Tunica, Miss. (February 2, 2015) — A lifetime of poker, and Johnny Landreth finally has his ring. The Lanett, Ala. native won a marathon heads-up match against Tom Thomas to conquer a field of 457 in the Horseshoe Casino World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event and take down $147,388, his first gold WSOP Circuit ring, and book a seat in the National Championship.
 

Landreth, a 67-year-old retiree and father of five, said he's been playing poker his whole life. He's banked some solid scores in his career with the headliner being a win in a 2005 WPO event for $185,797. However, WSOP success had mostly eluded him until now. Now, he has something major to show for his efforts on the tour.

“I've got a lot of friends that have [a ring],” Landreth said. “I played a lot of events and it just hadn't fallen my way. It did this time.”

Landreth found himself in prime position to grab the win entering Day 3 as only eight players remained and he held a slight chip lead over Thomas with a massive gulf between those two and the rest of the players. Combined, the two brought more than 6,000,000 into the final day of the 9,140,000 total in play, good for more than 100 big blinds each as the day began at 15,000/30,000/5,000.

That meant the pressure was on for the rest of the competitors, and one by one, they were crushed under the overwhelming stacks of Landreth and Thomas who found themselves heads up with the gold Circuit ring in a tiny black box between them just over two hours into play. Landreth held about a two-to-one lead at that point. A marathon battle ensued, with neither player looking to take major risks given how deep the stacks were (shorter-stacked Thomas still had 72 big blinds). Landreth said he was prepared for the tough battle against an opponent whom he characterized as “really conservative.”

“I knew I was going to have to be patient, but I have to be aggressive on top of that,” he said. “You have to get to know a player, and that's what we did for so long, and that's why we started off so slow.”

While many heads-up matches feature very aggressive play and massive swings, this one featured more gradual, but still stark, shifts of momentum. Rather than one big pot determining who held the lead, each player would go on a run where he would seemingly win 80 percent of the pots for a half hour stretch, and the chip lead changed hands several times. At his lowest point, Landreth had been whittled to about 15 big blinds by Thomas' patient play.

“I'm not going anywhere, I'm not giving up,” Landreth said of his mindset when the end seemed near. “I had to manufacture some chips when he had me down on the ropes.”

The turning point came in a limped pot when     flopped, and Thomas bet out 250,000 from the big blind during Level 31 (50,000/100,000/10,000). Landreth called, and Thomas fired another 500,000 on the   turn. Landreth decided to shove all in for about double that with his   , the flopped nut straight, and Thomas called with   . He missed his four-outer on the river, giving Landreth renewed life.

A heads-up match that had started very amiably, with the two Southern gentlemen (Thomas hails from Amarillo, Tex.) chatting it up about all manner of topics, including mutual friends and experiences in the old-time South poker scene, got more serious as the night dragged on and neither relented. Ultimately, after an eight-hour battle, Thomas shoved his last 2,000,000 in from the button at Level 33 (80,000/160,000/20,000) with    and was called by Landreth, who woke up with   . A run out of       meant Landreth had his ring.

“I sure am [tired],” Landreth said after the win.

Other players taking chunks of the $685,500 prize pool included Ryan Tepen (15th), Tripp Kirk (17th), Scott Stewart (18th), Ari Engel (19th), Nathan Bjerno (25th), Kory Kilpatrick (34th), Jordan Smith (35th), Kyle Cartwright (36th), Brandon Newsome (43rd), and Josh Mancuso (44th). Stewart's deep run cemented his place as the Casino Championship points leader, for which he will also receive a free seat in the WSOP National Championship.

The Main Event was the 10th of 12 gold ring events on the WSOP Circuit schedule at Horseshoe Tunica. The $1,675 no-limit hold’em event attracted 457 entries. The total prize pool came to $685,500 and the top 54 players were paid.

Final table results:

1st: Johnny Landreth - $147,388 + National Championship seat
2nd: Tom Thomas - $91,124
3rd: Happy Nahkoneinh - $66,569
4th: Norman McKeldin - $49,349
5th: Jeremy Drewery - $37,113
6th: Keith Murrell - $28,311
7th: Jay Bishop - $21,902
8th: Jamie Strickland - $17,185
9th: Russ Head - $13,676

Complete results available on WSOP.com.