Mike is a familiar and colorful figure to fans of ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP. Although he asserted that he was a changed man in interviews aired during this year’s WSOP telecast, he remained true to form, baiting his opponents with a running commentary on their play. At the final table of the TOC, he bantered continuously, declaring war on third-place finisher Phil Hellmuth. Phil himself is not known for being reticent at the poker table.
This victory is especially sweet for Matusow, whose personal problems in the past year have been well documented in the poker press. His win reconfirms that he has put those problems to rest. Mike finished ninth in the WSOP main event in Las Vegas in July.
According to published reports, the final table mixed seasoned pros and successful amateurs. Coming in to the final table, Hellmuth was the chip leader with 281,500, Matusow was next with 179,000, and relative newcomer Brandon Adams was third with $135,500. Adams was perhaps the sentimental favorite, as an amateur who had qualified in New Orleans prior to sustaining heavy losses during Hurricane Katrina. Rounding out the final nine players, in descending order of chip position were Tony Bloom, Steve Dannenmann (who finished second to Joseph Hachem in the WSOP main event), Keith Sexton, Hoyt Corkins, Grant Lang and David Levi. Regrettably, Doyle Brunson busted out on the bubble, finishing tenth while short-stacked.
Hellmuth and Matusow had held the chip lead for most of the three-day tournament, but Hoyt Corkins, whose chip stack fluctuated throughout the event, proved a force to be reckoned with at the final table. More than once he held dominant hands. At other times he suffered crushing defeats, for example, losing with A-K to Matusow’s A-Q when play was down to the final three. Facing elimination, Corkins relied on savvy, aggressive play, which enabled him to steal his way back into contention. Through it all he maintained a calm demeanor while Matusow and Hellmuth exchanged verbal barbs.
It was all over for third place finisher Phil Hellmuth when he couldn’t get past Corkins. First he held A-Q against Corkins’ pocket Aces. Several hands later, Hellmuth tried to muscle Corkins out of a pot with no pair. After careful thought, Corkins called the last bet and took the pot with a pair of eights. Hellmuth was finally defeated soon after when he went all-in before the Flop with 10c-8c. Corkins called with Ks-5d. Neither player improved his hand, so the high card took the pot. Hellmuth won $250,000.The final confrontation happened in hand #209. With blinds at $15,000-$30,000, Corkins, on the button (which is also the small blind in heads-up play), called the big blind. Matusow, the chip leader with over $600,000, raised to $60,000 with Kd-9d; Corkins called with Qc-10c. On a flop of Ks-Js-4d, Matusow bet $60,000, Corkins moved all-in and Matusow immediately called with his pair of Kings. With a 2h on the Turn and a 3h on the River, Matusow secured his victory and the million. Hoyt earned $325,000 for second place.
Order of top nine finishers:
1. Mike Matusow - $1,000,000
2. Hoyt Corkins - $325,000
3. Phil Hellmuth - $250,000
4. Tony Bloom - $150,000
5. Steve Dannenmann - $100,000
6. Grant Lang - $75,000
7. David Levi - $50,000
8. Keith Sexton - $25,000
9. Brandon Adams - $25,000
Play at the final table lasted more than 11 hours. According to Nolan Dalla, the WSOP’s reporter of record, “The 2005 TOC concluded in a way which will be the yardstick of all future televised tournaments. Some events, such as the World Series of Poker, may be considerably bigger, but no major poker tournament has ever offered so much human drama as this three-day invitational event. Fortunately, ESPN was there to capture it all for posterity - the special three-hour telecast will air on Dec. 24 from 1-4 pm EST.”
The full text of Dalla’s article can be found on the WSOP official website at http://worldseriesofpoker.com
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