At 5 p.m. Pacific Time, the first final table of the new-look Jonathan Little sent most of the crowd home with Phil Ivey when he rivered a full house to crack Ivey's turned queen-high flush.
It had to be a disappointing finish for Ivey, who came into the final table having captured most of the attention. Ivey has plenty of achievements on his resume, but although he has played in seven WPT final tables, he has yet to score a bracelet, and as he held the chip lead coming into this contest, many felt the most feared player in the world would finally be able to take it down.
It was not to be, and as Ivey stormed off the soundstage, his $129,684 check for fifth place cold consolation, the road to the WPT's first title on the Game Show Network suddenly appeared to be wide open (if a lot less interesting for the audience, a large majority of whom saw fit to depart with Ivey).
A few hands after Ivey's premature demise, Richard Kirsch joined the No Chips Club when he pushed all-in on the button and was called again by Little, who showed A♦ J♣ to Kirsch's A♠ T♦. The board could not save Kirsch and he headed home in fourth place for $172,912, as well as the cachet of being the only person at his home game who can say he outlasted Phil Ivey at the poker tables.
The three remaining players, Darrell Dicken, Cory Carroll, and the less alliterative Little, duked it out for a few hours, trading chips back and forth with a few huge double-ups but generally playing small-ball. Eventually, however, something had to give, and after Carroll doubled through Little and Little doubled through Dicken and Carroll doubled through Little again, Carroll crippled Dicken when he turned a ten-high straight to take down Gigabet's two pair.
A few hands later, the dominant chip-leader through the early days of the tournament was defeated. Dicken's coup de grace came when he shoved with an open-ender and was called by the Canadian, who wielded top pair. Neither turn nor river could save poor Gigabet, and he hit the bricks rolling with $259,369 for his third place finish.
Heads-up play thus commenced, with Cory Carroll jumping out to a 2:1 lead after the players began the session roughly equal in chips. Little, to his credit, noticed he was being outplayed by his opponent and told PokerListings.com: "Cory was outplaying me after the flop when the blinds were low, so I decided to just hang out and not do a whole lot until the blinds got high, and then just get in with my decent hands."
FieryJustice did just that, saving his chips up for an all-in showdown with pocket fives to Carroll's A♦ 8♠ and holding up, and then a few rounds later surviving a situation in which his A♠ 6♠ was dominated by the Canadian's A♣ 9♦ by chopping the pot.
On the very next hand, Carroll raised to $480,000 and Little immediately shoved all-in. Carroll called with A♥ 7♦, again holding the better hand against Little's A♠ 2♠. The flop, however, reversed the fortunes, coming T♦ 5♣ 2♥, and the turn sealed the deal with the 2♣, setting the stage for a very anticlimactic end of the tournament that saw Little react to his victory by polishing his sunglasses, and Carroll react to his loss by yawning.
Strange reactions notwithstanding, the final table was over. Carroll takes home $561,996 for his second place finish, while Jonathan Little earns $1,066,285 for first, as well as a WPT bracelet, trophy, and chipset, an entry into the 2008 WPT Championship, a kiss on the cheek from Layla, and, of course, the never-ending admiration of hundreds of millions of PokerListings.com readers worldwide. Congratulations to both finalists and to Layla herself for a successful first day on the job!