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Gavin Griffin rewrites poker history at Borgata
Gavin Griffin was no stranger to making history before the final table of the Borgata Poker Classic. After his trip to Atlantic City, he and history are better acquainted than ever.
Though he appeared poised to take down the Borgata event from early on in the tournament, the final table - and in particular, defeating incoming chip leader David "Big Dragon" Tran - would prove to be the most difficult part of his journey into the record books.
The action started at a quick pace as the shortest stack at the table decided to go big or go home. Ervin Prifti wasted no time, shoving all-in for his last $285,000 over the top of Tran's opening raise of $120,000 on the fifth hand of the final table. Tran made the call with A-K and found he had Prifti's K-Q dominated. The best hand held up and Prifti left in sixth place with $233,600.
Lee Watkinson entered the day as the second-shortest stack, knowing he would need assistance from the poker gods to make any headway. He looked to be on his way back into contention with a double-up at the expense of Noah "fourUhaters" Schwartz on the 13th hand, but Schwartz would strike back in their second confrontation just six hands later.
Watkinson found himself in bad shape with 7-7 against Schwartz's 8-8, and when the board failed to improved his hand, Watkinson was finished. He claimed $282,799 for fifth place.
The breakneck pace slowed when play became four-handed, and the chip counts evened out when Griffin doubled up local player Thomas Hare and then dropped a $2,100,000 pot to Tran, sending his stack down to $3,100,000.
To make things worse for Griffin, Tran continued to build on his already-substantial chip lead by taking out Schwartz in fourth place, winning a race with K-Q against Schwartz's 9-9. (Schwartz won $331,958.)
Griffin's tumble continued when he dropped a $2,300,000 pot to Tran, whose A-Q was god with an ace on the river. At that point Tran was up to $9 million, while Griffin himself only held $2,600,000. That left him trailing Hare, who stood at $3,600,000.
As bad as things might have looked at that point for Griffin, he began to see light at the end of the tunnel when he found himself the beneficiary of a board Hare couldn't escape. Hare had flopped two pair with A-7 on the all-clubs, A-9-7 board, but Griffin's Q-10 of clubs had flopped the flush.
When the board failed to pair, Griffin crippled Hare; he eliminated Hare on the next hand with K-Q vs. K-3 to make it a two-man battle.
Tran entered the heads-up match with a lead of $2,200,000, but Griffin quickly grabbed the advantage. Tran fought back, reclaiming the lead that had once been his and signaling that the final match-up was going to be a brawl.
A classic race looked like it might end the night with Tran as champion when he moved all-in with 9-9 and Griffin called with A-Q, but a queen on the flop sealed it for Griffin and dealt a crushing blow to Tran's stack.
Though it might have appeared otherwise, the battle still wasn't over. Tran picked up a pair of aces to double up to $3,900,000. Not too long afterward he looked like he was going to make it a very long match indeed, getting in with A-K against Griffin's A-8, but the board came 10-5-2-3-4 to give both players the wheel and chop the pot.
The Big Dragon never recovered his momentum after that split pot. Instead his stack see-sawed between short and shorter. He lost one big hand where Griffin held the nuts, but then doubled up his short stack twice with 10-6 and 9-9.
Griffin finally dealt the coup de grace with Q-J against Tran's K-8, taking the final $1,200,000 in chips with a straight to secure his place in poker history.
Griffin claimed $1,401,109, a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a Tag Heuer watch and a $25,000 seat in this season's WPT Championship for his win. Tran, for his part, took home $737,685.
To relive all the excitement of this historic final table - and the entire tournament leading up to it - visit the Live Tournaments section, where PokerListings.com's debonair men of action Arthur Crowson and Matthew Showell captured all the details.