How does a man get a nickname like “Catfish”? Well, for James Bullard it was pretty easy to see why. The 70-year old Wills Point, Texas native spent three years living in a tent in Vietnam selling fish. Since then, the fisher and farmer earned the nickname and picked up a bit of poker knowledge along the way.
He has been playing poker since before most of us even knew what a deck of cards were. He cut his teeth on 25 cent – 50 cent limit hold ‘em and eventually started playing tournaments. On Sunday, his long hours of dedication to the game paid off, as he took down the second ring event at the Choctaw Casino World Series of Poker Circuit Series.
The $555 No-Limit Hold ‘Em event drew a total of 566 players. The top 63 spots finished in the money and 43 moved on to Day 2 action. After about eight hours of play, the final table was set. Chip counts by seat assignment at the final table were as follows:
1. Nathan Jessen 479,000
2. Jeremy Vaughn 878,000
3. Jack McCranie 272,000
4. Joe Hall 1,182,000
5. Lance Federick 558,000
6. Christopher Curry 353,000
7. Justin Kruger 476,000
8. Doug Paxton 1,152,000
9. Sam Murphy 404,000
10. Catfish James Bullard 1,180,000
10th Place - $4,239
Being the short stack at the final table, it didn’t take Jack McCranie long to get his chips in. He moved all in with and was called by Jeremy Vaughn with . The board came out and Vaughn paired his king to take the pot. McCranie, an environmental consultant from Aledo, Texas, took home $4,239 for his tenth place finish.
9th Place - $5,266
After his stack started taking some hits, Lance Federick made a stand with . Justin Kruger re-shoved all-in and everyone else folded. Kruger turned up and the board ran out . Kruger took the pot with his full house and Federick, a Fort Worth native, was sent to the rail in ninth place.
8th Place - $6,628
Doug Paxton entered the final table as one of only three stacks over a million. However, he lost some races to all in opponents and found himself dropping down the chip rankings. Joe Hall moved all in with and Paxton called all in holding . The flop came and Paxton caught his jack to take the lead. The on the turn gave Hall an open ended straight draw which the on the river completed. Paxton, a resident of Weatherford, OK, was the victim of runner runner to knock him out in eight place.
7th Place - $8,456
You see a variety of players at final tables. Some just sit quietly and play their cards, never chatting or interacting with their surroundings. Justin Kruger is not one of those players. From the start of the final table, Kruger was visibly excited about being at the final table, chatting with table mates, rail birds and anyone who happen to be in earshot of the Denison, Texas native.
His good time at the final table came to an end though when he moved all in with and was called by the of Jeremy Vaughn. The board came , giving Vaughn a flush and the chips. Kruger still walked away from the table with a smile and $8,456.
6th Place - $10,935
Chris Curry found himself in a race situation for all of his chips as well. He moved all in with and was called by Bullard holding . The flop came and Curry maintained his lead. The on the turn was a safe card but the on the river sent the Dallas native to the rail in sixth place.
5th Place - $14,336
A strange thing happened to Dallas’ Sam Murphy on day two. He was involved in four table redraws over the course of the day and he drew table 54 seat 9 on every single one of them. Unfortunately, the last draw put Catfish Bullard in table 54 seat 10. After a raise by Murphy, Bullard moved all in. It was folded back around to Murphy, who called all in for his tournament life. He showed but Bullard once again had Big Slick. The board came and Murphy was sent home in fifth place.
4th Place - $19,053
Joe Hall had pretty much stayed out of trouble at the final table. However, the poker gods put him in a bad spot when he moved all in before the flop with only to have Jeremy Vaughn wake up with . A board of did not improve Hall and the welder from Spring, Texas was put out in fourth place for $19,053.
3rd Place - $25,676
When action got three handed, Nathan Jessen folded his button and Jeremy Vaughn moved all in from the small blind. Catfish Bullard thought for a few minutes before finally announcing call. Bullard turned up but Jessen was in the lead with . The flop came out , giving Bullard the best hand with a pair of aces. Jessen needed a ten or king to take the pot. The turn was the and the river came the . Bullard took the huge pot to add to his chip lead and eliminate the Fort Worth native in third place for $25,676.
2nd Place - $35,113
Once heads-up play between Catfish Bullard and Nathan Jessen began, it was clear that Jessen was taking control of the action. It seemed that every time Bullard opened Jessen would push all in, forcing Bullard out of the pot. He was slowly creeping back to being even with Bullard when Bullard opened for 300,000 with the blinds at 50,000-100,000. Jessen again shoved all in and this time, Bullard went into the tank. Clearly, he knew he was going to have to make a stand against Jessen. Bullard decided that this was the hand to do it and called with the . Jessen turned up the and would have to catch up. The flop came out , keeping Bullard in the lead but giving Jessen additional outs to a straight. The turn was the and the river came the . Bullard’s ace high held up to win the pot and send Jessen, a resident of Blair, Nebraska, home in second place for $35,113.
1st Place - $56,772
The man they call Catfish had scored his biggest victory in his poker career, taking home $56,772 and the World Series of Poker Circuit ring. Despite the tournament not ending until almost 3am, that didn’t keep Bullard from calling his friends and family from the final table as soon as the action was over.
Additionally, Bullard picked up 50 points towards the National Championship Freeroll in May.
Congratulations also go out to Brandy Adrian, who won the Ladies Event here at the Choctaw Resort and Casino.
See the complete Choctaw Circuit schedule and previous results here. The WSOP Circuit at Choctaw runs through January 24th. You can find the complete 2010/2011 WSOP CIRCUIT SCHEDULE here.