Borgata Poker Open
|Dates||Sep 19 - 22, 2004|
|Final Table Date||Sep 22, 2004|
|Number of Entrants||302|
Referred to by the legendary Doyle Brunson as "by far the classiest place I've been in Atlantic City," the beautiful Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa lived up to that lofty rep when it played host to one of the toughest – and youngest – WPT final tables yet, for the Borgata Poker Open. 302 players, up from 235 last year, sported the $10,000 entry to take their crack at a prize pool of $3,000,000 – up a staggering $2,000,000 from last year! With the winner taking home just north of $1,000,000, as well as a guaranteed $25,000 seat at the season-ending WPT Championship event, this was a battle royale from the first hand.
In Seat 1, Tough Toronto transplant and tour vet, Daniel "Kid Poker" Negreanu, making his 3rd WPT final table, in 3rd chip position with $860,000. In Seat 2, last year's WSOP 3rd place finisher, brash young pro Josh Arieh, in 2nd chip position with $1,390,000. In Seat 3, dangerous and unpredictable poker pro Phil Ivey at his 4th WPT final table, in 5th chip position with $466,000. In Seat 4, journeyman pro "Syracuse" Chris Tsiprailidis, in 4th chip position with $784,000. In Seat 5, confident and quiet young pro David Williams, last year's WSOP runner-up, chip leader with $2,039,000. In Seat 6, Illinois stock trader, tenacious sole amateur Brandon Moran, on the short stack with $449,000. Antes and blinds started at $3,000, $12,000, and $24,000.
Right off the bat, the theme was struck: thievery. One after the other, players took turns firing huge bluffs, forcing their opponents to lay down superior holdings. Until Phil Ivey found As-Qs, and took a shot at a raised pot. Moran, with Ad-7h, brought it in for $80,000, and Arieh, with wired 3's, called. Ivey, feeling like he might just take it down right there, went all-in. Moran mucked, making Arieh's decision a little easier. Accurately putting Phil on two big cards, Arieh decided to gamble on a coin flip, and as he put it, to take a shot at knocking out the ever-dangerous Ivey. When the flop came Jc-Tc-4s, Josh had dodged the first barrage, and when the turn came 3d, he had Phil drawing dead to a K. Alas, the river came 7s, and Phil Ivey, Atlantic City's own favorite son in the event, joined his family and friends at the rail, in 6th place, with $105,000 in his pocket.
This was the point at which Daniel Negreanu began swimming upstream. After forcing Arieh to make a tough laydown, and then cleverly showing him just one card to make Josh think he'd laid down the winner, the Canadian Kid set his sights on the sole remaining amateur at the table. Moran found Ac-Kh, and made it $75,000 to go. Negreanu, with pocket J's, tested the waters with a stiff raise of $175,000 over the top. Moran briefly considered, but short-stacked, he decided to get his money in with a premium starting hand, and pushed all-in for $513,000 more. Costing Negreanu just another $263,000 to play heads up, he took the risk and called. Facing a classic race situation, Negreanu successfully negotiated the flop-waters when the board went 9-4-4 rainbow, Qc, 3c. This sent the congenial Chicago stock trader out in 5th place, with a fresh $135,900 to invest in the market.
With antes and blinds going up to $5,000, $20,000, and $40,000, Negreanu found himself in another critical hand. This time, on the button with Ac-9h, he brought it in for $160,000, only to have Syracuse Chris come over the top of him for $690,000 more. Chris had a very tight table image at this point, so the $530,000 bet was a tough number for Negreanu to swallow. But getting just about the right pot odds at 2-1, and uncannily sniffing something out, he did just that. And when Chris flipped over 5d-3s, Daniel gleefully shouted out "I caught you!" Indeed he had, and the board offered not one ounce of help to Syracuse, going Qs-Qh-Th, 6c, 9c. Just like that, he was out in 4th place, with a helpful $181,200 reward for his steady play.
Arieh abruptly changed gears, running successive and successful bluffs on both opponents. But as it so often happens, you can also get stuck in one gear. Arieh found J-9 offsuit, and called the extra $20,000 in the small blind. Negreanu, the big blind, with 9c-6c, checked. The flop came Tc-5c-3d, giving Negreanu the club flush draw. He led out with the minimum bet of $40,000, and Arieh, setting up a steal, called. A 7d on the turn now gave Daniel the gutshot straight draw, and he checked, seeing if he might get a free card. But sure enough, Josh fired a round, trying to buy the pot for $225,000. Daniel took a moment to work out the implied odds, and decided to take a crack at it, calling. The river didn't disappoint him, delivering his bingo card, 4h! Now Daniel took the play away from Arieh, putting in a value bet of $550,000. Arieh made a fatal miscalculation, evidently putting Daniel on a busted flush draw, which was partially true. When he pushed all-in with J high, he was sickened when Negreanu called and showed the straight. Looking like he'd just returned from being abducted by aliens, he wandered, dazed, into the Jersey night in 3rd place, albeit $286,900 richer.
Now down to two, with blinds and antes going up to $10,000, $30,000, and $60,000, Daniel held a dominating 2-1 chip lead on the younger Williams, $4,025,000 to $2,055,000, and looked poised to work him over. Far from that, Williams seized the initiative, hammering away at the veteran with cold-blooded monster bluffs, and then after catching a flop, he had Daniel on the ropes, $4,530,000 to $1,550,000! But when Daniel, with Ah-2c, called Williams's preflop raise of $200,000 with pocket Q's, he caught two 2's on the flop and doubled up when Williams called his all-in bet. Still, Williams refused to relent, and soon he had Daniel back in the tall grass. Once again, though, Daniel caught a hand, doubling up with wired K's. Back and forth they went, in some of the most entertaining and instructive head up hands ever seen on the WPT. Daniel picked the right time to rack...
With the tally nearly dead even, Daniel found As-Ad, amazingly for the second time in three hands. After Williams limped with Kd-6d, Daniel made it $400,000 to go. Williams called, and when the flop came Kc-Jc-8s, he was in trouble, having flopped top pair. Daniel smartly brought it in for value $400,000, and Williams, sensing weakness, quickly went over the top all-in. Negreanu quickly called, and Williams was devastated when he saw the pocket rockets hit the board. When the turn and river came Jd, Qh, Daniel Negreanu had knocked out his fourth straight opponent, and most importantly notched his first WPT tour victory, taking home $1,009,100 and a $25,000 seat at the WPT final. David Williams took second in stride, pocketing $573,000 for his excellent play.
This tournament is included in the World Poker Tour Best of Season Three DVD Collection. Special features include deleted hands – never-before-seen exclusive hands that didn't air on TV!