"Jungle Boy" Finally Gets His Gold -- Jason Koon Finishes as Runner Up
 
Las Vegas, NV (May 31, 2012) – One thing’s for certain.  The World Series of Poker is never dull.  There’s always something happening at the Rio – making that several things happening – no matter the day or schedule of events.
 
The WSOP also is willing to take risks and offer unique attractions that are not even on the map of poker consciousness elsewhere.  Consider the third gold bracelet event offered on this year’s schedule – a first-time poker tournament called “Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em / Pot Limit Omaha.”  The concept calls for competitors to play alternating rounds of No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha – in the pressure cooker of a heads-up format.
 
Sure.  Heads-up events have been held in the past.  There’s also been plenty of No-Limit and Pot-Limit action.  But never before in history has this rich gumbo of popular poker ingredients all been tossed into a collective pot and served to a medley of ravenous poker aficionados.
 
The “dinner” cost $3,000 to attend (the entry fee), which didn’t exactly dissuade 317 guests from sitting down at the table in order to dine at what amounted to the grand opening of a nine course meal.  That's right, nine "courses" as in heads-up matches necessary to win what amounted to a gauntlet of increasing difficulty.
 
Culinary showman Emeril Lagasse would never have stood a chance.
 
The guy with the coolest name in poker -- Leif Force -- ended up as the head chef of the affair, collecting an indubitably appetizing $207,708 in prize money as the main course, plus a sparkling new WSOP gold bracelet for dessert.
 
The enigmatic-looking poker pro, nicknamed "Jungle Boy" for his unorthodox appearances at WSOP past, seems to have gradually melded into semi-conformity as his WSOP earnings have upticked in recent years.  Force, from Tallahassee, Florida is best known for his 11th-place finish in the 2006 Main Event Championship, when he won a staggering $1,154,527 in his first-ever appearance at the WSOP.
 
This was classified as WSOP schedule Event #3, since it’s the third gold bracelet of 61 to be awarded this summer in Las Vegas.  The tournament was played over three consecutive days and nights, starting on Tuesday at noon, and concluding late Thursday.  
 
The tournament began with 317 players – a nice turnout considering the debut nature of the event plus the $3,000 buy-in.  After the first day, only 64 players survived.  The second day included the field being further reduced to the last 8 players.  Once the final heads-up match was reached on Thursday, players were moved to the ESPN Main Stage, where Force defeated Jason Koon in a span of about 90 minutes.
 
For his runner-up finish, Koon collected $128,660.
 
The Event #3 prize pool totaled $870,870.  The top 64 finishers were paid.  
 
Among those who cashed in the round of eight were two former WSOP gold bracelet winners -- Andy Frankenberger and Annette Obrestad.
 
The next group of in-the-money finishers (round of 16) included former title holders – Josh Arieh, David Williams, and Mike Sexton.
 
In fact, Sexton, a former gold bracelet winner and inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame two years ago, entered two events which began the same day.  Even though the Heads-Up format of Event #3 (which included mandatory down time) allowed Sexton more time to concentrate on the Eight-or-Better competition, he nonetheless entered the record books, of sorts.  Sexton accomplished what is believed to be a first in poker history.  He entered both tournaments, and not only cashed in both but also managed to finish in the top 16 for both tournaments.  Indeed, two min-cashes would be quite impressive.  But to think that Sexton ran deep in two overlapping events is phenomenal.
 
But in the end, Sexton was just one of 316 casualties, whose hopes of WSOP bracelet glory will have to wait... at least until the next event.
 
Force hereby becomes the third player to win a gold bracelet at this year’s WSOP.  
 
The official report of this tournament, with much more news and official data, will be posted soon to WSOP.com.
 
-- by Nolan Dalla