The coveted PokerListings.com interview. Among their number were such Circuit All-Stars as Lou Esposito, Doug Carli, Hilbert Shirey, John Racener, Carlos Uz, Benjamin Hock and the always-entertaining Ed Corrado, as well as surprise guests Beth Shak and 2007 WSOP bracelet winner Robert Cheung, among others.
In total, the field's contributions to the tournament coffers amounted to a prize pool totaling $585,000, with 18 players scheduled to take a cut. Of those18, the lowest of the low would earn $6,677, with the top nine finishers guaranteed five figures and second place earning $94,597. First place would be a reasonable $180,290, by far the most ever awarded in an Enduropoker competition, but fairly small as far as Circuit events go.
The plan for Day 1 was to play down to the money, meaning the field had to be reduced by 99 names before anyone who wanted to be paid could get any sleep. It took 14 hours to reduce the field to 20, upon which point there transpired one of the strangest hands PokerListings.com has ever seen.
With 20 players remaining, an exhausted Dale Poynter open-shoved all-in for 15 times the big blind. The only complication was that Poynter was in the big blind himself. Further compounding the issue was the fact that nobody else had acted on the hand.
The floor was called and the all-in was deemed binding, meaning Poynter was all-in before anyone else had even looked at their cards. As it turned out, dude managed to escape unscathed (and wound up with a third-place finish, no less) when his A-Q held up against A-J, but it was still a delightful example of the kind of hijinks the Enduropoker novice will discover should this genre get off the ground.
Anyway, a couple of hours later the bubble burst and the field was released to bed with exactly eight hours separating them from the morrow. When they returned, the procession to the exits was all Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, with all of the short stacks who'd limped into the money taking off to reacquaint themselves with their pillows.
Among the eliminatees were Philip Sparta (12th), Robert Cheung (11th) and Beth Shak (16th), the latter of whom had been short-stacked since Sunday noon but had found her way into the money by playing a style most resembling a tundra lichen in its tenacity.
By four in the afternoon the final table was set, and at this point the peculiarities of the optimal Enduropoker strategy were made clear. Wilbur Futhey, a retired plush toy magnate (swear to God), had played the entirety of the day (and most of the day previous) carpet-bombing the competition with massive all-in overraises and open-shoves, despite being adequately stacked for more decent play.
His sleep-deprived opponents found they couldn't resist the sweet easy seduction of the all-in call and, whether by bad luck, Futhey suck-out or grievous mental error, all succumbed one by one to Ol' Wilburforce's rapidly expanding stack.
Such a strategy, it must be said, failed to produce any uniform growth in Futhey's chip stack, but the Circuit regular rode the roller-coaster throughout the day, repeatedly dodging certain elimination and meanwhile sending Michael Iacovone home ninth ($11,129) and Doug "Rico" Carli home fourth ($44,516), while West Virginia's Steven Merrifield was doing the same to the rest of the table, albeit with less bombast and all-innery.
Ultimately, Futhey and Merrifield joined the aforementioned Poynter three-handed for the title, with Futhey holding a substantial chip advantage over his two rivals. A Merrifield suck-out and his subsequent elimination of Poynter (third, $55,645) would give The Kid a slight lead over Futhey, but suck-out is as suck-out does and it wouldn't be long before the river was straight kicking Merrifield's behind.
Despite each holding stacks of about 50x the BB, the final two combatants got it on and over with within 20 hands of heads-up play.
The biggest hand of the tournament saw Merrifield come within one card of ultimate victory before a heart on the river gave Futhey a flush in an all-in race situation, all but crippling Merrifield and sealing the deal for the Tennessee native.
A few hands later, Merrifield got all-in with A-10 and found himself up against Futhey's A-K. The flop came Q-Q-6 and changed nothing, but the T♥ on the turn must have looked like heaven for the Merry Ploughman. Then the dealer turned the J♣ on the river and as Merrifield wallowed in misery Futhey calmly stood up and accepted his prize like he knew it was coming all along.
For first place, Wilbur Futhey earned the $180k, plus a shiny Circuit ring and an entry into the WSOP Main Event this year, while Merrifield took home almost $95k in an impressive second-place effort. Meanwhile, the WSOPC has stumbled upon a new and exciting form of poker, so it could be that we're all winners in this crazy game. Or maybe we're just sleep-deprived.
All jokes aside, the dealers, poker room staff and tournament directors at Caesars Indiana were superb and supremely competent, despite their head-scratcher of a tournament schedule. We'd gladly support Enduropoker in the future, but we'd suggest it be advertised as such next time to avoid any confusion.
By the way, check out our live updates page for the full details of how the tournament played out. And check out our results page for the results. Then go back to Live Tournaments central and let us take a nap or something, geez.