World Poker Tour host and poker ambassador Mike Sexton topped a field of poker's greatest players to take home the $1 million first place prize at the third annual World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOPC) Tournament of Champions (TOC) at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino's Amazon room in Las Vegas.
After 17 hours of grueling final table play, Sexton came out on top of a field of 27 pros in the invitation only freeroll, including last year's champion Mike Matusow who made it to the final table but was knocked out in third place after Sexton called his all-in re-raise. Matusow earned $250,000 of the total $2 million prize pool.
"I got tired. I played spectacular most of the day. I was in 'the zone,' but I slipped," Matusow admitted afterward. "On the final hand, I pressed too hard, and I lost. Mike played amazing poker. I've played against him a thousand times. He made the right call. I am the first to say I was defeated."
"I wanted to defend my title so bad," he said. "It sucks, especially because I'm the one who screwed up."
Second place finisher Daniel Negreanu battled heads-up against Sexton for more than five hours before being knocked out by the poker television host at just past 6 a.m. and collecting $325,000.
"It was really tough - there were a lot of great of players at this final table," said Negreanu, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner. "Looking back, I really do not have any regrets about the way I played my hands. I must have missed just about every big draw I had, and that cost me in the end."
For Sexton, who won his first and only WSOP bracelet in 1989 in Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better, this was his first major win in 17 years. Due to his busy schedule as a poker commentator on television, Sexton doesn't have the time to compete in as many tournaments as he would like.
"I am so happy to win," a choked up Sexton said in a post-victory interview. "To win the million-dollar prize and this title means everything to me…To come back again all these years later and win this tournament, especially against such tremendous competition, in addition to defeating a great champion like Daniel Negreanu after five hours, really makes me proud."
Sexton now stands among the top 10 for all-time number of finishes in the money at the WSOP with 37 cashes. He has nearly $2.7 million in total tournament winnings.
Sexton helped to create the TOC when he suggested the idea of an exclusive yearly tournament which would feature only the greatest poker champions in 1998. That idea formed the nucleus for the TOC.
"When I first helped to create the TOC concept, it was really ahead of its time," said Sexton. "I am thrilled to see [Harrah's Entertainment] take that idea and create its own World Series of Poker-version of the TOC. Of course to actually play in it and win it - well, that's justice."
Sexton will be donating half of his winnings to a collection of his favorite charities.
"I have been blessed with so much good fortune," Sexton said. "I really want to give something back from the game that has been so good to me and has taught me so many things."
Final table results were as follows:
|1st||Mike Sexton||Las Vegas, Nev.||$1,000,000|
|2nd||Daniel Negreanu||Las Vegas, Nev.||$325,000|
|3rd||Mike Matusow||Las Vegas, Nev.||$250,000|
|4th||Chris Reslock||Atlantic City, N.J.||$150,000|
|5th||Andrew Black||Dublin, Ireland||$100,000|
|6th||Darrell Dicken||Waterloo, Iowa||$75,000|
|7th||Chris "Jesus" Ferguson||Pacific Palisades, Calif.||$50,000|
|8th||Kido Pham||Dallas, TX||$25,000|
|9th||Daniel Bergsdorf||Umea, Sweden||$25,000|
Of the 27 players who competed in the TOC, 17 busted out in the first day, including poker legend Doyle Brunson. The list of players invited to compete this year included each of the WSOPC event winners from August 2005 through June 2006 (12 seats), as well as those players who made it to the final table of the 2005 WSOP Main Event (nine seats). The remaining places were filled by individuals selected by Harrah's Entertainment and its sponsors (six seats), a decision made amid intense controversy late last year.