It was a very surreal atmosphere at the World Series of Poker on Sunday. There was plenty of action around the Amazon Room at the Rio with the first day of the $2000 No-Limit Shootout going on, as well as two Day Two events in Omaha Hi-Lo and Limit (both $3000 tournaments). Even with all of this, many seemed to be taking a day off from the action; the fans were sparse and perhaps the beginning of the fourth week of the WSOP was beginning to take its toll on everyone involved.
There were some fans that scattered around the final table action for the day, Event #22's $2000 No-Limit Hold 'Em event, but it seemed that they were primarily friends and family that came to watch. This was unfortunate, because there was quite a bit of poker history at this final table as well as some excellent young players to watch out for. Out of the 1,579 players who started the event, the final table would shape up like this as the cards flew around 2:30PM:
Seat 1: Home game winner (hold on, we'll explain) Troy Parkins, 451K
Seat 2: Two time WSOP Circuit event winner Bob Bright, 365K
Seat 3: Tournament veteran Billy Duarte, short stacked at 102K
Seat 4: The youngest of our final table players Jeff Madson, 413K
Seat 5: 2002 WSOP Main Event runner-up Julian Gardner, chip leader at 628K
Seat 6: Michael Chow, in his second year at the WSOP, 125K
Seat 7: Robert Cohen, 419K
Seat 8: WSOP veteran and European poker pro John Shipley, 166K
Seat 9: Paul Sheng, 569K
The action wasted no time in getting started when John Shipley moved all in on the second hand dealt at the final table and was called by Paul Sheng. With the blinds at 8K/16K and antes of 2K, perhaps Shipley felt he needed to make a move to get back into the battle as he turned up only a J-7 of hearts. Sheng had him thoroughly crushed as he turned up pocket Jacks, leaving the Englishman with basically nothing to draw to. The board was not even close to helping Shipley and he was dispatched from the event in the ninth position.
Only eight hands later we were to lose our second player of the afternoon. Billy Duarte and Bob Bright were our two oldest competitors and neither went easy on the other. On Hand 10, Bright limped into a pot from the small blind and was hammered back by an all in move from Duarte. Bright decided it was time to gamble, called and turned up a K-J of clubs to Duarte's A-8 of hearts. The flop erased Duarte's slim lead when it came down Q-6-J with no hearts. When two more sixes hit the turn and river, Bright had hit a boat and it sunk the tournament hopes of Billy Duarte in eighth place.
After this elimination, we saw something that has been very lacking in this year's World Series: the players actually played poker instead of having the preflop "all in" moves that have become prevalent during this year's play. Many hands went by where a flop went unchallenged by the competitors, where there was a raise and a reraise (followed by a fold) and even some post flop play when players actually played the game. It was quite refreshing to see that, due to the size of the stacks of the players and the miniscule amount of the blinds, that these players actually wanted to play poker and demonstrate the skill of the game rather than push "all in" and let the luck of the draw determine the winner.
After a break and a rise in the blinds to 10K/20K with a 3K ante, the action picked up once again. On Hand 48, Michael Chow made a raise to 60K only to be repopped by Troy Parkins to 160K. Chow responded by pushing his stack to the center and Parkins called him down. They both turned up pairs, with Chow's pocket nines behind Parkins' pocket Jacks and there was more excitement to come. The dealer showed a nine in the window but, when he flourished the flop, a Jack was underneath as well. It was a rare happening, a set-over-set flop, which left Chow with the case nine to win the hand. When the board blanked off, Parkins had eliminated Chow from the tournament in seventh place.
Parkins was one of the more fun stories of this year's event. He had come to the $2000 event with five friends who had taken part in a home game between ten friends. The top five would come and compete at the World Series, with Parkins going the farthest of the group from Leesburg. He would do his home game proud as he took the chip lead in the event at this point.
The players then went back into their shells for quite some time. The play was excellent and all of the men at the table were obviously on their games as they played extremely well. This did cause the game to slow down somewhat, of course, but it was a top-notch demonstration of poker skill and continued to keep the final table crowd glued to their seats to see what would happen next.
