When you read a tournament summary, it normally goes something like this: Player A got it all-in vs. Player B, and A got knocked out in 7th place. What is lost in all of this is how play evolves for each player. Doug Kim raised the first two pots of the day only to be reraised out of the pot. Allen Cunningham didn't play a hand for the first ninety minutes or so. Rhett Butler didn't play a hand for a couple of days. Jamie Gold had a VP$IP of 58.7%. Although the big hands are reported, the progress by players comes in small battles. Richard Lee played aggressively at opportune times, raising and reraising to take down flops without showing his cards.
Through all of that, the constant was Jamie Gold. Although Johnny Chan works with Gold, he either coaches him to play a style that Chan rarely employs or Gold basically ignores everything Chan says. Gold likes to see flops while he is holding cards, so he'll limp, raise, or call raises in any position with any cards. His two favorite things to do at a poker table are to bet a player out of a pot and to beat all-in's into pots.
The day started at 2:00PM, with the National Anthem sang strangely by two members of Aerosmith-only in Las Vegas. You would think someone could book Celine Dion or Toni Braxton, even Shakira is coming into to town this weekend. This could have started like a championship boxing bout, with players feeling each other out the first round or two. It didn't, with raises and re-raises the norm for the first round. Dan Nassif reraised Jamie Gold, who called. On a flop of 2-3-5, Nassif pushed and was instantly called by Gold in a manner which has become all too familiar to everyone here, indicating a monster hand. This time, a set of deuces against Nassif's A-K sealed the deal. Overplaying big slick, Rule #1, ended the day for Dan Nassif (9th, $1,566,858).
Allen Cunningham ran card dead through the first three rounds, and even when he tried to make something out of nothing it backfired dramatically, it might have been disastrous had it not been Cunningham at the wheel. Erik Friberg limped as did Cunningham and Jamie Gold. The flop came , and Gold bet $1M with Friberg and Cunningham calling. The hit the turn, and Cunningham bet $2.5M with only Gold calling. The on the river again brought a check by Gold, Cunningham bet $2M begging for a call, and Gold complied. Gold turned over 10-9, and Cunningham flipped up a 9 and then folded (9-7 confirmed by someone close to Cunningham).
It was Richard Lee's show for a period of time as he reached the $20M level and 2nd place through timely raises and bets. A couple of pots made big swings in chips, so every pot was valuable. Most pots were alternated between Lee and Cunningham, with Gold grabbing a pot when he wanted one. Every player was waiting for someone to get a hand to attack Gold, and Erik Friberg, on the short stack, at least thought he stood a good chance of doubling up. The Stockholm online pro moved all-in with jacks only to run into Gold's pocket queens. Friberg finished out in 8th ($1,979,189). The very next hand, Michael Binger raised it to $700k and Cunningham called. On the flop of , Binger moved all-in and Cunningham called with A-Q to Binger's A-10. Binger stood up, ready to head to the exit, yet the came on the turn to give Binger the straight to stay alive. Bizarrely, he then called Paul Wasicka's all-in with A-9o to Wasicka's A-J. Two aces hit on the flop, and the chips Binger had taken from Cunningham quickly shifted to Wasicka. Wasicka continued to build on his short stack, grabbing $2M chips from Doug Kim as he came over the top of Kim's re-raise.
Doug Kim had been a bit of a pinball machine, seeming to be someone targeted by Gold and then picked on by others. He fought back again and again, then picked up pocket 9's and called a raise by Wasicka. The flop came 4-4-3, Wasicka raised $1M, and Doug moved all-in hoping to take the pot down. Wasicka called with queens, a hand virtually impossible not to call with, and Doug Kim was out in 7th ($2,391,520).
