August 11, 2001
We begin tonight at Allston Manor with a standard four-player free-for-all, then we will add two more players to mix up the field. Varisco makes his triumphant return, Haskell makes her bid for contention, Kent continues her mediocre streak since winning the 2001-1 finals, and Thurston collapses in a big, bad, depressing way. Not only will we see some drama unfold, we will see it happen in what will be an unusual number of long, seemingly competitive games. Of the 22 games played tonight, 12 will go ten hands or more, including 7 in a row towards the middle part of the evening.
Let’s start with the first game, pitting veterans Thurston and Varisco against Haskell and Kent. Here is where we see the makings of a very frightening trend, a phenomenon that would continue through the following day’s events, that of people getting shit-lucky just about every hand. For example, Varisco starts out with two 20-bids, each in diamonds. On his first, he lucks out and gets the Ace of Hearts in the kitty, and his team pulls ahead 25-5. Next time around, Haskell has the 5 but Thurston magically beats Kent’s 8 with... the nine on the last hand to secure a made bid, 45-15.
So Haskell takes control, going 15 in clubs. She gets the 5 in the kitty and cruises to a buck. Thurston turns the tables then by going 20 in clubs and getting the Jack and Queen in the kitty. Another buck. Varisco goes 20 in clubs and Thurston has the 5. Another buck. The score is now 105-45 in favor of Thurston/Varisco. Haskell takes a chance and goes 20 in spades but Varisco has the five, sets her, and wins the game, *-25.
The teams rematch in the next game and Haskell immediately regroups and scores an easy buck to put her team ahead. Thurston then bids 20 on just the Jack of hearts. He gets lucky in the kitty but when he leads Jack, Kelly throws the 5 and Varisco throws... the Ace of Diamonds. Looks like a definite set, right? Not so. Thurston buckles down and wins the next four tricks with the 8, A, 6, and finally his kicker. Kent makes a clean twenty-bid and then tries another. She has only the Jack and King. Thurston draws the 5, A, Q. Varisco has the Ace of Hearts. Thurston throws his kicker midway through and Kent has to beat it with her King. The rest you can figure out for yourself. They score 25 and go up 55-30.
But Haskell and Kent claw back, scoring two straight 25s and go up 80-65. Then Thurston scores a 25, putting his team up by 5. Haskell then bids 20 in spades, she is booked, the 5 sleeps, and the buck puts her team up 115-90. So Varisco pulls a Lano, bids 25 in clubs without the 5, J. But the 5 and J sleep (and Kent does as well, it seems) and the buck gives Thurston and Varisco a miraculous win.
However, officials noticed an error in scoring the following day. Haskell and Kent were not given ten points somewhere along the way - and those ten points would have put them over the top when Haskell scored that last buck. So Thurston and Varisco were forced to forfeit the win, take the loss, and Varisco’s made-bid was erased from the record. (This actually changed the field quite a bit, since Haskell moved into 4th place ahead of Varisco, who is now only at .500.)
Since the scoring mishap was not yet known to the players, Thurston and Varisco seem to be on a roll. And they are teamed again in the next game. We skip ahead to the 3rd hand. Kent has an amazing deal - the 5S, AH, JC, JD, 7D. Varisco goes twenty in diamonds and is set, putting Kent and Haskell up 35-20. Thurston then takes a blind 20-bid in hearts and draws the 5 - can you say shit-lucky? Varisco also has the jack. But they only make 20. After an extremely ugly hand, Thurston again goes blind in hearts but gets his ass kicked, and goes down 30-85. Varisco scores an easy buck and then Thurston bids 20 on just the 5C. He gets the J and A in the kitty and draws the AH and KD. Buck. He then goes blind in H and incredibly makes 20. His team is now up 110-95.
So Thurston goes 25 in spades. He has only the 5 but Varisco is booked. They should make it, right? Kent has the Jack and Ace of Hearts. Thurston is set and Kent and Haskell take the win.
Thurston and Kent are then teamed against Haskell and Varisco - and the latter team is about to put on an exhibition. We skip ahead to the 6th hand, where Haskell and Varisco are already ahead 95 to (45). Kent goes 25 in spades and Haskell is booked. Kent and Thurston are set for the 4th time in the game and are down by 175 points. They have a 70-point comeback that is all for naught and Haskell and Varisco win, *-0.
