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2009 WSOP Event #7: Johnson Seizes Victory in $1,500 NLHE

Travis Johnson

After three days of tough play, including a grueling 13 hours today, Travis Johnson emerged as the victor of Event #7, $1500 No-Limit Hold’em. In addition to winning his first World Series of Poker bracelet, Johnson will take home a substantial financial reward for his efforts: $666,853.

Tournament officials had called the clock on Day 2 last night at 3:00 a.m., before the final table had been set, so 33 out of the original 2971 players came back to the Rio’s Amazon Room at 1:00 p.m. today for Day 3, to finish what they had started. All were guaranteed a payout of at least $15,429. As action got underway, the big stacks were Craig McConville, Steve Karp, and Jacob Kalb. Both McConville and Kalb would make it to the final table, McConville with his chip lead intact.

But 24 players had to get out of the way first, and the players wasted no time trying to vote each other off of the island. Will Heger was the day’s first victim, lasting less than 15 minutes. He pushed all in from the cutoff seat with {K-Diamonds}{Q-Hearts} and was called by Kam Low in the small blind, who had him dominated with {A-Spades}{Q-Clubs}. The flop brought another queen to pair both players, but in the end the kickers made all the difference.

It looked like it might be a short day when the field had been reduced to 18 by the first break, but eliminations slowed to a crawl thereafter. By the second break, about four hours into the day, 11 were left. It would then take another two and a half hours to play down to a final table of nine, with Kalb being the last one not to make it there when he put everything on the line with {J-Spades}{J-Clubs} and lost a race to Craig McConville's {A-Hearts}{K-Hearts}.

About 20 minutes after the announcer introduced the final table to the crowd, Low was the first one to exit. He raised to 90,000 from the small blind, Johnson declared himself all in from the big blind, and Low called, showing {A-Clubs}{10-Diamonds} to Johnson’s {Q-Clubs}{J-Diamonds}. But two queens on the flop gave the latter trips, and Low could not catch up. He won $81,185 for his ninth-place finish.

Another 20 minutes saw the final table shrink by one more seat as James McClain (eighth place, $87,013) put the last of his chips in with {A-Hearts}{7-Diamonds} to call the all-in bet of Mark Salinaro, who was behind with {J-Spades}{9-Spades}. The flop could not have been more dramatic: {10-Spades}{A-Spades}{8-Clubs}, giving McClain top pair and Salinaro both straight and flush draws. McClain was still in the lead with the {8-Hearts} on the turn, but the {Q-Hearts} on the river capped Salinaro’s straight.

Surprisingly, it took two and a half more hours before anybody else gave up his seat, but then Walter Wright (seventh place, $97,985) put in the third preflop raise with all his chips, counting on Big Slick. Johnson took several minutes before deciding to call with a pair of fives, but presumably ended up glad that he did, as his small pair was best at the end.

Brian McInnis was next to go (sixth place, $116,234). Earlier in the evening he had been severely short-stacked and survived a series of four all-ins, but his luck ran out when his {8-Clubs}{8-Hearts} couldn’t beat the {A-Clubs}{K-Diamonds} of Mike Ciotola, on the board of {Q-Diamonds}{A-Diamonds}{5-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{Q-Spades}.

The aggressive McConville (fifth place, $145,721) tried bullying the table with a preflop three-bet once too often it seems, as Johnson made the fourth raise all in with just {A-Hearts}{10-Clubs}. But this time McConville was as strong as his betting indicated, and he called with pocket jacks. An ace on the flop, however, rewarded the weaker hand, and McConville’s tournament was done.

A lot of cat-and-mousing ensued, and it was well over an hour before the next player gave up the ghost. Karp deceptively limped from the small blind, and Mark Salinaro (fourth place, $193,343) shoved from the big. Salinaro showed {7-Spades}{7-Clubs} to Karp’s {A-Hearts}{K-Clubs}. The dealer put out the requisite five community cards – {K-Diamonds}{8-Hearts}{Q-Spades}{8-Spades}{3-Diamonds} – but the first card in the door was all it took for Karp to eliminate a dangerous rival.

It didn’t take long to get down to heads-up play, as Mike Ciotola (third place, $273,385) exited on the very next hand. He pitted his {K-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds} against the {A-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds} of Johnson before the flop. No help came on the {3-Spades}{3-Diamonds}{Q-Clubs}{A-Clubs}{6-Diamonds} board for the lesser hand.

Johnson began the mano-a-mano portion of the event with a roughly 2-to-1 chip lead, and he never relinquished it over the 40 minutes or so that it took to prevail. Johnson won a 3.2 million-chip pot without a showdown about halfway through the process, pushing him to a daunting 4-to-1 lead.

The end finally came in a classic race, all in before the flop, with Johnson’s {A-Diamonds}{Q-Spades} up against Karp’s {5-Clubs}{5-Spades}. The turn was a queen, one of the cards Karp did not want to see, with the final board showing {K-Hearts}{10-Spades}{4-Hearts}{Q-Hearts}{J-Hearts}. Karp had started the day in second place, and he would finish in the same position, though with an extra $414,116 to his name. Travis Johnson is the champion of Event #7, $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em, taking home $666,853 and the coveted gold bracelet.

This was the first of seven tournaments in the 2009 WSOP with the same structure and buy-in that are so attractive to amateur poker players. The ones yet to come are Events 24, 28, 34, 39, 51, and 54. Join PokerNews as we cover all the upcoming action at the 2009 World Series of Poker.

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