The day began with a final table of nine, consisting of a number of well-respected (if not exactly well-known) online and circuit pros, including Doug "Rico" Carli, Larry Vance, Everett Carlton, Jeff "MrRain" Banghart and John "JohnnyK" Kincaid. By the end of the day, none of those men would have finished any higher than fourth, with the eventual champion turning out to be a recreational player who won his seat in a freeroll at his local bar.
Play at the final table commenced at 2 p.m., following a lavish ceremony featuring showgirls, cash, and Elvis vs. JXL's "A Little Less Conversation" played on repeat for an hour and a half. Their brains perhaps numbed by the hitmaking juxtaposition of The King's distinctive voice and that incessant driving backbeat, the players were slow off the starting blocks, with calls for hard liquor ringing out from the table as a means of stimulating some action.
Eventually, however, the action got going, with Everett Carlton the first casualty after his A♥ 9♣ fell victim to Jeff Banghart's A♠ 3♠ when three spades came on the board. A few hands later, Thadd Wolff would see his tournament come to a premature end after he moved his short stack into the middle with A♣ 7♠ and fell victim to Kosta "Gus" Sengos' Big Slick.
On the first hand after the first level break of the day, both John Kincaid (J♦ 5♠) and Doug Carli (A♠ K♦) dished their chips into the middle, with Banghart only too happy to call with his pocket nines. Despite his promises to buy the dealer a yacht "with training wheels" if she rolled another nine, the board paired Carli's ace to double him up while sending Kincaid off after the showgirls in sixth place.
Then it was Larry Vance's turn to go. The native of Torrance, Calif., got his hurting stack into the middle with 9♦ 8♥ and was called by Gus Sengos, who showed K♣ Q♦. The board could not provide Vance with any salvation, and he left the tournament area the beneficiary of a $33,885 consolation prize.
Vance's circuit pro counterpart, Doug Carli, was next. Carli had nursed a small stack throughout the tournament, playing his trademark extremely solid poker to continually inch his stack upwards just enough to stay in the hunt. Carli hit the rail in fifth place for $40,662.
At this point, all signs still pointed to a heads-up confrontation between chip leaders Von Duhn and Banghart. The two men would get their confrontation, but it wouldn't take them until heads-up to get it. Shortly after Carli's elimination, The Chicago Kid and MrRain got into it in a big way, betting heavy post-flop and then getting the money in on the turn with the board showing Q♥ T♣ 2♥ T♥.
Banghart showed 5♥ 4♥ for the flush, but Von Duhn had 9♥ 8♥ for the better flush, and MrRain was drawing dead. The hand knocked him down to his last $65,000, and a few hands later, the Rain finally dried up, courtesy of Sengos, who turned top two pair against Banghart's top pair, deuce kicker. Again drawing dead on the turn, Banghart left in fourth place for $54,216.
With Banghart gone and Von Duhn possessing all of the chips, it now seemed obvious that the Chicago Kid was going to take down the tournament. The only question was: Who would he defeat heads-up to win it?
Sengos, however, had other ideas. The native of Sioux Falls, S.D. had earned his ticket to the event by winning a freeroll in his local bar, and had seemingly brought nearly half of his home state's population to watch him play the tournament. With his entourage cheering every blind steal he made and walk he received, "Gus" was not going to let Von Duhn deprive his friends of an opportunity to really make some noise.
Shortly after rivering quad threes against Paul Kraus, Sengos found himself staring at another crab-happy board, this time getting all the money in with the Chicago Kid on a board of 5♦ 3♣ 3♠ K♠ 3♥. Sengos didn't have the case trey this time, but he didn't need to as his A♣ 5♠ for threes-full was more than enough to beat Von Duhn's out and out bluff with J♥ 9♦.
With that hand, the balance of power made a massive shift to Sengos' side of the table. Von Duhn was crippled and soon eliminated, and the field was narrowed to only Sengos and Kraus, who would play heads-up for the six-figure paychecks and the showgirl-baiting prestige.
With Sengos arriving in heads-up play with a 3:1 chip lead, all signs pointed to a quick and painless end to the tournament. What followed was not quick and definitely not painless, as it turned out to be one of the longest and least exciting heads-up matches since Maureen Feduniak took Anders Henriksson to the break of dawn before finally checking her hand down one last time to give the Swede the bracelet in Event 45 of the '06 WSOP.
Sengos and Kraus played a cat and mouse game while heads-up that saw neither man appear very willing to take much of a risk. Raising was pretty well out the window, as was bluffing at a pot or betting with anything less than the nuts. Once in a while Sengos would bet on the river after both players had done their usual "check it down" routine, and Kraus would fold and Sengos would chip up.
Then after a number of these hands, and just when it would seem as though Kraus' stack would finally dwindle, the man would double up and the "action" would keep right on going. It grew to be laughable, with tournament directors and even Sengos himself cracking a smile at the ridiculous, over-cautious and sleep-inducing play.
Eventually something had to give, and after Sengos won a huge pot against Kraus with A-K against K-10 on a king high board, many thought that the South Dakotan had won the tournament. It was not to be, however, as Kraus inexplicably had Sengos out-chipped by a very slim margin, and after adjourning for a 20-minute level break, "Gus" returned with his entourage to finish his opponent off.
The final hand of the tournament very nearly went to Kraus, which would have re-upped the Californian and given him the chance to check-check-check for another hour or two. Kraus got all-in with Q♣ T♣ and was in good shape against Sengos' J♦ 8♠, but after the 8♦ hit on the river to give Gus a pair, the tournament was finally over.
Sengos, teary-eyed from exhaustion and extreme gratitude at whatever higher being had ended that torturous marathon, was mobbed by his pals from the Rushmore State, who no doubt will make South Dakota THE party state for the next fifteen years or so.
For finishing second in the WSOPC Horseshoe Council Bluffs, Paul Kraus receives $115,209, while Sengos gets $219,576, as well as a fancy ring and a buy-in to the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event. Congratulations to both finalists, and special congratulations to the staff at the Horseshoe, who ran a fantastic tournament in every way.
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