NORCALonica is California Dreamin' with a win in the May 10th Sunday Million

Sunday Million logo.jpgApparently, more than a few poker players spent this Sunday with their moms, as a lighter-than-usual (yet still massive) field of 6,947 players took to the virtual felt for this Mothers' Day edition of the Sunday Million. The $1.5 million prize pool contained a $110,600 overlay and 990 places were paid, first prize coming out to a whopping $228,150.

The money bubble burst at 8:35 p.m. EDT, but it would take another six hours of play before reaching the final table. Though a number of Team PokerStars Pros took their shot at the Million, only two cashed, Dennis Phillips in 591st place and Barry Greenstein in 805th. Greenstein would return during the final table to offer some running commentary from the rail. Other familiar screen names notching solid finishes included Tom "luvgamble" Schneider (16th), Greg "DuckU" Hobson (24th), and Kevin "BeL0WaB0Ve" Saul (114th).

Here's how the chip counts stacked up as the final table kicked off:

Seat 1: NORCALonica (3,132,376 in chips)
Seat 2: benpatt (11,818,772 in chips)
Seat 3: MBNJR (5,948,120 in chips)
Seat 4: El_Cañonero (9,333,776 in chips)
Seat 5: In8desyr (10,779,680 in chips)
Seat 6: cainearized (8,043,904 in chips)
Seat 7: jkidd1084 (3,238,585 in chips)
Seat 8: fishfinder22 (4,979,860 in chips)
Seat 9: Jonesie03 (12,194,927 in chips)

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Within the first orbit of play we saw our first elimination from the final table. Sitting in the middle of the pack with 7.4 million in chips, cainearized opened the action with a raise to 1,000,255. Chip leader Jonesie03 called and they saw a flop of Q♣5♥2♣. Cainearized led out for 1,725,000 and Jonesie03 smooth-called. Cainearized checked the J♦ on the turn and Jonesie03 took a shot at the pot, making a small bet of 1.6 million. Cainearized called and to the river they went, the 9♠. Cainearized checked again and Jonesie03 moved all in for 8.7 million, putting cainearized to a decision for his 3 million remaining chips. Cainearized made the call, turning up Q♥T♥, his top pair no match for Jonesie03's set with J♥J♣. It was the end of the road for cainearized, who exited in ninth place, collecting $11,625.

Only five hands later, jkidd1084 got his remaining 2.6 million in chips all in before the flop vs. El_Canonero. It was a classic race with jkidd1084's 9♣9♦ up against Q♥J♠, but the coin immediately fell El_Canonero's way, the flop coming down Q♣J♥5♦ to make him top two pair. The turn sealed the deal, falling the J♦, and the meaningless A♣ completed the board on the river, El_Canonero raking in the 5.8 million pot and sending jkidd1084 to the rail for an $18,000 payday.

About ten minutes later, a short-stacked MBNJR had to be ecstatic to look down at A♠A♣ and even more thrilled to get his money in before the flop and get action from In8desyr, holding K♦K♠. All looked good for MBNJR to earn a double-up, the flop coming down J♠7♥6♣ and the turn falling the 4♠. In brutal fashion, however, In8desyr spiked his two-outer on the river, the K♥ landing to wrest away the 6.7 million pot and eliminate a very unlucky MBNJR in seventh place. Hopefully the $33,000 MBNJR earned cushioned the blow just a bit.

Fishfinder22 was down to less than 2,000,000 in chips with the blinds all the way up to 250,000/500,000 and decided to make a stand with A♠6♠, calling NORCALonica's under-the-gun open-shove. Fishfinder22's hand was unfortunately dominated, however, NORCALonica turning up A♦8♣. Fishfinder22 couldn't hit a six on the 9♥8♠2♥8♦5♥ board and hit the rail in sixth place, earning $48,000.

