The World Poker Tour was in full effect, and the TV taping for the Shooting Star event was a very hot ticket in San Jose. This was much different than the LA Poker Classic, where while they did not have any trouble filling seats, there wasn't exactly a throng madly fighting for tickets. Yes, I said fighting as a fight (well, more of a bad wrestling match) broke out when it became clear that not (nearly) everyone that showed up would get in to see the taping.
Once order was restored, the taping was ready to begin. Linda Johnson led the crowd through the obligatory series of applause shots, and worked in the same Hellmuth joke she used in LA. As was the case last time, Shana Hiatt was doing her liners right behind my head.
What was much different than the recent LA final table was the makeup of the final table. This final table had stars, amateurs, and everything in between. Gus Hansen, Men the Master, local dealer Danny Nguyen, Vancouver Doctor Jay 'the statue' Martens (I give him this name because he rarely moved .at all ever it was creepy). Yes, at this final table, we really had Doc Martens .spelled correctly, and everything. When the day began, the chip counts looked like this.
Gus Hansen - 1,007,000 in chips
Men The Master Nguyen 250,000
Dr. Jay Martens 1,165,000
Danny Nguyen 881,000
Corey Cheresnick 769,000
Sandar Szentkuti - 250,000
The first real hand of the day was a sign of things to come. Corey Cheresnick bet out on a flop of 634 with two spades, and Doc Martens called. The turn was the worst card in the deck for the Doc, and all the money went in. The Queen of spades on the turn made Doc Martens trip Queens, while making Corey a flush, as he held J 10 of spades. Corey had doubled up through the Doc, and the chip leader had changed.
Several hands later, the first elimination of the tournament occurred, and it was truly a sign of things to come. It was Nguyen on Nguyen, and pair on pair, as Men had Queens, and Danny had Jacks. Sometimes things are just meant to be (remember this phrase), and although the flop gave Danny no help, the turn was a Jack, as was the river, and Danny had hit two runners for quads. This was the Shooting Star, and Men was a bounty, so Danny was paid $5,000 for his bounty, and Men showed class by sticking around, and signing the shirt, and posing for pictures. Men 'The Master' Nguyen, 6th place, $200,000
The short stack was the next to double up, as Sandar Szentkuti slowplayed a lucky flop to perfection. Corey was unlucky in that he held QK on a flop of QQ6. Corey bet out, and Sandar called. The turn was an 8, and Corey moved in. Sandar called immediately with 66 making him a flopped full house, and had doubled up when the river was no help.
One pattern was established, and carried out throughout the entire final table. Gus Hansen, who felt he could outplay anyone at this table, was continually re raised, and moved in on, as his opponents would not allow Gus to see flops, where he would have a chance to outplay them Gus had a lot of trouble getting something going, and had lost about ½ his stack in the first couple hours as he was unwilling to play big bet pre flop poker, and wanted a spot where he could exploit his skill edge.
Corey's friends were a wild throng, chanting some nickname of Corey's every time he won a pot. This did get a little old, but it was not nearly as out of control as other posses have been in the past. But, a funny moment happened on the hand that Corey was eliminated on.
Danny "move in to" Nguyen had moved in no fewer than a half dozen times in the first two hours, and it would become his one move throughout the tournament. Danny moved in on a flop of J27, with two diamonds. Corey called with top pair of J 8. The turn was a blank, and Corey's posse was chanting "no diamond, no diamond". The river was a club .and Corey's posse exploded, one of the main posse spilling his beer all over himself as he jumped for joy. But Corey simply looked back at them with a blank look, and said "I lost", which calmed them right down. You see, the river club was a seven making trips for Danny, and it appeared some things were just meant to be. Corey Cheresnick, 5th place, $240,000.
Gus had been struggling to play post flop pots, and outplay his opponents. But when Danny moved in on a flop of J65, all diamonds, Gus called with JK. Danny turned over AK with no diamonds, and was drawing to only an Ace. No Ace came, Gus had doubled up. You could just sense the other players feeling like a monster that they might not be able to stop may have just been created.
Some things are just meant to be. In the hand that defined the final table, the most brutal of suckouts occurred. Danny Nguyen, who had bluffed off much of his stack, still had a decent stack. Danny moved in again holding A7 of diamonds into a board of K55, with one diamond. Sandar called with AK, and Danny was looking for a diamond (or two). The turn was not a diamond, but it was a 7, and Danny was dead to running sevens, a 330 to 1 shot .impossible right? Wrong, as the second seven came on the river, and made Danny sevens full of fives. The crowd went insane, and Vince Van Patten even left his announcing chair, just throwing his hands up in show of, "ok, that was sick I quit". If the above sounds brutal to watch .it was. But, I guess some things are just meant to be.
Sandar Szentkuti was out the next hand, as Danny moved in (sound familiar?) with 56 of diamonds from the small blind. Sandar called with 89, and Danny made two pair, eliminating Sandar, who showed more class than I might be able to after taking a 330 to one beat. Again, brutal. Sandar Szentkuti, 4th place, $ 280,000
One thing that was clear was that Gus Hansen was going to have to play big bet poker, as Danny, and Doc Martens kept coming over the top of Gus, and forcing him on decisions for a lot of his chips.
The next hand would begin the demise of Gus. On a flop of 964 (after being re-raised by Doc), Gus bet enough to put Doc Martens all in. Doc called with AQ, and Gus had made top pair with K9. Bad news for the Great Dane, as the turn was an Ace, and Gus had lost a pot of nearly two million to Jay Martens.
The next hand was the last for Gus. Danny Nguyen had shown the propensity to move in with absolutely anything. So, when he moved in on Gus, and Gus had K 10, Gus decided to call. Danny had a hand this time, pocket 9's, and a nine on the turn made this coin flip decided, as well as put an end to Gus Hansen's wild ride. Gus Hansen, 3rd place, $280,000. Also, Danny picked up the $5,000 bounty on Gus's head.
At this point the chips were about 2.4 million for Doc Martens, and 1.9 million for Danny Nguyen. Danny had moved in again, and again, and when Doc had King (hearts) 10, he moved in on a flop of A310, all hearts. Danny had an Ace, and called. The turn, and river were not hearts, and didn't help Doc. Some things were just meant to be.
The last hand of the night was a perfectly appropriate ending to Danny Nguyen's night, and this WPT final table Doc Martens had had enough, and moved in with K4. Danny called the all in with 34, and the flop was all hearts. Danny held a heart, and Doc didn't, so Danny certainly had picked up some outs. The turn was no help, and the river was not a heart either .but it was a 3, and Danny Nguyen was your newest WPT champ. Jay Martens picked up $600,000, and Danny got a cool million, plus a seat in the WPT championship. Some things were just meant to be.
This episode will air June 8th. Set your VCR's, or TIVO's or whatever. Watch this one, as it will be a doozy. Be prepared to say OOOHHHHH!!! really loudly .several times. If not great poker, these final table participants certainly gave us great television. Until next time, see you down the road.