Here is my final table recap... it will probably have some spoilers so if anyone wants to see the TV show and be surprised, best not read on!
The beginning of the day was really frustrating. We were supposed to start around 2 and that meant 3 with all of the TV delays. I was second in chips but knew that was a precarious spot because some of the other stacks were right near mine and they would double up or bust shorter stacks and I could easily be passed.
A few hands in it seemed like the short stacks would hang around as both of them doubled quickly. Gavin was raising a lot but he also was getting re-raised by the shorties and he couldn't seem to bust anyone. I raised with ATo and AQo and won two small pots to get around 250k. One thing I want to mention is how uncomfortable it was at the final table when we had 10 people. We had been playing 9 handed the whole tournament and now we were 10 handed at the TV table (which has a high rail to it) and only so many cameras. I'm used to looking at my cards in front of my chips and I had to do it off to the side - its a small thing but it was annoying at first. One important thing that happened is Ben Gordon who was in second place at the time went to war with 77 vs Gavin's AK and lost. He re-raised preflop and then called Gavin's push and I didn't think that was a very good situation. Gavin wasn't going to bully with a bad hand in that spot and I think he would have been better served calling with the 7's and trying to flop a set.
This was a key - Gordon was to my left and I didn't like him being there. he was unpredictable and aggressive and I figured I would have like AQ or something and he would re-raise me and I would have a very difficult decision. That happened at a break and when we got back there were 7 people left and I believe I was in third.
Right after the break a key hand came up. Allie Prescott moved in for 72k or so with the blinds 3-6k and I looked down at AJs. I had about 200k and after a bit of a think I decided to move in behind. I was fortunate Allie had A9o and I busted him and got up to second in chips I believe.
From there we lost Dana in 6th place and Gavin really started to bully the short stacks... one time he opened and I actually mucked AJ from the BB. A hand or two later I had QQ and re-raised Gavin and he folded. I think I won a pot against George also in the blinds and had over 300k. A few hands later I found KK under the gun and made my standard raise to 18k. Gavin moved in behind me with Ajs, which is a huge overbet, but its an ok play since there were a couple of very short stacks still. I have to muck quite a few hands there. I instantly called with my KK and doubled through to now a close second with Gavin. Here's the thing about that hand. If Gavin flat calls (with AJ, 56, or two random cards), I'm still so deep that he can pressure me more after the flop - if the flop comes 865 for instance and he pushes all in overtop of my flop bet I have a very difficult decision. Preflop, the decision is way easier for me (I think I call there with QQ-AA, AK). This was obviously a huge hand for me and I really felt confident I would get heads up with Gavin now.
A few hands later came one of my best hands of the tournament. Matt Russell raised to 30k leaving himself about 80k. And Kenny Brown was in the BB with only about 20k or so. This means that I can pressure Matt because someone is about to go broke, and I feel like he will fold all but really good hands. I look down at KJs and decide to re-raise to 100k. George to my left folds, Gavin folds and Kenny goes all in with 77. Matt instantly folds and I flop a jack to bust Kenny. Incidently Matt folded KQ and Gavin folded AJ. As Gavin said I walked on water that hand but it was perfect timing and I had setup that play vs Matt in my mind for three days (having played with him every day).
Now we were down to 4 and I was pretty much even with Gavin and George and Matt were both under or around 100k I believe. I knew Gavin and I would chip away at them and it would only be a matter of time. First, George busted with A2 vs AQ for Gavin in the blinds... this left us three handed but it was a bit of a pain for me now because Gavin had position on my 2 of 3 hands. I decided I was going to pretty much raise every button to exploit the fact that Matt would give me respect and Gavin would not want to play out of position and he would not re-raise me very often. In the SB I would open limp a lot and try to keep the pots small. I won a few pots and Gavin won a few (in fact I think he won more than his share when he was in the BB). He is a pain in that spot because he gives up his hand on the flop very rarely. So you have to figure out when to bet your missed hands, when to follow through on the turn, when to let him take the lead, etc. One thing I will say is that Gavin calls a lot, rather than raising and that helped keeping the pots small. I also felt like he didn't think he needed to be making a lot of plays. So in reality, even if he was chipping away at me, I wasn't being put in a lot of tough spots, which was certainly ok with me.
Finally, Matt busted when he pushed with AT from the button, I folded A7 from the SB and Gavin called with AK. We were now heads up and I was behind, maybe 1mil to 700k.
I really thought Gavin and I would get heads up. I figured if I could get to even 400k I would have a shot at him with the structure so good as it was. He made it clear before the day started that he does not make deals so a deal was never discussed.
