HOW SWEET IT IS!

OCTOBER 21, 2011 - 2:17:25 PM EST   |  

HOW SWEET IT IS!

Hammond, IN (October 21, 2011)—In 2008, Dennis Phillips made a run at a WSOP gold bracelet as a member of the inaugural November Nine. He came up short, finishing third, but received a $4.5 million consolation prize. Three years later, at Horseshoe Hammond, Phillips was on a run of different sorts and out for his first piece of WSOPC hardware.

Prior to his 2008 appearance at the Main Event final table, he recorded back-to-back WSOPC final tables and came up short both times. Last night, in Event #8 at Horseshoe Hammond, Phillips made his third WSOPC final table appearance and closed the book on his first WSOPC win, and most importantly, earned his first piece of poker hardware.

The $1,100 buy-in drew 227 entrants and created a prizepool of $220,190. 24 positions were paid and Phillips earned $55,045 for his victory.

“The money may not be as big as some of the other tournaments I’ve been in or some of the other prizes I’ve won, but with this, I won the whole thing,” Phillips said. “Everybody will know what this ring means. It’s pretty cool.”

Phillips is a 56-year-old professional poker player from St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to turning professional, Phillips was an account manager for a trucking company. He is best known for his third place finish in the 2008 WSOP Main Event where he earned better than $4.5 million. Rarely seen without his signature red, St. Louis Cardinals cap, Phillips has been traveling the world playing the biggest games against the best players poker has to offer for three years now.

Phillips conquered a tough field in Event #8 that included 10-time WSOP casher, Kevin Saul, and two-time Circuit champion, Chris Tryba. Unfortunately, neither player finished in the money.

Day 2 began at 3 p.m. CST with 54 players remaining. By 5:30 a.m., we had a winner. The final table stacked up like this:

Final Table:

Seat 1 James Tolbert 280,000

Seat 2 Justin Gardenhire 470,000

Seat 3 Michael Johnson 300,000

Seat 4 Andrew Touchette 156,000

Seat 5 Gordon Vayo 600,000

Seat 6 Jean Gaspard 701,000

Seat 7 Niel Mittelman 144,000

Seat 8 Dennis Phillips 450,000

Seat 9 Ian Keiser 303,000

Ninth Place:

Andrew Touchette is a 24-year-old professional poker player who studied criminal justice at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. This was his second WSOPC cash. He earned $5,093.

Eighth Place:

Finishing in eighth place was Niel Mittelman. Mittelman is 25-years-old and lives in Chicago. His poker ambition is to win a WSOP Circuit ring. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until next time. He pocketed $6,386 for his finish.

Seventh Place:

Making his sixth and largest WSOP cash was James Tolbert. He is a 29-year-old from Moore, Oklahoma and has a 9-year-old son, Luke. Tolbert’s seventh place finish awarded him $8,125.

Sixth Place:

Ian Keiser is a 30-year-old film producer from Highwood, Illinois. At $10,492, this was his second and largest WSOPC cash.

Fifth Place:

Jean “Prince” Gaspard is a familiar name around the WSOP and WSOPC. His fifth place finish for $13,755 marked his fifteenth cash and fourth final table. His resume also boasts a Circuit ring. Gaspard is a 39-year-old professional poker player who was born in Haiti, but now resides in Chicago.

Fourth Place:

Our fourth place finisher was Michael Johnson. Johnson is 45-years-old and lives in Bartlett, Illinois with his wife and two children. This was his second WSOPC cash and final table. He made $18,313. 

Third Place:

This is Justin Gardenhire’s second WSOPC cash. His first cash came earlier this year when he went the distance and got his hands on a WSOPC gold ring at Choctaw Casino Resort. Gardenhire (30) is married with one child and resides in Ponca City, Oklahoma. He earned $24,763.

Second Place:

Finishing second was 22-year-old poker pro Gordon Vayo. This was Vayo’s first final table and second WSOPC cash. His heads up battle with Phillips lasted until 5:30 a.m., almost three hours. For a while it appeared as if Vayo would send Phillips home in second place, but Phillips doubled up and never looked back. His second place finish earned him $34,024.

