A Dream Realized

"It was like a dream," Kenny "K-5" Long said after getting heads-up with Chris Moneymaker and beating him to win the 10th event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Casino Tunica, $400 no-limit hold'em. His match with the poker icon, the Tennessee accountant who in 2003 ran a $39 online satellite win into a $2.5 million world championship to forever change the face of poker, lasted 60 hands. It was by far the longest of any event here thus far.

Long, 32, is from Dickson, Tennessee and is an adolescent counselor at New Life Lodge, a rehab center. He plays in a weekly private tournament with about 50 players, but this is only his second major tournament try at a casino..His win earned him $30,650 and a Circuit trophy ring.

Long got heads-up with a slight chip disadvantage, about 1.5 million to 1.7 for Moneymaker. His strategy, he said, was to take advantage of Moneymaker's aggressiveness, letting him bet hands for him, and picking his spots to challenge him. The strategy paid off on the final hand when he flopped two pair, just called when Moneymaker bet, then moved in after Moneymaker bet the turn. Long has been playing poker 16 years, and is mainly a tournament player. He came here with about 30 other players from his private tournament to honor Corey Sanders, a top player who passed away a year ago, and dedicated his win to him. Sanders, whom he said was the best player in his group, won a $500 Circuit event here two years ago.

Moneymaker, meanwhile, was making his first stab at a Circuit series, and this was the third event he entered here. His star presence created quite a stir, and drew a standing-room-only crowd of spectators.

This event drew 316 players and the prize pool was $122,608. Moneymaker was well ahead of the field late in day one action, and when the final nine was reached, he had amassed 1,180,000 chips, about 35 percent of all those in play.  

Here were the starting chip counts: 

Seat 1. Neal Cooke                 100,000          
Seat 2. Richard Ferro              284,000
Seat 3. Dina Rylander            81,000
Seat 4. Jim Naifeh                   752,000
Seat 5. Matthew Haugen        157,000                      
Seat 6. Kenny Long                317,000          
Seat 7. Chris Moneymaker     1,180,000
Seat 8. Glyn Banks                 91,000
Seat 9. Dave Lieberman          210,000

Day two started with blinds of 6,000-12,000 and 1,000 antes, four minutes left on the clock. Dina Rylander, the third woman to make a final table in this series, started lowest-chipped with 81,000. She was all in on the first hand with Ad-Jd, up against Richard "Rachet" Ferro, who held K-J. A flop of 10-9-Q gave Ferro a straight. A turn-card diamond gave Rylander a flush draw, but she missed and finished ninth. Rylander, 40, is a registered nurse from Collierville, Tennessee playing four years. Her poker highlights have been making final tables with her husband.

Blinds now were 8,000-16,000. Glyn Banks, second-lowest starter, tripled up with pocket aces, but Neal Cooke, third-lowest, wasn't so fortunate. He moved in with 10s-8s and Moneymaker called with K-Q. Moneymaker flopped quad kings, and never mind the turn and river, Cooke was out in eighth place. Cooke, 40, is from Lowland Colorado and works as a saltwater fishing guide and sushi chef. He's played four years and his highlights are making two final tables at the Lake Tahoe WSOP Circuit and taking out WSOP champ Jerry Yang in that main event.

Another player exited very quickly. Matthew Haugen was all in with the best hand, As-8s against Ferro's Qs-10s. The board came Q-8-5-3-3, and Ferro's paired queen left Haugen in the seventh spot. Haugen is a 23-year-old pro from Jacksonville Florida who was formerly a student.

Late in the level, Moneymaker tried a pre-flop raise with 4s-3s, then called with Dave Lieberman re-raised all in with A-8. A flop of 4-5-10 paired Moneymaker, and when Lieberman couldn't catch up when a deuce and jack came, he departed in sixth place. Lieberman, 29, is a subcontractor from Smyrna, Tennessee who's played four years.

Blinds now became 10,000-20,000 with 2,000 antes. Moneymaker, who had been catching pretty good (earlier, with two tables left, he made a full house with 9-7 and knocked out two players), finally took a hit with the better hand, K-9 versus Long's Kd-8d. Long made a flush on the river and doubled up. However, Moneymaker soon returned to form. He raised with Q-J and called with much the worst hand when Banks re-raised all in with A-Q. No problem. A flop of 8-J-5 paired Moneymaker, and the jacks held up after a 10 and 8 were dealt. Banks, finishing fifth, is a plant manager turned pro from Smithville, Tennessee. He has two circuit championship event final tables, along with several other WPT and WSOP cashes. In 2005 he finished 169th out of 8,666 entrants in the WSOP main event.

Ferro was the next player out. He three-bet all in with pocket treys against Long's pocket kings, losing and finishing fourth when the board came 5-8-5-J-A. Ferro, 36, is from Dallas, Texas and self-employed. He has several Circuit final tables here and in Indiana, including a second in pot-limit hold'em here, as well as a 12th in a $2,000 PLO WSOP event. .

The level ended and players took a break, returning to blinds of 15,000-30,000 and 4,000 antes. Moneymaker still held the lead with roughly 1.5 million to about 1.1 million for Long and 700,000 for Jim Naifeh. We didn't lose another player until the next level kicked in, with blinds of 20,000-40,000 with 5,000 antes. On the first hand, Moneymaker raised with 8c-7c, and Naifeh moved in for 320,000 holding Qs-Js. Moneymaker, still on a roll, flopped a pair, made two pair on the turn, and filled on the river.

Naifeh, a 41-year-old investor from Covington, Tennessee, won the $200 4 p.m. limit hold'em tournament here last week. He's been playing 10 years.

We were now heads-up, and the long match got underway. Play was on the cautious side, with almost no all-ins and no calls when a player did move in. After 19 hands, Long took a slight lead when he held 7-3 and a board of 9-J-6-7-3 gave him two pair. By the time blinds went to 30,000-60,000, Long had pulled farther head, about 2 million to 1.2 million. There was finally an all-in. With a board of 9h-Kh-3c-Jh, Long pushed. "What are you up to," Moneymaker asked. "Just working," Long replied. Moneymaker finally folded and playfully peeked at one of Long's cards, a 10h. Long later disclosed he did have a flush. "I don't play well enough to make a move," he said.

On and on it went, until blinds reached 40,000-80,000 with 10,000 antes. Finally, the flop came 2s-Jc-3d. Holding Js-6s for top pair, Moneymaker bet 225,000. With Jh-2h for two pair, Long just called. When a 5h turned, Moneymaker bet 200,000, and this time Long moved in and Moneymaker called, losing with a king hit the river.

After winning the WSOP championship, Moneymaker, now 33 and living in Memphis, has been traveling the world playing tournaments as a representative and spokesperson for PokerStars. He's also written a book and established a gaming supply business, Moneymaker Gaming.