when the participants of the Final Table agreed to a 9-way deal. Motoyama was the chip leader with $2.3 million of the total $11.2 in play, or about one-sixth of all the chips, and won the biggest share.
For the $335 buy-in, those reaching the Final Table made what in some cases was a life-changing investment when they took the deal and eliminated the risk factor.
"It made a lot of sense, especially 9-handed," Motoyama said. "I just decided it was a good deal."
Nghia Tran of Riverside won the second biggest share of the purse with $106,255, followed by Mike Dollins of Long Beach ($85,825), Laura Cantero of Madrid, Spain ($84,660) and Johnny Ngo of Orange County ($70,105).
Motoyama is a daily player at Commerce Casino who plays regularly in cash games. He committed to play on the final day of the Million Dollar Tournament and it proved to be a decision that helped him snap out of his personal slump.
Motoyama, a tournament veteran, said the key to his victory was to stay patient.
"I picked my spots when I needed to," he said. "I chipped up, then started playing with my stack. It was easy for me to navigate through when I had chips."
Motoyama went from sitting on the money bubble, with three or four big blinds, to ending his first day with $355,000.
"I didn't have any big hands, won a lot of hands with no showdown," Motoyama said. "I really cannot remember any showdown hands. Basically I just kept picking up blinds and antes, started playing big stack poker and picked up a lot of chips that way.
"I ran really well, won all my races. I never got it in bad, always a race situation."
One of the few pivotal hands occurred when Motoyama had pocket 4s. He had a "relatively hard call" for about 35 percent of his stack and called against an A-7. The pocket 4s held up.
"That was a pretty crucial pot for me," he said. "I knocked out about five, six players within a 2- or 3-orbit span. I was getting it in good. There was no big hand where I needed a huge double-up. I just needed to maintain my stack."
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