Booze Flows in Tunica

Tonight's final table was a roller-coaster ride for Dennis Booze, a 25-year-old pro from Vegas. He started with a very big chip lead, quickly lost it and then, in the late stages, found himself all in twice with the worst hand. The first time he made a big turnaround by hitting a second pair on the turn to outrun his opponents' higher pair. The second time, he was up against a full house and made a bigger boat on the river! A deal was made three-handed, but Booze's official payout for winning this $230 buy-in no-limit event was $22,796, along with a stunning trophy ring.

Booze, who played basketball in high school, has been playing poker for eight years. This is his fourth final table, his biggest cash-out coming when he finished fifth at a Caesars Indiana Circuit in 2006. He divides his time between tournaments and live action, playing $2-$5 no limit and pot limit Omaha. He prefers PLO because he finds it "fast and fun." He describes his style as tight-aggressive, and said he played more aggressively than usual at the final table because, except for the other pro, Frank Mayo, he found the players easy to read. He also said he was on an "even keel" in this event until after the dinner break, when he went on a rush and amassed a lot of chips.

Tonight's tournament drew 470 players who made a prize pool of $91,180. Midway through this series, the numbers have been quite good, with a total of 7,552 entrants thus far for the three daily events.

When the eleven entrants remaining on day one played down to the final nine, Booze was the big leader with 1.143 million chips. Final-table action then began with blinds of 1,500-3,000 and 400 antes, 20 minutes left in the level. 

Here were the starting chip counts:

Seat 1. Annette Sturgeon        174,000          

Seat 2. Jamie Walker               488,000

Seat 3. Ryan Gregor               382,000

Seat 4. Darryl Harris               684,000          

Seat 5. Bob Roberts                453,000                      

Seat 6. Jody Mitchell              525,000          

Seat 7. Michael McKee           373,000

Seat 8. Frank Mayo                 450,000          

Seat 9. Dennis Booze              1,143,000       

On the first hand, Annette Sturgeon, the second woman to make a final table here so far (her husband, Bruce, finished third in the earlier $400 no-limit event) doubled up with a set of kings against Jamie Walker's set of jacks. Soon after, Darryl Harris took the chip lead when his pocket jacks beat Booze's A-3. A hand later, Jody "The Champ" Mitchell, with pocket treys, doubled through against Harris' A-J and now he was the chip leader. Three all-ins and three survivals so far.

After a break, play continued with blinds of 2,000-4,000 and 500 antes. There were two more all-ins and two more survivals as Michael McKee escaped against Mitchell, and then Bob Roberts doubled through against Harris. Finally, late in the level, a player failed to get away. It was Harris, all in with A-8 against Mayo's Jh-9h. Mayo caught two jacks for trips and Harris cashed ninth. Harris is 23, a student, and hails from Memphis, Tennessee. He's played two years.

As the level ended, Walker moved in. Mayo, unable to decide about calling, went into the tank, musing out loud about possibilities, and finally folding and apologizing for the delay after a clock was put on him.

After blinds went to 3,000-6,000 with 500 antes, Ryan Gregor went out eighth. He was in bad shape with A-8 against Booze's A-K, and departed after the board came A-Q-4-7-J. Gregor. 29, is a debt collector from Kansas City, Missouri, playing poker five years

After players went all in several more times and won, everyone was still left until the final hand at that level. Mayo bet 200 pre-flop with pocket 5s, and Jody Mitchell called with  pocket 8s,. On a flop of 4-3-7, Mitchell bet his last chips, then took a bad beat when a 6 turned to give Mayo a straight. Mitchell, 47, a contractor from Wenatchee, Washington, has been playing for five years and finished seventh in the third event here.

Right after blinds went up, Bob Roberts went out. Now playing for 4,000-8,000 with 1,000 antes, Roberts put in his last chips with Ac-5c, up against Michael McKee's pocket 10s. Neither player hit when the board came K-Q-8-5-K, and Roberts went out sixth. Roberts is 28 and has played for 20 years. He is from Bryant, Arkansas where he is a commercial real estate broker.

McKee was now the leader with more than 2 million of the 4.7 million chips on the table. This tournament got down to four after Walker for opened for 300,000 with Ah-Qh. McKee moved in and Walker called for his last 550,000. Nothing bigger than a 10 hit the board, and Walker finished fifth. Walker, 32, is a small business owner from Lebanon, Ohio who's been playing four years.

Next, Booze had his first narrow escape when he was all in with 10-5 against Sturgeon's A-J. Both a jack and a 5 flopped, but then a 10 turned to give Booze two pair and leave Sturgeon short. Her last chips went in on the next hand when she was in the big blind with 4-2, and she lost to Mayo's A-Q after a board of K-10-J-10-9 gave him a straight. Sturgeon, finishing fourth, is 45, from Bloomington, IN and employed as a bookkeeper. She's been playing five years, won a $10,000 WSOP seat here three years ago and came in second in the Jeff Gordon tournament.

The three finalists now engaged in prolonged negotiations, finally reaching a deal as the level drew down. Blinds became 6,000-12,000. Now Booze and Mayo tangled. Mayo moved in with pocket 6s and Booze called all in holding A-K with 400,000 fewer chips. McKee filled when the flop came 5-5-5, but then Booze made a bigger filly when an ace hit the river to grant him his second daredevil survival. On the next hand, Booze pushed in with pocket 10s and Mayo called with A-8. The board came 9-8-5-Q-3, and Mayo exited in third place. Mayo is a poker player from Little Rock, Arkansas who's been playing "forever." He has a final table in the Mid-America Poker Classic last year.

Heads-up, Booze was once again the chip leader with about 3.2 million  to 1.5 million for McKee.  It was a short battle. On the fourth hand, McKee opened for 250,000 with K-9d, then called when Booze moved in with Ad-8d. The board came Ah-3s-Js-8h-Jd, and the paired ace nailed down the win for Booze.

McKee, 41, is a tile setter from Decatur, Alabama who started playing six years ago. This is his best poker achievement.