17 of the world's finest poker players started the day with the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, and Antonio Esfandiari all mustard keen to get their hands on the $500,000 first prize and leave the Rio as the 2010 Tournament of Champions Champion. However, only one man could adopt that mantle, and that player would ultimately be 1996 Main Event Champion Huck Seed.
But what an uphill struggle it was. Initially, players fell like lemmings on a tightrope, but as the final table evolved, it soon emerged that this could be a battle for the ages. Despite a slightly faster structure than other events, we remained 10-handed for a surprisingly long time, and whenever a short stack was all in, they seemed to double through. Eventually, and after Erik Seidel had felt the full splash of the bubble, the players began to hit the deck, before play once again halted with three survivors left.
Johnny Chan, Howard Lederer and Seed seemed to keep exchanging chips, each of them enduring spells as the short stack but seemingly clinging on with incredible durability. But finally, something had to give, and once we lost Chan in third, we had our heads-up encounter with Lederer boasting a small chip lead.
At around 2.40am, the final whistle was blown, Seed toppling his plucky opponent with As-2s against Qc-8c, an ace of space on the river merely adding salt into already open wounds. Seed already has his name inscribed in World Series history, but this victory will add yet another notch on his poker record and undoubtedly help cement his status as one of the best poker players to have ever hit the felt.
Howard Lederer put up a good fight after Huck Seed doubled through him, but he could only last so long. Lederer moved all in on the button for a total of 138,000. Seed shrugged and knew the math said he had to call. The audience got to its feet for the final showdown.
The flop didn't change much, but as has happened over and over again this tournament, the plot thickened on the turn. The gave Seed a flush draw, but Lederer picked up an open-ended straight draw. Neither draw got there with the on the river, and Seed took the pot with top pair to knock out Lederer in second place.
The crowd were edging closer to the table, certain that this was the hand that would crown the 2010 Tournament of Champions Champions, and it very nearly was.
With Howard Lederer opening to 40,000 preflop, Huck Seed made the call from the big blind leading to a flop of . Lederer bet 60,000 (after it was checked to him), Seed moved all in, and Lederer made the call.
With the crowd holding their breath in unison, the dealer reached for the deck before laying an onto the felt, thus increasing Seed's outs by four more cards.
Then, the river, a seven from heaven, the ! Seed had been graced with a last ditch double through!
This was just another dramatic moment in a tournament that has provided more twists and turns than an episode of Columbo, and it was one that saw Seed retake the lead with 550,000. Lederer, meanwhile, dropped down to 260,000.
After a bit of banter inbetween hands, the atmosphere suddenly turned serious as Huck Seed raised to 40,000 and Howard Lederer announced all-in. After a minute in the tank, Seed made the fold, showing the in the process. Lederer extends his lead.
You wouldn't think there was $250,000 up for grabs here as both players are totally at ease and casually chatting away with each other as if it were a home game. Seated in his shorts, backwards cap and flip-flops, Huck Seed is one of the most mellow players I've come across, and could become the most laid-back Tournament of Champions Champion to date if he were to go on to win. Beyond the cool exterior, however, I'm certain this is a player who is itching for victory as much as his opponent.