Kai Landry Wins!

Kai Landry modestly says he has developed "no marketable skills" in his 37 years,  has no job at present, and even though he spends much of his time playing poker, he doesn't feel he deserves the title of pro. (On his bio sheet he jokingly wrote that he was a whale fisherman.)

Well, pro or not, he played professionally enough tonight at the six-hour final table, carefully picking his spots and not making a discernible misstep as he took down the $5,150 championship event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Casino Tunica. The victory was worth $183,974, a gold-and diamond trophy ring, and a $10,000 seat into this year WSOP championship event, plus $1,000 expense money.

At one point, with three players left, Landry was down to about 360,000 of the 3.1 million chips in play before making a comeback and rushing to victory.

Landry is from Biloxi, Mississippi, where he plays about three times a week at the Beau Rivage, dividing his poker time between small local tournaments and $2-$5 no-limit cash games. His best prior win was about $6,000 in an evening of cash play. He also had a 15th-place finish in an earlier $200 tournament here. Landry has been playing poker since he was 21, seriously for the past couple of years. He said his style of play varies depending on his opponents. At this final table he found his opponents were on the aggressive side, so decided to be cautious, slow-play and wait for big hands. With this big win, he "absolutely" plans to concentrate on tournaments in the future   This event drew 154 players who built a prize pool of $735,900. Mathew "All in at 420":Stout arrived at the final table with a massive chip lead which he held until the late stages, after which the lead would change back and forth.        

This Circuit series, which offered noon, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. events, was very successful,. drawing 11,764 players who built a total prize pool of $3,788,335, a nice increase over last year's numbers. Players arriving for this series were greeted by an expanded, remodeled and re-named hotel casino that underwent a $45 million renovation last year that included a new poker room and the 560-seat Paula Deen Buffet.

Harrah's Casino Tunica is the largest of the Harrah's Entertainment properties here, the largest casino between Las Vegas and Atlantic City and the most complete destination in Northern Mississippi. Tunica is also the third-largest gaming market in the United States.

We reached the final nine when Gavin Smith, the biggest remaining name, went out  after his pocket 8s lost to a set of treys. Kathy Liebert was the highest woman finisher.  She split 18th-place money when she and another player went out together during hand-for-hand play. Liebert is on the pro/celebrity team of Pic-Club, an investment club that offers online players a legal way to transfer money. Chris Moneymaker, the man who changed poker forever, entered the main event, but went out within a couple of hours on day one.

Final table play began at level 14 with blinds of 3,000-6,000 and 400 antes, 15 minutes left. Stout was way in front with 1.05 million chips.

Here were the starting chip counts:

Seat 1. Leonard Eidson 375,000
Seat 2. Brian McCoy     150,400
Seat 3. Glenn Hyde        155,000
Seat 4. Kai Landry                     375,000
Seat 5.  David Dao                    150,000
Seat 6.  Jeremy Byrum               404,500
Seat 7. Mike Leah                     335,000
Seat 8.  Frank Wyville                138,500
Seat 9. Matthew Stout               1,050,000

As the level ended, David Dao, starting lowest-chipped, doubled through Mike Leah with pocket kings versus pocket jacks. There was a break, and then blinds went to 4,000-8,000 with 1,000 antes. First out, 15 minutes into the new level, was Frank Wyville. He called all in with K-Q after Dao moved in with A-K. The board came 7-8-2-5-A, and Wyville cashed $22,077 for ninth. Wyville, 45, is a fire fighter from Anniston, Alabama who's been playing two years and has two prior Circuit cashes.   A few hands later, Stout raised and Brian McCoy re-raised all in for 90,000. He was well behind with A-J to Stout's A-K and when a board of 9-8-8-Q-4 didn't help him, he finished eighth, which paid $29,436. McCoy is 33, from Memphis, self-employed and a player for six years. This is his first final table.

The third player to depart during this level was Glenn Hyde. After Leah opened for 20,000 with 6h-5h, Hyde went all in from the small blind for 45,000 more holding K-J. Leah called, and a board of 8-5-4-7, brought him a straight. Hyde's only out was a 6 to give him the same straight, but he missed. Seventh place paid $36,795. Hyde is a 55-year-old business analyst from Atlanta with 30 years of poker experience. This is his second final table in this series, having finished fourth in a $300 preliminary event. He also has two final tables at the New Orleans Circuit last season and won two events at Southern Indiana.

