The USPC ended at the Taj after five days of furious poker action that saw 164 hopefuls pay their $10,000 entry fee with dreams of a $606,095 first prize in the forefront of their minds. On Saturday, the final eight of those dreamers took to the final table, each guaranteed at least $31,818 for their time but all envisioning a great deal more.
The finalists were led by Morristown, New Jersey's Adam Gerber, a businessman and poker amateur who'd done battle with both Victor Ramdin on Day 4 and emerged the clear chip leader heading into the final table. Gerber's $1,939,000 made him the dominant force at the final table, with second-place Louis Lee's $1,349,000 the only other stack above the $615,000 average at the start of play.
Despite the relative paucity of chips amongst the other six contestants, the first orbits of play after action began at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) from the poker room at the Taj were defined by double-ups, as Jared Okun, Svetlana Gromenkova, Edward Brogdon and Victor Ramdin would all win new leases on life after committing their stacks to the middle.
Tommy Wang, however, wouldn't be so lucky, and after he open-shoved his last $103,000 into the middle with K♥ Q♥ midway through the day's first full level Svetlana Gromenkova called him with A♥ T♥ and saw the board come 6♦ 5♣ 4♣ 9♣ 6♠ to send her opponent to the rail. Wang finished in eighth place for $31,818.
Shortly after Wang's relegation it was Gromenkova's turn to take her bows, pushing all-in with A♦ Q♣ and getting what she would term a "loser move" call from Gerber with pocket sevens. The board would come T♦ 3♠ 2♣ K♦ 5♠ and the decidedly dour young woman from Brooklyn would head quickly for the rail, pausing only to pick up her $39,770 check for seventh place.
The hits just kept coming as Jared Okun would hit the rail next, coming over the top of a Matt Glantz pre-flop raise with A♠ Q♣ and seeing Glantz call with pocket jacks. Okun was racing, but as the board came 9♦ 5♣ 2♦ 3♠ T♣ he ran out of gas and was forced to hit the pits in sixth place, earning $55,678 in a losing cause.
Victor Ramdin would quickly follow the trend and say his final goodbyes, getting all-in against a man whose chips he had vowed to take before the tournament was over. Ramdin pushed all-in over the top of Louis Lee's $68,000 pre-flop raise and saw Lee deliberate for a good five minutes before he made the "sickest call ever" with K♦ 7♣.
Sick it was, as Ramdin turned up A♥ K♠ and appeared to be in good position to double-up. The flop, however, came Q♣ 7♦ 6♣ and after the board finished out Q♠ 9♠ the PokerStars.com pro was eliminated, headed back to the Bronx in fifth place with a $71,586 stipend for his time.
Amazingly, that marked the end of only the first full level of the day, with four players remaining and Gerber and Lee maintaining their chip leads. Short stack was Edward Brogdon, and the Texan in the Stetson hat would be the next to make his exit.
Brogdon would open-shove for his last $210,000 and get calls from both Adam Gerber and Matt Glantz, who would check the 7♥ 6♦ 2♠ flop and then let loose the fireworks on the 9♣ turn. Glantz would get his last chips in the middle with A♥ 9♥ and Gerber would happily call with A♠ 9♠, and though the players would accomplish nothing with the side pot they'd chop the main pot as Big Ed could muster naught but A♣ 4♣. Brogdon was eliminated in fourth place and took $95,448 on his way out the door.
The players would take another level break after some petty maneuvering to close out the level, and the strategizing would continue into the next round of play, with none of the remaining three willing to give an inch but Matt Glantz's stocks beginning to dwindle.
Glantz would see his stack drop to the $500,000 level and find himself in push or fold territory, getting all-in once without a caller and then deciding to try his luck after both Lee and Gerber limped from the button and small blind, respectively.
Lee would fold out but Gerber, after a long deliberation, would make the call with pocket sixes to Glantz's A♠ Q♠, and the pro-Gerber crowd would roar as the flop came T♥ 6♣ 2♥. The turn was the A♥ and the river the 6♦, giving Gerber the kwads and the check mark and giving Glantz the boot. For his third-place finish Glantz would take home $159,080.
That left but Gerber and Lee to contest for the title, and after a brief intermission for a deal negotiation that went nowhere, the heads-up play began. Gerber held the chip lead with $3,310,000 to Lee's $1,625,000 and it wouldn't take long for the fireworks to begin.
The climactic hand would play out only a few rounds into the mano-a-mano match. Lee limped-in from the button and Gerber raised it to $125,000 from the big blind. Lee made the call and the flop came 6♦ 6♣ 5♣, prompting a check from Gerber and then a $300,000 raise once Lee bet out $200,000. Lee called the raise and saw the turn come 6♥, prompting an immediate all-in from Gerber and a very long, very agonized deliberation from Lee.
Lee would tank for an epic span, eventually deciding to stake his tournament on his 5♠ 3♠ hand and finding himself drawing dead to Gerber's pocket eights. The board finished out with the K♣ and that made it official: Adam Gerber is the 2007 United States Poker Champion!
Gerber was mobbed by friends and family as he claimed his Rolex watch, gold bracelet, $606,095 first prize and exclusive conversation with a PokerListings.com reporter, while Lee was left to console himself with a $318,180 runner-up reward. Congratulations to both finalists and to the staff at the Taj, who organized an excellent tournament and proved that TV deals aren't a necessary ingredient in the staging of a successful prestige event. See you next year!