At 23, Jordan Morgan has compiled a list of accolades that most poker players would be proud of over a lifetime. Jordan has been playing for five years, two of them professionally, and while he's certainly experienced his fair share of success, one thing has eluded him all this time: a first-place finish in a major live event.
Yesterday, all of that changed. After three long days of play at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit event in Tunica, MS, Jordan finally clinched his first major live victory, besting Terry Hawkins in a no-nonsense heads-up match for the championship. One fortuitous hand against Brian Rutland vaulted Morgan into the chip lead, after which he never looked back. Timing, complete focus and his trademark aggressive style all played a role in the win, Jordan's second largest payday to date. Here's how he did it:
The first final-table casualty came late in the opening level. Mark Garner open-shoved from middle position and was called by Brian Rutland, who revealed ; Garner was in bad shape with his . "Give me a ten . . . I need a ten," said Garner as he sweated the flop, which came . Garner's plea changed to "OK, give me a queen . . . I need a queen!" since the flop gave him a gutshot straight draw and paired Rutland's king. The turn brought the and the river was the , bringing no help to Garner who would take home $13,166 in prize money for his ninth-place finish.
Just two hands later, Steve Hyvonen lost the last of his chips to Jerry Saucier after getting all of his money in with on the flop; Saucier insta-called, revealing two pair, queens and sevens. The turn and river came and Saucier's two pair held up to win the pot. Hyvonen's eighth-place finish earned him $19,749 in prize money.
Action continued a few minutes later as Glyn Banks moved all-in from the small blind – a considerable overbet – and Brian Rutland made the call from the big blind, tabling . Once again, Rutland was up against his nemesis hand, . It appeared as though Rutland's queens would survive as the board read by the turn; Glyn could only stay alive with a non-heart ace or king to stay alive and he got there, spiking the on the river. Thus Rutland's struggle with A-K continued and he dropped to a still manageable 190,000 in chips. With the win, Banks soared over 250,000.
At the second break, Jordan Morgan owned the top stack, with just over 300,000 in chips, followed by Hawkins with 293,000 and Banks with 260,000. Gil George brought up the rear with 74,000, but doubled up shortly after the break, courtesy of Hawkins, who made a call with from the button in an attempt to knock off the short stack. Terry could only laugh when Gil turned over pocket aces and immediately began cutting chips from his stack to pay Gil. Terry was live by the turn, as the board read , but the on the river earned Gil the checkmark. After the hand, George stacked up just over 100,000 in chips.
Jeff Cohen was the next finalist to bid adieu, after Glyn Banks called Jeff's 71,000 pre-flop all-in bet with two black eights; Cohen tabled two red sixes. The board filled out , bringing no help to Cohen who would walk away with $26,332 in prize money – not bad for three days work.
About 20 minutes before the dinner break, Brian Rutland and Glyn Banks tangled again. Rutland got the best of it this time around, doubling through Banks to retake the chip lead. Banks open-shoved on a flop of and was called rather quickly by Rutland. "Good call," said Banks as he turned over a pocket pair of sixes; Rutland pumped his fist and revealed his pocket nines. The turn and river came and Brian doubled through to just over 300,000; Glyn dropped to 170,000 after the hand.
Not even five minutes later, Brian put all of his newfound chips back into action, this time against Jordan Morgan, with the board showing . Jordan called Rutland's all-in bet with top and bottom pair, , while Rutland quickly flipped over the for the nut Broadway straight. Brian stood up from the table, this time giving a double fist pump as he awaited the turn and river. Facing elimination, Jordan Morgan was relieved to see the roll off on the turn, giving him the hand-clinching full house and the overwhelming tournament chip lead, with about 650,000 in chips.
Following the bad beat, Rutland won a series of small pots, eventually chipping his way back up to 100,000 in chips before receiving the fatal blow, holding none other than . Rutland was well ahead at the showdown, as his opponent, Jerry Saucier, showed . "One time can I win with the best hand?" said Rutland before the community cards were dealt. Saucier was praying for eights and as it turned out, he'd hit two of them, as the board filled out . A disappointed Rutland walked away with $32,915 for his sixth-place finish. At the payout counter, Brian told us about his misfortune with A-K: "Over the past two days I played it eight times all-in pre-flop and won only once," Rutland said.
