Big Slick for the French Dawg

by Brian Clarey

The ace of spades and king of clubs — written in poker shorthand as As-Kc and known affectionately as “Big Slick.” Out of 169 possible starting two-card hands in Texas hold ’em poker, it ranks eight from the top, with two aces being the best. And when Marc Ladouceur drew them on Day 7 of this year’s World Series of Poker, he knew what to do. From the cutoff position, the second-last player to act, he raised the bet to $480,000. Then Andras Koroknai of Hungary re-raised to $1.2 million. A pissing match ensued: Ladouceur advanced the bet to $2.15 million. Koroknai then pushed in the rest of his considerable stack — all in — and Ladouceur made the call. All this transpired before the three-card flop. And when they both flipped their cards over, Ladouceur was surprised to see that Koroaknai held the same hand, with the suits reversed, the ace of clubs and the king of spades. Ninety-eight percent of the time, a showdown like this ends as a push, with the two players splitting the pot. But that’s not what happened this time. Before becoming a professional poker player, Ladouceur, a French-Canadian from Montreal, laid deep roots in Greensboro. His degree in international business and finance came from UNCG, which he attended from 2002-2006 on a tennis scholarship. He made his mark on the downtown club scene, most notoriously at Greene Street Club, and later had a hand in the opening of Syn & Sky. And he started playing poker, in live games and online, getting good enough at it to realize that he could play the game at the highest level. He left town in 2009. “I wanted to go back to Montreal,” he says. “I was missing home. And I wanted to have the opportunity to travel and play a lot of poker.” In the early days, most of his winnings came online, where he still plays up to eight hours a day under the tag French Dawg. He went to his first WSOP in Las Vegas in 2009, but didn’t finish in the money until 2011, where he finished 63rd out of almost 7,000 players in the Main Event and took home more than $130,000 for his efforts. And now, in the 2012 Main Event, he was one of the last 27 on Day 7. Ladouceur had started the day as chip leader after strong play on Day 6 that included two key hands. First he squared off against US players Bobby Law and David “ODB” Baker. The two had gone all-in before the flop and Ladouceur covered their bets. When they flipped, Law held Ad-Qs, and Baker had Ah-Kd. Ladouceur had pocket kings. After the cards came out — 5d-3d-4s, followed by 7s and 4h — Ladouceur had knocked them both out fo the tournament and upped his chip stack to more than $3.5 million. “I just woke up with a hand at the right time and it held,” he says. “You definitely need to catch some of those if you’re going to win the tournament. This is what poker is made of: It’s constant percentages and constantly being at risk. I can’t tell you how many times in the last year I’ve had that hand lose.” Later in the day, Ladouceur had made a big bet against US player Amit Makhija — $190,000 — who raised to $450,000 after a flop of Qs-4h-4d. Ladouceur responded by raising again to $710,000. A 7h came out; both checked. The last card was the ace of clubs. After Makhija checked it, Ladouceur made a huge bet that put Makhija’s tournament life at risk. Makhija folded, but showed his hand, which held a queen, giving him a pair. Ladouceur flipped his cards too: A jack and a nine. It was a huge bluff that boosted Ladouceur’s stack by another $3 million. “That got me [to] around $7 million,” Ladouceur says, “but I also had a table that didn’t want to play me back anymore. It made it easier to pick up a lot of pots after that.” Now, on Day 7, faced off against the Hungarian with more than $18 million in the pot, Ladouceur waited for the flop. And out came three cards that he most definitely did not want to see. The 10c-Qc-2c put Koroknai just one card away from a club flush to the ace, the only hand that could beat Ladouceur’s. When the 8c came out on the turn, it cost Ladouceur almost $9 million, about 65 percent of his stack, moving him from the top of the leaderboard down to the bottom. He got knocked out a few hands later, when his trip-7s fell to American Greg Merson’s full house. “You can’t control the cards,” he says. “You try to control your decisions, make the best of what your situation is, and hope for the best.” Ladouceur finished in 13th place with a purse of about $465,000, which is not bad for seven days of card playing but clearly not the outcome he would have preferred. “It is a lot of money,” he says, “but the money is kind of irrelevant because you’re really going for the final table.” The last nine players made it to the final table. The final round will be aired on ESPN on Oct. 30. Coverage of the Main Event begins on Aug. 14, with episodes of the preliminary rounds airing on Tuesday nights.. Greensboro will be watching. “I was shocked to see all these messages and comments and support I was getting from North Carolina,” Ladouceur says. “The last three days of play I was seeing everything going up on my Facebook and Twitter. I could barely keep up with reading it. It was very touching.” Touching enough, hopefully, to soften the sting of a busted Big Slick. Ladouceur will be back in town this weekend to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Syn & Sky on Saturday night, and to thank his supporters from the Gate City who were with him all the way.