Jonathan Little and Ryan Young and, to a lesser extent, Chris Moore.
Young was in the lead but with blinds still at $4,000/$8,000, even the shortest stacks had a little room to maneuver. Because of the amount of play left it was doubtful we'd be seeing a whole lot of movement in terms of eliminations. As it turned out, however, we wouldn't have to wait long at all.
Eugene Todd was the first to bust, finding himself short-stacked and all-in with pocket tens to Jace Markgraf's pocket queens. The next player to go was an unknown to PL.com until this tournament but has such an interesting story to tell that we had to give him a few lines of real estate in this very exclusive wrap-up blog.
Alemu Tesema is a regular in the cash games here at the Wynn, as well as the owner of the raffle ticket that gained him entry into this tournament. The winner of a program set up by the casino whereby hours of play logged in the poker room earn players tickets to a drawing for the seat, Tesema walked away with over $35,000. Considering he didn't even pay the $10k entry, that's quite a tidy profit indeed.
Ricky Chow held the chip lead for much of the time leading up to the final table and was one of the more active players every step of the way. This afternoon he rarely shied away from confrontation which, on this occasion, resulted in him going bust in seventh place. Chow shipped his stack to Ryan Young when he got all-in with pocket tens against the Young-ster's pocket jacks.
Chris Moore wasn't the only one to improve on his performance from a year ago, as Larry Wright cruised past his 12th-place finish from 2007. Making the final table and outlasting a few of the competition earned Wright sixth and over $50,000.
Action today was never breakneck but neither was it at any point unbearably slow. As eliminations occurred the stacks got deeper, but as the hours ticked by the blinds also climbed inexorably higher. All day long the cheering section closest to the media area was populated by the friends of Jace Markgraf, our fifth-place finisher.
Whenever a player was all-in these same players started rooting for Jace, regardless of whether he was in the hand or not. While it is true that any elimination puts more money in the pockets of those still standing, it's uncertain whether the all-in players appreciated the remarks.
Markgraf got all-in, shoving the small blind with Q♠ 8♥ on Ryan Young's big blind. Young, debating whether to call, engaged Markgraf in conversation and apparently picked up some information. He made the call with confidence and tabled the K♥ Q♣ which would be Jace's undoing.
Falling into the vegetable category at this final table was Ardavan Yazdi, who played few hands before getting all-in bad with wired treys to the pocket queens of Blake Cahail. Yazdi did succeed in moving up the cash ladder, netting nearly $100,000, so his tightening-up can hardly be looked at as all bad.
Three-handed, the stacks were once again deep. Not long into this portion of the evening though, Blake Cahail suffered a few big hits and found himself significantly out-chipped by the two remaining big stacks. Ending up all-in and behind with Q♣ T♠ to Ryan Young's pocket jacks, he was paid $177,510 to make way for the heads-up match.
Earlier in the day we remarked that the most entertaining ending to this event would come if Moore and Young faced one another to decide a winner. We got what we were hoping for but, unfortunately, we were only able to enjoy it for a few short hands.
The two began relatively even in chips with the scales tilted slightly toward Ryan Young's side of the table. This didn't last long. Calling a Young button-raise to see a flop of J♠ 8♦ 5♠ flop, Moore nailed top and bottom pair with his J♦ 5♦.
While Moore was mentally celebrating and trying to figure out the best way to get some value, Young must have been doing a victory dance of his own as he looked down at A♥ J♥. Not surprisingly the money went in and Young was left with just $500,000 after the pot was pushed.
Moore succeeded in keeping the pressure on and soon Young's small stack was halved. In a dramatic end to the day's proceedings Moore squeezed just the first card away from the felt and moved all-in when he saw the K♦. Young, not to be outdone, did the same and made the call when he saw he had the A♥.
It's hard to say whether Young would have made the call if he had seen the other card in his hand instead, the 5♥. Moore would have behaved exactly the same way since his other card was the K♠, giving him pocket cowboys and putting the win just a few hair-lengths out of reach.
The board cooperated with Moore and it was all over. Both Chris Moore and Ryan Young put on an amazing show today with some ridiculous plays coming from both; seriously, check out the live updates. By the time they reached heads-up it was obvious each had respect for the other and was greatly enjoying the competition.
Young takes $355,020 for runner-up and Chris Moore takes the $692,286, a model version of the Wynn Hotel and Casino and the knowledge he had taken full advantage of one of these rare situations.