World Poker Challenge
|Dates||Mar 30 - Apr 1, 2004|
|Final Table Date||Apr 01, 2004|
|Buy-In||$5,000 + $100|
|Number of Entrants||342|
Well, here we are at World Poker Challenge in the "Biggest Little City in the World," Reno, Nevada. With one final chance to earn a guaranteed $25,000 seat at the WPT World Championship at Bellagio, 342 players converged at the beautiful Reno Hilton, ponied up the $5,000 entry fee, and sat down to stake their claim to a hefty $1,700,000 prize pool. Once the dust of qualifying settled, here's who was left...
In Seat 1, poker legend, Paul "Eskimo" Clark, an intimidating mountain of a man with multiple trophies, the chip leader with $829,000. In Seat 2, former sports bookmaker, poker pro Tony Bloom of London, with $533,000. In Seat 3, retired Navy man, amateur Harry Knopp, with $708,000. In Seat 4, former Wall St. trader, amateur Pete Muller, $430,000. In Seat 5, tough California tournament pro Young Phan, the short stack with $183,000. In Seat 6, building contractor, amateur Michael Kinney, with $759,000.
With over $600,000 pledged to the winner of this No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em gunfight, action was instantly explosive. In just the second hand, Young Phan looked down to find Ac-6h in 1st position, and raised, making it $36,000 to go. It folded around to Harry Knopp, in the small blind with Kc-Jc, who called. Flop came Ad-Kd-Td, giving Phan top pair, and Knopp middle pair with a straight draw. Knopp checked, and Phan pushed his short stack of $106,000 all-in. Knopp quickly called. A 3d at the turn helped neither, but a Qc on the river made Knopp's Broadway straight, and just like that, Young Phan wandered into the Reno night, the 6th place finisher, with $57,180 to console himself.
Eskimo Clark dominated from the outset, and officially took control of the table on one decisive hand. With Jd-Td in the small blind, he raised, making it $35,000 to go. Tony Bloom, big blind, with Jc-9s, called. The flop came Js-8h-7s, giving each man top pair and straight draws. Eskimo checked, and Bloom brought it in for $41,000. Eskimo went right over the top, making it $150,000 more, and Bloom came right back over the top of him, all-in $465,000. Eskimo, giving and getting action all day, called. Bloom deflated when he saw Eskimo's dominating hand, and when the board went 3h, 6h, Tony Bloom was the next man out, in 5th place, with $73,517 walking money.
Pete Muller ran into trouble when he doubled up fellow amateur Knopp on a questionable call-down. On the very next hand, he went all-in, $92,000, on Kh-6c. The third amateur, Michael Kinney, quickly called with Kc-Td. When the board went Qh-7d-4d, 2h, 2d, Muller was sent packing in 4th place, with a worthwhile $98,022 to salve his wounds.
Knopp was playful all day, breaking out some entertaining chip chatter, as he climbed up the leader board. Unfortunately for the retired Navy man, he picked the wrong time to tangle with the leader. Eskimo, with 9h-7d, limped to see a flop, but was raised by Knopp, with Qc-Td, $50,000. Eskimo, loosening up his play a bit, called, looking for "one of those flops." Well, he got it when the flop came 7c-7s-3s, giving him trips. Laying in the weeds, Eskimo checked. Knopp raised an exploratory $175,000, and Eskimo called smooth, giving Knopp a chance to catch up. A Ts on the flop, pairing Knopp's T, was just what the Eskimo ordered. He again checked, and now Knopp fell right into the trap, pushed his $388,000 all-in. Eskimo called, and after Jd on the river, Knopp was sent smiling to the rail, happy with a 3rd place finish and a healthy $155,202 payday.
Playing with great savvy at times, but occasionally like the amateur he is, Kinney was nonetheless impressive all day. Now down to two, the players quickly adjusted their games to head up play, becoming much looser and more aggressive. In perhaps the most critical hand, Kinney, on the button, looked down to find Kh-Kd. With antes at $3,000, and blinds at $15,000 and $30,000, and Eskimo holding a prohibitive 2-1 chip lead, 2.3 million to 1.1 million, Kinney raised an action-inviting $75,000. Eskimo, with Qs-2s, called, again looking for a helpful flop. He caught one when it came Qh-6h-4d. Eskimo checked, trapping, and Kinney raised $150,000. Eskimo went all-in, and Kinney quickly called, showing his K's to the crowd. When the board went Ah, Td, Kinney had turned the tables, and was now a 2-1 chip leader himself!
After that hand, Eskimo started leaking oil, and after dwindling to $275,000, he called Kinney's pre-flop all-in bet, with Kd-Ts. Kinney flipped over a dominated Js-6h, but when the flop came 9h-6d-4d, Kinney had caught a piece. When the turn and river came 7s, 2c, a stunned Michael Kinney had knocked out legend Paul "Eskimo" Clark, sending him back to the territories $310,403 richer. For himself, Kinney took the Reno crown, the final guaranteed $25,000 seat at the WPT World Championship, and a fat $629,469 payday. Not bad for a guy who's been playing only seven years.
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.