|Dates||Mar 13 - 20, 2004|
|Final Table Date||Mar 20, 2004|
|Buy-In||$7,000 + $500|
|Number of Entrants||546|
A record 546 players took to the gentle waves on the scenic Sea of Cortez to compete for the large slice of a record prize pool of $3,822,000 in PartyPoker's Cruisin' Mexico tournament. Players from all walks turned up, some qualifying via low-priced satellites, others bellying up the hefty $7,000 buy-in, but all with their gazes firmly fixed on one thing: a cool million dollar prize, and the coveted $25,000 seat at the WPT championship. For a change, the name of this game is not no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em, but instead a structured limit game, with set amounts the players are allowed to bet. After a fierce few days of qualifying, here were the finalists:
In Seat 1, WPT Cinderella story of the year, Washington construction worker and amateur Chris Hinchcliffe, in his first tournament, amazingly the chip leader with $1,765,000 in chips. In Seat 2, WPT regular, the popular Scotty Nguyen, in his third WPT final, with $310,000. In Seat 3, Card Player magazine columnist, conservative playing Steve Zolotow, with $380,000. In Seat 4, WPT Tunica Season 2 winner, brainiac Barry "Charity" Greenstein, the short-stack with $220,000. In Seat 5, Canadian journeyman Daniel Negreanu in his second WPT final, with $560,000. In Seat 6, WPT Aruba Season 2 winner, three-time finalist, tough American pro Erick Lindgren, with $595,000.
Due to the structured limit game, action proceeded at a blistering pace. Early on, it appeared that Barry Greenstein would quickly lose his short stack, but he managed to survive being all-in three times. Scotty Nguyen wasn't so lucky. Having sucked out a flush his first time down to the felt, Scotty was on fumes when he looked down to find Ac-5d in the small blind. He raised all-in, making it $30,000 to go, and was dismayed to find not one, but two callers. Greenstein, with K-Q offsuit, called, as did Negreanu, with Td-9d in the big blind. The flop came K-J-9 rainbow, furthering Scotty's disappointment. Greenstein, with top pair, bet $20,000, and Negreanu called on his bottom pair, creating a side pot. Qd at the turn made two pair for Greenstein, but perhaps sensing Negreanu's straight, he checked. Negreanu bet $40,000, and Greenstein called. After a 7d on the river, Negreanu again bet and Greenstein paid him off, sending Scotty Nguyen out in 6th place, with a nice $128,842 payday to soften the blow.
Greenstein managed to lurk around the fringes for a while, but shortly after the limits went up to $50,000 and $100,000, Greenstein decided to go all-in for his last $75,000 with Kd-9s. Lindgren, on the button with Ad-Qc, called. When the flop came 9c-3h-3c, Greenstein looked like the escape artist again. But a Q at the turn squashed his dreams, and a brick on the river sealed his fate, sending him sailing in 5th place, with $194,763.
Steve Zolotow was a rock throughout, refusing to play any but premium hands, and for a while it worked. But as the limits went up and his stack was blinded away, he was finally forced to make a stand, going all-in for $80,000 with Jh-4c when Lindgren made it $100,000 to go with Kh-2h. Not enough help arrived for Stevie Z as the board went Ks-6d-4h, 8c, 2s, and he was the 3rd place finisher, heading home with $259,684.
Chris Hinchcliffe, an audience favorite, had begun the final as the dominating chip leader, but his uncompromisingly aggressive play ran aground on the shoals of five tested poker veterans. Having been leaking oil for a while, he finally found himself on the short-stack with Qh-8c when Negreanu, with Kd-6s, raised $50,000 and was called by Lindgren with Qc-9s. Hinchcliffe pushed in his last $100,000, but when the board rolled out Jh-3s-2d, 2h, 4c, Negreanu took the hand with K high, and Hinchcliffe was the highest paid amateur aboard the M.S. Ryndam with a 3rd place finish, and a fat payday of $441,463.
Down to two players, it became a fast-paced, explosive contest between good friends Negreanu, the chip leader with $2,000,000, and Lindgren, with $1,830,000. The style of play definitely seemed to be to Lindgren's advantage, and he quickly took over the chip lead on a critical, backbreaker of a hand, flopping a set that he slowplayed to perfection. When the price again went up, to blinds of $60,000 and $120,000, and limits to $120,000 and $240,000, Negreanu could see the writing on the wall, finding himself down to $580,000 while Lindgren loomed with over $3,000,000. On the next hand, Negreanu caught A-4 offsuit, raised $240,000, and Lindgren re-raised him. Negreanu pushed the rest of his stack in, and prayed. His prayers looked promising when Lindgren flipped over A-3 offsuit, but a raggedy rainbow flop of 7-5-3 gave Lindgren a pair of 3's, and that's all he would need, as the turn and river came Jd, 5d, to him his first WPT title, and send Negreanu to the rail in 2nd place, albeit with a massive payout of $675,178. Lindgren took home the $1,000,000, the title, and the $25,000 seat at the WPT Championship. And the ship sailed on into the sunset...
This tournament is included in the World Poker Tour Season Two DVD Collection. Special features include commentary by Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu and Erik Lindgren.