As the intensity builds toward the $5,000 Championship Event at the latest World Series of Poker Circuit stop, two players from opposite ends of the tournament player spectrum captured preliminary titles in Atlantic City.
Tae Ho Baik, who has plenty of experience behind him, won Event 4, while Steve Gill, who was playing in his first major tournament, took Event 5.
Event 4, a $500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament, brought out 312 players Wednesday to battle over the $48,360 first-place prize (out of a $156,000 pool). While Tae Ho Baik came to the final table with the chip lead, he would wage a long battle and have to climb past several strong professional players for the title.
One of the notable pros at the table was David Fox, who has quietly had an excellent 2007 at the tables. Fox, who won a preliminary event at the World Poker Finals in Foxwoods in November and has been close in other WSOPC events, has made 10 final tables this year. He's earned over $600,000 in tournament cashes over the past 12 months, and he would prove to be tough competition for everyone at the final table.
Baik held a slim lead over Fox as the final table began, which was extended when Baik eliminated Dan Lyle in ninth place. Fox wasn't as fortunate in his attempt to run down Baik: first he doubled-up a short-stacked Anthony Stopper when his pocket sixes couldn't fade Stopper's A-J; then found himself dispatched in sixth place when his overcards/flush draw couldn't catch up to Massoud Nikjouian's flopped six.
Baik and Nikjouian proceeded to dominate the remainder of the final table, eventually confronting each other in what would become an epic heads-up battle. With the two nearly even in chips as they began the fight (800k-700k in favor of Nikjouian), a chop was discussed, but Baik wouldn't go for it.
That almost proved to be an unfortunate decision for Baik as, after edging into the lead, his stack was nearly decimated when both he and Nikjouian turned trip nines, with Nikjouian's king kicker providing the edge.
Baik wasn't fazed by the development, however. Over the next 20 hands, he doubled-up several times and was able to take the chip lead back.
As the heads-up fight reached the 100-hand mark, the two combatants got their chips into the middle with Nikjouian slightly ahead with a suited A-5 to Baik's suited K-3. Baik was the fortunate one on this day as his flush draw came home, giving him the WSOPC championship ring and the first-place payday.
Baik, a Seven-Card Stud player who often travels to the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles to ply his trade, picked up No-Limit play to be able to hit the felt in between those trips. His victory in the tournament was hard-fought, as he vanquished the following players at the final table:
|1st||Tae Ho Baik||Leonia, N.J.||$48,360|
|2nd||Messoud Nikjouian||Woodbridge, N.J.||$24,960|
|3rd||Charlie Townsend||Dagsboro, Del.||$12,480|
|4th||Anthony Stopper||Willamsport, Pa.||$10,920|
|5th||Dean Shultz||Akron, Ohio||$9,360|
|6th||David Fox||Caram, N.Y.||$7,800|
|7th||Bob Van Syckle||Spring Lake, N.J.||$6,240|
|8th||Harrison Cammisso||Marlton, N.J.||$4,680|
|9th||Dan Lyle||Kittanning, Pa.||$3,120|
Thursday brought another final table with Event 5, another $500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament, and it was very similar to previous WSOPC events this schedule has seen. A prize pool of $159,900 was amassed from the 319 players who entered, and Steve Gill had a comfortable lead as the final nine players started action.
Gill yo-yoed across the leaderboard throughout the course of final-table play, giving up the lead to Patrick Roberts early. He regained it at the midpoint of the tournament, but was then bettered by Dennis Altman as they played heads-up.
Gill would battle his way back, seizing the lead once again, and this time he would prevail, catching an ace on the river against Altman's pocket fours to take the championship.
Experience-wise, Steve Gill stands in stark contrast to Tae Baik. Gill recently retired from the United States Navy and this was his first major tournament. For his efforts, Gill captured the WSOPC championship ring and the $49,445 first-place prize. He was the last man standing out of these final-table players:
|1st||Steve Gill||Greenville, S.C.||$49,445|
|2nd||Dennis Altman||Polk City, Fla.||$25,520|
|3rd||Adam Lippert||New York, N.Y.||$12,760|
|4th||Patrick Roberts||Harrisonburg, Pa.||$11,165|
|5th||Piotr Kowal||Cherry Hill, N.J.||$9,570|
|6th||Paul Nicholson||Winchester, Pa.||$7,975|
|7th||Vincent Housden||Stanley, Va.||$6,380|
|8th||Bob Newton||High Point, N.C.||$4,785|
|9th||Demonico Barretta||Lincoln University, Pa.||$3,190|
Two $1,000 No-Limit events as well as a $200 Ladies tournament remain on the schedule before action starts Sunday in the $5,000 Championship Event. The remaining action should be on par with that of the other preliminary tournaments, and the $5k event should be one of the largest on the WSOPC this year.
PokerListings.com will be there when the cards hit the felt on Sunday, so tune in for the action in our Live Updates section then.