We get a rematch the next time around and Kent and Thurston get a little revenge. After Haskell is set when Kent is booked, Thurston gets lucky by having only the J, 2, 9 of clubs. Even though his partner has no trump, he somehow makes his 20-bid and puts his team up 55-25. Thurston then gets a Kerry force-15 bid and makes 25. Haskell then gets set even though she is booked. She is booked the next time around, and this time Thurston bid. So she sets him to make the score 95-35 in favor of Kent/Thurston. Thurston then gets the 5 and K of hearts in the kitty on his next bid, scores a buck, and wins the game.
Thurston and Varisco are teamed again next time around. Skip ahead to the 6th hand. T and V are down 25-95. So Thurston makes like he’s Jordan - and he actually begins to pull it off. He makes 25 and then takes another 20-bid in Hearts. He draws the 5, Varisco draws the A and has three others, and they score a buck. Varisco then draws the 5 on Thurston’s next 20-bid and their 25 points ties the game at 105. The next deal, Varisco mistakenly deals for Thurston... and Kent draws 3 Fives. But it’s a misdeal.
So Thurston bids 25 in hearts. He has A, K, Q. He throws King to start... and Varisco throws the five. He scores ten points for his team but ultimately takes away five points that the King would have won, Kent has the Jack and wins the last on an off-suit and Thurston is set. He is forced to go 25 the next time around, has no chance of making it, and Kent and Haskell stop the comeback and win the game. Thurston was critical of Varisco after the game.
Kent and Thurston then play against Haskell and Varisco again. Thurston scores an easy buck to start but is then set even though he is booked, since Haskell has the 5 and A of diamonds. Kent scores a buck and then Varisco does the same, and he and Haskell go up 45-40. Two hands later, Thurston scores another buck he had no business getting. How did he get it? Only 5 trump cards were played in the hand. That’s ugly!
Varisco then gets lucky on a 15-bid, since his partner has the 5 and AH. Varisco then nearly sets Thurston on a 20-bid, but Haskell has no trump. The score is tied at 100. Kent is then blown out on a 25-bid (Varisco had the 5 and Haskell had the J, AH) and Haskell and Varisco win.
Haskell and Thurston are then paired for the first time all night. Varisco starts out with four straight bids and three straight sets. And it should have been four, since Haskell didn’t throw the AH until the last trick. Haskell is then dubbed the "Setting Machine" since she was instrumental in crushing Varisco on the first three bids. Kent tries to make a comeback for her team but Thurston draws the 5 and AH on the last hand, a 15-bid, and still barely makes 15. He and Haskell take the win, *-45. This would be Thurston’s last win for a long... long time.
And Lane has finally shown up. We don’t get to see the top two on the leader board duke it out until later, though. Instead, Lane teams with Haskell against Kent and Varisco. Lane bids 6 times but only makes 3 of them. With his team up 105-60, Lane bids 25 in spades on the 5, A, Q, 4. But Kent just gets better cards, having the J, AH, and K. His team is only up by ten now.
Varisco then bids 20 in hearts. Lane and Haskell have already won 10 points by the 2nd to last trick. Kent is winning with the King of diamonds. But Varisco wins it anyway with the King of hearts. Does this mean he has another heart to back it up? No. He throws... the 8 of clubs, a surefire way to get himself set. The rest of the cards are thrown... and Varisco is lucky, as his 8C goes around and the score is now tied at 90. Varisco then scores an elementary buck and he and Kent win.
Lane and Haskell play together again, this time against Thurston and a newly-arrived Kerry Sainato. It is no secret that Sainato and Thurston do not play well together, but they stay in it the entire game. 8 hands in, though, Thurston has bid 20 in diamonds and Haskell has four of them in her hand... and then she draws the AH. Next hand, Thurston only bids 15 but he hits both Haskell and Lane. Sainato wins their only trick and the 25-points Haskell and Lane score win the game.
The next game had Kent and Varisco go against Haskell and Sainato. The game was a bidding frenzy for Haskell and Sainato, as they bid 8 times in 10 hands. However, they are set 3 times and Varisco and Kent’s two bids were for 30 and 25. Kent and Varisco win, *-55.
Sainato and Thurston are then teamed against last season’s tournament champions, Kent and Lane. In a game that saw four bucks, Lane teaches a few lessons about bidding, going 3-3 and scoring two bucks all by himself. He and Kent win *-45.
