Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship
|Dates||Oct 19 - 22, 2004|
|Final Table Date||Oct 22, 2004|
|Buy-In||$10,000 + $300|
|Number of Entrants||312|
One of the unforeseen benefits of the recent explosion in the popularity of poker is that the true legends of the game, previously known primarily to a small coterie of devotees or frequenters of dimly lit roadhouse backrooms, are now receiving the recognition they're due. It was the WPT's pleasure to play host to the inaugural Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship, at the beautiful Bellagio in Las Vegas. It's only fitting that one of poker's true titans, Doyle Brunson, gave his name to a poker tournament boasting the largest prize pool for any inaugural poker event in history, over $3,000,000. If one was to judge by the longevity of its namesake, who at the age of 71 just notched a million dollar victory at the WPT Legends of Poker stop in Los Angeles, this tournament is sure to be an attraction for years to come. No wonder 312 players peeled off a $10,000 slice of their bankrolls and sat down in the elegant confines of Bellagio's Fontana Lounge to take a swing at the big prize. At the end of three grueling days of qualifying, here's who was left at the table...
In Seat 1, the unpredictable international poker pro at his 2nd WPT final table, Juan Carlos "El Matador" Mortensen, the dominating chip leader, with $2,523,000. In Seat 2, Thang "Kido" Pham, the sole amateur, from Dallas, TX, with $608,000. In Seat 3, at his 5th WPT final table, John Juanda, with $723,000. In Seat 4, Los Angeles journeyman pro, Hung La, with $815,000. In Seat 5, 2002 Tournament Player of the Year, David "the Dragon" Pham, on the short stack with $486,000. In Seat 6, 3 time WSOP bracelet winner, Erik Seidel, with $1,081,000. Play began with antes and blinds at $3,000, $12,000, and $24,000.
Right from the start, the hard-hitting Spaniard used his impressive, three-tiered fortress of chips to push around his compatriots. Hung La found himself forced to muck a couple of decent hands when first Mortensen, then the Dragon came over the top of him with stack-threatening raises. It looked to be quick work of the tough California pro, but trouble was a-brewing elsewhere. After inscrutable amateur Kido Pham was scared into mucking the dominating hand when John Juanda came hard over the top with a brassy stone bluff, Juanda felt obliged to remind the youngster of his place, claiming that as serious as Kido's smallish raise was, "I was more serious, Jack." Fate loves to punish the bully, though, and on the next hand Kido brought it in for the exact same raise of $120,000, and Juanda, finding Th-Tc, got "serious" again, and pushed all-in for $615,000, only to find that this time "Jack" had perfectly lured him in and had him dominated with Qs-Qd, as well as having him out-chipped. When the board ran Kh-7c-6d, 8s, Ks, Davey had dispatched Goliath, sending the ever-dangerous JJ to the rail in 6th place, with $84,000.
After a brief gallows reprieve when he doubled his now short stack on the Dragon with Q-T, Hung La caught it again, this time Qd-Tc. With the price of poker now up to $5,000, $20,000 and $40,000, Hung took a crack at collecting the tantalizing $85,000 sitting out there, pushing all-in for $430,000. Mortensen, though, in the small blind, figuring he might get it heads up, called the extra 400,000, and he did. When he flipped over 8d-8h, he was a slight favorite to the two overcards. The flop came Jh-5c-2h, no help to La, but a Kh on the turn gave him the gutshot straight draw, until a Kc on the river finished him off. He went out in 5th place, taking home $120,000 for his week's work.
On the very next hand, Kido casually brought it in for a begging $180,000 to go. Erik Seidel, now the target as the short-stack, decided to stake his tourney on some paint, pushing in his remaining $290,000. Kido calmly called the extra $110,000, and flipped over the monster of openers, Ah-As. The even-keeled Seidel just smiled and nodded, knowing he'd need a lot of help. It was not to be, as the board went 6-4-2 rainbow, 5s, 6s. And just like that, another pre-final favorite went down in a cloud of dust, in 4th place, with $165,000.
Kido the giant-killer now seemed content to sit on the sidelines and watch the Matador and the Dragon duel for a few hands. By the time he came back into the contest, he was on the short-stack himself. But he quickly doused the Dragon, doubling up on him when he called Kido's all-in, Kc-9c bet with pocket 4's, only to find himself crippled when the youngster flopped a K. Kido then survived a potential six-figure mistake, doubling up with pocket T's against Mortensen's A-5 offsuit, at the moment David was unable to even make the next blind. The Dragon at least found something decent, with Qh-9d, and Kido gave action with 9-8 offsuit. The board ran out an uneventful Jd-Jc-2c, Ks, 7s, and so did David "the Dragon's" tournament, finishing 4th, and collecting $255,000.
Now down to two, the wild European and the wily amateur, Mortensen used his nearly 2-1 chip advantage masterfully, challenging Kido's stack on nearly every hand. Until finally, Mortensen found Kc-Tc, and brought it in for a respectable, yet imminently callable, $600,000. Instead, Kido breathed deep and pushed in a gut-testing all-in pile of $1,475,000. Mortensen, fearing nothing, not even the possible ace, and getting the right pot odds at a little over 3-1, called. The super Spaniard was rewarded with deep relief when Kido flipped over Kd-8d. It only got better for him when the flop came Ks-3h-2d. And when the turn and river came 7c, 4c, Juan Carlos "the Matador" Mortensen had claimed his first WPT title in his second final table appearance, pocketing a cool million, the $25,000 guaranteed seat at the WPT World Championship, a nifty wood-cased WPT chip set, and the warm congratulations of his lovely wife of 15 years, Cecilia. Thang "Kido" Pham earned the respect of a table of tough pros, and took 2nd place along with a hefty $496,400 payout. Not bad for a guy who started the week having told his wife – and boss, a dentist whose office Kido manages in Dallas – that he was going on a "business trip." My guess is that there may be more such business trips in the future...