Event #25 May 14-18, 2000
|1st||Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson||$1,500,000|
|2nd||T. J. Cloutier||$896,500|
In one of the most dramatic finishes in World Series of Poker history, like a home run in the bottom of the 9th inning of the seventh game, it was a nine on the last card of the last hand that won the Championship for Chris Ferguson. If one of the three nines left in the deck doesn't come on 'the river,' or the board doesn't pair, Ferguson is left with only a few hundred thousand dollars in chips to nearly $5,000,000 in chips for Cloutier. It would have been a fantastic reversal of fortune for Cloutier who started heads-up play against Ferguson with only one tenth the chips of the man who likes to call himself 'Jesus.'
"You didn't think it would be that tough to beat me, did you?" T. J. said to Chris after the hug. "Yes, I did." Ferguson responded.
After briefly taking a small chip lead due to some aggressive betting and a few big pots, Cloutier relinquished the lead back to Ferguson. On that last hand, T. J. had gone all-in for almost 2 1/2 million dollars over an initial raise by Chris. After several minutes of thought, Ferguson called the biggest bet of his life with an ironic hand for him, an A 9. It was an A 9 suited, played the night before by Annie Duke against Ferguson's pocket Aces, that gave Chris the critical chips he needed to get this far.
When Ferguson called Cloutier's bet, the hands were turned over. The crowd gasped as it looked like T. J. Cloutier, after years of frustration, would finally get what he so richly deserved--a World Championship gold bracelet to go with the four event bracelets he already had. Cloutier had an A Q to Ferguson's A 9. One hand could barely be more of a favorite over another. The flop came 2 K 4. With another King of the turn, Ferguson could have been saved, as he'd been twice before when the board paired on the river, if a deuce or a four come. The crowd was all ready to roar for T.J.'s triumph. But Chris knew exactly what he needed for a last card. Before the audience could even comprehend that Cloutier had lost, Ferguson's arms shot up with clenched fists when the nine came down.
It was the end of a long four-day trip for Ferguson punctuated by some unbelievably fortuitously play on his own and some generous donations from some very big stacks. But that's how it always is for the winner. Until the last few hands of Wednesday night's play, the winner of the tournament might easily have been Jeff Shulman, the 23-year-old son of Card Player Magazine's CEO Barry Shulman. Playing in his first Championship Final, Jeff, as one wag put it "’Ä¶made the right read but the wrong gamble." With about $2 million in chips, Shulman didn't have to look at his cards to make today's Final Table, but he did. Betting $200,000 with a pair of 7's, Jeff couldn't lay down the best hand when Chris Ferguson came over the top all-in with a pair of 6's. Jeff called the all-in bet and clapped his hands together when he saw Chris' cards.
Unfortunately for Shulman, a 6 came on the flop but with three hearts. Jeff had the only heart and picked up a gutshot straight draw on the turn. In what was to prove to be a critical outcome, Chris Ferguson now took over a slight chip lead from Shulman when no help came for Jeff on the river.
A few hands later Jeff Shulman made another correct read and it lead to another disastrous result. This time it was Chris Ferguson who bet out with a $90,000 raise. The experienced T. J. Cloutier saved himself by not reraising all-in with his "pocket Jacks." Cloutier bet only $200,000. Jeff Shulman had pocket Kings and came over the top of T. J. all-in for about $1,000,000. In some terrible luck for Shulman, Chris Ferguson had pocket Aces and shoved all his chips into the pot. Cloutier quickly mucked his two Jacks. Jeff didn't beat Chris with the best hand, the 7's, or the worst hand, the Kings. The Aces held up and we went to the next day with Chris Ferguson having a commanding $2,853,000 in chips. A wiser Jeff Shulman went home in 7th.
THE FINAL TABLE: 81 mins left of 120. The ante is $3,000, the blinds
|Seat 1 Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson||Pacific Palisades CA||$2,853,000|
|Seat 2 Hasan Habib||Los Angeles CA||$464,000|
|Seat 3 Jim McManus||Kenilworth IL||$554,000|
|Seat 4 T. J. Cloutier||Richardson TX||$216,000|
|Seat 5 Roman Abinsay||Stockton CA||$521,000|
|Seat 6 Steve Kaufman||Cincinnati OH||$511,000|
Coming back Thursday, it looked like five guys would be playing for 2nd place. Instead, we proved again that gambling is legal in Nevada as four of the six starting players were eliminated in the first 50 minutes while still at the initial $15k/$30k blinds.
On the second hand of the day, Roman Abinsay raised on the button to $100,000. Chris Ferguson reraised all-in from the big blind with pocket 8's. The fearless Roman sent in his legion, $500,000 in chips with A Q. It was just what the remaining table wanted to see, Chris Ferguson with an additional half million as the 8's stood up.