But if you want to talk about lessons in bidding, watch the next game closely. Thurston and Kent go against Haskell and Varisco for the 4th time. Haskell starts out bidding 20 in clubs and Varisco has the 5. That’s a buck. Thurston is then set on a pathetic 20-bid in hearts - Varisco takes only one and Kent’s highest trump is the 2. Varisco then bids 20 and Haskell has the 5. Buck. Varisco bids 20 again and gets the J and AH in the kitty. Buck. Varisco bids 20 again... and it’s a buck. Four bucks and a strong set put an end to this 11-minute, 5-hand, damn-near-perfect game for Haskell and Varisco, who are now 3-1 together on this evening and 5-1 together overall.
Thurston was livid during and after this game, even throwing out his cards on the last hand and refusing to play it out. All this did was cause the other players to taunt him even more, especially Lane, knowing it would only affect his playing more. And they were right. Will Thurston ever learn?
The next game was a nail-biter, even though it didn’t start out that way. Sainato and Varisco against Haskell and Lane. The first hand sees Sainato draw four trump and win four tricks on her partner’s 20-bid in spades. Then Lane and Haskell are each blown out on 20-bids and Sainato/Varisco goes up 65-(40). So Lane goes 25 and gets the 5 in the kitty, scores a buck, and then buckles down and gets the K, Q of diamonds on the draw on his 20-bid in diamonds and scores a second-straight buck. Varisco thinks he’s killed the momentum then, after scoring 25 and putting his team up 95-25. Lane then makes 2 20-bids in clubs, the second one thanks to Haskell getting the J, K, 9.
Haskell then bids 20 in clubs without the five and gets the J, AH, A, 10, 7. The five sleeps and the buck puts her team down 100-105. Lane’s 20-bid in spades then goes around. Haskell draws the 5 and wins the first trick with it. Varisco wins the 2nd with the AH. Lane wins the 3rd with the King, his high card. Sainato wins the 4th with the Jack and puts her team one trick away from winning. She throws the 7 of spades and Lane... beats it with the... 6 of spades. He and Haskell win *-115.
The next game, the only one of the night that was void of sets, has Kent and Varisco beat Haskell and Thurston in a strangely uninteresting game *-85. It is Thurston’s fourth straight loss. And he is beginning to lose his mind. And it only gets worse. He and Haskell lose for the 2nd straight game to Lane and Sainato. Lane bid four times, made all of them, and was instrumental in setting Thurston on a tense 25-bid that, if made, would have surely shifted the momentum into Sainato and Thurston’s favor.
While Thurston takes a regenerative nap, hoping a little rest and relaxation will end his five-game losing skid, Haskell and Kent play Sainato and Varisco in a contender for most fun game of the night. On the first, and now infamous, hand, Haskell plays the 5 on her partner’s led-Jack. They make a buck, regardless, and Kent lets it go until a few tricks later. She challenges Haskell for making that kind of throw and Haskell, still not understanding she had misunderstood that Kent was her partner during that first hand, blows Kent off as if she has no business asking that kind of question. Only after a few minutes pass does Haskell realize what had happened.
The game goes another 12 hands, showcases four bucks, sees Kent and Varisco get set a lot, and, even if they don’t know that they’re partners, Kent and Haskell pull out a dramatic win by setting Varisco on a tight 25-bid with the score 115-110. Sainato goes home, leaving her 1-5 record behind.
A now awake, but disoriented, Thurston teams with Haskell against Kent and Lane in a rematch from the first round of last year’s Super Sunday tournament, a round that saw Kent and Lane dismantle the relatively inexperienced team in three games. The game goes 7 hands, only Lane and Thurston bid, but Thurston makes all 4 of his and he and Haskell win *-50 and seem to finally stymie Thurston’s awful losing streak.
Lane and Kent are teamed once more, this time going against the mighty team of Varisco and Haskell. Haskell starts the game with a 20-bid in spades and has an incredible first-throw bleed, as her five steals away Lane’s J and Varisco’s AH. She manages 15 more points and her team is up 25-5. Lane gets the 5 on the draw on his next bid and he and Kent are now down 25-35. Kent then gets set when Varisco has the J, K, 6 of diamonds. Haskell takes just one on Varisco’s next bid, helps score 25, and put her team up 65-10.