Blinds moved up to 6,000-12,000. Dao had been moving in hand after hand without a call. Finally, he did it again and got stung. With the board showing 9-K-6-10, he pushed in holding 9-10 for two pair, losing to Jeremy Byrum, who had Q-J for as straight. Dao was down to 100,000, then went all in the next two hands, doubling up the second time. His wild ride continued a bit later when he was all in yet again for $320,000 with A-7 against Jeremy Byrum's A-9 and zoomed up by catching two more 7s. Then, on the level's final hand, he peeled 235,000 chips off Stout's sturdy stacks, again with three 7s, a set this time. With 928,000 chips, he was now in a virtual tie with Stout.

Another break, and blinds became 8,000-16,000 with 2,000 antes. A couple of hands later, with a seemingly safe board of 2-7-5,  Leah pushed in for 188,000 holding pocket queens. He got a quick call from Stout, who held pocket aces and had trapped him by merely calling Leah's small pre-flop raise in a four-way pot. After a 9 and king came, Leah departed, taking home $44,154 for sixth. Leah, from Toronto, Canada, has been playing for four years and has over a half-million in live tournament cashes.

This event got down to four when a short-chipped Byrum was all in from the small blind with K-J. He flopped a jack but couldn't catch Leonard "LB" Eidson's pocket queens and went out with $51,513 for fifth. Byrum, 33, from Katy, Texas, has been playing for three years.

Next, Stout solidified his lead by taking a 400,000 pot from Dao with a paired ace to Dao's paired queen. When Dao sighed, Stout reminded him, "You can't win every pot, David." On the next hand, Landry, with pocket jacks, doubled through against Dao, who moved in for the millionth time, this time with A-K. Then Dao doubled up again, this time with two pair after Stout missed his flush draw.

On the level's last hand, Eidson tried an all-in move with his last chips holding A-7. Landry and Stout called and checked down the board of 8-J-6-10-10. Landry had 6h-5h, and his paired 6 was enough to leave Eidson in fourth place, worth $61,816. Eidson, 35, is from Bulls Gap, Tennessee, works in construction and has been playing 15 years.

We were now playing with blinds of 10,000-20,000 and 3,000 antes. As the hour level went by, the chip counts drew much closer, with Stout and Landry now both holding about 1.2 million to 900,000 for Dao. Then, on the last hand, the biggest pot of the night thus far came down. Dao, holding Kc-10c, opened for 120,000 and Landry called. The flop came10-9-2. Dao, pairing his 10, moved in for 720,000 and Landry, with pocket 4s, decided to call. An ace and queen made no difference and suddenly Dao had the lead with about 1.7 million while Landry was down to 360,000.

New blinds of 12,000-24,000 were added to the structure. Landry hung on, doubling up and building his stacks, eventually pulling ahead of Stout. Then the two got into a confrontation as Landry moved in for 700,000 with pocket 7s and Stout called with A-K. A board of 6-4-9-5-7 gave Landry winning trips and Stout went out third, which paid $73,590.

Stout, 24, is a pro from Las Vegas who's played for 20 years, four seriously, and turned pro three years ago after being a college student. He has nearly $500,000 in tournament cashes, the biggest being $59,210 when he won a $500 Circuit event at Harrah's Atlantic City last year. He started playing five-card draw with his brothers and sister at age four and likes Omaha hi-lo for the complexities as well as no-limit tournaments for the money. His goal is to one day start a charity poker tournament tour.

Heads-up, Landry and Dao were very close to even in chips. Dao pulled ahead, but then lost most of his chips after re-raising all in with pocket 4s. He ran into Landry's queens, losing after the board came 6-6-2-2-7.

Dao could only hold on for a few hands. On the last deal the board showed 4c-Kd-10d-Ad. Holding Js-Qh, Landry had a straight and bet out. With Jd-7s, Dao had draws to a royal flush and raised all in. He missed everything when a 6s hit the river, and Landry was our new champ. Dao, 60, is a retired physician originally from Vietnam now living in Elizabethtown, Kentucky who's been playing four years. He's won about $80,000 in tournaments including a small cash at last year's WSOP main event.