Thanks to the very good WSOPC structure, we played a few hands at 4k-8k before moving to 5k-10k. Very early on I raised a pot and then bet the flop and got called and folded on either the turn or the river to give Gavin a head start. Then I found KK and re-raised when Gavin opened and he thought for a minute before re-raising again. I thought for a minute before going all in and Gavin finally called with 44. I'm not sure what he was doing with this re-raise. Maybe he thought he good bully me around or picked up weakness, or maybe a pair is just big heads up (I certainly thought so a little later, lol). Anyway, I was fortunate and dodged a 4 to win a huge pot and get ahead.
I really felt confident now. He started folding a lot more when he was short, taking a lot less flyers on speculative hands. I also was very aggressive raising in position almost every time (and I think that surprised him and it took him a minute or two to adjust). I also tried to mix up my play when he open limped on the button , leading into him with good and bad hands equally. The next big hand I remember was when he completed on the button and I checked with 92 in the bb. The flop came Q95 and I check called. The turn was a 2 and I check raised his 60k bet to 200k, he went all in and I called right away. He had 95 and doubled through me.
I honestly don't remember how, but from what I remember, I chipped him way down again, to where he had only 300k or so. One hand I remember was when I had 92s. The flop came 853 two spades and I check raised and Gavin called. The turn was a 4c and Gavin lead into me and I called with the flush draw/wheel draw. The river was a spade that paired the board and Gavin check folded to my large bet on the river.
Finally, we got it all in preflop when Gavin limp re-raised all in with A4 and i had AQ. He apologized in advance for the bad beat and he indeed flopped a 4 to double through. One thing that immediately came to mind is the beat did not phase me a bit. I didn't get up and curse, and Gavin didn't hoot and holler and celebrate. This is always how I hoped I would act in that situation and exactly how I hoped my opponent would act. Maybe ESPN doesn't like this but I sure did.
Anyway, I still had a bit of a lead but it was back to work. Gavin really started rolling though. On my button I raised with 43o and he called. The flop came AJ8 and I bet 40k and he called. The turn was an A and I bet 60k and he called. I knew Gavin didn't have an ace and thought he might lay down an 8 or a J so I planned to bet the river also. The river was a 5 and I bet 140 or 150k. Gavin probably had it in his mind that I had never really value bet a hand this way, and I knew that also, but I still thought he would be put to a tough decision if I bet big on the river. I just tried to remain as still as possible while he thought it out... he said he couldn't beat anything but he finally called and won a huge pot.
This was a really tough time for me. I felt like it was slipping away and I remember that horrible feeling I had at the Borgata when Edog looked me up in a similar spot. You just want to run and hide when someone owns you like that but I knew I had to regroup.
A few hands later I really screwed up again when Gavin re-raised my button opener, I had 66 and I pushed all in and he had KK. I really deserved to lose at this point but I sucked out with quads to have another big chip lead. It was then when i finally had a beer with Gavin (who had had a few drinks at that point!).
Gavin went into his shell of small ball again and I chipped away with aggressive play. He did however raise or re-raise all in a few times and I had to fold. One time I had 9T and the flop came KJ7 giving me a pretty good, well disguised draw. I bet the flop and Gavin called, and I thought about checking behind on the turn when I missed but I bet again and he c/r all in and I had to fold. I finally c/r all in on the turn on a X655 board with 47 but Gavin called me with J5 and doubled through again. Again though, I chipped away and he had about 400k when he limp re-raised me all in with KQ and I called with AJ and finally won the title!
The feeling was pretty odd. It was a relief and it was great to shake hands with Gavin and I really believed that I had earned it. But also I didn't know how to act. I was nervous for the post game interview and photo opps and really was exhausted - all I wanted to do was get my money and get away from that casino honestly.
I really wanted to thank my parents who came in for the event. They always said they would come and even though my Dad had just returned from Europe they made the trip on almost no notice. I also wanted to thank online players SamENole and PartyPSucks from sweating me the last two days. Just to run over to them during the breaks and get encouragement was really helpful. And it must have been sooooo boring for most of it.
To wrap up this already too long entry - this victory earned me a berth in the Tournament of Champions at the Rio before the World Series and I am really pumped for that. The field will be ridiculously hard (27 players total, top 9 get paid) but the stakes are huge and its a freeroll! I'm excited and also excited for the World Series.
I returned home to Detroit on Monday morning - and by Monday evening I was back playing poker online! I managed to win my third WSOP seat (this time on Full Tilt) and finished 4th in the Party $150 for over $9k. All told I won $20k! I guess I'm still running good. Thanks for reading...