Somewhere in the halls of the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino is a monkey running loose. It used to be firmly attached to the back of Erick Lindgren. But early Thursday morning Lindgren shed that monkey when he won his first World Series of Poker bracelet in Event #4 ($5,000 Mixed Hold’em) after coming close many times before.
“I hate to use such a terrible cliché, but it really is a monkey off my back,” said Lindgren, who has two World Poker Tour titles. “I don’t know how to describe it; it was certainly an emotional moment. I even started to tear up a bit. I didn’t think I had the waterworks in me.”
For Lindgren the win meant his name was no longer at the top of the list of best players without that most coveted wrist decoration. It was a ghost that had haunted Lindgren since the summer of 2006 when he lost a 3-1 chip lead over then-21-year-old Jeff Madsen in a heads-up battle. As if the poker gods were testing Lindgren’s heart, this heads-up battle put him against another young phenom in 22-year-old Justin Bonomo.
Even in the heat of the battle, Lindgren couldn’t help but think back to 2006. “Until the final card turned, I was just panicked and worried that (Bonomo) might come back and I would blow another one. I was just so happy and so lucky that it finished early,” said Lindgren.
The veteran also used some mind games to grab the title. After Andrew Robl was eliminated in 3rd place Lindgren asked the tournament director to get a cocktail waitress so he could order drinks – for everybody.
“I wanted to get the crowd behind me, and let Justin know that tonight was my night,” said Lindgren, who used his ability in Fixed Limit play to get Bonomo on the ropes. “Limit Hold'em tournaments have been very good to me in the past. I wanted to use that as my strength. We had a lot of No-Limit (Hold'em) strength at this final table, but I wanted to use Limit to make my moves.”
As heads-up play wore on Bonomo’s body language betrayed him.
“That’s a little something I learned from Phil Ivey. Once you see them slouch down in their chair a little bit, sit up and just keep firing away.” The final hand, during a No Limit round, was typical of the style of play that has made Lindgren one of the most creative and most feared in the world.
After Bonomo called Lindgren’s button raise the two players checked a flop of 10c 5c 3h. The turn was the 4h and Bonomo lead out for 80,000; Lindgren called. The river was the 8h and again Bonomo bet out at the pot. Lindgren re-raised and after thinking for a few moments, Bonomo moved all-in. Lindgren called, flipped over his Ah 2d, leaned over and saw Bonomo turn over 5s 4s for two pair and gave a quick pump of the fist.
Lindgren’s made wheel and check-call on the turn trapped Bonomo into making the mistake on the river that gave “E-dog” his long-awaited reward. Those who know Lindgren the best speak to how important winning a bracelet was for the 31-year old.
“It’s huge for Erick“, said Brian Balsbaugh, whose agency PokerRoyalty handles Lindgren. “It was on his mind for sure. In fact, the bracelet’s so important to him, that I’d bet he couldn’t tell you how much money he just won within $100,000.”
“Oh, actually I could tell you to the penny,” laughed Lindgren. All joking aside, Lindgren was very emotional after his win. Sharing handshakes and hugs with the scores of friends that had come to sweat their boy. But what came next was a 1:30 am phone call to some fans.
“My parents weren’t so sure of the whole poker thing as a career,” said Lindgren. “But they’re my biggest fans and I just really wanted to let them know I’d done it. It’s been a while since my dad’s been awake at 1:30, but he’ll be okay. I really can’t wait to get the bracelet shipped off to them.”
That’s right. The man who went without a bracelet for so long can’t wait to get rid of it. For Lindgren ditching that monkey off his back appears to be just fine.
For complete results from Event #4, including be sure to check out the WSOP results page.