Event #6 Results
|1. Ron Long||$170,000|
|Ft. Wayne, IN|
|2. Brian Nadell||85,000|
|Las Vegas, NV|
|3. Mike "Magic" Epstein||42,500|
|Las Vegas, NV|
|4. J.J. Volpe||25,500|
|Long Beach, CA|
|5. Rick Rodricks||21,250|
|Cape Cod, MA|
|6. Tommy Hufnagle||17,000|
|7. Artie Cobb||12,750|
|Las Vegas, NV|
|8. "Miami John" Cernuto||8,500|
|Las Vegas, NV|
|9. Chris Bjorin||6,375|
|10. Norman Boulus||6,375|
|11. Tom Jacobs||6,375|
|12. Peter Brownstein||6,375|
|13. Alexandros Papachatzakis||4,250|
|14. Mark Gregorich||4,250|
|15. Charles Shoten||4,250|
|16. Chuck Thompson||4,250|
A 50-year-old restaurant owner from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, "Long Draw," as the new champ referred to himself, has previously booked several in-the-money finishes, but this marks his first major tournament title.
With two tables left, Long won a key hand -- and a sizable pot -- with queens full that enabled him to arrive for the final showdown in middle chip position. He played a solid game and managed to maintain his stack, but when heads-up play began, he was still at a 2-to-1 disadvantage against runner-up Brian Nadell. For almost three hours, Long struggled furiously, surviving numerous all-in battles to stay alive. But the tide swiftly turned when he seized a monster pot -- and the lead -- with fours full of aces against Nadell's two pair. Long followed that coup by making fives full of queens to snap off Nadell's aces up, leaving his opponent perilously low on chips. It was all over on the next deal when Nadell raised all in on third street with A-3/Q and Long called with 4-5/6. On sixth street, Long made an eight-high straight and Nadell was drawing to a seven low. But he failed to catch on the river and was washed up as Long scooped the pot to claim his first major tournament title.
"Brian is an awesome player, and I thought I had no chance," Long commented. "I just got lucky and caught some cards at the end."
For placing second -- his third runner-up finish at the World Series -- Nadell pocketed $85,000. A 43-year-old poker pro and former travel industry executive, Nadell holds titles from several other major competitions and has racked up countless in-the-money finishes. "I can't feel too badly," he commented, recalling that he had only $100 left at the $500/$1,000 limit and, as the inimitable "Amarillo Slim" would say, "ran a toothpick into a lumberyard." When Nadell had turned that $100 into $8,000, he thought he might win the event. "I got a feeling it was my time," he said. "I was only one off, and I'll get my title sooner or later."
Placing third in the stud high-low split contest and receiving $42,500 was Mike "Magic" Epstein, a 47-year-old investor from Las Vegas. After seeing his stack toppled by Ron Long's fives full of aces, Epstein experienced a bit of deja vu a few hands later when he took Q-2/7 up against Nadell, who started with 5-3/5. On sixth street Epstein called all in with two pair and a draw to an eight low, and no doubt was amazed to see Nadell turn over another fives full of aces. Epstein failed to help, and Nadell caught the case five to take down the pot with quads.
Left in dire straits after taking several hits on the river, J.J. Volpe of Long Beach, California, fired his last shot when he raised on fifth street with 5-6/4-3-J and was three-bet by Long, who held 7-3/2-8-A. Long paired his ace on sixth street, and when Volpe caught running nines, he bit the dust in fourth place for $25,500. A poker player since the age of six, Volpe has 14 major tournament titles to his credit.
Rick Rodricks, a hotel owner from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, threw his last punch when he took Q-Q/K up against Nadell, who started with A-2/3. On sixth street, Nadell made a pair of aces and Rodricks picked up a spade royal flush draw. But he failed to catch on the river and was knocked out in fifth place for $21,250.
Also meeting his demise at the hands of Nadell was 1998 Stud High-Low Split Champion Tommy Hufnagle of Scottsdale, Arizona. After surviving several all-in situations, the defending champ was finally eliminated when he bet it all on fourth street with 4-6/8-A against Nadell's J-8/8-2. Nadell made jacks up on sixth street, but Hufnagle still had only a draw to an eight low and was left high and dry when the river paired his ace, forcing him to settle for sixth place and $17,000.
A run of bad luck left Artie Cobb of Las Vegas looking for a miracle when he called all in on third street with 8-5/A against Hufnagle, who had reraised with 3-4/A. Hufnagle made his low and a pair of fours, but Cobb's prayers went unanswered and he exited in seventh place for $12,750.
Short-stacked from the outset, "Miami John" Cernuto made his last move when he called all in on fourth street with A-K/K-Q against Long, who held A-4/7-6. When Long made his low on fifth street and an eight-high straight on sixth, Cernuto was drawing dead and cashed eighth for $8,500.
Andy Glazer came incredibly close to winning the 1999 World Series of Poker's No-Limit Hold 'em Championship.
