After a night off, the 11 remaining players in the IP Poker Classic returned to action for the second day of play. Originally scheduled for three days, the low turnout meant there was a decision for the players to make: if they unanimously agreed, they would be allowed to play through the final table instead of stopping once they reached six, where the payouts began. Everyone quickly agreed and the schedule for the day was set.
Play began on two tables, one six-handed and one five-handed, with blinds at 400-800 and an ante of 75. Depending on how you look at it, the players at the five-handed table actually had an advantage once the cards were in the air: incoming chip leader Mark Wilds was stuck in traffic behind an accident on I-110, turning his 12-minute commute into a 45-minute commute, and thus his tablemates played four-handed. Broc Segura took advantage of the short table - and a few good cards - and made quick work of Del Walker. Walker had raised to 2500 on a steal from the button and Segura called in the small blind. Segura led out for 8000 on the 9h-6d-7s flop, and after a moment or two Walker moved all-in. Segura wasted no time calling with A-9 of clubs for top pair, top kicker, and he found himself well ahead of Walker's 6-2 of hearts for middle pair, bottom kicker. Walker didn't improve, and with 55 minutes remaining on the 8th level he was eliminated in 11th place.
After that hand the remaining players drew new seats at the final table, falling into this order:
1 - "Captain" Tom Franklin (Gulfport, MS)
2 - Don Moseley (Houston, TX)
3 - LJ Naquin (Houma, LA)
4 - Mark Wilds (Biloxi, MS)
5 - Shahnam Mohajerin (Montgomery, AL)
6 - Anthony Battistella (Slidell, LA)
7 - Broc Segura (New Iberia, LA)
8 - Tommy Mixon (Sumrall, MS)
9 - Jerry Connor (Tifton, GA)
10 - Herbert Kelso (Ridgeland, MS)
Just eight minutes after reaching the final table another player was sent to the rail, once again courtesy of Shahnam Mohajerin. LJ Naquin raised from the button and Mohajerin defended his big blind to see a flop of Kh-Qs-2h. Mohajerin checked and Naquin moved all-in for his last 23,075. Mohajerin went into the tank and began talking to himself. "I shouldn't have checked to you," he said. "I have a bad kicker." A smile crossed Naquin's face for a moment, but it vanished when Mohajerin said, "You know what? I'll call you." Naquin turned away in disgust and showed A-T of spades for a gutshot draw with an over card. Mohajerin flipped up K-4 off suit for top pair, low kicker. The turn and river both blanked and Naquin went home without any money.
After Naquin's departure, "Captain" Tom Franklin hit a rush of cards to put himself back in contention. First he came over the top of Herbert Kelso's opening raise with Q-Q and doubled his 10,900 stack through Kelso's 10-10. On the very next hand Franklin opened for 3500 in middle position and Broc Segura called from the small blind. Segura led out for 12,000 on the all-club, Q-J-10 flop, and Franklin moved all-in. Segura called with , and Franklin showed for the flopped nut straight with a royal flush redraw. Franklin's hand held up and he doubled up to over 45,000. The action slowed down after that, and the players cruised through to the end of the level with no more big confrontations.
The action stayed slow throughout the next level (600-1200-100), with most pots being taken down either pre-flop or on the flop. Two short-stacked players did find their way to the rail, though - Don Moseley's A-K fell to Shahran Mohajerin's 3-3, and Tommy Mixon's A-9 ran into Anthony Battistella's 10-10. With seven players remaining, most of the action was driven by big stacks Mohajerin, Broc Segura, and "Captain" Tom Franklin. Mark Wilds stayed back, other than making a few modest pre-flop raises, and short stacks Jerry Connor and Herbert Kelso stayed away from any real confrontations as well, waiting for the blinds to go up again before being forced into action.
Within five minutes of starting the 800-1600-200 level the money bubble had burst, thanks to the departure of Jerry Connor. He called Broc Segura's 4200 preflop raise and saw a flop of . Segura checked, Connor moved all-in, and Segura called instantly. He showed for the nut flush draw, and Connor showed . The river brought another club and Connor floated off as the last player to miss out on a payday.
With everyone in the money, it wasn't long before the big showdowns came. Broc Segura took a 40,000 pot off "Captain" Tom Franklin when he flopped top set with 10-10. Then Herbert Kelso, who had dropped about half his stack without showing down, hit two big hands to surge ahead of most of the table. First he doubled through Shahran Mohajerin with K-K against A-K. Then he made a squeeze play on Franklin and Mohajerin that ended up with him all-in against Franklin; Kelso's hit two pair to crack Franklin's Q-Q and leave the Captain in big trouble. Franklin took his turn doubling up just a few hands later when his 5-5 held against Segura's 2-2 to get him back in the game.
