World Series of Poker Europe Coolbet Open Million Dollar Challenge: Johnny Whitt

Sara Jean Underwood

This week’s episode of the Million Dollar Challenge, Episode 5 of Season 2, saw Johnny Whitt take his shot at $100,000. Whitt was described as a Southern jokester from Houston, Texas, with a great sense of humor and a pet rooster. A mix between Doyle Brunson and Santa Claus, he was called called “a mountain of a man” by host Chris Rose. The question remained, would Whitt be successful in his bid for $1 million?

The Rules: The PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge is played in three rounds. In Round 1, the challenger is joined by Daniel Negreanu, who coaches them as they play heads-up against a celebrity or professional athlete. Although he can give the challenger advice, Negreanu cannot see their hole cards. In Round 1, the challenger is allowed a single timeout that pauses the action whenever called and allows private strategy session with Negreanu. If a challenger manages to win Round 1, he or she will be awarded a trip to the Bahamas.

Round 2 works a bit differently because the challenger faces a Team PokerStars Pro. In addition, Negreanu is put in an isolation booth where he can see the board cards and the challenger’s hole cards while coaching via a headset. On the other side of the felt, the Team Pro is given the power to invoke the "Dome of Silence" on two occasions of his or her choosing, cutting off communication between the challenger and Negreanu for the remainder of the hand. If the challenger emerges victorious, he or she will win $25,000 which can either be kept or risked by playing Negreanu heads-up for $100,000 and a seat at the season-ending final table where $1 million will be up for grabs. However, if the challenger risks it and loses, he or she walks away with nothing, and Negreanu is awarded $10,000 to donate to the charity of his choice.

Playtime with a Playmate: This week’s first celebrity defender was Sara Jean Underwood, the 2007 Playboy Playmate of the Year. Underwood was playing for the Columbia Humane Society, an organization dedicated to the welfare of animals.

Underwood Draws First Blood: Underwood looked down at {K-Clubs}{6-Spades} and raised to 2,000. Whitt called with his {8-Clubs}{7-Diamonds} and the two watched the flop fall {9-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{3-Hearts}. Whitt led out for a bet of 2,000 with his open-ended straight draw and Underwood called with middle pair. Both players checked the {A-Spades} on the turn and let the {2-Diamonds} hit the river. Whitt bluffed at the pot for 2,000, but Underwood made the call and jumped out to an early chip lead.

“I Could Tell That”: On the next hand, it was Underwood’s turn to open for 2,000. She held {A-Hearts}{5-Diamonds} and received a call from Whitt who looked down at {K-Spades}{4-Clubs}. Whitt coyly checked his top pair and Underwood bet 2,000 with bottom pair. Whitt then threw in a check-raise to 6,000. Underwood said, “That’s a tough call for me. I have something.”

“I could tell that,” Whitt joked, “She sure does.” He then took off his hat and fanned his head in response to Underwood’s hotness. Everyone was clearly amused and Underwood laughingly mucked.

Nice Flop for Whitt: A short time later, the blinds went up and Underwood raised to 4,000 with {K-Clubs}{2-Hearts}. Whitt called with his {10-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds} as the flop came down {9-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}, giving Whitt both straight and flush draws. He bet 4,000 and Underwood gave it up.

Celebrity Down: Whitt limped with his {Q-Spades}{8-Diamonds} and Underwood checked her option from the big blind with {10-Spades}{8-Hearts}. Underwood then led out with a bet of 4,000 on the {Q-Hearts}{8-Clubs}{5-Diamonds} flop, and Whitt simply called with his two pair. When the {6-Diamonds} appeared on the turn, Underwood moved all-in for her last 9,400 and Whitt quickly called. Underwood was drawing dead, and Whitt won a trip to the Bahamas while advancing to Day 2.

Best Ever?: Could Whitt be the best player the Million Dollar Challenge has ever seen? According to Negreanu, he is. “By far the best player we’ve ever had,” Negreanu said after Round 1. His theory would soon be tested as Whitt was set to square off against Team Pro Barry Greenstein in Round 2.

Preemptive Strike: After Greenstein took down the first two pots, he decided to implement an unusual play and invoked the “Dome of Silence” before the cards were even dealt. Greenstein was first to act and looked down at the worst hand in poker: {7-Hearts}{2-Clubs}. “As a matter of fact I’m so afraid of you on your own that I’m not even going to play it.”

On the next hand, Whitt moved all-in for his last 13,300 with {3-Hearts}{4-Hearts} and Greenstein snap-called with {6-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}. Whitt was a 4-1 underdog but that all changed when the flop came {5-Hearts}{2-Clubs}{A-Diamonds} and gave him a straight! The turn and river were {A-Hearts} and {9-Diamonds}, and Whitt doubled.

Moving On: Two hands later, Greenstein moved all-in for his last 11,400 with {Q-Spades}{5-Diamonds}, and Whitt called with {A-Spades}{7-Clubs}. The board ran out {A-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{J-Clubs}{9-Clubs}{9-Hearts} and Whitt advanced to Round 3.

Willing to Risk It: Whitt opted to risk his $100,000 to play against Negreanu and his shot at the $1 million in the season-ending Grand Final. They sparred for a few hands before Negreanu looked down at {A-Hearts}{10-Spades} and made it 4,000. Whitt raised to 8,000 with his {Q-Clubs}{J-Hearts} and Negreanu called to see a flop that came down {4-Hearts}{5-Clubs}{8-Clubs}. Whitt instantly moved all-in and Negreanu began to piece together the hand aloud. “I think I’m going to have to gamble with ya, bud,” Negreanu said as he placed his stack in the middle.

It was a good call as Negreanu’s ace-high was ahead. The {6-Clubs} on the turn gave Whitt a bunch more outs — 14 to be exact. The dealer burned and put out the {9-Hearts}. Negreanu doubled to 37,400 while Whitt was left with just 2,600.

Final Hand: On the next hand, Whitt moved all-in dark and Negreanu’s big blind had him covered. Negreanu held {8-Hearts}{5-Spades} and had Whitt’s { 6c}{5-Hearts} in big trouble. The board ran out {6-Diamonds}{8-Spades}{7-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds}{2-Spades} and Whitt’s impressive run came just shy of the Grand Final. While his hopes for $1 million came to an end, Whitt still left with a trip to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, Negreanu won $10,000 for his charity.

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