Gavin Griffin, with titles at both the WSOP and EPT, had a chance to complete the hat trick of tournament poker by winning the WPT Borgata Poker Classic. Griffin had his work cut out for him, however, with chip leader David "The Big Dragon" Tran, 2007 WSOP Main Event finisher Lee Watkinson, online sensation Noah "fourUhaters" Schwartz and two more able players all standing in his way.
The final table started with a bang and just five hands into the contest we had our first casualty. In the hand David Tran raised to $120,000 and local player Ervin Prifti shoved all-in from the button. Prifti came to the final table with only $285,000. It wasn't that hard a call for Tran who flipped over A♦ K♣.
Prifti was, indeed, behind with K♠ Q♦. The board came J♣ 7♥ 6♣ 9♦ 5♣ and there were no miracle comeback stories for Prifti on this day. He finished sixth for $233,000. Not a bad score to be sure.
Early in the day Griffin and Tran tussled in a somewhat minor hand that would be a sign of things to come. Griffin fired out $100,000 from under the gun and Tran re-raised to $475,000 from the button. Griffin decided to make it $1.5 million to play and Tran eventually laid it down. It was the first volley fired in what would become an all-out war between the two players.
The next player to take his leave was Watkinson. Watkinson also came to the table with a short stack and knew he had to act fast if he wanted a serious shot at winning the tournament.
It looked like Watkinson might be on the comeback trail as very early on he doubled against Schwartz. Unfortunately for Watkinson, Schwartz would take it all back several hands later when both players got it all-in. Watkinson held 7-7 to Schwartz' 8-8 and the eights would hold up as the board whiffed.
Watkinson had to settle for fifth place but who knows what would have happened had he been able to double up a couple more times early.
After those two eliminations action began to slow considerably. Local Thomas Hare, Schwartz, Tran and Griffin all seemed to be feeling each other out for the next hour or so.
It was during this time that Tran and Griffin once again did battle. In one important hand Schwartz raised to $175,000 from under the gun and Griffin called from the small blind. Tran called from the big blind.
The flop came A♣ J♦ 2♦ and was checked by all three players. The turn came J♠ and both Tran and Schwartz opted to check, but Griffin bet out $275,000. Schwartz got out of the way and Tran called. The river fell the 5♠ and Tran checked while Griffin once again bet out. He made it $525,000 and Tran had to think for a minute but eventually called. Griffin flipped over pocket sixes but Tran had him beat with an ace for two-pair aces and jacks.
Tran raked the pot, worth over $2.1 million.
The action slowed down again after that and it was anybody's guess who would bust next. It turned out that Schwartz would be the first player to blink when he shoved all-in with pocket nines against Tran, who held K♦ Q♠. The board came K♥ J♦ 2♦-Jc-8♠ and Schwartz' heroic run at the 2008 Borgata Poker Classic came to an abrupt end.
Local success story Hare started making some moves around this time and for a period of time things looked bad for Griffin. Tran was crushing the table with $9 million while Hare had $3.6 million and Griffin was in last with $2.6 million.
Down but not out, Griffin proved that he could also play short-stack poker. In one of the most important hands of the night Hare bet $180,000 pre-flop and Griffin called. The flop came A♣-9c-7♣ and Griffin checked but Hare made a massive bet of $800,000. Griffin decided to shove all-in for a total of $2.7 million and Hare called.
Hare had A♥ 7♦ for two pair which was a good hand but not as good as Griffin's Q♣ 10♣ for the flush. No miracle cards hit on the turn or the river and suddenly Griffin was right back in the game while Hare was crippled.
Several hands later Hare was essentially forced all-in with K♠ 3♣ and eventually busted by Griffin who held a dominating K♣ Q♦.
We had a major battle on our hands with Griffin vs. Tran. Tran held the chip leading going into heads-up play with $8.7 million to $6.5 million but Griffin was definitely stacking enough chips to hold his own.
After testing the waters for several hands Griffin started to build some momentum and then fortunes changed in one hand dramatically.
Griffin raised to $200,000 from the button and Tran re-raised to $800,000. Griffin re-popped to $2.5 million. Tran decided to just go all-in and with this much on the line apparently Griffin felt he could fold. It was a classic race situation by the time the players had flipped over their cards:
Griffin: A♠ Q♠
Tran: 9♣ 9♦
The situation was tense as we headed to the flop with what must have been the biggest pot of the entire tournament on the line. The flop came Q♦ 8♦ 8♥ and inside Griffin must have been jumping for joy. He had hit a queen and taken the lead. The board finished with 7♥ and then 5♣ and all of a sudden Griffin was the overwhelming chip leader with $13.3 million to Tran's $1.9 million.
It was not the end for Tran, however. The Big Dragon was far from finished and proved how resilient he could be while playing with the short stack.
Within the next few hands Tran doubled up with pocket aces and a few hands after that he appeared to be on his way to another double-up.
In the hand Tran raised to $380,000 from the big blind. Griffin re-raised to $4 million; Tran quickly called. Griffin was in bad shape once the players had shown their cards. Griffin held A♦ 8♦ to Tran's A♠ K♥.
Incredibly the board went T♣ 5♥ 2♠ 3♣ 4♣ and the players split the pot with the wheel-straight.
Despite his tenacity Tran was finally dealt a crippling blow when Griffin held J-9 on a 10♦ 6♥ 2♦ 7♠ 8♠ board for the straight. Griffin bet $475,000 on the river, Tran re-popped to $1.1 million and Griffin re-raised to $3.6 million. Tran made the call and then mucked his hand when Griffin showed the nuts. Tran was left with under $1 million chips after the epic hand.
In the final hand of the tournament Tran moved all-in from the button and Griffin called. Tran flipped over K♠ 8♠ to Griffin's Q♣ J♣. The flop went A♣ 9♦ 8♦ and Tran was poised for another double-up. The room was tense as the dealer turned... Q♦. Griffin was suddenly the favorite and the entire tournament would be finished on the next card - 10♦!
From the early days of the tournament Griffin seemed to destined to win and take his place in the history books as the only player to complete the Triple Crown of poker tournaments - WSOP, WPT and EPT.
Destiny would not be denied on this day and Griffin is your 2008 WPT Borgata Poker Classic champion.
We here at PokerListings.com congratulate Griffin and everybody who took part in the epic tournament. We'll see you at the next big one!