Monday, July 5, 2010 1:55 AM Local Time
17 of the world's finest poker players started the day with the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, and Antonio Esfandiari all mustard keen to get their hands on the $500,000 first prize and leave the Rio as the 2010 Tournament of Champions Champion. However, only one man could adopt that mantle, and that player would ultimately be 1996 Main Event Champion Huck Seed.
But what an uphill struggle it was. Initially, players fell like lemmings on a tightrope, but as the final table evolved, it soon emerged that this could be a battle for the ages. Despite a slightly faster structure than other events, we remained 10-handed for a surprisingly long time, and whenever a short stack was all in, they seemed to double through. Eventually, and after Erik Seidel had felt the full splash of the bubble, the players began to hit the deck, before play once again halted with three survivors left.
Johnny Chan, Howard Lederer and Seed seemed to keep exchanging chips, each of them enduring spells as the short stack but seemingly clinging on with incredible durability. But finally, something had to give, and once we lost Chan in third, we had our heads-up encounter with Lederer boasting a small chip lead.
At around 2.40am, the final whistle was blown, Seed toppling his plucky opponent with As-2s against Qc-8c, an ace of space on the river merely adding salt into already open wounds. Seed already has his name inscribed in World Series history, but this victory will add yet another notch on his poker record and undoubtedly help cement his status as one of the best poker players to have ever hit the felt.
Monday, July 5, 2010 1:43 AM Local Time
Howard Lederer put up a good fight after Huck Seed doubled through him, but he could only last so long. Lederer moved all in on the button for a total of 138,000. Seed shrugged and knew the math said he had to call. The audience got to its feet for the final showdown.
The flop didn't change much, but as has happened over and over again this tournament, the plot thickened on the turn. The gave Seed a flush draw, but Lederer picked up an open-ended straight draw. Neither draw got there with the on the river, and Seed took the pot with top pair to knock out Lederer in second place.
Monday, July 5, 2010 1:33 AM Local Time
Huck Seed limped his button, and Howard Lederer checked. The flop fell , and Lederer moved all in. "I almost did that before the flop," Seed said. But after the flop, he went with a fold.
Monday, July 5, 2010 1:32 AM Local Time
The crowd were edging closer to the table, certain that this was the hand that would crown the 2010 Tournament of Champions Champions, and it very nearly was.
With Howard Lederer opening to 40,000 preflop, Huck Seed made the call from the big blind leading to a flop of . Lederer bet 60,000 (after it was checked to him), Seed moved all in, and Lederer made the call.
With the crowd holding their breath in unison, the dealer reached for the deck before laying an onto the felt, thus increasing Seed's outs by four more cards.
Then, the river, a seven from heaven, the ! Seed had been graced with a last ditch double through!
This was just another dramatic moment in a tournament that has provided more twists and turns than an episode of Columbo, and it was one that saw Seed retake the lead with 550,000. Lederer, meanwhile, dropped down to 260,000.
Monday, July 5, 2010 1:13 AM Local Time
After a bit of banter inbetween hands, the atmosphere suddenly turned serious as Huck Seed raised to 40,000 and Howard Lederer announced all-in. After a minute in the tank, Seed made the fold, showing the in the process. Lederer extends his lead.
Monday, July 5, 2010 1:09 AM Local Time
It's been pretty back-and-forth so far, with no one gaining momentum on the other.
In one hand, Huck Seed limped, and Howard Lederer checked his option. The flop came , and they Lederer checked. Seed bet 20,000, and Lederer folded.
Next hand, Lederer raised to 40,000, and Seed called to see the flop. Seed checked, and when Lederer fired 60,000, Seed gave it up.
Monday, July 5, 2010 1:06 AM Local Time
You wouldn't think there was $250,000 up for grabs here as both players are totally at ease and casually chatting away with each other as if it were a home game. Seated in his shorts, backwards cap and flip-flops, Huck Seed is one of the most mellow players I've come across, and could become the most laid-back Tournament of Champions Champion to date if he were to go on to win. Beyond the cool exterior, however, I'm certain this is a player who is itching for victory as much as his opponent.
Monday, July 5, 2010 12:59 AM Local Time
Huck Seed limped his small blind and Howard Lederer checked his option in the big blind.
Both players checked the flop, and the turn, only for Lederer to take it down with a bet of 16,000 on the river.
Monday, July 5, 2010 12:57 AM Local Time
Cards are in the air for the heads up match. Howard Lederer tweeted:
Just got head up with Huck. I have 468 to his 342. Given his HU record, I feel like a small dog.
We'll see if Huck's ninja heads-up skills come into play, or if they're too shallow, and too tired, to make this one a real battle.