Jim McManus came to write about the World Series and stayed to collect nearly a quarter million in prize money. (Why can't I get a writing assignment like that?) It could have been more money, but a bad thing happened to a good writer. Jim had Hasan Habib covered all-in with an A Q to Habib's A 4 of Hearts. Hasan had already stood up and was about to shake Jim's hand when a four magically appeared on the river. Habib sat back down and McManus went looking to borrow a cigarette from anyone in the audience. A little later, McManus went all-in with A 2 and found Steve Kaufman with an A Q to write the last chapter of this writer's amazing autobiography in 5th place.
The only player to be in the top six in chip count all three days prior to the Final Table, Hasan Habib's fantastic run finally ended in 4th. After a series of initial raises by Habib that were gobbled up each time by greedy player's overcalls, Hasan made a stand with a K Q. The chip magnet, Chris Ferguson had yet another big hand, an A K, and Habib lost his crusade for the Championship.
During this wild gambling spree T. J. Cloutier, who started 6th in chips, is making hundreds of thousands of dollars by sitting on his hands. Before play began Tournament Director Bob Thompson told the crowd that Cloutier would take over the all-time WSOP money lead from Johnny Chan if he finished at least 2nd. At the time, it seemed pretty far-fetched that T. J. could get that high with the short stack. But never underestimate someone who has an incredible 50 major championships. When Steve Kaufman went all-in with Q 5 from the big blind and top pair on the flop, Chris Ferguson didn't have a very tough call with trip 10's on the same flop. Suddenly, T. J. Cloutier was the all-time money winner. A fantastic feat for someone who'd never won the Championship Final.
A short break was taken as a traditional scene took place. The 1st prize money was brought out and placed on the table. Now I've seen the million dollars many times, and I can tell you first hand $1,500,000 in bound $100 notes looks like MUCH more money. It's literally a mountain of cash. The coveted winner's bracelet was draped onto the stack and play resumed until the ultra-dramatic finish nearly two hours later.
As sensational as the Championship Final was, there is an overriding story here. It's the story of the World Series of Poker itself.
"I am amazed at the number," Tournament Director Bob Thompson said shaking his head in disbelief. An astounding 512 players entered the $10,000 Championship Final that determines who the best poker player in the world will be for the next 12 months. In Las Vegas, where there is an Over/Under number on everything, few would have taken Over 500. To give some perspective on how astounding 512 entries is, the former record set last year is 393. "We went years trying to get to 100 entries," a member of the largely veteran poker tournament staff said. Now there is an increase of over 100 in one year.
The staggering success for the Championship No Limit Hold'em Final can be laid directly at the doorstep of the one-table and super satellite system. It's estimated that well over half the entrants paid less than the full $10,000 fee to play. Most participants got to play in 'The Big One' by winning satellites.
As a sidebar, most sage tournament watchers wouldn't have been able to predict that the Final would draw more attendance at $10,000 a pop than the $2,000 Limit Hold'em player's opening event did. This could be a watershed in tournament poker and it may portend that players are no longer intimidated by No Limit and Pot Limit games.
In the beginning, the name 'World Series of Poker' was more a promise than a reality. In 1970 there was little about this new poker tournament that was 'worldly.' The 'Series' was played by a few road gamblers, all men at the time, who would drive up to a thousand miles across the South and Southwest to find a good poker game.
When Benny Binion decided to host a little poker tournament in his casino in Las Vegas, the entire event took place in one small room. There is a classic photograph of about 30 men sitting and standing around a table with some trophies. Actually, games weren't even played that first year. The trophies were awarded, by the men, to each other. In that first year, Johnny Moss was acknowledged by his peers to be the best poker player in the world. That's how the 'World Series of Poker' started. 31 years later, this is what it's become.
At the dawn of a new Millennium, a record-smashing 4,922 entries paid $15,392,500 to play in a month-long poker tournament in the casino Benny Binion founded in Las Vegas. Over twenty countries were represented by at least one player. The Europeans came en masse. The old records of 4,101 entries and $12,482,000 were set in 1998 when Becky's brother was running the show. These are startling increases of over 20% in attendance and total prize pool in only two years. A tournament that may have been near death before last year, as ownership of the casino changed hands, now is bigger, better and more worldly than ever.
The tournament that Benny built, because he alone foresaw the public's interest in poker, now has become a multi-national media extravaganza. Thousands saw the tournament live. Many thousands read daily reports, listened to the live broadcast over the Internet or are reading this article in Card Player Magazine. In the fall, millions of viewers will watch the television broadcast on the Discovery Channel.
Long before 'Field of Dreams' Benny Binion, gambling's ultimate showman, knew 'If you build it they will come.'