The excitement level ratcheted up a notch on Sunday afternoon in the Amazon Room at the Rio. The featured final table was an increasingly popular form of the game, six player Texas Hold 'Em, as the $2,500 Short Handed No-Limit event hit the main World Series of Poker stage. There were some players that viewers of the broadcast when it runs on ESPN might recognize as the table set up like this:
Seat 1: Newcomer Pete Hassett, 148K
Seat 2: Former "Crew" member Russ "Dutch" Boyd, chip leader at 909K
Seat 3: David Solomon, 93K
Seat 4: Defending World Champion Joseph Hachem, 287K
Seat 5: Michael Goodman, 575K
Seat 6: Short stacked Jeff Knight, 62K
With six handed tables, the action is usually much faster than you will find in a normal nine or ten handed game. Because the blinds circle the table so much quicker, it makes the players play aggressively, which set up well for such players as Boyd and the 2005 World Champion Hachem. While it sets up well for players with chip stacks, it also allows for the short stacks to mount challenges on the leaders if the cards come right.
With the blinds at 3K/6K and a 1K ante, there would be plenty of time for play with the larger stacks at the table, but such players as Knight and Solomon would have to make some moves early to get back into the game. The players came to the table for the introductions and wearing the 2005 Championship Event bracelet proudly was Hachem, who was sweated by the 2004 World Champion Greg Raymer throughout the event. As the action kicked off, some early Fourth of July fireworks were ready to commence.
The chips were shuffled around for some time when the fire alarms went off in the Amazon Room. Typical of poker players, no one even thought of leaving the final table! In fact, the alarms were still ringing when David Solomon made a move from the button, pushing all in to Michael Goodman's big blind. Goodman considered his response for a few moments and decided to call, turning up a dominant Ks-Qs to David's K-6. Solomon's fate was virtually sealed on the flop when two spades came down and no six. Once the turn and river came up dry, the Austin, TX resident was put off the final table in sixth place as the players went to break.
Dutch Boyd was the dominant player of the early going as he continued to hammer away at his tablemates. He had garnered many of his chips on Saturday evening when he took out Daniel Negreanu in a battle between the two chip leaders at that time. He didn't waste any of these chips and was the table captain throughout much of the early going. He also had a tremendous support system that was there to cheer him on.
"Oh, don't say that," his mother Eva Seibert said when she heard someone in the audience say it was Dutch's event to lose. She told me that she had received the call last night from her son, telling her that he was at the final table in the World Series of Poker. "I hadn't been feeling very well, but once he told me that, I knew I had to be here," she remarked as we spoke. To be honest, she looked quite fresh for a woman who had traveled through the night and only arrived on Sunday morning to watch her son compete for the highest accolade in poker.
Fifteen minutes after coming back from the break, it was time for the World Champion to mix it up a bit. Hachem raised the 8K blinds to 25K and was met by an all in over the top from Pete Hassett in the big blind. Hachem wasted little time making the call and was rewarded when he turned up an A-J against Hassett's K-Q. An Ace on the flop was all the World Champion needed as he eliminated Hassett in fifth place.
At this time, the two smaller stacks, Jeff Knight and Michael Goodman, realized they had better get into the action on the table. Two hands after Hassett's elimination, they hooked up in battle as Goodman tried to eliminate the short stacked Knight from the table. Jeff's Q-7 looked might small next to the A-3 of Goodman but, once he was able to turn a seven, was able to double up and stick around for more action.
The action he remained there to see was, to put it bluntly, breathtaking. In two hands, Joseph Hachem went from being on the brink of elimination to being the chip leader. Dutch Boyd had been relentlessly bullying the table with raises from his mountainous stack and finally the 2005 champ had had enough. When Boyd raised and Hachem called to see a flop of A-3-Q, Dutch checked and Hachem bet 25K. Dutch responded by popping it up to 120K, which is where Hachem called all in. Boyd didn't hesitate to put his chips in and when he turned up A-5, things looked to be very nice. When the World Champion turned up A-8 for the lead, he spiked the air with a cheer and went on to double up through the chip leader.
The very next hand, the two mixed it up once again. Boyd once again forced Hachem all in and this time Joseph was more dominant with an A-Q over Boyd's K-Q. When the board fell 9-4-6-J and an unnecessary Ace on the river, Hachem doubled up once again and seized the chip lead from a shaken Boyd.
At this time, Boyd asked for and the table was given a five minute break. I watched him outside recuperate from the dual beatings he had just undergone and, with the backing of his girlfriend Ali and other supporters, he gradually became the same Dutch he was when he approached the final table earlier. "He really needed the break after that," Ali said to me as he consulted with his buddies outside the Rio. "I think he'll come back just fine."
Since his explosion on the poker scene in 2003, the travails of Boyd have been well known. One thing that has never been in question, though, is his skills at the tables. While he had just undergone two devastating beats that would have put lesser men into a fetal position, it seemed that Dutch only emerged stronger, perhaps because of all he has gone through in the past.
After taking the impromptu break, Dutch went on a run where he captured the next five hands from the remaining opponents at the tables to regain the chip lead. He crippled Michael Goodman during this run, leaving the New York City native with only 27K in chips. While Michael was able to double up against Hachem and avoid elimination, the very next hand Boyd finished him off.
Goodman got it in with a 7-5 and Boyd turned up a stronger Q-J. When Michael flopped a five on an A-10-5 board, he was primed for back to back double ups. The turn was innocent enough, but the river King gave Boyd the straight and sent Goodman to the rail in fourth place, earning $115,907.
Down to three handed play, the survivors stood like this in the chip count:
Jeff Knight had to be the story of the tournament. After coming to the final table with barely ten big blinds in his stack, he had chosen his moments of attack at crucial moments and would not go quietly into the Las Vegas night. He went out, though, on what could be considered a bad move against the chip leader Boyd. With a board showing J-10-8, Boyd bet 24K into the pot between them. Without hesitation, Knight called all in and forced Boyd to what essentially was an easy decision with the pot odds. What made it better was that Boyd had flopped the top pair with J-5 and Knight incredulously turned over only a 4-3 (no pair, no draw). Once another Jack hit the turn, Jeff was drawing dead and exited the tournament in third place.
With Boyd's elimination of Knight, heads up play shaped up like this:
There was over an hour to go until the dinner break, but no one believed that it would be reached without having either the World Champion or the Phoenix-like return of Dutch Boyd end the event. The two players sparred over a span of only about ten hands before the end came.
After Hachem raised the pot to 60K, Boyd moved in on the World Champion, sensing weakness. Hachem responded by calling the move and turning up a massive A-Q to Boyd's A-5. The flop brought the players an Ace, but Hachem firmly held the lead and was looking to draw back into the battle with Dutch. A turn Jack helped neither player, but the river five brought "Team Boyd" rocketing from the bleachers as their man had made two pair on the river to capture the bracelet and $475,712 at the World Series of Poker.
1. Russ "Dutch" Boyd, $475,712
2. Joseph Hachem, $256,800
3. Jeff Knight, $153,511
4. Michael Goodman, $115,607
5. Pete Haslett, $91,917
6. David Solomon, $68,227
As Team Boyd raced into the hallways of the Rio to celebrate his championship, the play continued on into the night with Event #6, the $2000 No-Limit Hold 'Em event (which will be the next final table), and Event #7, the $3,000 Limit Hold 'Em tournament (in its first day). It all adds up to almost continuous action and stunning achievements as the World Series of Poker wraps up its first week of play.
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