Monday, July 5, 2010 12:47 AM Local Time
And so, after a an epic final day, we are down to our final two Gladiators: Huck Seed and Howard Lederer, both of whom will be eager as a lodge of beavers to get their hands on the $500,000 first prize as well as the sparkling chip-shaped trophy. If the thought of that wasn't enough to get their blood circulating, the spondoolies have been brought out to the final table just to remind them exactly what they are playing for.
Monday, July 5, 2010 12:44 AM Local Time
Howard Lederer raised from the small blind to put Johnny Chan all in, and after hollywooding for a bit, Chan made the call for his last 49,000.
The audience cheered for all kinds of cards as the dealer laid out the flop. That was a pretty good one as far sweats go. Lederer hit top pair, but Chan picked up an open-ended straight draw. The wasn't any help to him though. And much to the disappointment of his family and friends on the rail, the didn't save him either.
We're taking a brief break now to prepare for the heads-up match between Lederer and Huck Seed.
Monday, July 5, 2010 12:25 AM Local Time
A well deserved rest for crew and players alike.
Monday, July 5, 2010 12:21 AM Local Time
Johnny Chan raised it to 30,000 from the button, and after Huck Seed folded, Howard Lederer defended his big blind. The flop fell , and Lederer checked. Chan checked behind. Things got much more interesting after the on the turn. Lederer checked again, and Chan bet 45,000. Then Howard check-raised all in for a total of 173,000. Chan spent several minutes in the tank...and emerged with a call.
Chan had a world of outs, but the wasn't one of them. Lederer doubled up to 360,000, leaving Chan crippled with 45,000.
Monday, July 5, 2010 12:12 AM Local Time
I think Johnny Chan must be a New Kids on the Block fan the way he's 'hangin' tough' today. On his last encounter, he raised it up to 30,000 from the button and Huck Seed called in the small blind.
On the flop, Seed check-called a continuation bet of 30,000, but folded to an all in on the , albeit after a dwell.
Again, Chan lives to fight another day and is clinging on with the tenacity of a cat on the way to the vets.
Sunday, July 4, 2010 11:59 PM Local Time
Johnny Chan raised to 30,000, and Huck Seed popped it to 81,000. Howard Lederer folded, and Chan had little choice but to move all in for 106,000 total. Seed called to put Chan in danger.
The flop gave Seed straight outs and runner-runner flush outs to go with his overs. The on the turn, however, turned the fives into chop outs. But it didn't matter. The river was a blank, and Chan doubled up to 220,000. Seed is still in the lead with 325,000.
Sunday, July 4, 2010 11:41 PM Local Time
Chan is hovering around the 100,000 mark at the moment and in desperate need of a double through. On the last hand, Howard Lederer open-pushed the small blind, but Chan couldn't find anything productive in the hole and had to let it go.
Sunday, July 4, 2010 11:33 PM Local Time
Johnny Chan limped on the button, and from the small blind, Huck Seed made it 47,000 to go. Howard Lederer gave up his big blind, and Chan called to see a fateful flop. It came . Seed bet 47,000. Chan moved all in, and Seed snap called all in, risking his last 156,000 with the best of it.
Chan was drawing dead with top pair after the turn. Just for fun, Seed improved to a flush with the on the river and doubled to 419,000. Chan was left with 115,000.
Sunday, July 4, 2010 11:27 PM Local Time
Johnny Chan and Huck Seed saw a cheap flop from the small and big blind respectively where Chan led for 20,000 and Seed called. Despite the initial resistance, Chan took it down on the with a bet of a 60,000.
Sunday, July 4, 2010 11:17 PM Local Time
Howard Lederer raised on the button, and Johnny Chan folded his small blind. Huck Seed three-bet to 62,000, and Lederer flatted to see a flop. It fell , and Seed checked. Lederer bet 100,000, and Seed folded queens face up. Clearly it's going to take a lot to make someone go broke when the pay jump between third and second is $150,000 and the jump between third and first is $400,000.
Sunday, July 4, 2010 11:15 PM Local Time
Despite having railed for the last several hours, the members of the crowd have remained enthusiastic throughout, in particular the smattering of Johnny Chan fans who seem to have bred as the day has passed. On one hand, Chan even received an array of cheers for getting a walk!
Chan's not the only player with support, however, as Huck Seed appears to have attracted one super keen fan who I've labeled as 'The Clapper'. Seed only has to scratch his bottom and this dude will offer rapturous applause. He also claps louder, and longer than anyone else and he's always the guy who's still clapping when everyone else has finished. A true fan who could possibly spur on the former World Champion to victory.