First Place:

Phillips started heads-up play at a severe chip disadvantage. Playing two-handed for almost three hours and seeing the blinds and antes reach 5,000/25,000/50,000, both players knew it was only a matter of time before they got their money in in a race. Fortunately for Phillips, he came out on top when it mattered most.

Starting with the button, Phillips raised with . Having Phillips covered, Gordon moved all-in over the top. Phillips called and Gordon tabled . The race both players knew was inevitable was now underway. The flop gave Phillips four more outs to a straight. The on the turn was no help to either player and we were off to the river. To the dismay of Gordon, the river gave Phillips a winning straight and doubled him up to almost 2 million chips. Phillips won a few hands later when his beat Gordon’s all-in pre-flop.

Winner Interview:

You finally got some hardware. How does it feel? – “It feels real good. (Holds up ring finger) See how natural it looks? I think I need another matching one.”

What is your lasting impression going to be of this event? – “I was very surprised by the quality of players in it. There were a few people that were a little weak, but by the time we got down to the last 50 or 60 players, they were good, solid players mostly. This was a tough field. A lot tougher than I thought it would be.”

Where do you rank this win in your list of poker accomplishments? – “Several different things will rank right up there. Obviously finishing third in the World Series (Main Event) will never be repeated. That’s just awesome. Being able to bring out all my friends and doing all the rest of it was just great. The NBC Heads-Up was great too. I went through a lineup there of Chris Ferguson, Eli Elezra and Doyle Brunson and beat all three of them before I lost to Annie (Duke). I am pretty proud of that one. I’ve done the high stakes and I’ve played the high stakes over in London and final tabled that one. This is the first one I got hardware at. This is pretty special.”

This isn’t even close to the most amount of money you’ve won in a tournament, but talk about the value the ring has. – “It’s coming in first. The money may not be as big as some of the other tournaments I’ve been in or some of the other prizes I’ve won, but with this, I won the whole thing. You presented me with this ring. I can wear this ring all around. Everybody will know what this ring means. It’s pretty cool.”

You’ve won millions of dollars. What drives you at this point in your poker career? – “Several different things. The person who says they’re not in it for the money just isn’t right. You’re always there looking at prizepools, but you also want to improve your game and you want to improve it for everybody else. They talk about being an ambassador for poker. Do it right. Do the charity events. Portray yourself well at the table. Treat other people with courtesy. Treat the dealers with courtesy. Those are the things you should be doing.”

Talk about the three-hour heads-up match. – “I’ve played a lot of different heads-up against a lot of different pros. (Gordon Vayo), I’ll tell you what, he was tough. I kept trying to draw him in when I had something. I couldn’t get him to commit to the pot. He wanted to be very careful not to double me up, and I don’t blame him. He refused to make a bad play. He played very solid, very conservative and just kept grinding it because he had the chip advantage. We finally got down to a race, and I won it.”

You came straight here from Europe. Are you running on fumes? – “I don’t even have fumes left. Do you realize that during the breaks I was going over to the sofa and laying down?”

This is the eighth of 12 ring events slated to take place at the Horseshoe Hammond. Winners of all events will receive first-place prize money and the coveted WSOP Circuit ring. In addition, the winner of the Main Event will receive a seat to the $1 million Circuit National Championship in Las Vegas. An additional seat will be awarded to the individual who earns the most Circuit points at this stop.

The WSOP Circuit Events at Horseshoe Hammond continue through October 24. The Main Event will take place October 21. 

Each final table throughout the 2011/2012 Circuit tour will be streamed live at WSOP.com

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Lukas Willems – WSOP.com Reporter/Contributor


About the author: Lukas Willems is a reporter and contributor for WSOP.com. He has been with the site since 2010. He graduated from UW–Green Bay cum laude with a degree in Communication and Public Relations. Upon graduation, Willems joined the WSOP.com staff full time covering WSOP Circuit events throughout the country.
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