2007-2008 World Series of Poker Circuit
Grand Casino Tunica -- Tunica, MS
September 3-4, 2007
Event #6
Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $500 + $50
Number of Entries: 84
Total Prize Money: $40,740

Retiree J.L. Spain Wins $500 Limit Hold’em After Heads-Up Marathon

The Former Stud Specialist Started Playing Hold'em Just 18 Months Ago

Click here to view the official results.

Tunica, MS--After a grueling heads-up match lasting more that two hours, J.L. Spain, a 63-year-old retiree from Huntsville, Alabama, finally took down the sixth event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Grand Casino Tunica, $500 limit hold’em. It finally ended when Matthew Kelly flopped a straight, only to have Spain hit a flush on the turn. Spain's payday amounted to $14,667, plus the traditional Circuit championship ring.

Spain, whose last job was as a travel agent, has been playing for 50 years. His game had been stud, where good eyesight and memory are requisites. But as the two became less sharp, he decided to take up hold’em 18 months ago. A fast learner, he played circuit events here in January last year and made three final tables.

Spain’s play tonight was super aggressive. “I was pushing all the way,” he said. “The only time I called was when I wanted to trap someone.”

Amazingly, Kelly started the final table with only 8,000 chips — just two big blinds — and not only finished second but even held the chip lead several times.

Spain came to the final table with the most chips, 85,000. Blinds at level 12 were 1,000-2,000 with 2,000-4,000 limits, 15 minutes left on the clock.

Here were the starting chip counts:

  • Seat 1 Matthew Terrol 54,000
  • Seat 2 J.L. Spain 85,000
  • Seat 3 Robert Keating 28,000
  • Seat 4 Ken Dickenson 34,000
  • Seat 5 Matthew Kelly 8,000
  • Seat 6 James Naifeh 34,000
  • Seat 7 Jerry Dunning 23,000
  • Seat 8 Darren Brandes 23,000
  • Seat 9 Mike Budde 47,000
  • Not too much happened in early action except for Kelly staying alive by doubling up a couple of times. But action then speeded up, with three players going broke in 10 hands.

    The first bust-out came on hand 15 when Jerry Dunning, with A-9, flopped an ace to beat Darren Brandes’ pocket 8s. Brandes, 42, is from Clearwater, Florida. A civil engineer, he is married with one child. He has 10 years of poker experience, and his highlights include a 75,000 win in a $500 limit hold’em event and a final table in $1,000 limit the next day at the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods. He collected $1,185 for ninth.

    As a side note, when players fill out their bio sheets, some answer the questions dutifully, some humorously. For this event, two players offered the funniest responses I’ve seen in years of tournament reporting. To the question, "How did you gain entry into this event?” Brandes wrote, “Front door.” And to the query, “How long have you been playing poker?” Ken Dickenson replied, “All day.” I just may hire these two as my gag writers

    Anyway, blinds went to 2,000-3,000 with 3,000-6,000 limits. Spain still led, now with more than 100,000. On the first hand of the new level, we lost a second player. James Naifeh was all in for 16,000 with Kc-10c and got run over by Matthew Terrol’s pocket aces.

    Naifeh is a bond trader from Memphis. He’s played three years and this is his first Circuit try. He got $1,630 for eighth.

    A few hands later, Spain was in the big blind with 8-7 when the flop came Q-8-6. Dickenson put in his last 2,000 with A-7, but couldn’t catch Spain’s paired 8.

    Dickenson, whose nickname is “Shadow,” finished 11th at a limit hold’em event at the WSOP, and also cashed in the main event. Seventh place tonight was worth $2,037.

    Another 20 hands went by, and then Terrol was next to be all in, for 2,000 in three-way action. The flop came As-Ks-4s, giving Mike Budde, with Js-3s a number two flush. He took the pot and Terrol mucked without showing.

    Terrol, who is called “The Silent Assassin,” owns a cell phone company, has been playing six years, and this is his sixth Circuit event. He went home with $2,444 for sixth.

    On hand 50 the blinds moved up to 2,000-4,000 with 4,000-8,000 limits. Spain by now had increased his lead to 160,000, but the reign of Spain went plainly down the drain when he tried to knock out two all-in players, losing both times.

    The first time, Robert Keating had 4,000 left in the big blind and Spain, with Qh-5h, raised him all in. Keating, with A-2, survived when an ace flopped. The next time, Jerry Dunning raised all in with A-K and Spain chased him with pocket 4s. The board came A-6-2-7-3, and Spain gave up the lead to Budde.

    Two hands later, Spain took over again when he finally made a kill. His victim was Keating, who had Q-7 to Spain’s A-2. Keating looked safe when the flop came Q-J-2, until a deuce turned to give Spain trips.

    Keating is 47, from Thorp, Wisconsin, has played poker for 12 years, and his main accomplishment before today was winning a main event super satellite. Fifth place was worth $2,852

    Three hands later, Spain knocked out another player by outdrawing him. He was way behind with K-5 against Dunning’s K-10, but made two pair.

    Dunning is a retired machine shop owner from Sarasota, Florida playing his third Circuit event. He’s married with two children, has been playing 10 years, and likes golf. He took home $3,259 for fourth place.

    As play went on, Kelly picked up some chips, and soon the three finalists were all fairly even. But then Budde went into a nosedive, losing several hands and getting increasingly discouraged as he bemoaned his bad luck. He was so upset that when he got down to one chip in the big blind, he just threw it in and walked away in surrender without even bothering to look at his cards! Perhaps he never heard the expression, “A chip and a chair.” In any event, he left with $4,481 for third.

    Budde is a 57-year-old investor from Williamsburg, Michigan. He’s been playing 30 years and has entered numerous Circuit events.

    Heads-up, Spain led, 202,000 to 134,000, and by the time blinds went to 3,000-5,000 with limits of 5,000-10,000, had moved up to about 240,000. But as play dragged on, the lead would go back and forth several times.

    By the time blinds went to 3,000-6,000 with 6,000-12,000 limits an hour later, Spain was now ahead again.

    As play continued, Kelly dropped down to 30,000 at one point when he folded a big pot on the turn, then recovered, and then went up and down.

    At last came the final hand of the tournament. Kelly, with 10s-6s, hit a straight on a flop of 9s-8d-7d. He was all in on the turn when a 9d gave Spain, holding Qd-10d, the winning flush.

    Kelly earned $8,148 for second. He is self-employed, lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and has been playing poker for 25 years. At this year’s WSOP, he made two final tables, cashing fifth in one, ninth in the other. He said that he has “two great children,” Christian and Paulina, “and when they graduate high school, I will happily play more poker.”