Opening with a Bang

It's a sure bet that no tournament in history every started off as dramatically as the 14th event of the WSOP Circuit at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. The very first hand started with the only three all-ins in this series.  First, Ken Oldenborg moved in with pocket kings. Next, Scott Standridge pushed in with pocket aces. Then, Burdick, after going in the tank for a very long time, finally called with pocket jacks, which he later admitted was a bad call. ("I was about to fold, but 'all in' came out of my mouth," he said afterwards.) A flop of K-8-9 put Oldenborg in the lead with a set of kings as he outran the aces. A queen turned. And then the river brought a 10. Burdick's call turned out not so bad after all because it gave him a winning straight as he knocked out one player, crippled another and zoomed up from 248,000 to over 600,000 chips, about a third of those in play. He kept building his big lead, and, as bang-bang action continued, won this $500 no-limit event in just over 90 minutes. His victory was worth $28,334, along with the coveted diamond-and-gold trophy ring.

Burdick who listed his occupation as "father,: but is actually a pro, is 37 and from Palmetto, Florida. He started playing full time in 2003 after quitting his job as a municipal bond stockbroker. He swings around the country playing tournaments at the WSOP, the Wynn, the Borgata, various Circuit sites and elsewhere, with the full support and encouragement, he said, of his wife Robin and 15-month-old daughter, Payton. He has about $200,000 in tournament cashes, his best being $57,000 for a third at the Foxwoods Poker Classic. He also has a final table at a $1,500 Circuit event here. On his bio, he called himself "Mr. Modesty," described his existence as "basically a life of mediocrity," but also wrote that he is "a very tough player, as opponents will tell you." His style, he said, is just to play a lot of hands.

This event drew 314 players who made a prize pool of $91,374. Final-table play commenced at level 16 with blinds of 10,000-20,000 and 3,000 antes, a full hour left in the round. Leading with 394,000 chips was Jeff Banghart, winner of the opening event here.

Here were the starting chip counts:

Seat 1. James Yockey             266,000
Seat 2. Scott Standridge         284,000
Seat 3. Jeff Bryan                   108,000  
Seat 4. Jeff Banghart              394,000          
Seat 5. William Burdick          248,000                                  
Seat 6. Ken Oldenborg           98,000            
Seat 7. John Nohr                   112,000
Seat 8. Joe Geisler                   202,000                      
Seat 9. Kaven Wood               193,000

After the incredible opening hand, Oldenborg cashed ninth for $1,827 while Standridge was left with just 22,000. Oldenborg, 45, is a farmer from Lake Crystal, Minnesota. He's had some local cashes but this is his first Circuit final table. He has two boys, ages 17 and 20..

Standridge, meanwhile, stayed alive by flopping a set of 8s on the next hand, then, right after, escaping with K-Q against a pair of 9s when a straight hit the board to give him a chop.

Fast action continued. A few hands later, Kaven Wood pushed in with A-10 and busted out when Jeff Bryan called with Ks-Qs, winning with a pair when the board came K-2-5-4-7, Wood is 36, lives in Rock Port, Missouri and is a manufacturing supervisor. He's played five years and this is his first final table. He has three sons.

Once more Standridge had another all-in, this time his last. He had K-9 against James Yockey's pocket queens. The ladies did the job when the board came A-3-6-6-A, and three were gone very quickly. Standridge, earning $3,655 for seventh, is from Fort Smith, Arkansas. He's self-employed as a locksmith, has played five years and his big achievement was winning the Scotty Nguyen V main event which brought him $98,941. He also has a second in a $200 Circuit event at Tunica..

Action did not slow. Five minutes later, another player was knocked out, the fourth in just 35 minutes. This time it was Joe Geisler. He pushed in with As-10s and got a call from John Nohr, who had Kh-Qh. A board of Q-6-7-K and two spades gave Nohr two pair and Geisler a flush draw. Geisler's hopes were dashed when an offsuit 6 came, and he collected $4,569 for sixth. Geisler 24, is from Manhattan, Kansas and has been playing four years. He's currently an electrician but plans to move to Vegas and turn pro.

There were more all ins, but all five players were left when blinds went to 15,000-30,000. It then didn't take long to lose another player. Banghart moved in with pocket7s. Burdick called with pocket 10s and filled when the board came 4-4-Q-J-10. Banghart got $5,482 for fifth. He is 47, from Bennington, Nebraska, and owns a lawn sprinkler business. Hence his nickname of "MrRain." He won $30,127 for his victory in the first event here, where he also started the final table with the chip lead. He's been playing since age 12. His biggest cash was $238,000 for 41st in the 2007 WSOP main event. That same year he collected $55,000 for finishing fourth in the Circuit $5,000 main event here.

Burdick now had a huge lead with about 1.2 million of the 1.9 million in play. Right after that, he picked up even more chips by knocking out the next player. Yockey was all in with Q-J against Burdick's A-3. Nothing came for him, and he took out $6,396 for fourth.. Yockey, 34, is a FedEx driver from Smithland, Iowa who's played 15 years. He's married with four children and has won a few small tournaments.

Going out in third place was Jeff Bryan. He was all in with A-8 against Burdick's A-9, losing when the board showed K-J-6-3-9. Bryan, 36, lives in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. where he is a sales manager for a concrete equipment company. This is his eighth final table. He has about a half-million in tournament cashes, his largest being $333,400 for finishing 27th in the 2007 WSOP main event. He also won $61,374 for a third in the Scotty Nguyen Poker Challenge in 2006. Bryan started playing at age nine and tournaments three years ago. He now has five children and 2 grandchildren.

Burdick's final match-up with Nohr only lasted a few hands. On the final deal he had pocket 10s to Nohr's A-7, and the pair held up after a board of Q-2-5-8-6. Nohr, 32, is from Spearfish, South Dakota and is self-employed. His various tournament cashes include a 12th in a $500 event here in 2007.