What a dramatic finish to the fourth event, $300 no-limit hold'em, of the WSOP Circuit tour at Caesars Indiana! There were four players left. William Mayes, a supermarket manager from Kokomo, Indiana, moved all in for 68,000 from the cut-off seat holding pocket 8s. Then Dave Neumann, a system analyst from Cincinnati, also went all in for 10,000 more holding pocket kings. "I call," said John Sullivan, happily waving pocket aces. Sullivan, an electrician with the Ford Motor Company, easily had both players covered. The flop came A-J-4, and Sullivan, with a set, was a 98 per cent favorite over his opponents.
Neither could make miracle draw-outs, and suddenly the field was down to two, with Sullivan pulling into the lead. He now had 450,000 chips to prior leader Damon Wiggs' 338,000. He offered a deal, Wiggs accepted, and Sullivan was declared the winner, with first place worth an official $44,475.
Sullivan is 44, from Brunswick, Ohio, and once owned a vending business. He's been playing poker for two years, starting in small home games, and this is by far his best cash-out. He's had four other final tables playing in charity events in Ohio. A tournament specialist, he describes himself as a very conservative player who got good cards today, and became more aggressive toward the end when he had lots of chips.
When Ford asked for volunteers to take a month off, Sullivan decided to do so in order to play tournaments here. He said he was "surprised and shocked" to win the event, because his main goal was just to finish in the money. He said he took so many bad beats in satellites, he came close to leaving. But on day one of this event, he held the chip lead for four hours, and took it to the final table.
That table started at level 14 with 500 antes and 3,000-6,000 blinds, with a full hour to go in the round. Sullivan had a comfortable lead with 175,500.
Here were the seat positions and chip counts:
SEAT 1 Dan Elsea 40,000
SEAT 2 Cailon Williams 118,500
SEAT 3 William Mayes 43,000
SEAT 4 John Sullivan 175,500
SEAT 5 Gary McLin 115,000
SEAT 6 Andy Clifton 69,500
SEAT 7 Dave Neumann 86,000
SEAT 8 Damon Wiggs 116,000
SEAT 9 Ricky Schuler 26,000
There was big action on the third hand. Sullivan opened for 15,000, Dan Elsea moved in for 38,500, and then Gary McLin also pushed in for 110,500. After long thought, Sullivan, saying he feared aces or kings, laid down two queens. It was the best hand going in because Elsea had pocket 4s and McLin had A-K, but it turned out to be a good laydown because an ace turned. With three diamonds on board, Elsea needed a diamond or 4 to survive, but a river 8s finished him. Elsea, 45-year-old machine repairman from Indianapolis, won his seat in his first-ever satellite and won $3,607.
On the next hand Sullivan opened for 15,000 with K-Q and Ricky "Tricky Rick" Schuler, with 9s-8s, went all in for 9,000 more. When the board showed 6-6-4-K, Schuler, an Argosy Casino dealer from Cincinnati, was drawing dead and picked up $4,601 for eighth place. He's been playing poker six years and his other hobby is Fantasy Football.
As play continued, Mayes had two narrow escapes. Playing his "favorite hand" of K-7, he found himself all in against Andy Clifton's pocket 7s, but earned a split when both made a river straight. Soon after, Mayes was all in again with pocket 4s, in big trouble when Wiggs, with 10s-9s, flopped a 10, but then a 4 turned on the river to rescue him again.
Next out, on hand 26, was Cailon "Wheatgrass" Williams, 29, a music producer from Lexington, Kentucky who has had his songs aired on numerous MTV shows. He started in second chip position, but wasn't able to do anything and went steadily down. Finally, when he flopped an ace to his A-7, he put in his last chips, only to run into Wiggs' A-Q. Seventh place was worth $6,134.
Six hands later, Andy Clifton moved in from the cut-off seat for 59,500 and was called by Wiggs in the small blind. Mayes thought about calling. "I have a really good hand," Wiggs warned him. Mayes believed him and decided to fold. Wiggs turned up pocket queens to Clifton's A-K, and put his opponent away by flopping a set. Clifton, who is self-employed, is 36 years old and from Indianapolis. Married with five children, he's been playing poker for two years and his other hobby is fishing.
As a new level started, with blinds of 4,000-8,000 and 1,000 antes, Sullivan held a slight lead over Wiggs, with both holding a bit over 200,000 chips.
On the first hand, Wiggs was dealt pocket aces. He managed to milk Gary McLin out of all but 12,000 of his chips, and took over the lead with 320,000. McLin hung on for a while, tripling up against Sullivan and Mayes when he went all in for 9,000 with Q-7 and flopped a 7. But he only lasted three hands after that. He finally moved in again with pocket 4s for 50,000 and was called by Sullivan, who had K-Q. McLin was still alive until a river king knocked him out in fifth place, which was worth $9,201.
McLin, who is 35, is from Somerset, Kentucky. He was a plumber before turning to full-time poker, and now plays about every day. Self-taught, he has been playing poker for some 15 years.
Just then, Men "The Master" Nguyen showed up and stopped by the final table. Up to now, just about all the tournament players have been locals from Indiana or from nearby Kentucky and Ohio. The legendary Men, whose photo adorns the wall here, is certain to liven things up considerably. Welcome aboard the riverboat, Men. Have yourself a Corona.
Seven hands later, on the 51st deal, this tournament reached its explosive conclusion when the last two players busted out. Neumann had more chips going in than Mayes, so he took third place, which was worth $12,269. Neumann, 50, is married with three children. He's been playing poker for 32 years, starting in home games. His career highlight came when he played in the 2004 WSOP $1,500 limit hold'em event and was at the same table with T.J. Cloutier, who went out before he did. He also has been running his own tournament, "The Neumann Shootout," for 20 years. His other hobbies are soccer and cycling.
Mayes, whose nickname is "Kokomo Will," settled for fourth place and $10,735. Mayes is 26, single and has been playing poker since he was six. Tonight's finish represented the highlight of his poker experience.
Damon Wiggs is nicknamed Damoney, and his official money cash-out for second place was $23,464. He is a 27-year-old sales associate from Borden, Indiana, and is also single. This is his second WSOP event. He learned no-limit a year ago playing online for eight hours a day, seven days a week for six months straight before playing weekly tournaments here in January to gain some live experience. —Max Shapiro
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Max Shapiro -- WSOP Media Director at (323) 356-3303
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World Series of Poker Commissioner – Jeffrey Pollack
Director of Poker Operations for Harrah's Entertainment – Jack Effel
Caesars Indiana Poker Room Manager – Jimmy Allen