"That was just a wonderful feeling," he said of winning. "I think two gold bracelets is like shooting par. As a poker player you expect to have two so it felt good to get that."
Known for his black cowboy hat and matching clothing, the 47-year-old Corkins was a regular on the tournament circuit in the early 1990s, and he first made his mark on the WSOP in 1992 with a victory in the $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha event. But he virtually disappeared from the circuit shortly afterwards.
"My grandmother died and then my father died suddenly of cancer," Corkins said. "I was very close to them. My father supported my efforts in poker, so it was a crippling blow for me. I needed to take time off from poker to deal with my emotional losses."
Corkins, who had previously split time between his home of Glenwood in southeast Alabama, Las Vegas and the casinos in Mississippi, decided to stay home on the farm for awhile, where he raised cattle. But as is the case with most players, the poker bug bit again. With all of the televised action, Corkins couldn't resist and decided to travel to tournaments again.
In August 2003, he final tabled a tournament at the Jack Binion Mid-America Classic in Tunica, Miss., but his true coming out party came three months later at Foxwoods. It was there that Corkins defeated a final table that included Phil Hellmuth to win the main event of the World Poker Finals for a $1.1 million payday and instant celebrity status thanks to the World Poker Tour's coverage on The Travel Channel.
Corkins continually frustrated Hellmuth with his aggressive play, leading the "Poker Brat" to dub Corkins "Mr. All In."
Corkins said he thought Hellmuth's reaction to his play was quite comical.
"Phil, despite what people say, makes a very good poker show," he said. "Some may say that he is overly dramatic, but that drama makes the show more intense. I used that strategy because of an article that he wrote in Card Player. He had just played Toto Leonidas at the U.S. Poker Championship a couple of months earlier and wrote in detail about it. Poker is about using information to your advantage, and Phil gave me all the information I needed."
The Alabama Cowboy travels just about anywhere on the circuit, usually hitting the big buy-in events. He now lives in Las Vegas, so it's easy for him to hit the WSOP events pretty hard each summer. Corkins attributes much of his success to his loving girlfriend Natalie.
"She encouraged me to get back on the circuit and helps me keep my mind straight" he said. "She goes with me everywhere and handles the little details of life that can sometimes be very overwhelming for a poker player when he has spent all his mental energy in the game.
Corkins' game was certainly on two weeks ago when he pulled through a field of 847 to take his second crown. He led the tournament practically wire to wire. Corkins was the chip leader after the first day and at the beginning of the final table. He never lost his lead at the final table on the way to the win.
He said a key hand that helped him pull ahead was the 11th hand of the final table. Alan Sass raised from the cutoff to 44K. Corkins got A-9 off in the big blind (blinds were 8K-16K) and he called. The flop came A-9-7 and Corkins bet 65K into a 100K pot. Sass called. The turn was the 3 of diamonds. Corkins bet 200K and Sass called. The river was another 9. Corkins bet 400,000 and Sass called. (Sass held A-J.)
"That gave me a commanding lead and I had the tournament under control," Corkins said.
He stumbled later in a few spots, but finally beat young internet pro Terrance Chan heads up for the win and $515,000. After the win, he was presented with his gold bracelet by good friend Doyle Brunson.
Corkins said his post-win celebration was very low key, with just a small gathering at a friend's house. He was in bed by midnight.