Billirakis' Superfans: Smokey Takes ChicagoCreated By: Owen Laukkanen
It's not known whether the Superfans were in the house on Sunday and it's unclear just how much an advantage a 12-inch-tall Ditka would have had at this feature table, but even with a six-figure first prize on the line, the focus on Day 3 at the World Series of Poker Circuit's Horseshoe Hammond Main Event was clearly on Da Bears.
Indeed, even as the action got under way at 2 p.m. Central Time on the main stage of The Venue on the wrong side of Hammond's multitudinous railroad tracks, all eyes were directed at the two-story-tall television screen parked 10 feet away from the final table, upon which the Bears and the Detroit Lions fought throughout the afternoon.
It made a pleasant diversion though, during the commercial breaks, as the nine survivors from Friday's 165 initial entrants competed throughout the day to reduce that number to a single champion.
Chi-Town's Steve Billirakis entered the day as prohibitive chip leader, his $754,000 good for top spot ahead of a final table that also included online stars Jason DeWitt ($651,000), Dustin "Neverwin" Woolf ($491,000), Thomas "tommyboy83" Koral ($351,000) and Ravi Raghaven ($213,000). Billirakis had held the chip lead off and on throughout the tournament, ending both Days 1 and 2 as chip leader and entering play on Day 3 as the clear favorite to win the day.
Even with Billirakis the favorite, Dustin Woolf must have thought he had a decent shot to take down the title himself. From the first hand on Sunday, however, things went sour for the online icon, as he started the day off wrong when his queens ran into George Dietz' kings to double up the short stack.
A few hands later, Neverwin doubled up Gary Leibovitz after losing a race with pocket sixes to "Sweetness'" big slick, crippling his stack in the process. On the very next hand he'd make a desperation shove with T♥ 9♦ from the button and get a call from Thomas Koral in the big blind with Q♠ 8♣.
The roller-coaster board ran K♣ J♦ 8♥ T♦ 9♣, turning Woolf the straight but rivering Koral the better straight and sending the former Mr. Jennicide packing in the nine spot with $21,677 with which to wipe up his tears.
Then, nothing happened. Maybe the final eight were distracted by the game, but it would take another level and a half before anything major transpired. What did play out, however, would be worth the wait.
Fresh off a level break and holding strong with $825,000 and the chip lead, Billirakis opened for $58,000 from middle position and saw the action fold around to DeWitt, who repopped it to $167,000 from the small blind. Billirakis gave the matter some consideration before moving all-in and DeWitt, to this point second in chips with $800,000 and a stranglehold on a top three or four finish, made the call for his tournament life after five minutes of tankage.
It would prove disastrous for DeWitt, who held A♠ Q♣ and found himself utterly dominated by Billirakis' Q♥ Q♠. The board ran 5♥ 4♥ 2♠ J♦ T♠ and no miracles could save DeWitt, who self-combusted in shocking fashion, shipping a mound of chips over to MrSmokey1 and claiming eighth place (and $25,618) as his own.
DeWitt's destruction seemed to loosen up the table. A few hands after his demise, Ravi Raghaven open-shoved all-in and Thomas Koral looked him up holding A♥ K♦ to Raghaven's J♦ J♥. The board ran A♠ 6♥ 4♠ 5♥ 9♥ and big slick won the race, sending Raghaven home in seventh place for a $31,530 score.
Shortly thereafter, Sameer Al-Dbhany defended his big blind against a pre-flop raise by Kyle Schertz. The flop came A♦ K♣ Q♥ and the Kentucky native check-raised all-in against Schertz, who held A♥ K♦ and was more than happy to call. Al-Dbhany could only muster K♠ 6♠ and, after the turn blanked, was drawing dead and consigned to the rail in sixth, good for $39,413 in the grand scheme of things.
Then George Dietz moved the last of his rather minimal pile of chips into the middle in a desperation shove that saw Schertz make the call in the big blind with nines. Dietz held 6♠ 5♣ and needed a miracle that never came.
The board failed him miserably and he busted in fifth place, taking $49,266 and the company of Kevin "BeLOWaBOVe" Saul as he headed for the exits.
Things calmed down after that. Self-professed "terrible poker player" Gary Leibovitz entertained the crowd by doubling up repeatedly, bringing his stack up to near $1 million before crippling himself by doubling up Koral when his straight, flush and overpair draws failed to hit against Koral's third pair with the latter all-in on the turn.
The four finalists would break for dinner and, upon their return, it would be Schertz who would next be skinned. The young'un shipped on the button with A♦ 7♠ and ran into Koral's pocket nines, and after the board failed to bring any help could not proceed any further, instead hitting the bricks in fourth for a $63,060 cash.
Leibovitz would quickly follow, shoving over top of a raise from Billirakis on the strength of his 6♠ 6♦ and getting a call from MrSmokey1, who held K♥ J♥. The flop was a heartbreaker for Sweetness, coming Q♥ 6♥ 2♥ to give Billirakis the flush while also giving Leibovitz the straight. The board failed to pair on the turn or river and Sweetness was stuffed, the tournament's third-place finisher with an $80,796 consolation prize.
That left just Billirakis and Koral to contest for the title, with MrSmokey1 holding a $2.1 million to $1.2 million advantage over his rival.
The players took a quick break to discuss a deal (details weren't disclosed, but they made one), the two returned to the tables and it wouldn't be long before the tournament was over. After a succession of insubstantial hands, Koral raised to $100,000 on the button and Billirakis put him all-in in the big blind.
Koral thought for barely a moment before announcing a call and tabling 9♥ 9♦, putting him ahead of Billirakis' A♦ 8♠. Smokey's legions of loud and well-lubricated fans swarmed the table, and their desperate exhortations to the dealer may well have played a part in producing the flop that followed: J♦ 8♦ 4♦, giving Billirakis a pair and a flush draw.
The turn was the Q♦ and Smokey made his flush, although Koral could still win the hand by hitting the T♦ for the straight flush. Instead, the river was the 9♠, giving Koral an academic set and clinching the tournament for Billirakis.
The win makes MrSmokey1 the youngest-ever WSOP Circuit winner and earns him bragging rights to a top prize worth $208,885, as well as a shiny Circuit ring, an entry into next year's WSOP Main Event, and an interview with PokerListings.com.
For his runner-up finish, Koral officially takes $126,120. Congratulations to both finalists and to the staff at the Horseshoe in Hammond, who put on a hell of a show this weekend! Oh, and Da Bears won too, 96-14 - and that was the halftime score*.
*actual score was 27-23 Bears, but don't tell the Superfans.
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