It’s always fun to work backwards in these Top Ten lists, so coming in at #10 is an extraordinary end to a tournament at the PokerNews Cup in Salzburg, Austria.
Traditionally when a player wins a tournament he will hold up the cards of his final hand in the winner’s photo, however this wasn’t the case in Austria. After Niki Kovacs was eliminated in 3rd place, Austrian Erich Kollman and the UK’s Andrew Nicholson decided to enter into some “negotiations”. This is nothing out of the ordinary for a poker tournament where a lot of money is on the line. With Kollman holding a roughly 2:1 chip lead, a deal was reached and the players shook hands.
What came next was a surprise to us all as Kollman was handed the trophy and declared the winner without any further cards being dealt! So the best negotiator becomes the champion? WTF? Ok perhaps that’s a little harsh, as Kollman was clearly the best player in the field once they hit the money and he deserved the title. However to end a Main Event on a handshake was one of the more bizarre endings to a tournament that I have seen.
I was fortunate enough to witness two of the most dominant final table performances that you will ever see, from two of the young guns of world poker. Both were so impressive that I couldn’t split them.
Jay “Seabeast” Kinkade had a big reputation to uphold as he entered the Main Event of the Victorian Championships as one of Australia’s best online players. Looking for a big live result to cement his place at the top of the Australian poker scene, Jay emerged through the field and completely dominated the final table. Once play reached six-handed it was all over. Jay was relentlessly aggressive; to the point that every second hand that was blogged was Jay raking in another pot. He was ultra-impressive and a huge Australian poker success story in 2008.
I’d played with Yevgeniy Timoshenko at the 2008 Aussie Millions, and although I didn’t know who he was at the time, he quickly proved that he was an extremely tough adversary at the table. At the Asian Poker Tour event in Macau, I quickly identified him as a player to watch in this tournament and he didn’t disappoint. He pounded on his opponents through the money stages of the tournament to take a lead into the final table where he pounded on them some more. A dominant performance by the young American who at 20 years of age is still too young to play at the WSOP! A player to watch in the years to come.
Henrik Gwinner is one of my favourite players to watch live as his bag of tricks is as deep as any player in the world. He is capable of anything and everything, and his deep run in Monte Carlo was highlighted by his duels with Antonio Esfandiari and the following sick 5-bet. Here’s the action as I blogged it at the time:
Antonio Esfandiari opened the action with a raise to 3,400 which was flat-called by a player in late position. Henrik Gwinner then squeezed both players, making it another 10,200 to go. Esfandiari folded before the player in late position who, after flat-calling the previous bet, decided to now reraise the action again, increasing the bet amount by an additional 20,000 in chips.
"Wow," said Gwinner before going into the tank. Both players were deep-stacked, and with over 30,000 in the pot already, it was a tournament make-or-break decision for the T6 Poker representative.
This five-bet pre-flop was an additional 55,000 to his opponent and represented the majority of his stack. He thought for a moment, shrugged and reluctantly tossed his cards into the muck.
Gwinner then flipped over his hand - a jaw-dropping - much to the disgust of his opponent and the shock of the rest of the table.
A world-class, and somewhat sick, move by Gwinner has elevated his stack to around 125,000 in chips!
“You don’t run like God, God runs like you!” was the cry that came from Van Marcus to his opponent, David Steicke, at the APPT Main Event in Macau. How those words would turn full circle for Van a few months later.
The APPT Main Event in Manila was a truly memorable experience as I love nothing more than seeing Australian success. At the dinner break on day one I bumped into Van at the dinner buffet and had a quick chat about how he was doing. He shrugged and said he was hanging in there with around average chips. He’d just been moved to the chip leader’s table and I thought he’d be in good shape to double through and get back into contention. After dinner that’s exactly what happened, as Van found pocket aces on multiple occasions to surge to be amongst the chip leaders by the close of play.
