John McDonald took a big chip lead into the final table of the WSOP Circuit main event at Council Bluffs, Iowa, but when all was said and done, it was skydiving instructor and live multi-tabler Jesse Hale who soared above the competition with the $113,020 top prize and the gold Circuit Championship ring. Hale bested Dennis Meierotto in a lengthy heads-up battle to claim the top prize. The garrulous Hale put on a show with both his cards and his personality on the way to victory.
Hale's rise to the top started on the very first hand of the final table. After Hale announced a raise in late position, Jeff Daubs moved all in before he even heard what Hale was raising to! The floor ruled that Hale must at least make a minimum raise, and that Daubs' all-in move would stand. Hale did just that, raising to the minimum, and when everyone else folded to Daubs' shove, Hale made the easy call. Daubs turned over pocket jacks, but needed a lot of help when Hale showed his pocket aces. Nothing on the board helped Daubs, and he collected $9,419 for ninth place.
Jeff Bryan got the last of his stack in the middle and found all the action he could handle when Jesse Hale, John McDonald and Dennis Meierotto all called. The live players checked the flop, and Meierotto fired out on the turn. Everyone else folded, and Meierotto tabled for two pair. Bryan's was drawing dead, and when the came on the river he headed to the cage to pick up $12,558 for eighth place.
Jeff Banghart held the chip lead at various points throughout the tournament, but found himself busted in seventh place ($15,698) when his stack got short and he made a move. Banghart shoved all in from the button, then talked John McDonald into calling from the big blind. After much encouragement from Banghart, McDonald called with , well ahead of Banghart's . The flop of gave Banghart a gutshot straight draw, and the on the turn gave him a flush draw to go with it. With a ton of outs on the river, the was no help. McDonald's ace-high was good, and Banghart's tournament was over.
One of the most recognizable players at the final table was certainly Ari "BodogAri" Engel, who made a strong run at the top spot before falling in sixth place to eventual champ Jesse Hale. Engel raised from the button with , and Hale re-raised from the big blind with . Engel made the all-in call, and watched as the peeled off first on the flop. Engel was drawing dead once the hit the turn, and the on the river was moot. Engel picked up $18,837 for his sixth-place finish.
Soon after, Joaquin Sosa raised out of the big blind with his pocket kings, and when Jesse Hale three-bet from the big blind he wasted no time getting the rest of his chips in the middle. Hale never hesitated as he called with , the second time he picked up aces at the final table against an all-in opponent's pocket pair. The battle of blinds went as expected, with no help for Sosa coming on the board. Sosa ran into the ultimate cooler, but collected $21,977 for his fifth-place showing.
Four-handed, Evan "MacDaddy34" Panesis found himself short stacked and in a race for his tournament life. He moved all in from the button with and got action from John McDonald, who made the call from the big blind with . Panesis missed the flop altogether, but picked up a straight draw on the turn as the board read . The on the river made two pair for McDonald, and Panesis was bounced in fourth place, good for a $25,116 payday.
John McDonald was the big stack to start the day, the short stack when three-handed play began, and even with his competitors after taking a huge pot off Jesse Hale right before dinner. After a hearty steak dinner, the three survivors came back and jousted for a little while before Hale and McDonald tangled again. Hale raised preflop from the button, only to find McDonald three-betting out of the small blind. When Dennis Meierotto got out of the way, Hale made the call to see a flop. McDonald led out at the flop, Hale shipped it all in over the top, and McDonald called almost before Hale had his chips in the pot! Hale had McDonald covered,and tabled , well ahead of McDonald's cracked . Hale picked up a full house when the hit the turn, and McDonald was drawing to only an ace to stay alive. The on the river sealed the deal, and McDonald headed off to collect $34,535 for his third-place finish.
Despite taking a sizable chip lead into heads up play, it took over an hour of small-ball poker for Jesse Hale to bust Dennis Meierotto in second place ($62,790) and claim his first WSOP Circuit championship. The final hand was unraised to the A-J-6 flop, and both players checked. Meierotto moved all in when the hit the turn, and Hale thought for a moment before calling. He showed for top pair, and Meierotto needed help with . The on the river made two pair for Hale, and he soared to a win and the $113,020 top prize.
After growing bored with only playing one tournament on Day 1 of the Main Event, Jesse Hale entered the Pot Limit Omaha side event running at the same time. With a healthy stack in the Main Event, Hale went on to cash in the PLO tournament as well. When he focused on the Main Event on Day 2, he built a big stack that he never let go of on the way to the title. Not a bad week for the skydiving instructor who proved to be just as fearless at the table as away from it.