Daniel Negreanu is Toni Haggard's "hero," and, like him, she believes any two cards can win in hold'em, and like him, is willing to gamble with hands like 8-3 and 10-6. This is especially true, she said, when there are a lot of players in a pot and she is in late position because she knows that a lot of big cards are out and her small ones have much better chances of hitting. This strategy paid off on day one of the $200 ladies no-limit event when five people were in a hand. She called with a 5-2 and took down a huge pot.
She then arrived at the final table as chip leader and after a very long heads-up match with Kim Strong, ended up winning the event, earning $5,044 and an attractive trophy. She also had high praise for her final opponent, who became a bridesmaid the second year in a row after finishing second in this event here last year. Earlier, the two had played side-by-side for about six hours. "She's tough," Haggard said. "She plays like me."
Haggard, 50, from Emporia, Kansas
, had worked for seven years as a writer for the Daily Racing Form until she remarried and settled down as a housewife. Her poker time is largely spent in "chicken coop" home games, along with some tournaments and occasional cash games in casinos. Asked the difference between ladies and open events, she felt that women tend to play more conservatively, allowing her to be more aggressive.
When second-day play began, Haggard was well in front with 46,400 chips.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1. Elizabeth Hunter 21,600
Seat 2. Penny Wedige 12,800
Seat 3. Michelle Hiers 8,200
Seat 4. Karen Kyle 28,800
Seat 5. Toni Haggard 46,400
Seat 6. Sue Warner 12,400
Seat 7. Kim Johnson 28,700
Seat 8. Melyssa Gerhardt 18,700
Soon after blinds went to 600-1,200, Penny Wedige went out ninth, which paid $425. Wedige, 41, is a field inspector for foreclosed HUD homes who's been playing three years. This and winning a tournament at Binion's are her poker highlights. She noted that she and her husband have been self-employed for nine years. The have two children, the oldest preparing to attend helicopter pilot school in the Nebraska National Guard.
As the level ended, Elizabeth
"Lizzy" Hunter went out eighth, for $566. She had pocket 8s and lost when Karen Kyle, holding A-7, made a Broadway straight. Hunter, 32, is from Omaha
where she is a decision support specialist at a major transportation company. She's been playing four years, has made about a dozen tournament final tables, and last year was the "bubble girl" at the High Heels ladies tour. She was engaged on her birthday last year and the wedding has been set for May 8, 2010. Everyone is invited.
Kim Johnson went out seventh when she ran into pocket aces. It paid $708. Johnson is 45 and a small business owner from Crescent, Iowa
. Who has been playing five years and has a number of cashes in local tournaments.
Melyssa "Missy" Gerhardt finished sixth and took home $850. Gerhardt, 30, is from Omaha
where she has an interesting double job as a dry wall finisher and chef. She's been playing 10 years and says she "knows when to hold'em and when to fold'em." Michelle Hiers went out fifth, worth $991.Hiers, 33, is a real estate agent from Council Bluffs
who's been playing for 10 years and placed third in a women's poker classic event last year.
Sue Warner departed in fourth place when her Q-J was blown away by A-3 after an ace flopped. Warner, 42, is from Papillion, Nebraska
where she is a marketing representative for Blue Shield Blue Cross of Nebraska. She's been playing two years and has one son.
This tournament then got heads-up after a three-way pot where everyone pushed in. Haggard had As-10h, Kyle had Ah-10c, and Strong had Ac-Kd. When the board came 3h-8s-3s-6s-9c, Kyle, missing her nut flush draw, bowed out third, while Strong stayed alive by taking down the main pot with her king kicker. Kyle, 50, is from Colon, Nebraska
and is a senior service technician for the gas company. She's played about four years and this is her first final table.
Heads-up, Haggard had about 145,000 chips to 75,000 for Strong. Blinds now at 1,500-3,000 with 400 antes, The match would last well over an hour. In early action, Strong doubled through with a set of 7s, then later dropped down to 18,000 when she held Q-3, flopped two pair but lost when Haggard, with pocket kings, hit a set on the turn. But she held on as chips moved back and forth for the next hour.
After a break, the two finalists returned to action. Play went on for a while until the final hand. when Strong moved in with pocket 6s and Haggard quickly called with pocket 8s. The board came 8-Q-3-J-2, and Haggard's set of 8s brought her the ladies championship.
Strong, collecting $2,832 for her second runner-up finish, is from Glencoe, Minnesota
where she works in sales. She's been playing three years and last year placed second in the ladies event here. She has a "great husband, Wayne," with five "great kids," six grandchildren, and one on the way. She started playing hold'em 3-1/2 years ago when she went to Vegas on a business trip. Three months after returning, she almost quit because she couldn't win. But then she began to win two or three tournaments a month, and that hooked her.