Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship
|Dates||Oct 18 - 21, 2005|
|Final Table Date||Oct 21, 2005|
|Buy-In||$10,000 + $200|
|Number of Entrants||423|
The world-renowned poker floor at the Bellagio Hotel Casino played host to the 2006 Doyle Brunson North American Championship, and the Fontana Lounge was the setting for the final table. With the fountains dazzling in the background, one couldn't imagine a finer setting for a championship tournament. The players fit the setting, as one of the WPT's most difficult and experienced fields were set to battle for the title.
423 players either qualified or forked over $10,000 in the hopes of winning the lion's share of a prize pool of over $4 million. 6 top pro's remain, and here are the final table starting chip counts:
Seat 1: Tony Grand: 55,000 - 6th in chips
Seat 2: Minh Ly: 3,199,000 - 1st in chips
Seat 3: Dan Harrington: 2,874,000 – 2nd in chips
Seat 4: Don Zewin: 633,000 - 4th in chips
Seat 5: Gavin Smith: 1,263,000 – 3rd in chips
Seat 6: Jan Sorensen: 370,000 – 5th in chips
It was no big surprise when on the very first hand, Tony Grand found himself All-In under-the-gun with (Qh,9h). Blinds opened at 15 and 30K, and Tony only had enough money to afford two deals and ante. Minh Ly called with (Qc, 8c) and Jan was in on the BB with a (9d,7s). Jan checked top-pair on the flop (9d,5h,2c), and Minh checked as well until the river. After a (10d) on the turn, the river dealt a (Qs), and Minh bet Jan out of the pot. The bet had no value, as Tony's hand held up to the cheers of the audience, and he more than tripled up at Minh's and Jan's expense. Tony was not out of the woods yet, but he could not have asked for much more on the first hand of the tournament.
Just a few hands later, Tony again pushed his stack to the middle, this time with a solid hand, (10d,10c). The only problem is that he ran into another veteran, Don Zewin. With his trademark icy coolness, Don announced All-In with (Ad,Qs). As the crowd jumped to its feet, the rest of the table tossed in their cards. The flop brought an ace, (Ac,9h,5h) the turn (8h) and the river came (As) just to make it clear that Don had won the hand. Just like that, the table's eldest statesman was off to get well-earned good nights rest, with an extra $96K in his pocket.
With one less player at the table, the blinds go around that much quicker. When Jan Sorensen looked down at (5h,5c) with a stack of 310k in chips, many players would either fold or push All-In. Banking on his solid reputation to detract from callers, Jan raised to 85K. After folding around to Don on the BB, Jan's raise was almost successful. Don, however, chose not to comply with Jan's intentions, and re-raised All-In with (7s,7c). Jan was visibly displeased, but with his short-stack, rising blinds, and Don's capacity for making a crafty move, he chose to call, hoping that his opponent did not have a bigger pair. No sir. Don's pocket 7's held up against Jan's 5's as the board came (9s,2h,8s,8h,As). Visibly disappointed with his play, Jan was able to forge a smile when Courtney Friel reminded him of his $137K pay-day in front of the Bellagio fountains.
Every remaining player was now a double-up away from the chip-lead, and each had their fair share of small pots. The fog from the WPT's production fans could have represented the tension as the crowd was anticipating the next big hand. With 4 players left, and the blinds at 25-50K, Dan Harrington (Ah,10h) raised 2 ½ x the BB, which had become the standard raise that was respected by the table. Gavin Smith (As,Qd) re-raise to 325K drew some "oooohs" from the crowd. Dan elected to call, knowing Gavin's penchant for making plays. The flop of (As,8c,4s) spelled trouble for Dan. After Gavin bet 350K, Dan took a half-sized pot bet as a sign of weakness, and pushed in for Gavin's remaining $1m in chips. Gavin called, and his hand held up for the largest pot of the night, nearly $4 million.
With Doyle Brunson, Dewey Tomko, Ted Forrest, Devilfish Ulliott and other members of pokers elite watching on, it soon became a bluffers paradise. Hand after hand, it seemed to the common onlooker and pro alike that standard poker was being played, any raise must be the best hand. That was hardly the case. Hand after hand, the worst hand was able to bluff out the best hand, and the game was most certainly ‘on'.
After the flurry, Dan was left as the short-stack with about $1.5m. With the blinds up to 100-200K, Minh (9s,9d) raised on the button to 600K. Dan (Kh,Jc) raised All-In and was promptly called by Minh. Both players took to their feet, and Minh pumped his fists with hopeful exuberance. His confidence continued after a 7-Hi flop. It was Dan's turn, however, to crack a smile as a (Ks) arrived on the turn, which was all Dan needed. With the turn of a card, Dan was chipleader with $3.3m. On the very next hand, Minh (Jh,Jd) tried another raise to 650K. Dan (8s,8h) figured Minh for making a move, and re-raises All-In for the second straight hand. Like clockwork, everyone was on their feet again, and Minh was pumping his fists with a bit more confidence. An 8 never came for Dan, and his stack was back to under $2 million, while Minh was lifted to over $3.1m. These hands just go to show how quickly the tides can turn in the game of poker.
Staying out of trouble was Don Zewin. With the blinds as high as they were his stack of $1m was only 5x the Big Blind. Dan (9c,7c) attempted to raise Don out of the pot, only Don (9h,9d) had a hand. He re-raised All-In, and Dan had to call for 450K more and a pot of almost $2m. The first emotion we were able to see out of Don was the shaking of his head as the flop came with two clubs and a 7. The turn was a harmless (2d), but the river was deadly. The (10c) sent Don Zewin to the rail and a reminder of the luck factor in poker. Hopefully, $189K for his 4th place finish will ease his disappointment.
The hand of the night came shortly thereafter, as Gavin (As,7s) raised to 600K. Minh (Kc,8s) made a move by re-raising All-In. After long contemplation, Gavin made the call, drawing praise from Mike and Vince as well as his family and friends in the crowd. Their joy was short-lived as a King on the flop was joined by Minh's trademark double-fist pump. No help for Gavin on the turn or river left him counting off his chips until he was left with just 265K in chips. Gavin was All-In on the very next hand with a (10h,2h) of all hands, and was knocked out by Dan Harrington's (8,4) when he hit 2-pair on the turn. Sometimes the right decisions don't always pay off, as we've seen with Don and Gavin. Gavin's pay-day was a little steeper than Don's, as he walked away with almost $330K.
Heads-Up play began with Minh holding a $1.7m chip-lead over Dan. The action was ridiculously fast and furious with the crowd buzzing from the first hand to the last. As in the hour before, Minh and Dan exchanged double-ups. On the third big hand, Dan and Minh each hit a heart flush on the turn, Minh with the (10h), Dan with the (3h). When Minh bet 1.3m. into a 2 million dollar pot, Dan was forced to fold, leaving Minh with a 2:1 chip-lead, and Minh beaming with confidence.
In a hand befitting this final table, Minh (Jc,3h) attempted an All-In bluff, which Dan (Ah,5c) quickly called. It was little surprise when the flop rewarded the underdog once again. The flop came (9d,6c,3s) giving Minh a pair of 3's and the lead in the hand. Looking back to his family and friends in the crowd and pumping his fists, he was jumping for joy after the turn and river revealed no help for Dan. The two shook hands, and Dan, now $620K richer, graciously congratulated Minh, who earned the title of the tournament hosted by his #1 supporter, Doyle Brunson. That and a first place prize of over $1million dollars is certainly a fantastic way to win your first major tournament. Keen poker sense and a little bit of timely luck is all it takes.