The World Poker Tour arrived in Biloxi, Mississippi for its first stop of 2009 for the WPT Southern Poker Championship as an anxious group of players awaited their opportunity to compete in the $10K buy-in tournament. The Beau Rivage Resort & Casino played host to the event that began on January 14th as a four-day tournament.
A total of 283 players were registered, a larger crowd than the 2008 event by a little more than 8 percent. And notably, the 17 women at the tables comprised 6 percent of the field, which is a larger portion than in most high buy-in tournaments. Despite the increase in players, the prize pool came up just short of the million dollar mark, but the Beau Rivage made a surprising move and added $24,219 to the pool in order that the first prize would be an even $1 million.
Notable professional players traveled to Biloxi in force, such as Erick Lindgren, Barry Greenstein, Hoyt Corkins, Bill Edler, Ted Forrest, Layne Flack, Clonie Gowen, David Singer, Gavin Smith, Men Nguyen, David Pham, Mark Seif, T.J. Cloutier, Scott Clements, John Cernuto, and Brandon Cantu. In addition, defending champion Brett Faustman was in attendance. When the first day came to an end, there were still 175 remaining, with the two top spots on the leaderboard held by women. Esther Taylor had the chip lead with 139,475, and Jacquelyn Scott was a close second with 138,800. The rest of the top five included Bobby Suer, Hevad Khan, and Gary Reed, with Bryan Devonshire coming in at a close sixth.
It was anticipated that Day 2 would be long, but organizers underestimated the time it would take to get to the final 27 players, all of whom would be in the money. Action continued for 16 hours that day - until just after 4:00am - before the bubble burst and players could finally retire for the night.
During the wee hours and in the midst of pure exhaustion, hand-for-hand play was in effect with 28 players remaining when Mike Leah made his initial raise, only to find Allen Carter moving all-in from the big blind. Leah finally called and showed , and Carter turned over . Leah looked as if he might be able to double, but then came the board of and a straight for Carter. Leah was gone in 28th place as the money bubble player, while everyone else was guaranteed a minimum payout of $13,186. The final 27 in-the-money players retired with several big names among them, including Hevad Khan, Vanessa Rousso, Bernard Lee, Ted Lawson, and Jordan Morgan. Carter sat atop the leadboard with 776,000 in chips, followed by Tyler Smith, Stewart Yancik, Florian Langmann, and Soheil Shamseddin.
Day 3 was scheduled to play down to the final six to appear at the final table the following day, and that is exactly what happened. And some of the big names went out early: Jordan Morgan in 26th place, Ted Lawson in 25th, Bernard Lee in 24th, and Hevad Khan in 14th. With the elimination of Gary Reed in tenth place, tensions rose as the final table neared, and it took almost 50 more hands to find Jeff Coutroulis out in ninth place.
Finally, Tyler Smith, who just eliminated Coutroulis, went up against pro player Tony Cousineau. The latter had , and Smith had pocket nines for the coin flip. But the board came , and with the set, Smith eliminated Cousineau in eighth place with a $52,745 prize.
Then it was the dominant player of the day who began the next hand; Soheil Shamseddin raised to 100K, and Vanessa Rousso pushed all-in with . Shamseddin called with pocket tens, and the dealer gave them . The full house was more than good enough for Shamseddin, and a disappointed Rousso had to accept a seventh place finish and the $79,117 that went with it.
With that, the final table was set with six players making their first appearance at a WPT final as follows:
Seat 1: Hilbert Shirey 1,353,000
Seat 2: Bobby Suer 651,000
Seat 3: Tyler Smith 1,271,000
Seat 4: Allen Carter 1,673,000
Seat 5: Soheil Shamseddin 3,061,000
Seat 6: Chuck Kim 386,000
When the cards went into the air on January 17, action began with 15K/30K blinds and a 4K ante.
Action may have been an understatement, as players started slowly and cautiously. Fifteen hands into the final table, Soheil Shamseddin began to lose his massive lead, as Chuck Kim doubled through him. Shortly after, Bobby Suer did the same…twice. Suer then took the chip lead, and Shamseddin was suddenly the short stack less than thirty hands into play.
More double-ups ensued. Shamseddin doubled through Hilbert Shirey to stay alive, and Shirey then doubled through Suer. Chuck Kim was having problems, though, despite doubling through Shamseddin. Suer doubled through Kim, which put him in a dire situation again.
Finally, on the 93rd hand of the night, Kim pushed his 905K into the pot preflop with , and Shamseddin called with . The board looked good for Kim to stay in the game when it came , but the on the river gave the pot to Shamseddin and sent Chuck Kim out in sixth place with $105,490 for the effort.
Tyler Smith was the next to be on the chopping block, and he looked to play the double-up game that so many others were winning. He pushed his short stack of 830K preflop with , Shirey folded pocket sevens face up, but Allen Carter called with pocket queens. The board came , and Carter’s two pair were good. Smith was eliminated in fifth place with $134,500.
As play sped up, Shirey was forced to move his 620K into the pot and did it from the small blind with , only to be called quickly by Suer and his . The dealer slowly gave them , and Hilbert Shirey was ousted in fourth place, which was worth a prize of $184,607.
With three players remaining, Shamseddin was back in the lead with 3.7 million, and Suer and Carter were not terribly far apart with Suer at 2.5 million and Carter at 2.2 million. If play to that point was any indication, there would be more double-ups before the night was over, so unpredictability was the word.
Shamseddin, true to his roller coaster form during the final table, lost his chip lead and had to double through Suer to regain the lead. But Suer came back three hands later to double through Shamseddin. The very next hand found Shamseddin involved with Carter, where both went to see a flop. Both checked to see the on the turn, which prompted a bet from Shamseddin and check-call from Carter. The on the river brought an all-in move from Shamseddin, but Carter immediately called and showed for a set of tens. Shamseddin wanted to muck but was forced to show his and no hand. Shamseddin’s bluff was called, pushing him out in third place with $263,725.
Heads-up play began with the following counts:
Allen Carter 5,085,000
Bobby Suer 3,410,000
With a massive difference between the second place prize of $501,028 and first place of $1 million, neither player was likely to concede easily or quickly.
It was more than twenty hands before there was an all-in and a call. Suer moved with against the pocket deuces of Carter, and the flop brought a king to allow Suer to stay alive and double to 2,430,000. Carter still maintained a substantial lead and Suer would need to double again. He did it six hands later but remained at a 3-1 deficit to Carter’s chip stack.
Soon after, Suer was down to less than 1.2 million again and moved all-in preflop with a solid hand of . Carter called with and would need to improve substantially to win it there. The flop came to give Suer the advantage with the flush draw, but Carter now had a straight draw. The on the turn brought Carter the straight, and the solidified the results. Bobby Suer was forced to settle for a second place finish and $501,028.
Allen Carter won the WPT Southern Poker Championship and the $1 million prize. In addition, he was awarded a WPT bracelet, a Beau Rivage bracelet, and a $25,500 entry into the WPT World Championship set for April at the Bellagio.
(Thanks to WPT Live Updates for specific hand and chip count information.)