The prestigious $25,000 Poker Players Championship––hell to cover, due to the various games played, from 2-7 triple draw to razz––has been won by none other than Las Vegas grinder John Hennigan. He beat out a field of 102 of poker’s greatest minds, ultimately prevailing against Brandon Shack-Harris heads up. I last covered Hennigan a couple weeks ago in the $1,500 WSOP Event #19 NLHE tournament, when he was vanquished heads up by retired marine sergeant Ted Gillis.
Ultimate glory on the line––Hennigan against Shack-Harris and Jesse Martin
Nicknamed "Johnny World," the former billiards professional now has three WSOP bracelets to his credit, as well as a third place finish in last year’s Poker Players Championship. With this convincing win in the most demanding of WSOP small field events, Hennigan has vaulted into status as one of the game’s true elite. He commented to Poker News after earning his bracelet that it was “very fulfilling to win the event,” as he had been playing mixed games for many years. He noted that this game was played by many top-tier professionals, from Phil Ivey to Doyle Brunson, for the honor of winning more than high ROI expectations. Unlike in cash games, players were “emotionally involved” and every pot hotly contested down the stretch.
Hennigan taking on Gillis heads up two weeks earlier
Wearing a t-shirt fittingly emblazoned with the Superman symbol on it, Hennigan found himself in a downward spiral late in Day Three, but pulled out a win when the game shifted to PLO and he “bet it all on one hand.” After that critical double up, things turned around and Hennigan seemed to win every hand, “that’s kind of how poker goes sometimes.” I expect to see more from Hennigan in the days to come––hopefully he will decide to put some of his hard-earned money to work in the $25,000 One Drop satellite that is taking place Saturday night, giving himself a shot at the biggest money.
I want to apologize to loyal blog readers for going AWOL the past couple days. I entered the $1,500 Monster Stack yesterday, which exceeded all expectations by attracting nearly 8,000 runners. As mentioned earlier, I am of the opinion that the Monster Stack will quickly gain the reputation as the “everyman’s Main Event,” as it offers deep stack play at an eminently affordable price. Both me and On Tilt Radio colleague Nathan Dowland decided to temporarily forego our media duties and register, pursuing ultimate bragging rights and a $10.6 million prize pool that includes a $1.37 million first prize.
On Tilt Radio colleague Nathan Dowland––Monster starting stack and Blue Shark Optics cap
I am doing pretty good about five hours into the tournament, up to about 20,000 chips through careful, steady play that has included slow playing aces from the small blind and extracting maximum value. Unfortunately, I run into a cooler that I probably could have gotten away from (just) pre-flop. Under the gun with A-Q, I put in a small raise of 500 and get min reraised to 1,000 by a player in middle position. She has been playing snug so I call reluctantly, feeling priced in––I am ready to muck my hand if anything less than the perfect flop peels out. Lo and behold, an A-Q-4 board comes and I have two pair. Call it sixth sense, I check the flop and my opponent checks behind. The turn is inconsequential and we also check this. When a seemingly harmless river card comes out that does not complete any draws, I fire 3,000, hoping to extract a little value. Instead of calling or folding as expected, my opponent raises it up to 6,000. As suspicious as this min-raise is, I am priced in with my top two pair and call. Naturally, she turns over pocket aces, not the A-K or A-J I was hoping to see.
No media pass––only allowed to take pics of myself grinding it out
A player at the table who considers himself a bit of an expert (read: know-it-all) tells me I should have mucked preflop when my opponent raised even a little, considering how snug she had been playing. I shrug––I did after all lose the minimum, all things considered. If I had played it any other way (or if she had shoved on me, like most players would) I would likely have lost my entire stack. Instead I have a respectable 10,000 stack that represents about 50 big blinds. Moving to another table I get whittled down to 7,000 before starting to make some reads and moves, and chipping back to 15,000. Unfortunately, the blinds are increasing and I ultimately have to make my stand with 8,000 behind and a pocket pair. I lose the coin flip against my new least favorite hand A-Q and nine hours of hard work goes down the drain. Ah, the joys of poker. Meanwhile, Nathan has been battling a dearth of quality cards but still has 7,000 chips going into Day Two––the perfect stack for doubling up or going home.
Turnout larger than anticipated (photo Nathan Dowland)
Now, it’s time to head to the Rio and watch the action in the $1,5000 Eight Game Mix, which features Stephen Chidwick and Phil Ivey as chip leaders among a final 13 that also includes Daniel Negreanu. Needless to say, if either Ivey or Negreanu achieves the bracelet, they will win a prop bet that reportedly well exceeds $1 million. This is definitely a “last hurrah” chance for the tournament veterans, as we move into the final leg of the WSOP. Also starting today is the anticipated Ladies NLHE Championship, which features the likes of Kathy Liebert, Jackie Glazier, and PokerNews host Kristy Arnett.