After struggling in the tournament arena in 2005, with no final table appearances at the summer World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Daniel Negreanu turned over a new leaf in the early days of 2006, besting a field of 241 players to win the Jack Binion WSOP Circuit Championship event at the Grand Casino, just days after Nguyen’s victory a few miles down the road. The field for this WSOP Circuit Championship event boasted an all-star lineup: among the entrants were Daniel Alaei, Josh Arieh, Tex Barch, Jean-Robert Bellande, Andy Black, Andy Bloch, Dutch Boyd, Humberto Brenes, Chad Brown, Todd Brunson, Eskimo Clark, TJ Cloutier, Hoyt Corkins, Tony Cousineau, Allen Cunningham, Darrell Dicken, Sam Farha, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Layne Flack, Ted Forrest, Bill Gazes, Chau Giang, Alan Goehring, Barry Greenstein, Mark Gregorich, Chris Grigorian, Hasan Habib, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Casey Kastle, Galen Kester, Tuan Le, David Levi, Kathy Liebert, Erick Lindgren, Mike Matusow, Michael Mizrachi, Mark Napolitano, Men Nguyen, Padraig Parkinson, David Pham, John Phan, Joe Sebok, Erik Seidel, Mark Seif, Mike Sexton, Gavin Smith, Bob Stupak, Surinder Sunar, Mimi Tran, Amir Vahedi, James VanAlstyne, Vinny Vinh, David Williams, Robert Williamson, and Steve Zolotow.
The final table was comprised of nine players. Players and opening chip counts were as follows:
- Brian Lamkin $600,000
- Daniel Negreanu $410,000
- Kia Mohajeri $331,000
- Wendell Barnes $237,000
- Robert Schulz $229,000
- Bryant King $200,000
- Lee Markholt $177,000
- Chad Brown $123,000
- Brandon Adams $103,000
Next to go was local hero Robert Schulz, who hails from Southaven, MS, just up the road from Tunica. Playing a short stack, Schulz went all-in with pocket Sevens after a raise by Daniel Negreanu, who made the call and won the pot with pocket Nines. Schulz bagged $68,685 for 8th place.
Negreanu’s next victim was Wendell Barnes, a welder from Massachusetts. When Barnes flopped two pair with A-3 (board of A-3-), he went all-in, only to be stunned by Negreanu’s set of Aces. With running Nines on the turn and river, both players had full houses, but Negreanu’s was the best. Barnes received $91,580 for 7th place.
Fresh off his ninth place finish at the Tournament of Champions in November, Brandon Adams was also short-stacked when he raised with K-9 and called all-in on a reraise by Brian Lamkin, who held A-Q. Lamkin won the hand with Ace high and Adams, a doctoral candidate in finance at Harvard, was eliminated in 6th place, receiving $114,475.
On the very next hand, Brian Lamkin, from Austin, TX, faced the ultimate tournament test: a race for survival with pocket Eights against Kia Mohajeri’s A-K. The board of K-7-2-2-10 gave Mohajeri the winning hand. Lamkin’s fifth place finish netted $137,370.
About an hour after the dinner break, Lee Markholt made an aggressive preflop raise with J-8. It was a case of bad timing, as Kia Mohajeri was holding pocket Aces and reraised all-in. Markholt, in for $119K, was pot committed and called. With a board of T-7-6-5-2, Mohajeri’s Aces held up. Markholt, a former professional bull rider who hails from Washington State, has a win in the Professional Poker Tour $500K free roll in April 2005 to his credit, among his many other profitable tournament finishes. He received $83,160 for fourth place.
After losing a big hand with A-J to Bryant King’s pocket Kings, Mohajeri was severely short stacked, holding less than ten percent of the chips in play. A few hands later, Mohajeri moved all-in with K-J. Negreanu called with A-J and took down the pot when the board offered no support for either player. Mohajeri took home $228,950 in prize money for third place.
Heads up action between Negreanu, with approximately $1.7 million and King, with $699,000 was short-lived. After just five hands, King made his move with K-3 in an effort to counteract Negreanu’s aggressive style. The flop of K-Q-4 seemed to help King, so Negreanu bet out, King raised all-in. It turned out that Daniel held K-9, a hand with that out kicked King’s king. The turn and river were a five and a seven, and Negreanu’s kicker was still kicking. King, who also played at the final table in the WSOP Circuit Championship event at the Grand Casino Tunica in August, received $416,690 for second place.
Daniel Negreanu, 31, is now celebrating his first victory on the WSOP Circuit. He received prize money of $755,525. He also holds three WSOP bracelets, one each from victories in 1998, 2003, and 2004.