Harrah's Rincon, near San Diego, the latest stop on the World Series of Poker Circuit, provided plenty of action and excitement as spectators witnessed a Main Event final table composed of nine highly competitive and successful players. Among them were:
Gavin Smith, the 2005 Player of the Year, with almost $3 million in tournament winnings to date;
Gavin Griffin, who holds a WSOP bracelet from taking down a Pot Limit Holdem event in 2004, at the time the youngest player to do so;
Peter "Nordberg" Feldman, winner of the Harrah's New Orleans Circuit event in May of 2006;
Davidson Matthew, who finished second in last year's Five Star Classic Championship at the Bellagio, winning just under $2 million;
Shane "Shaniac" Schleger, a professional player with a consistent record of cashes, who won a No-limit holdem event at last year's LA Poker Classic.
Rounding out the field were Danny Wong, who boasts a win in the $2500 No-limit event at the Bellagio's Five Diamond in December, along with a second place finish at the Bellagio Cup II main event in 2006; Erik Cajelais, winner of the $5,000 buy-in event at Five Diamond in December; Jerry Renfroe, who took second place in the Circuit Championship at Harrah's Lake Tahoe in 2006; and Yoon Kim, with several tournament cashes under his belt.
As the players convened at the final table, their chip counts were as follows:
Peter "Nordberg" Feldman: 444,000
Gavin Griffin: 390,500
Erik Cajelais: 270,500
Danny Wong: 244,500
Shane "Shaniac" Schleger: 205,500
Davidson Matthew: 119,500
Gavin Smith: 71,000
Yoon Kim: 45,500
Jerry Renfroe: 19,000
Peter Feldman, who bested a field of 181 entrants on his way to the win, led the field throughout most of the three-day tournament. After taking the chip lead on Day 1, he never relinquished it. This was an historically significant result, as Feldman is now tied with Chris "Jesus" Ferguson as the only players with two WSOP Circuit Championship victories apiece. Ferguson won this event in 2005, along with the championship at Harrah's Las Vegas later that same year. Feldman's other win came at the May 2006 Circuit Championship in New Orleans.
The field at Harrah's Rincon was full of name players, among them Amir Vahedi, Joe Tehan, Chantal McNulty, Barry Greenstein, Alex Jacob, Amir Vahedi, Brandon Cantu, Phil Gordon, Layne Flack, Kathy Liebert, Bill Edler , Joe Sebok, Larry Vance, Tim Anders, Allen Kessler, Chris Ferguson, Erick Lindgren, Carlos Mortensen, Jordan "Ims0Lucky0" Morgan, Justin Bonomo, Brett Richey, Max Pescatori, Michael Binger, Ken Goldin, Jason Stern, Ralph Perry, Robert Willimason III, Scotty Nguyen, James van Alstyne, and Annie Duke.
The final table convened at 2PM on Thursday, Feb. 22. It took just under eight hours until the winner was declared.
Short-stacked, Jerry Renfroe was the first out. With blinds at $3K/6K, a $500 ante, and only $30K left, he went all-in holding A-10 offsuit over the top of a raise from Davidson Matthew, only to discover he was up against Matthew's pocket Tens. The board of 5-7-7-K-J brought no help. Renfroe, of San Luis Obispo, CA, took home $17,337 for ninth place.
Several hands later brought the demise of Yoon Kim. He went all in with pocket Aces and was called by Gavin Griffin, who had raised in early position holding pocket Kings. It was all over for Kim as the cards came J-2-K-Q-6 and Gavin's flopped set of Kings prevailed. Kim, a real estate agent from Milwaukee, WI, earned $26,005 for his eighth place finish.
Shortly afterward, Gavin Smith made his exit, going all-in with A-Q offsuit in the big blind over a raise by Feldman. Feldman, with pocket Sevens, made the call. It was all over for Smith as Feldman flopped a set, then rivered quads. Smith collected $34,674 for seventh place.
Shane Schleger was the next casualty of his opponent's quads. Multiway action occurred with four players seeing the flop in an unraised pot. On the flop of 9-9-7, Schleger bet $23,000. Matthew raised to $46,000. Schleger called and the two players saw another 9 on the turn. After Matthew checked, Shane moved all-in. It was a case of bad timing, as Matthew called, showed 9-3 offsuit for quads, and took it down. Schleger, who did not show his hand, earned $43,343 for sixth place. This professional player, originally from New York City, now resides in Santa Monica, CA.
The very next hand saw the departure of another skilled player. Erik Cajelais, with J-10 suited, found his flopped top two pair up against the flopped straight of Danny Wong, who held 9-8, when the cards came J-10-7. The turn and river did not help Cajelais. The poker pro from Montreal, Canada was out in 5th place, earning $52,011.
Shortly after a break and an increase in blinds to 4K/8K with a $1,000 ante, Danny Wong found himself calling all-in against Feldman, after the latter reraised holding A-Q. Wong, with K-Q, was in trouble. The flop of 7-10-9 gave him a gutshot draw, but the turn and river came A, Q and he was finished. Wong, a 22 year old pro from Walnut, CA, took home $69,348 for fourth place.
With three players remaining, Feldman held 880,000 chips, Matthew, 650,000, and Griffin, 230,000. A key hand for Griffin occurred about nine hands in, as all three saw the flop in an unraised pot. Everyone checked on a board of . The on the turn brought a $10,000 bet from Griffin, which Matthew called. The river brought the . Griffin checked, Matthew bet $60K. Griffin called, then mucked his hand when his opponent showed him 4-3.
It was over for Griffin five hands later, also by the hand of Matthew, who raised to $25K from the small blind with . Griffin came over the top, moving all-in for $142K with pocket Sevens. The board came -Td]-, giving Matthew the runner-runner flush. Griffin's third place finish earned him $86,685. He hails from Orange County, CA, and is a professional poker player.
When heads-up play commenced, Feldman held 1,011,000 in chips to Matthew's 799,000. For about 19 hands, there was not much in the way of action. Finally, on hand 20, Feldman took a sizeable pot with A-7. He reaised preflop, Davidson called, and the two saw a 5-6-7 rainbow flop. Feldman bet $35K and his opponent checkraised to $100K. Peter called, and both checked when a Jack came on the turn. A deuce on the river and Matthew check-called Feldman's bet of $120K. He mucked when he saw Feldman's pair of sevens.
After another 20 uneventful hands, the players went on dinner break. They returned to blinds of 6K/12K with a 2K ante. On hand 48, it was finally over for Davidson Matthew. He called Feldman's preflop raise to $36K. The flop came . Matthew checked; Feldman bet 50K and Matthew raised to 100K. When Feldman raised another 200K, Matthew went all-in. But his A-4 was no match for Feldman's A-K. The turn and river were the . Matthew, a poker pro from Toronto, Canada with many significant cashes to his credit, took home $147,364 for his second place finish.
Peter "Nordberg" Feldman's win here garnered him $280,859. In addition to the prize money, he received a $10,000 entry into the 2007 WSOP Main Event, along with $1,000 in expenses and the WSOP Circuit Championship gold ring. Peter, a poker pro, hails from Harper Woods, MI.
*Photo courtesy of Poker Player Newspaper Online*