Varisco then bids 15 in spades. And the teams manage to play one of the strangest hands in the history of the NEA45s. Lane keeps his kicker to match his AH and 7S. Then he draws... the 5. Varisco throws off-suit and Lane throws his kicker to beat it... and it goes around. Not only that, he throws the 5 on the last trick as an afterthought and he and Haskell set and cut the score to 30-50.
But the comeback ends there. Jen makes a 20-bid in diamonds and then, even though Lane and Kent take the next 5 bids, they get set on three of them and Haskell and Varisco win, *-25. Lane leaves the event with a final tally of 4-3. He and Thurston are virtually tied for the lead in the season statistics.
We are now down to the original four players of the night. Haskell and Thurston take on Varisco and Kent. Four hands in, with the score tied at 60, Thurston draws 3 clubs on Kent’s 20-bid and helps set her. Haskell then BARELY makes two straight 15-bids in diamonds and Kent almost gets set on her 20-bid in spades when Haskell has the AH and QS. This means that Haskell and Thurston are up 115-90.
So Thurston goes 20 to make someone else go 25. But no one bites. Now Thurston is stuck going 20 on just the A and 4 of spades. He gets somewhat lucky in the kitty and then draws two spades so he is booked. Not only that, but the 5, J, and AH all sleep, allowing Thurston to make 25 and get his second straight win. Haskell is now 12-6 and has leapfrogged into finals contention after being in 2nd to last place, the reverse of what Mark Shiffer did last season. Haskell and Kent then manage to beat Thurston and Varisco when Thurston is set on a 25-bid on the last hand. This is Haskell’s 5th straight win.
Haskell and Varisco then take on Kent and Thurston in the final game of the night. Four hands on, Kent has been set twice and her team is down (15)-70. So Thurston buckles down and embarks on an amazing run to rally his team back into position to win the game.
After making a 20-bid, Thurston takes a push-15 bid in hearts, gets the J in the kitty and the 5 on the draw and makes a buck. Another push-15 goes around and this time he gets the 5, J in the kitty. He then goes 25 in spades and only has J, A to start. But the kitty is all clubs and he makes his bid and puts his team only 15-points away. Kent then wakes up and joins in and makes 25 by bleeding Varisco’s jack on the first throw of her 20-bid in hearts.
But the luck ends there. With their team up 105-100, Kent is set on a 25 and then Thurston on a 20. Haskell and Varisco win for the fifth time in six tries and they walk away the big winners of the evening.
Thurston’s five-straight losses and twelve total in the evening drop him down below Lane in the standings and Varisco and Haskell’s startlingly lucky nights put them in 3rd and 4th respectively, somehow dropping the injured Gracie Doyle out of finals contention. Lane also upped his bidding stats, and has become the first player in NEA45s history to take more than 3 bids a game, something he and Thurston did regularly during the heyday of the Federation.
Last season’s Grand Champion, Kent, remains mediocre, around .460, and her team with Thurston drops from 2nd to 6th in the team standings. Her bidding percentage drops to .711 (going 25-42 this particular evening), down .133 from where she finished (in first) last season. Sainato continues her downward spiral since a random person accidentally threw away her one alleged good day of stats. She is currently in 2nd to last place, ahead of only the rookie Jessica.
22 games, 203 hands (9.23 hands per game)
142 made bids, 61 sets (70.0%)
27 15-bids (4 sets, 85.2%), 153 20-bids (46 sets, 69.9%), 23 25-bids (11 sets, 52.2%)
Haskell, 14-6 (24-32 bidding)
Varisco, 9-9 (29-37 bidding)
Kent, 10-9 (25-42 bidding)
Lane, 4-3 (20-27 bidding)
Thurston, 5-12 (35-54 bidding)
Sainato, 1-5 (8-10 bidding)
25 bids ended 7 of the 22 games - 4 of them were sets; 15 of the 22 games were 9 or more hands long; 9 of the 22 games ended with the losing team being set; 6 of the 22 games ended with the winning team scoring a buck; Thurston was 5-6 bidding in the last game and still lost; Sainato and Varisco were never set in Game 14 against Haskell and Lane and still lost; Kent and Thurston were set 13 times in their 5 games together, four of them losses; Haskell and Thurston were set just once in their 5 games together, 2 of them losses; Haskell and Varisco were set just a total of once in their 5 wins together, and were set 3 times in their sole loss together.