Gold won pots indiscriminately. Once, he checked a flop in the dark only to raise Lee out of his flop bet. Another hand after Cunningham called a river bet by Gold to take a pot with ace-high, Gold bet at a board of Q-Q-J-J-x then showed 2-3o. In the midst of this, Michael Binger survived on Allen Cunningham's chips; first doubling up with A-6 vs. Cunningham's pocket 2's then a few hands later with A-Q vs. Cunningham's Q-Js. Gold kept up the pressure and got tangled up with Richard Lee. Gold limped, then Lee raised to $1.2M from the small blind. Gold reraised to $4M, and then Lee decided to draw the line and moved all-in. Gold instantly called and again showed Q-Q to Lee's J-J. That was that, and Richard Lee left in 6th ($2,803,851). Lee was the only player not sporting an online poker logo. "A lot of people approached me with a lot of money to wear their shirt or ball cap, but I just decided I wanted to play for the people who had brought me here: the good Lord, my family, and the people of San Antonio."
Rhett Butler was short the entire final table; to be honest, the last two days he was tight on chips. He played extremely tight today, and then moved on a raised and called for his last chips with pocket 4's. Cunningham and Gold checked a jack-high flop, and then Gold bet on a blank turn and then showed K-Jo. He didn't catch one of two 4's, and the gentleman Rhett Butler was out in 5th ($3,216,182).
Cunningham dug himself a hole quickly when it went four-handed. He raised to $800k with Gold and Wasicka calling. The flop came A-J-9 all hearts and all checked, and then came on the turn. Wasicka bet $1M, Cunningham then raised $3.975M, and then Wasicka moved all-in. Cunningham contemplated the call but folded, and then Wasicka turned over K-Q amid the roar of his fan base. That cut Cunningham down to the short stack with under $8M. And that changed things for him as he slipped further and further behind. Over a span of twenty hands, he moved all-in five times to take the pot. With Binger raising and Gold making the call, Cunningham moved in again for another $6.5M. Binger folded, but Gold sniffed a weak move and called with . Cunningham turned over pocket 10's, and Gold pumped his fist as he's apt to do when he's dominated a player. He wasn't dominant, but it was a good call for what turned out to be a 45/55 dog. A-K-8 hit Gold hard, and Cunningham needed either running cards for a straight or a 10 to make a set. He didn't improve, and Allen Cunningham finished 4th ($3,628,513). An intensely private person, he left quickly without the ESPN and other media opportunities to ask questions. Maybe in his mind, there were no good questions and fewer answers. He played his best, he lost, and that was that.
The crowd roared their accolades on Cunningham, and the supporters and players left crowed even louder. Each of them now knew they could actually win this event. Jamie Gold, with a monster chip lead, must have felt this for several days, but with the most talented and experienced player gone, he must have felt it was a certainty. For Wasicka and Binger, they knew it just took one to knock out the other or a couple of double-ups to make this a horse race.
The race came quickly enough, and it stunningly included all three players. Gold limped from the button, then Wasicka completed from the small blind, then Binger raised to $1.5M, and both players called. The flop came , Binger bet $3.5M into the $4.5M pot, and then Gold moved all-in. Wasicka folded, and Binger made the call. Here are the cards of the three, as it was a critical hand: Binger had for top pair, and Gold incredibly had for the low straight draw and a backdoor flush draw, and Wasicka folded . Just to be clear, Wasicka folded the 53% favorite hand. The next cards just added insult to injury for both players, bringing the straight and falling harmlessly for Gold. The third spade would have tripled up Wasicka, but instead Michael Binger was eliminated in 3rd ($4,123,310). Wasicka would have had $39M in chips, and he would have won 2nd place money even if both players were knocked out. An incorrect play and it would cost him a chance at the title.
Six hands later, it was over. Gold raised it up to $1.7M, and Wasicka called. The flop came , Wasicka bet $1.5M and Gold moved all-in. Gold did his chatting thing, and he talked his opponent into making the call with an under pair of pocket 10's. Gold immediately tossed over for top pair. finished the board, and that Q-9 will always be remembered by Jamie. But this wasn't 10-2 of Doyle, Gold had a big stack that he built by grabbing the chips of the others. He knocked out every player at the final table except Doug Kim at this table. Did he have luck? Every champion has. We forget Doyle and Stuey and on and on. Gold played great all day and night, and he earned the bracelet (1st, $12M). Paul Wasicka's 2nd ($6,102,499) was also earned as he scrapped and clawed his way through the last two day. And there is a new king of poker, Bodog now is behind reigning king.
"I'm no where near the best player in the world, but I played at their level," said Jamie gold. "At least for a moment."