During a break as the levels went up to 4K antes with 12K/24K blinds, I heard Bob Bright lament to his friends, "I'm just not getting any cards." He had battled hard from a depleted stack for most of the final table and found a situation to mix it up and potentially get back in the tournament. He pushed all in from the button and found a willing participant in former WSOP Main Event final tablist Julian Gardner. Surprisingly Gardner turned up an Ace-10 to Bright's pocket fours. Even with the lead preflop, Bob could not like the flop of J-J-Q and the turn filled Julian's gutshot straight when the King fell. When an unhelpful Ace came on the river, Bright was eliminated from the tournament in sixth place.
Four hands later, Troy Parkins would take out another player at the final table in the person of self-professed stand-up comedian/rapper Robert Cohen. Preflop Parkins raised from the cutoff position and was met by Cohen's all in over the top move. After a moment's hesitation, Parkins called and turned up two ladies. Cohen could only muster a J-10 to go against him and, after a flop and turn of 6-4-2-9, was drawing dead the rest of the way. The King on the river was simply a formality and Cohen was gone from the tournament in fifth place.
At this point at the final table, Jeff Madson began to exert some captaincy of the table. On Hand 108, chip leader Troy Parkins raised the pot to 75K and Madson raised him for another 145K more. Parkins moved all in on him and the twenty one years, one month and one day old Madson made the call of youthful exuberance. He was thoroughly dominated by the chip leader as Parkins held pocket Aces to his pocket Queens. The miracle was answered on the flop for Madson as a Queen came. After the board blanked off and the chips were counted up, Madson's double up moved him into the chip lead for the first time in the event.
A short eleven hands later, Madson completed the job he started on Parkins as Parkins limped into Madson's big blind and the two saw a flop of 8-K-Q. Parkins fired 125K into the pot and Madson smooth called him to see the turn. When a nine came there, Parkins decided not to waste any more time and moved all in. Madson read his opponent correctly and called, turning up K-4 for top pair against Parkins' 10-9 (third pair with gutshot straight draw). One the two combatants sweat out the river of a measly three, Madson had eliminated Parkins from the event in fourth place.
The remaining three survivors shuttled the blinds for a few more hands before they went to dinner and came back to new blinds (15K/30K with a 5K ante) and the chip count looking like this:
There was still plenty of patience for the three men at the tables as they played thirty three hands before we would be down to two players. Manchester, England's Julian Gardner had come to the final table in the lead but was not able to best his appearance at the 2002 Championship Event, where Robert Varkonyi defeated him. Gardner would go down this time to the youngster Madson on Hand 159 as, after Gardner had raised him preflop to 90K, Madson called and they saw an all spade flop of Q-5-9. Madson pushed enough in to force Gardner to go all in and he did, turning up Q-J for top pair. All Madson could muster was a 10-6s and was looking for a spade to complete his draw. An eight on the turn provided more interest for the assembled crowd as a ten popped up on the river. However, it was the ten of spades, completing Madson's draw and eliminating Gardner from the tournament in third place.
The end of the tournament came so quickly there was not a chip count done and announced to the crowd before Madson and Sheng ended the tournament. On Hand 160, Sheng limped in and Madson checked. The flop came down 10d-9d-8 and the fireworks began. Madson bet out 25K, which prompted Sheng to pop it up to 90K. Surprisingly quickly, Madson fired back with a 300K bet and Sheng called. A six on the turn brought a check out of Jeff Madson and Paul Sheng moved all in, which an elated Madson called and turned up the second nuts with a J-7 (Jack high straight). All Sheng could manage was an Ace-7 for a ten high straight and, once the river repeated itself with another six, history was made at the 2006 World Series of Poker with the youngest event winner in Jeff Madson.
1. Jeff Madson, $660,948
2. Paul Sheng, $330,485
3. Julian Gardner, $172,427
4. Troy Parkins, $132,194
5. Robert Cohen, $112,077
6. Bob Bright, $94,835
7. Michael Chow, $83,340
8. Billy Duarte, $71,845
9. John Shipley, $60,349
Not only did the victory give Madson the title as the youngest player ever to win a bracelet in a World Series event (beating the record set last year by Eric Froehlich), it also puts him in prime condition when it comes to the WSOP Player of the Year race. He finished third earlier this year in an Omaha Hi-Lo event and, although William Chen has two victories, his bracelet win and third place finish has to put him up the list. "Maybe I'll get a better car," he joked as the bracelet was placed around his wrist and he celebrated a win at the World Series of Poker in only his sixth ever live tournament.
Ed note: Vince Van Patten of the World Poker Tour plays at Hollywood Poker