The play was typified by recklessness as many here in Tunica seemed unfamiliar with the concept of risk versus reward. The notion of standard bets and raises was thrown out the window as many opted to either move all-in, massively overbetting the pot, or simply fold. And as is the case in many Southern tournaments, no fold would be complete without doing your opponent the courtesy of showing your cards. The same could be said for players who took down pots as many felt it only fitting to disclose the monster, or bluff, with which they had pushed their opponents out of the hand.
With just 138 players starting this tournament we saw a speedy resolution to both Days 1 and 2, but when we reached the money things ground to halt. With so many quick eliminations in the early stages of this event, when we made the final table it truly was a deep-stack affair. The fact that so many others these days boil down to nothing but all-in fests which conclude in a matter of hours only served to emphasize the amount of play that was possible this evening.
Today's final table was an exemplar of how pivotal hands can dictate the outcome of an entire tournament. A few key pots were decided not by skill, which so many in the poker world profess to be the driving force in the game, but by the fall of the cards, fickle as it may be.
Glyn Banks, no stranger to overbetting, gave us our first look at how one card can change a player's tournament fate in an early hand with then-big stack Brian Rutland. It was folded around to Banks in the small blind, when the price to play was still $3,000/$6,000, and instead of making a standard raise like so many of us would prefer, moved all-in for more than $130,000. Rutland, not to be outdone in the overbetting department, made the call and we went to the flop with one of the biggest pots of the tournament lying on the felt between them.
It turned out to be a coin flip between Rutland's pocket queens and the big slick of Glyn Banks. The dealer cooperated with Brian, laying 6♠ 5♥ 2♥ 7♥ down on the felt. To say there was a lot riding on the river card would be an understatement, especially considering Rutland was the decisive chip leader at the time with close to $400,000 in front of him, just one card away from knocking off another player and substantially fattening his stack.
To Rutland's dismay the river came the K♦, pairing Banks and doubling him up instead of sending him to the rail. Long forgotten was the fact that the hand started out as a coin flip, as Rutland watched the mammoth pot being pushed to the man on his right. Unfortunately for Brian that was not the last time he would be forced to endure a sick twist of fate.
If there was a pot that could have been said to decide this event, apart from the obvious final hand, it would be the one that saw Brian Rutland crippled and Jordan Morgan catapulted to uber-chip-leader status.
Both Rutland and Morgan saw an unraised flop of A♣ Q♠ T♠ with the former in early position and the latter in the big blind. The man we here at PL.com affectionately refer to as J-Mo, or Jo-mo in some cases, made a reasonable bet of $38,000. Brian Rutland, who by the same formula comes out as B-Rut, demonstrated some classic overbetting by raising all-in for well over $300,000.
Morgan thought for a few moments before making a somewhat reluctant call and when the cards were tabled we saw he was in terrible shape. A♥ T♣ for Morgan was in bad shape against the flopped broadway straight Rutland had assembled with his K♣ J♥. In all honesty there were a few members of the media rooting for J-Mo to suck out and apparently the poker gods heard our prayers as the dealer laid the T♥ down on the felt. Drawing dead on the river, Rutland began the arduous task of doubling up the one player no one at the table wanted to see with any chips.
When it got short-handed with a chip lead in front of him, Morgan went on a tear that no one was able to stop.
Between him and his heads-up opponent Terry Hawkins, they got rid of the remaining players and went heads-up with the chips tilting the table slightly in the direction of Hawkins. When it was down to two, however, it was all Jordan Morgan. A great run of hands quickly gave Morgan the lead and after Hawkins decided to put all his eggs in an open-ended straight basket that didn't quite get there, he was out in second and Morgan was champion.
Despite being a regular on the big-buy-in circuit with close to $1 million in tournament winnings to date, Jordan Morgan's resume was surprisingly devoid of a major first-place finish. Although he took down less for his win here than he netted for the runner-up finish at the USPC last year that first brought him to the media's attention, going all the way is worth a lot in itself.
And so in the end skill did prevail as the player who, in PL.com's humble opinion, brought the most to the table and played by far the most disciplined game came out on top.
In an age of corporate deals for poker tournament exclusivity and more media restrictions than the Mississippi has catfish it was a treat to work here as the only outlet doing truly live updates and photography on the fly. Only have 138 entrants? Not too many pros making the trip down? Not to worry; PokerListings.com will be on the scene in force to bring our readers all the action as it happens. And if we have to brave backwoods bandits and bring our trademark Northern tactics to bear on a few Southern belles in the process, so be it.
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