On day two Van found himself seated next to the boisterous David Saab, but continued his run with an amazing runner-runner, perfect-perfect, one-outer on the river to claim the tournament chip lead. Here’s how my blogging partner, F-Train described this moment:
"That's so sick!" complained Van Marcus, standing out of his seat at Table 11. The board showed . Marcus tabled ; Daniel Nordstrom, who was just barely all in for more than 50,000, tabled .
"Just hit the one-outer," David Saab instructed Marcus. "It's that easy."
Imagine the roar from the room when Marcus did just that, spiking the on the river for runner-runner quads to take out Nordstrom!
Marcus continued his amazing good fortune by spiking a two-outer set to eliminate James Broom late on Day 2, followed by a jaw-dropping run on the 14-hour final table that included multiple two-outers and straight draws of all varieties. It’s easy to focus on the luck factor, but you need luck to win tournaments and quite simply it was Van’s time. It was a memorable tournament and a great moment to be an Aussie.
John Phan is one cool dude, and away from the table he seems like a very genuine guy, but I’ll never forget the day that he won his first WSOP bracelet and the drama that unfolded that evening at the Rio.
David Singer was the one everyone was watching at the final table of the $3,000 No Limit Holdem event, but in between complaints of bad lighting, lack of crowd rails, poor dealers, chaffing and global warming, he was thankfully eliminated in 5th place. That left the door open for John Phan to take on the quietly effective young gun Johnny Neckar for the bracelet.
However Neckar held his own and the two decided to enter into some deal discussions. It appeared a deal had been agreed to and we thought we were about to get this one over with. However out of nowhere, Phan stood from his chair, demanded a dinner break and walked off with his entourage to the shock of the tournament director, media and most spectators in attendance. As this was not a telecast final table ESPN weren’t running the show and so Phan was able to get his demands met without much resistance. Here’s how I blogged it at the time:
After both players appeared to be satisfied with the discussions, John Phan stood up out of nowhere and said "We're going to dinner...90 minutes!"
The last thirty minutes have been almost embarrassing as the focus has shifted away from what would have been an entertaining heads-up battle.
Under almost farcical circumstances we're off to dinner. See you in 90 minutes.
So we all reluctantly went to an excessively lengthy dinner break, frustrated, but with no idea of what was about to unfold after dinner.
Phan was of course several minutes late after the dinner break and the TD announced that if he didn’t show up in the next minute, the cards would be dealt without him! When play finally resumed, Phan continued to struggle to overcome his opponent and after six hours of heads-up play they finally snapped.
Neckar finally agreed to Phan’s wishes to go all-in without looking at their cards! Welcome to the World Series of Poker where we’re playing for the prestige of a bracelet by going all-in dark! The players then proceeded to gamble all-in dark on three separate occasions. Here’s the live reporting blog of the final two all-in dark hands from the viewpoint of my WSOP buddy compncards:
Johnny Neckar and John Phan have played the last two hand all in preflop blind. This time they requested that card not be flipped, the board run, and that they be allowed to squeeze. The floor agreed and jokingly asked, "would you like it run twice too?" The first time this happened, Johnny Neckar had John Phan covered. The board came as follows:
Both players flipped over one at a time.
At this point, the crowd starts cheering as Neckar is playing the board.
The seven played and Phan doubled up.
After this hand, the two players agreed to play all in blind again. Same rules as last hand. The floorman informed the gallery, "No, we are no longer accepting buy-ins to this event." This time, Neckar's tournament life was at risk.
Again, the players show one card at a time.
Neckar doubled up through Phan. After these two wild hands, Phan had 2,800,000 and Neckar had 1,400,000.
What a wild night that's going on here.
The crowd loved every minute of the bizarre encounter. After three all-in blind confrontations, play returned to normal and Phan gained the ascendency. Soon after Phan captured the title when his held against Neckar's , to collect his first WSOP bracelet and kick-start what would become a memorable 2008. This is one final table that I’ll never forget!