Mike Ratcliff is a busy man these days. He owns a company that refurbishes ATM machines, particularly when a bank changes hands. With the current financial turmoil and a giant bank like Washington Mutual being taken over by Chase, he has a lot of refurbishing to do and will be flying to California soon. But first there's poker business to take care of, and tonight he made a big withdrawal, not from an ATM but from the prize pool in event #7 of the WSOP Circuit tour at Horseshoe Southern Indiana, $300 no-limit hold'em. Finishing first, he collected $38,351, along with a $5,150 championship event seat and a gold trophy ring. He did it by knocking out three short-stacks in early action after nine were left. That gave him the chip lead, and he held it, or was close to it, until the finish.
Ratcliff, 53, is from Martinsville, Indiana and learned poker from his father 35 years ago. His biggest prior cash came from winning a $500 Denny Crum Poker Open event here, then cashing some more in the main event. Ratcliff plays cash games but prefers tournaments because there's a better mix of players. And he likes no-limit because he can get players with mediocre holdings off their hands before they can suck out on him. He said he generally plays conservatively, but can be aggressive when needed, especially with good position. Ratcliff has played between five and eight Circuits. He's married with two children, and also likes to fish.
This event attracted a strong turnout of 457 players who created a prize pool of $137,100. It was after 2 p.m. when this tournament got down to 10 players. At that point there were 28 minutes left at level 17, with blinds of 8,000-16,000. Well in front at that point with 580,000 chips was Beau Moore.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1. Christopher East - 301,000
Seat 2. James McKinney - 170,000
Seat 3. Charlie Williams - 113,000
Seat 4. Frank Spaulding - 294,000
Seat 5. Ian Gillespie - 380,000
Seat 6. Michael Ray - 330,000
Seat 7. Steve Lotshaw - 150,000
Seat 8. Mike Ratcliff - 390,000
Seat 9. Randall Cox - 340,000
Seat 10.Beau Moore - 580,000
Frank Spaulding started just a little below average with 294,000, but took some hits and was all in with K-2 after a cowboy flopped. He was up against a better king, Steve Lotshaw's K-Q, and went broke after the board showed K-10-7-10-9. Spaulding, 36, is a serial entrepreneur from Chicago and is married with three children. He's been playing five years and this is his fourth Circuit. He also likes video games. Tenth paid him $1,406.
At 3 a.m. the nine remaining players agreed to pack it in and return the next day, now playing with blinds of 10,000-20,000 and antes of 3,000.The round ended with all nine left after two all-in players, Randall Cox with 10d-9d and Charlie Williams with Kd-10d, both outran opponents holding an ace. Cox survived with a flush, Williams by hitting a 10 on the river.
We finally lost a player when a short-chipped Lotshaw, frustrated when he couldn't even see a face card, was all in from the small blind with just 4-2. He was covered by Ratcliff, in the big blind with 9-4. Lotshaw finished ninth, worth $2,557, after the board came 9-4-3-10-7. Lotshaw, 57, is a former United States Auto Club National Driving Champion. A resident of Brownsburg, Tennessee, he has been playing poker since he was a kid. He's played five or six Circuits, and has a prior final table to his credit here. Lotshaw, married, is self-employed.
Just before the level ended, another player went out. Randall Cox, in the small blind, pushed in his last 100,000 with A-Q, and got a button call from Ratcliff, who had Kc-4c. The board was Q-Q-2-10-9 with three clubs, giving Ratcliff a flush as Cox took home $3,835 for eighth.
Cox, 52, is from Springfield, Kentucky and has a trucking company. He learned poker from friends 25 years ago. This is his second Circuit. Cox is married with two children, and also golfs.
Players returned from a break to blinds of 15,000-30,000 with 4,000 antes, and suddenly action speeded up, with five players going out before the next level. A few minutes into the round, Charlie Williams ended seventh. He was all in with A-8 in the small blind against Ian Gillespie, who had Kh-Jd. Four hearts hit when the board showed Qh-10h-6s-9h-6h giving Gillespie a flush. Finishing seventh, Williams was paid $5,113.
Williams, nicknamed "Daddy-O,", 49, is a "land developer/pirate" from Indian Lake, Ohio who learned poker from friends, TV and books a little over two years ago. This is his fifth Circuit, and he's won some local tournaments. He has one child and likes Harleys and scuba diving.
Soon after, Michael Ray moved in for 131,000 with Ad-10h, and Ratcliff pushed in his much bigger stacks with pocket kings to shut out the competition. Q-10-9-5-10 came, and Ray cashed sixth for $4,793. Ray, 50, is from Indianapolis, in sales and is looking for a wealthy poker-type girlfriend. He started poker playing with friends and family 35 years ago. He has one child and likes to walk and hike.
In earlier action, Christopher East had taken a big hit when he ran into pocket aces, and was down to about 70,000 with seven players left. Doubling through a couple of times and winning more pots, he now had a lot of chips. Then he doubled up again against Ratcliff and proceeded to knock out Moore and take the lead. Moore, the starting leader but now low in chips, moved in with A-7. East called with A-10 and, his bigger ace won.after the board cards came A-5-2-3-Q.
Moore picked up $7,670 in fifth place. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, works in delivery and leaned poker 20 years ago on a school bus. This is his first Circuit and his poker highlight. He has one child.
Right after that, Ian Gillespie called all in with A-9 after East bet his pocket kings. All rags hit, and Gillespie cashed fourth for $8,949. Gillespie, 25, from Covington, Kentucky, is a commercial window cleaner who has been playing poker four years. He has one child.
After blinds became 20,000-40,000 with 5,000 antes, the key hand of the night came down. On a flop of Qc-7c-6s, Ratcliff, holding Q-7 in the big blind, bet 100,000 on his two pair. East, with pocket kings, made it 300,000 to go from the button, and Ratcliff moved in. An ace and 4 didn't change anything, and a huge pile was pushed to Ratcliff. He now had nearly 2 million to around 550,000 for James "Angry Jim" McKinney and less than 150,000 for East.
However, it was McKinney who was next out. He called with pocket 9s after Ratcliff moved in with K-J. McKinney was alive until a king rivered, and departed third, which paid $10,227. McKinney, 32, formerly an investor, is now self-employed and lives in Cincinnati. He began playing five years ago and has entered 17 Circuits. He is married with two children, and his other hobby is working out.
Heads-up, Ratcliff, with over 2.4 million to East's 300,000, enjoyed an 8-1 advantage. But East proved tough to put away, pairing his ace a couple of times to stay alive. On the 14th hand, he pushed in with another ace, holding As-6c. Ratcliff called with 10h-Jd, and this time beat the ace when the board came Kc-Jh-5d-5c-2h and East went south..
Finishing second, East settled for $20,582. East, whose nickname is "Mouffsmack" is 30, self-employed, and lives in Spanishburg, West Virginia. He learned the game five years ago from the "Perry Simpson Poker School, and this is his third Circuit. His poker high point was finishing 58th in a $1,500 Circuit event last year. East is married with two children.