No, I'm not hallucinating, although I do have to confess to more than a few moments fantasizing about winning it all while I've been playing in supersatellites, trying to get into the Big Dance. I'm just trying to see if lightning will strike twice in the same place, because my lead to yesterday's story, "A Chip and a Chair, Revisited," would have been the absolutely perfect lead to today's report about the 7 card stud, eight-or-better for low Championship.
Yesterday, I wrote about how Hassan Kamoei had been so low on chips that he evoked memories of Jack Strauss' "chip and a chair" victory in the 1982 World Series. Today, Brian Nadell, who had been down to a single $100 chip at a reasonably late stage in the tournament ($100 antes and $500 and $1000 betting structure), parlayed that one itsy bitsy teeny weeny polka dot chippini into $340,000 in chips at the final table.
Get the idea? If one day's lead paragraph can invoke a much stronger instance of the same thing happening later in the tournament, I thought leading with yours truly coming close to winning the Big One might help my chances of winning it (and given my supersatellite performances so far, I will need all the help I can get).
OK, enough fantasizing and summoning mysterious powers to aid my meager chances of taking down a cool million. Let's get back to the real story, an absolutely electrifying comeback in a tournament already marked by impressive comebacks.
Today's event came down to a battle between Nadell, a Los Angeles-based professional player who mostly plays at the Bellagio, and Ron Long, a Ft. Wayne, Indiana restaurateur. They battled heads-up for nearly three hours.
Nadell, who before this event had earned two second place finishes at the World Series, held the chip lead most of the way. Left with that lone $100 chip, Nadell tossed it into what promised to be his final hand as an ante. When that hand held up for the small side pot of $800, and then Nadell turned that $800 into $5,000 a few hands later, he "had a feeling he was destined to win the tournament."
Thanks to his literal chip and a chair comeback, it looked like he was going to do exactly that for most of the final, where he maintained roughly a 3-1 chip lead for most of the heads up play.
Unfortunately for Nadell, he must have used up some of his amazing run of luck by surviving a dangerous fall he took when, thrilled by a stunning final card on a big hand, he tried to leap over a railing keeping the crowd back from the players. It wasn't clear whether Nadell was trying to jump over the rail, jump for joy, levitate over the rail, or send himself spinning into the air so he could come down like a human drill and bore a hole in the floor, but he wound up creating a move that was a combination of all of those and which probably could not have been carried off by Mary Lou Retton. He took a bad tumble and hurt his back.
Come to think of it, maybe it wasn't "unfortunate" that he used up some of his luck surviving the spill because dying in a gymnastics accident probably wouldn't have been an optimal result from any chip position.
Soon after the players returned to more mundane matters like playing cards, the antes and betting structure increased to $2,000 ante, $15,000 and $30,000 betting structure, and Nadell admittedly played one hand too loosely. With Ron Long showing a board of 4-4-A, Nadell called a $30,000 bet on fifth street.
"I had two pair," he explained, "I knew the Ace was a scary card, and that it was completely live, but decided to take one card off, and after that I started feeling trapped into calling for the size of the pot." The decision cost him $90,000 when Long showed down fours full of aces.
I'd seen Nadell visibly sag after the hand, he admitted it changed everything. "I got mad at myself for making a bad play," he said, "and I lost something in my game after that, lost the intensity. If players could call a timeout in poker like they can in football, I'd have gladly done it then and taken a minute to regroup. But of course you can't, and I just wasn't the same for a while afterwards."
At the higher betting levels, Nadell's loss of focus proved disastrous, and Long, who had been down to the felt a couple of times, stormed back to take the win. Nadell was gracious in defeat.
"It's really a great tribute to him," Nadell said. "He's more of a casual-type player than a professional, and these guys who play home games and aren't pros are in a big disadvantage in major tournaments. But he hung in very well."
Long has been playing poker for about 15 years, and comes to Las Vegas to play in 50-100 action three or four times a year. Back in Indiana, he plays in much smaller home or riverboat games "two or three times a month, at the most."
Attitude played just as big a part in Long's comeback as it did in Nadell's, OK I'll say it, downfall. "I never got to a point where I felt I couldn't win," he explained. "I finally got lucky on a couple of hands, especially the fours full. You and some other people said he sagged but I never noticed that; I stayed focused on my game: position betting, tracking the cards, playing the best I knew how."
Will the victory tempt Long into taking his shot as a professional? No, he says. "Winning a bracelet is something I've always wanted to accomplish, but I'm not giving up work. I get to go to the Tournament of Champions, though, and the money will help a lot with a nest egg for my retirement." He paused to smile. "Maybe not all of it, though. I have to fly home for some business matters, but now I'm thinking about returning for the Big One next week."
Ah yes, that fantasizing about those one million samolians in the Big One... it seems very few people here are immune to it, and why not? In the tournaments themselves, dream hands sometimes turn into nightmares, but between now and May 10, most of the poker players within shouting distance of Binion's will be invoking rabbits' feet, four-leaf clovers, lucky coins, hats, shirts, underwear and untold numbers of other bizarre talismans. There might even be a few writers hoping that their lead paragraphs can affect future events. Beats the heck out of staring reality in the face. We can do that the rest of the year. For the next seven days, we dream, baby, we dream.