Jordan Morgan and Glyn Banks butted heads quite often at the final table, but in the end it was Morgan who got the best of their ongoing confrontation, eliminating Banks from the tournament in fifth place. Morgan made it 35,000 to go from the button and Banks moved all-in from the small blind. Jordan asked for a count before eventually making the call with a pocket pair of nines; Banks revealed . Glyn stood up from the table shaking his head as the flop came , giving Morgan a set of nines. The turn and river blanked out and Glyn would settle for fifth-place prize money ($39,498). Banks and Morgan, both of whom voiced respect for the other's play, shook hands before Banks exited the tournament area.
Next to go would be Gil George, who spent most of the day nursing a short stack. Gil was eliminated from the tournament in fourth place at the hands of Terry Hawkins. Hawkins and George got all of the money in pre-flop; George tabled , while Terry showed a pocket pair of queens. The board filled out , giving Terry a full house and the pot. Gil's valiant fourth-place effort earned him $52,664 in prize money.
At the dinner break, the three remaining players were invited to eat at Murano's Italian Café inside the Grand Casino Resort. Jordan Morgan held the chip lead at the intermission with approximately 650,000 in chips. Jerry Saucier had the smallest stack with 250,000 and Terry Hawkins fell in the middle with right around 370,000. Madness ensued when the players returned from break.
We're not sure if it was something he ate during the break or perhaps something the cocktail waitress slipped into his beer, but whatever the case, Jerry Saucier returned to the feature table a changed man. Saucier shoved all-in six times within the first seven hands, applying a totally different strategy than he'd been using up to this point. With the blinds still at 6,000 – 12,000, many onlookers questioned Jerry's approach, including Terry Hawkins, who, after about the fourth straight all-in, remarked, "It's going to work every time but the last."
Refusing to slow down, Saucier pulled the trigger again, but this time he was met by an immediate call from Hawkins, who casually turned over two red aces. Talk about fulfilling your own prophecy. Saucier simply shrugged and rolled over – a long shot against Hawkins' aces. The flop came down for dramatic effect, giving Saucier a flush draw, but he missed on both the turn and the river as the board panned out . Saucier took home $65,830 for his efforts, leaving Hawkins and Morgan to battle it out for the championship.
At the start of heads-up play, Morgan trailed Hawkins by a couple hundred thousand in chips, but Morgan quickly took control of the match, stringing together a series of small pots en route to retaking the chip lead. Jordan appeared to have a tremendous read on Terry, as he methodically picked away at Terry's dwindling stack, collecting dead money at every opportunity. Jordan's intense stare never wavered and Terry rarely made eye contact with his stone-faced opponent.
The final hand came approximately an hour after the dinner break. Jordan made it 45,000 to go before the flop and Terry made the call. The flop came and Jordan passed the first action to Terry, who led out with a 40,000 bet. Jordan sat still for a moment before announcing "I'm all-in." The play sent Terry deep into the tank and he eventually made the call with an open-ended straight draw, holding . Jordan showed – nothing pretty – but Terry needed to hit one of his fourteen outs on the turn or river, otherwise Jordan Morgan would be declared champion. Railbirds crowded around the table to watch the drama unfold as the dealer was given the command to burn and turn . . . . Jordan swallowed nervously in his chair, awaiting his fate as chants for all sorts of cards could be heard from the crowd. The last card to fall off the deck was the . Terry had missed and a genuine smile spread across Jordan Morgan's face, as he'd finally earned that long-awaited and much deserved first live title.
Runner-up Terry Hawkins took home $111,911 – his reward for playing three days of solid poker. Morgan collected $213,288, a $10,000 buy-in to the 2008 WSOP Main Event, $1,000 in expense money and a sharp-looking gold Circuit ring. Jordan handled himself with class throughout the post-game activities, granting each and every fan request for an autograph and/or picture. Both of Jordan's parents were on hand to witness their son's first major live tournament victory and mom Phyllis couldn't hold back the tears as she gave her son a congratulatory hug, on a day Jordan Morgan will surely never forget.
1st ($213,288): Jordan Morgan
2nd ($111,911): Terry Hawkins
3rd ($65,830): Jerry Saucier
4th ($52,664): Gil George
5th ($39,498): Glyn Banks
6th ($32,915): Brian Rutland
7th ($26,332): Jeff Cohen
8th ($19,749): Steve Hyvonen
9th ($13,166): Mark Garner