Phillip "The Chairman" Tom won his first gold bracelet and nearly a half million dollars after prevailing in one of the new events at the 2008 World Series of Poker, the $5,000 No Limit Hold 'em Shootout (Event #11).
Tom defeated three consecutive tables en route to the bracelet, including a final table that featured Greg "FBT" Mueller, Sirous Jamshidi, who has over $1 million in tournament earnings, as well as online pros Tim "Tmay420" West and Leo "Superfluous Man" Wolpert.
Tom got off to a very rocky start at the final table and was twice all-in and at risk of elimination during the early stages of the day. On the first all-in Tom was short stacked with A-Q and up against Mueller on a 9-3-J-A board. Mueller called with A-10 and the river blanked, doubling Tom's stack but leaving him still under the starting stack of 1 million.
"Early on I didn't even get cards I could bluff with with a straight face," Tom said in a post-tournament interview.
After nearly 100 hands of final table action Tom finally did pick up a hand - pocket kings on the button. But what looked like a great chance to double-up turned in to a fight to survive when Jamshidi revealed pocket aces after the two got all-in pre-flop. Just as it looked like Tom's final table might be over, a King spiked on the flop to give him the pot and his supporters something to cheer about.
Tom coasted on the momentum of that suck-out until the table was down to three players, at which point he took control. With Mueller and Wolpert standing between him and the bracelet, Tom turned up the aggression, winning 8 of 10 pots at one point and separating himself as the clear chip leader. After Mueller busted Wolpert on a brutal bad beat (K3 vs. K2, 2 on the river!), it was time for Tom to go heads-up with the former hockey pro.
The heads-up match started with Tom leading in chips with 3.6 million to Mueller's 2.4 million. Three hands into the match Tom backed Mueller into a corner after taking a huge pot when the flop came out 8-4-10, all hearts. Mueller checked-raised Tom on the flop, but decided to fold after Tom came back over the top for all his chips. It was a crucial hand that gave Tom a commanding lead in the match. Tom later said he had the King of Hearts and a pair of eights.
Tom continued to lean on Mueller until he had developed a 9-1 chip lead, and although Mueller doubled up once, Tom clinched the bracelet with A-J vs. Mueller's J-8 after a Jack-high flop gave both players top pair.
Mueller, who had another runner-up finish last year, banked $298,638.
"It is really frustrating because I really want that bracelet," Mueller said. "But I gotta to tip my hat off to Phil," he added, "he played great."
Tom's win nets him $477,990 and a coveted WSOP gold bracelet.
"I'm still in total shock. I've been playing this game for a long time and a lot of my friends are going to find it tough to be around me for a while because I'm probably going to have to show that bracelet to them."