After coming agonizingly close in 2009 and booking another near miss in 2012, Tony Gregg has done the improbable, reaching a third PokerStars Caribbean Adventure official final table before any other player has even recorded two appearances.
"It feels great, obviously," Gregg said with a smile.
In 2009, Gregg navigated through a 1,347-player field to battle online satellite qualifier Poorya Nazari heads up, with the winner banking a PCA record $3 million prize. Gregg fell short and had to settle for $1.7 million. The online grinder known as "wwwBTHEREcom" made his return to the PCA final table in 2012 in a field of 1,072, but could only manage a sixth-place finish for $364,000.
That score was obviously a nice boost to the bankroll, but it appears to have left Gregg with a bit of a bittersweet recollection as he wasn't thrilled with his approach down the stretch.
"I did put a little pressure on myself to make the final table again," Gregg said of 2012. "I ended up coming in really short, and I'd rather actually have some play than fold [to ladder up]."
Gregg admitted he felt the same pressures creeping in once again.
"I was trying not to put too much pressure on myself because it doesn't really mean anything," Gregg said of the admittedly arbitrary distinction of an official final table. "There were definitely a few spots today where I felt like I took a lower-variance play because it was in the back of my mind."
Luckily for Gregg, fortune smiled upon him this time to put him in prime position heading to the final six on Thursday.
First, he drew a seat at the final table with the far less experienced Ken Demlakian on his right. Though Demlakian performed well on his deep run, with just $112,000 in career live cashes, it was clear he was facing a daunting positional crisis with Gregg ($10 million in live cashes) on his left.
It took some time for that situation to bear fruit for Gregg, but Level 29 (40,000/80,000/10,000) was when Gregg made his move. First, he three-bet a Demlakian open to 445,000 and saw his opponent call. The flop brought , and Demlakian check-shoved over Gregg's 490,000 continuation-bet. Gregg snapped for 1.855 million with the and had a huge lead over the . He faded the aces and doubled to about 4.8 million. The very next hand, Gregg picked up the , opened under the gun, and called when Demlakian shoved from the big blind for 800,000. Demlakian had pocket fours and sent the rest of his stack to his left when the board bricked out for both.
"I'm just happy that I hit a little rush at the end," Gregg said.
Gregg sits in second with 5.68 million thanks to that rush, trailing only chip leader and fellow top pro Mike Watson's 6.585 million. Behind them will be Vladimir Troyanovskiy (5.025 million), Toby Lewis (4.655 million), Phillip McAllister (3.04 million), and Randy Kritzer (2.575 million).
A tough lineup, to be sure, with Watson undoubtedly the most daunting of Gregg's obstacles. But Gregg said in a previous interview he's feeling great with his game and his health in prime shape just a few weeks into a prop bet that calls for zero drinking for the whole year. Surely, he's as ready as anyone could be to try to make history at this final table.