In many tournaments at the 2009 World Series of Poker, Day 3 is the one that brings the final tablists back to play for the win. Some tournaments, however, that play down slower than anticipated, find the third day comprised of still having to play down to that final table and then look for the ultimate champion and bracelet winner. Such was the first $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em event of the summer.
Out of the original 2,791 players, only 337 survived the first day of carnage, but the second day slowed dramatically and found 33 remaining at the end of play. When those 33 returned on Thursday, June 4, it took quite a few hours to thin the field, as the minimum take-home was $15,429 but the first place prize was $666,853.
The last table of ten players was discovered after Gary Tang was eliminated in 11th place, but one more needed to go before the official final table of nine was set. Finally, it happened when Jason Kalb pushed all-in preflop with pocket jacks. Craig McConville called with , and it was off to the races until two kings came on the flop. The entire board ran out K-K-3-3-5 to give McConville the full house and give Jason Kalb the tenth place finish, which was worth $56,955.
After a much-needed dinner break, the players returned for the final table action with chip counts as follows:
Seat 1: Steve Karp 1,400,000
Seat 2: Brian McInnis 755,000
Seat 3: Mark Salinaro 450,000
Seat 4: James McClain 430,000
Seat 5: Walter Wright 249,500
Seat 6: Michael Ciotolo 1,035,000
Seat 7: Kam Low 300,000
Seat 8: Travis Johnson 1,825,000
Seat 9: Craig McConville 3,060,000
The first elimination of the final table came at the hands of Travis Johnson, who made an all-in reraise preflop with , but Kam Low called for the remainder of his short stack with . The board brought , and the trip queens pushed Kam Low out in ninth place with $81,185.
Next up was James McClain, who made his move preflop with . James McClain was there with and the call, and the two watched the dealer give them , which rivered the straight for Salinaro and sent McClain out in eighth place with $87,013.
At that point in the action, there was a tremendous lull in the action except for the occasional large pot or double-up. What seemed like an aggressive table transformed into one that wanted to try out the small-ball strategy for a few hours.
Finally, though, a big hand developed as Mike Ciotola made the initial raise, and Travis Johnson reraised preflop. Walter Wright reraised all-in from the small blind. Ciotola folded, but Johnson thought for a long time and finally called with pocket fives. Wright turned over , and the board produced to allow the pair to stand up and Wright to be eliminated in seventh place with $97,985.
Brian McInnis had taken some hits over the past few hours and finally pushed with pocket eights, though Ciotola was there this time with and the call. The dealer gave them , and McInnis was ousted in sixth place with $116,234.
It was then that Steve Karp went on a tear and looked to take over the lead, first by doubling through Johnson, and then again through McConville.
That left McConville feeling the need to move, and he did it with pocket jacks versus the of Johnson. The board ran out , and the pocket pair failed to hold up, sending McConville packing in fifth place with $145,721.
Johnson catapulted himself back into the chip lead, and Salinaro was very short-stacked, though he was able to double through Ciotola to stay alive. But soon after, Salinaro attempted it again, this time with pocket sevens against the of Karp. The dealer turned over , and Mark Salinaro exited in fourth place with $193,343.
Ciotola was left hurting after Johnson took a significant amount of chips from him in a previous hand. The two tangled again, this time for Ciotola’s tournament life with , and Johnson was there to see it through with . The board came to eliminate Mike Ciotola in third place with $273,385.
Heads-up action began with Johnson in the lead, and despite numerous attempts from Karp to change gears and chip up, it didn’t work. The last hand came when Karp made his move with pocket fives, and Johnson was there holding . The allowed the fives to stay in the lead, but a came on the turn to give Johnson the upper hand. The river came a to end the match and give Steve Karp $414,116 for the second place finish.
Travis Johnson claimed victory in the $1,500 NLHE event, which was worth an impressive $666,853 in prize money, along with the coveted WSOP bracelet.