The second-to-last Main Event of the 2010-11 World Series of Poker Circuit season has come and gone. A field of 269 turned up to Harrah's Chester with $1,600 to spare for the three-day event, which carried a prize pool of close to $400,000. It took 31 levels of poker to whittle the field down to just one — Kenny "Super Tuan" Nguyen.
An hour into the day, the field of nine became eight. Huy Nguyen had already collected one Circuit Main Event ring this season, and the young Oklahoma pro was looking to ring another finger this week. But his charge came to an end in ninth place, the short stack running his into the of Ed Cotter. The board provided no salvation for Nguyen, and he had to settle for a $8,685 consolation prize.
During the course of that first hour, chips were flying — most of them out of the chip-leader's stack. Ramana Epparla began the day with 1.95 million of the 5.38 million in play, holding more than a million-chip lead over his nearest challenger. Play and luck went south in a hurry for the amateur, though. He failed to drag any significant pots during the opening orbits and had dropped about half his stack when he tangled with Robert Scott in a monster pot. Epparla called Scott's shove with his in severe danger against his opponent's . When the board ran out blank, Epparla was crippled and soon found himself with just 19,000 chips and all-in from the big blind. His held up against Ari Engel's mighty for the first double, and it wouldn't be the last. He tripled up less than five minutes later, then won a flip to double back to 326,000 ten minutes after that! A half hour later, he and his flipped against Engel's . The board ran , and Epparla suddenly had more than 800,000 chips. Another hour later and he was doubling up again, shooting back into the chip lead with more than 1.5 million.
That aforementioned flip crippled Engel down to just 81,000 (3.5 bb), but he did not go quietly. One hand after having his stack decimated, Engel's beat Nguyen's on a board that ran . A moment later, he doubled again with , pushing back over the half-million-chip mark. An hour or so later, he doubled to 1.72 million when his bested Epparla's on an board. He eventually worked that all the way up to 2.22 million before he began to slide once again. First, Epparla doubled through him with topping to knock Engel back to about 1.4 million. A few minutes later, the largest pot of the tournament unfolded when Engel shoved his into the of Nguyen. When the board ran out , Engel was left with just 75,000, and Nguyen would never look back from his 3-million-chip stack.
Eight-handed play dragged on for more than three hours as all that action resulted in no eliminations. Finally, down to just four big blinds, Ryan Waddell raced his against the of Epparla. The flop was a good one for Waddell, but he could not fade running cards as the turn and river ended his day unkindly.
A few minutes later, the other short stack fell. Robert "Action Bob" Hwang doubled up Sean Knitter with versus , crippling him down to just more than two big blinds. The very next hand was a bad case of déjà vu as Hwang got all-in with against those same , this time held by Robert Scott. A board full of blanks ended Action Bob's day in seventh place.
Soon thereafter, the curmudgeonly Cotter was sent packing in sixth. On a flop, Cotter got his money in with . Epparla snap-called the shove, turning over those same crazy once again. Cotter could not catch up, and his elimination was the one that finally pushed Epparla back into the lead after his early tumble.
Fifth place went to Sean Knitter, the victim of circumstance as much as anything else. Scott was the preflop raiser for this fateful pot, and Knitter defended his big blind to see a flop with . Scott continued out with 200,000 more chips when the dealer spread out , and he was betting light as we'd soon find out. Knitter shoved for 470,000 total, and Scott was forced to make the call with just . No problem. The turn and river came and respectively, and Scott's trips were easily enough to notch the come-from-behind knockout.
The next man to fall was one of the favorites coming into the day — Ari Engel. "BodogAri" was dashed down to 75,000 chips in that fateful encounter with Nguyen, and could only manage one more double before succumbing to the table. It was Nguyen who took care of the rest of those chips, running out a straight with on a board. Engel's was ahead until the river, but his opponent's straight sent him off in fourth place, good for more than $30,000.
When three-handed play began, Nguyen had nearly 60 percent of the chips in play, and it took a little more than two hours for him to close it out. Epparla was eliminated by Scott in third place when his fell to . The first four cards on the board were safe, and Scott asked the dealer for an ace. His buddy on the rail was more specific, yelling out, "Ace of diamonds, one time!" Remarkably, the peeled right off the deck, and Scott celebrated as he'd locked up the knockout and the title of Casino Champion for this series.
Nguyen had the lead as heads-up play began, and he would not relinquish it. On the final hand, he shoved with , and Scott snap-called his last 15 big blinds with . The first four cards were safe again, but the river card put the final punctuation on the day. A board of gave Nguyen the title and sent Scott to the payout desk to collect second-place money.
For Nguyen, this victory has been a long time coming. It's his first recorded cash of 2011, and it comes with $94,901, an entry into the National Championship later this month, and his first diamond Circuit ring.
Here's how the final table finished up:
That's all we've got from Chester. The Circuit season and Poker News head to New Orleans next for the final stop of the traveling season. In the meantime, you should follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up with the rest of the news from the tournament circuit.