From there the story shifted from repeated double-ups to Shahran Mohajerin's bleeding stack. Mohajerin built most of his stack by calling other players' bets, and he stayed true to the old saying "live by the sword, die by the sword." He called off over 56,000 of his stack in the next 20 minutes seeing flops against almost every other player at the table and folding when he missed. He wasn't tilting in the sense of getting angry with the other players or having big outbursts at the table, but without having seen his cards, tilt is really the only way to describe his descent and exit. After whittling his stack to almost nothing, he moved all-in before the flop holding A-Q and ran straight into Herbert Kelso's A-A. That sent Mohajerin home in 6th place with $5,786.
Less than 15 minutes after Mohajerin's exit, just after the blinds went up to 1000-2000 with a 300 ante, the most accomplished player in the field got his ticket to the cage. "Captain" Tom Franklin got in with the best of it holding Q-Q, but his stack of 13,000 was small enough that Anthony Battistella could afford to call with A-8 of hearts. The flop gave Battistella nine outs, and he picked up five more when the turn card was the . The river brought the to give Batistella the flush, sending Franklin home in 5th place with $9,644.
Herbert Kelso would be the next to go, though it took several hands to lead him out the door. The bulk of his stack made its way to Mark Wilds' when Kelso moved all-in over the top of Wilds' re-raise on a board. Wilds thought for a minute and a half before calling with Q-Q; Kelso held and didn't improve on the turn or river, dropping him back down to the 20,000 range. A few hands later he moved all-in with A-Q over the top of Broc Segura's opening raise, only to run into Anthony Battistella's Q-Q. Kelso finished in 4th place, earning $19,288.
Once Kelso departed, three of the most solid players to make the final table were left and the game went into lockdown. Mark Wilds, Anthony Battistella, and Broc Segura, all fairly evenly stacked, traded blinds and antes for the rest of the level and most of the 1500-3000-400 level as well, either getting walks in the big blind or picking up pots with preflop raises. It was clear from the action (or lack thereof) that nobody was going down without a fight; things would only change if two big hands were dealt out simultaneously or one player made a big mistake. In the end it was a misstep on Broc Segura's part that changed the texture of the table and set the stage for the endgame. Segura fired three barrels against Wilds and ended up on the losing end of a pot worth 150,000 when Wilds called his 40,000 river bet. "I've got nothing," Segura said as soon as Wilds made the call - and that nothing put Wilds in the driver's seat for two full levels.
Wilds did a superb job of leaning on his two opponents with the full weight of his chip stack, but Batistella began pushing back with well-timed all-in moves to keep his own stack from dwindling. Segura also made a few moves, but he never fully recovered from the big pot against Wilds. Finally, on the first hand of the 3000-6000-500 level, Segura came over the top of Battistella's opening raise and ran his A-10 straight into a pair of aces. A 10 came on the flop to give Segura some hope, but he caught no more help and left in 3rd place with $28,932.
When heads-up play began, Mark Wilds held a 240,000 to 170,000 chip lead over Anthony Battistella. He managed to extend that lead to 286,000-124,000 by the time the 4000-8000-1000 level came, but he was unable to put enough pressure on Battistella to force him into a bad play. Toward the end Wilds appeared to lose his momentum and Battistella seized his opportunity, jumping into the lead and never looking back. On the final hand Battistella called Wilds' all-in and his A-K held up against A-9 to take down the championship. The epic 82-hand small-ball heads-up battle lasted nearly two full hours and both men looked worn out when it was done. The payday was well worth it for them, though. Wilds had the second-largest score of his career to date, taking home $48,221 for 2nd place, while Battistella earned by far his largest prize ever at $81,011 for 1st.
The endgame drew out much further than the early pace might have suggested, but it was a fitting finish to the first $5,000 event ever held in Biloxi. Patience and skill triumphed over the small field, providing an antidote to the large-field modern WPT-style tournaments where luck often becomes the biggest factor in winning. The IP Poker Classic main event was obviously smaller than the management would have hoped for, but it was a solid start to what Jim Sterling plans on making a Mississippi Gulf Coast tradition.
*Pictures by Jason Kirk*