Larry "Harvy" Nichols is a 69-year-old retired grain merchandiser from Omaha who's been playing poker for 55 years and until now his best prior tournament cash was a modest second-chance win here last year. But, like the fabled John Bonetti, who didn't start playing until in his 50s, he proved that age is no detriment, and that it's not only 22-year-olds who win tournaments these days. Admittedly catching pretty good at the final table, he swept to victory in the fourth event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Horseshoe Council Bluffs to win $26,871 and the traditional gold-and-diamond trophy ring.
The win didn't come easy. With 30 players left he was down to 20,000. He then went all in with Q-10 suited against pocket jacks, won when a queen flopped, and couldn't be stopped after that. Nichols, who has some other small tournament local wins, divides his time between tournaments and $2-$5 no-limit hold'em cash games. He said he plays very aggressively in cash games, where his opponents "don't like me much," but couldn't use that style tonight until he amassed a lot of chips and began pushing in. "Then they'd either fold or I'd luck out," he noted. Nichols has been married for 36 years, has two girls and six grandkids.
Day two action commenced at level 13 with blinds of 3,000-6,000 and 500 antes, 17:15 left on the clock. Starting as chip leader was Michael Carter, with 366,500. At the other end, in the 20,000 range and with not enough for four big blinds, were Ron Lacina and Tom Cristopher.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1. Michael Carter 366,500
Seat 2. Tom Christopher 23,000
Seat 3. Austin McCormick 88,500
Seat 4. Ron Lacina 22,500
Seat 5. Perry Ernest 242,500
Seat 6. Scott Dorsch 108,500
Seat 7. Dan Dykhouse 75,000
Seat 8. Larry Nichols 174,500
Seat 9. Josh Wininger 177,000
Playing according to form, the two short stacks quickly went out one-two.. Lacina went first. He moved in for 20,500 with As-8s, flopped a flush draw, but missed and lost to Nichols' pocket 6s. Ninth place paid $1,659. Lacina, 50, is a municipal worker from Muscatine, Iowa with a son and daughter who also play poker. He's played four years and this is his poker highlight.
Following him to the cash-out desk was Cristopher. He moved in for the same 20,500 holding Ah-Qh. With plenty of chips, Carter called from the big blind with 9c-3c. He took the lead on a flop of 9-J-4, and when another 9 turned, Cristopher was drawing dead. Cristopher, earning $2,488 for eighth, is a 51-year-old contractor from Las Vegas who formerly was a pro player. He's been playing 37 years and modestly proclaimed himself "the best damn short-stack player in the world." He also advised any interested ladies that he's not available because he's already taken. (Tournament supervisor Cathy Wood is the lucky lady.)
The new level brought 4,000-8,000 blinds and 1,000 antes. Soon after, Scott Dorsch moved in for 90,000 with pocket jacks and was dominated and covered by Nichols, who re-raised all in with pocket queens. The board was 7-K-5-10-7, and Dorsch cashed seventh for $3,317. Dorsch, 22, is from Independence, Missouri and works as a dishwasher. He's been playing six years and his poker highlight was once holding pocket aces against kings.
Perry Ernest, still looking for his third Circuit ring, missed again when he went out sixth. He was all in with A-4, couldn't catch when the board came Q-2-6-5-5 and lost to Austin McCormick's pocket 9s. Sixth paid $4,147. Ernest making his second final table in three days, finished second in event #2. He is 47, a financial adviser from Naperville, Illinois who's been playing four years. His Circuit rings came from two $300 events. At Horseshoe Hammond in October he won $79,597 in the opening event. His Tunica win in January brought him $32,448.
Limits increased to 6,000-12,000 blinds with 2,000 antes. Late in the round, McCormick got hurt when his pocket queens lost to Dan Dykhouse's straight, but he recovered by doubling through Josh Wininger, hitting a 5 to his A-5 to outrun Wininger's A-Q. Soon after, Wininger moved in for 129,000 with Jc-10c and lost to Nichols' A-9 after an ace flopped. Fifth paid $4,976. Wininger is a 29-year-old poker pro from Omaha who prior to that was a warehouse employee. He's played four years. Two years ago, his first time in a casino, he made a final table in a $300 event. He is also a consistent winner in cash games, where he feels his strength lies.
McCormick finished fourth and once again Nichols, piling up chips, did the job. McCormick moved in with Qc-9c and lost to Nichols' A-J after the board came K-9-J-4-7. McCormick, 21, is from Kansas City, Missouri and was a student before turning pro. He's been playing three years and his cashes include a fourth in a WSOPC Southern Indiana event.
Not long after that, this event got down to two. Dykhouse was all in with Kh-Jh against Carter's pocket 7s. The board came 9c-8h-3s-7h. Dykhouse now had a flush draw against Carter's set of 7s but lost when an offsuit 5 came on the river. Third paid $8,294. Dykhouse is 25 and from Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he works for a brokerage firm as a marketing coordinator. He's been playing four years and has a fifth at the Horseshoe Classic in September. The money will come in handy because he's getting married in two months.
Heads-up, Nichols had about a million chips to around 280,000 for Carter. Blinds were now 10,000-20,000. The match-up didn't take long. Nichols took down a pot with a straight against Carter's set of 6s, but didn't dare to move in because four hearts were on board. Right after that, Carter moved in with K-3, and Nichols called with A-10. The board came A-6-4-8-3, and Nichols' paired ace nailed down his victory.
For second, Carter won $14,099. Carter, 33, is a bartender from Fort Wayne, Indiana who started playing at age 10. He won a $200 event at Tunica in 2005 for $9,800, and played in two WSOP events, cashing in both. He won a seat in this event via satellite. He also enjoys spending time with his girlfriend and son, sledding and swimming with them.