The audience played a huge part in making the conclusion of this tournament as exhilarating as it was with huge cheering sections coming out for each of the local players. Even John Juanda, the only American at the final table, had many a spectator pulling for him to take down the win.
Along with the well-behaved members of the audience that one might expect at a Canadian event, there were a score of alcohol-fueled loudmouths that, although trying at times, only added to the atmosphere of enthusiasm and energy. It's amazing how many poker geniuses showed up tonight and after a few drinks, didn't mind shouting their well thought-out advice at the players at the table. Just in case there is any confusion, I will add that when I refer to these individuals as geniuses, there may be just a touch of sarcasm involved.
In addition to the screams of "all-in" during almost every hand that are a commonplace at major tournaments nowadays, a few of the more unrestrained members of the audience were making comments that bordered on the seriously offensive. In typical Canadian fashion though, even these overly obnoxious onlookers were afforded the privilege of not being thrown out head-first into the cold Ontario night.
As entertaining as they were, the real spectacle was not the audience, however, but the action at the final table itself. From beginning to end, it was a match that kept everyone on the edge of their seat or, more frequently, on their feet in anticipation of the next card off the deck.
The climax of the excitement came when it was down to heads-up play between Soren Turkewitsch and Jason Sagle. They had been fighting hard throughout the one-on-one battle and after trading the chip lead back and forth, they finally pulled even with each other. After trading the blinds and antes, Turkewitsch pushed all-in pre-flop and put Sagle to a decision for all his chips. Being about equally stacked, this hand would decide the event.
After a few minutes of contemplation, Sagle made the call and before flipping over his cards asked Turkewitsch if he was bluffing. "You must have me" was the youth's response, and Sagle responded with, "I knew it" before slamming his A-9 down on the felt. He had made a great read and had Turkewitsch's A-3 in bad shape.
It seemed like Turkewitsch had the majority of the crowd on his side, though, and calls for a three to hit the board could be heard from all around. The flop came 5-9-2 rainbow and Turkewitsch picked up an inside straight draw to add to his list of outs. The tension in the room was palpable as the dealer knocked the felt before flipping over the turn card. Fourth street brought an eruption from the audience rivaling any I've experienced as the miracle four hit, making Turkewitsch the wheel straight. Sagle was drawing dead for the win and could only hit a three to counterfeit Turkewitsch's hand and chop the pot. It was not to be though, and Sagle was absolutely crippled to less than two big blinds.
As it turns out, this wasn't Turkewitsch's first big suck-out of the tournament. On Day 1 he was all-in in on a three way pot with Barry Greenstein and dealt the Robin Hood of Poker a bad beat that had him grumbling for the rest of the day.
Luck aside, Turkewitsch played a strong game and would not have made it to the final table without the skill to keep him alive through the last four days. Sagle may have been sucked-out on, but he sucked it up and even managed to battle his way back, at least partly, before being eliminated in second place.
One thing is for sure though, Turkewitsch, who satellited into this event for $90, has given hope to the most amateur of poker players and proved that anyone can sit down with the best and emerge victorious.