The final table of Event #38, $2,000 Limit Hold'em was Marc “Needle King” Naalden's to lose, as he held a substantial chip lead when Day 3 began on Sunday afternoon. Naalden led nearly every step of the way at the fast-moving final table, turning in a masterful performance to take home his first WSOP gold bracelet.
Plenty of orange was spotted in the crowd when the final table commenced. In one area was the group of Dutch railbirds, enthusiastically supporting Naalden as he started the final table with 755,000 in chips. In another area surrounding the final table, friends of Jameson Painter also wore orange to support him. Painter's fans formed a “Pumpkin Patch”, complete with a sign featuring Painter, hoping he could add to his 205,000 in chips, good for sixth chip position as the “Shuffle up and deal” command was given.
With the limits at 10,000/20,000, Marc Naalden began the final table by taking down pots against Steve Cowley and Tommy Hang to widen his chip lead even further. Cowley would move above his starting stack of 322,000 after he took down a hand against Painter with pocket jacks, later crippling Rep Porter, who held A-3 and flopped two pair, as Cowley's A-Q made a higher two pair on the river.
Porter, down to 46,000 in chips, made an under-the-gun raise and then called a reraise from Jameson Painter. Porter put the rest of his meager stack into the middle when the flop came down as he held for bottom pair. Painter, holding , made the instant call, and the turn and river gave Painter an unnecessary flush. Rep Porter was the first to leave the final table earlier than he wished, finishing in ninth place ($19,594).
Unfortunately for Jameson Painter, that victory would be his best moment at the final table. Alex Keating rivered a full house against Painter to drop him down to just 55,000 in chips. Then Marc Naalden delivered the coup de grace. Naalden made a raise under the gun, Painter reraised, Naalden called, and the two saw the flop, which was . Naalden then check-raised Painter to put him all in and Naalden showed for top pair, while Painter showed for two overcards and backdoor draws. The turn helped neither player, and river gave Naalden a straight, more than enough to uproot Painter and his Pumpkin Patch from the final table in eighth place ($21,819).
Marc Naalden continued running over the final table, holding 1,500,000 in chips — more than half the chips in play. The levels were at 15,000/30,000 before the next series of eliminations. First, Jared O'Dell put the rest of his chips in with against Tommy Hang's . The flop gave Hang two pair, and no tens appeared for O'Dell as he went to get the payout slip for his seventh place finish ($25,439). Danny Qutami finished in sixth place ($31,088) after his was outflopped by Naalden's . Alex Keating was the next to be disposed of by Naalden when his couldn't win a coinflip against Naalden's pocket fives, finishing in fifth place ($39,977) while Naalden moved to nearly two million in chips. The other three players accounted for the remaining 700,000 in chips.
Tommy Hang's tenuous hold on the final table ended when his couldn't overtake Marc Naalden's pocket tens, sending Hang to the rail in fourth place, pocketing $54,182, as the Dutch fans on the rail continued their enthusiastic celebrations after each elimination. They were joined by EPT Grand Final winner Pieter DeKorver, along with a couple of scantily-clad women to add to the atmosphere. Ian Johns was the next player to succumb to the Dutchman; his final hand saw Naalden holding and making a flush on the river to send Johns packing in third place ($77,576).
Steve Cowley was the last player standing between Naalden and the bracelet, with Cowley holding just 325,000 in chips while Marc Naalden possessed 2,300,000. The end result appeared to be a mere formality, as the levels were now at 30,000/60,000. But Cowley wasn't cowed, as he repeatedly took chips from Naalden, doubling up in one hand with a full house while holding . He then closed the gap to just 400,000 in chips as his was good on the board as Naalden conceded he was playing the board and mucked. Naalden, realizing his chances were slipping away, widened his chip lead yet again to move back to 1,900,000 in chips while Cowley dropped to 700,000.
The two then went back and forth as Cowley nearly evened the match, then Naalden took down a big hand to move into a commanding lead. Cowley clawed back yet again, and eventually took the chip lead on the following hand. Cowley made a button raise, then called Naalden's reraise. The flop came down and Naalden led out with a bet, which Cowley called. The on the turn was check-called by Naalden. He check-called again when the came on the river, dismayed to see Cowley turn over for a rivered two pair and an incredible comeback. But Naalden regained the lead a few hands later when he was able to push Cowley off the hand with a bet on the river, as the players took a 20-minute break.
When the players returned, the levels were now at 40,000/80,000, and whatever Naalden did during the break should be bottled and sold because he returned to his earlier form as he rolled over Steve Cowley in heads-up play. Naalden took down a couple of big pots with pocket sixes and pocket sevens. He then check-raised Cowley out of a couple of pots to pummel Cowley’s stack down to just 200,000. Cowley tried once again to make a recovery, doubling up to 400,000 with against . On the next hand, Cowley called preflop raise from Naalden and the two players proceeded to check down the board. Naalden showed , good enough to take the pot and send Cowley back down to 170,000.
The final hand saw Naalden make a raise from the button, and Cowley responded with a shove all in, holding the lead with . Naalden was behind with , but the board ran out as the Dutch fans were over the moon with delight to see one of their own win a bracelet.
Steve Cowley gave it a valiant effort but couldn't overcome the force that was Marc Naalden, earning $117,902 for his runner-up finish. Naalden adds $190,770 and a WSOP gold bracelet to his win last March at the PokerNews Cup Alpine in Austria, followed by a tenth-place finish at the EPT Grand Final in April. Plenty of bracelets still remain to be awarded at the 2009 World Series of Poker, and PokerNews will be there to report the tournament action.