Seconds after cards went in the air for the final table, benpatt was pleading with his opponents to pause the tournament and discuss a deal, but got no takers at that early stage. Benpatt did manage to hang on all the way to fifth place, meeting his end on a bit of a cooler. Benpatt opened for 1.3 million and In8desyr defended his big blind. Both players checked the A♠9♥4♣ flop. When the turn fell the 5♥, In8desyr decided to take a shot, betting 2,000,000, but was met with an all in from benpatt for over 7.4 million. In8desyr made the call, turning up A♣6♥ to benpatt's A♦2♣, both players having craftily checked their top pair on the flop. The river, though, was the J♥, In8desyr's kicker playing to earn him the pot and send benpatt home in fifth place for a $63,000 haul.

When play reached four-handed, all players agreed to pause the action to discuss a potential deal. They quickly agreed to a chip count chop, with an additional $30,000 going to the winner.

With the vast majority of the cash already divided up, the final four returned to action. Twenty minutes later, with the chip counts still relatively bunched together, El_Canonero open-shoved for his entire 18.6 million in chips with the blinds at 300,000/600,000 and NORCALonica made the call. El_Canonero's hand was firmly caught in the cookie jar as he revealed his Q♣3♠, NORCALonica a substatial favorite holding pocket fives. The board ran out J♣8♣8♥8♠A♦, NORCALonica earning the pot and the KO as El_Canonero departed in fourth place.

"Look at the bright side El_Canonero... congrats on the extra 60k from your great deal-making!" offered Barry "barryg1" Greenstein in the chat box as he sweated the action. With the four-way deal, El_Canonero earned $148,769.85 for his finish.

During three-handed play, In8desyr's chip count swung around wildly as he made all-in play after all-in play. In8desyr reached a high-water mark of 35.7 million in chips after doubling through Jonesie03 with Q♥Q♣ vs. Q♦J♠ on a jack-high board, only to give about 10 million back to his opponent on the very next hand, calling Jonesie03's open-shove with A♥8♥ holding the lowly J♥2♥. In8desyr couldn't make a Houdini-like escape on that hand and over the next fifteen minutes his stack steadily dwindled. WIth the blinds sky-high at 500,000/1,000,000, In8desyr moved all in for 5 million with J♠T♥ and NORCALonica looked him up with Q♠9♠. NORCALonica hit two pair on the K♦K♥9♣ flop and though In8desyr flopped a gusthot straight draw, he couldn't improve, the turn and river falling the 3♦ and the 4♣ to eliminate In8desyr in third place.

"He was bored anyway. Maybe $135,163.04 will excite him a little" quipped Greenstein.

Heads-up play commenced with the following chip count:

Seat 1: NORCALonica (48,885,376 in chips)
Seat 9: Jonesie03 (20,584,624 in chips)

Heads-up play was nothing short of epic, with $30,000 still on the line for the winner. The chip counts were quickly reversed as Jonesie03 won a key hand on first deal of heads-up play and doubled through NORCALonica. The lead swung back and forth like a pendulum, NORCALonica battling back to put Jonesie03 on the ropes with 54 million to his opponent's 15 million only to have Jonesie03 re-take control.

With their chip counts nearly even, a pot unfolded that looked like it would be a game-changer. NORCALonica opened for 4.2 million, Jonesie03 moved all in for nearly 39 million and NORCALonica made the call, his A♠T♥ up against Jonesie03's Q♥7♠. The board ran out J♠T♦9♠4♥3♥ and NORCALonica hauled in the 60 million chip pot. After the hand, Jonesie03 was left with only 8.6 million in chips, but doubled up on the next hand, then doubled again shortly afterward to keep this heads-up match a guessing game.

After a lengthy battle, it all came down to one hand, Jonesie03 open-shoving and NORCALonica making the call. Check out how the action played out:

Congratulations to NORCALonica who played some spectacular poker to earn a Sunday Million title and $163,430.56! Runner-up Jonesie03 collected $152,036.55 for second place.

Sunday Million Results for 5/10/09:

1. NORCALonica ($163,430.56)*
2. Jonesie03 ($152,036.55)*
3. In8desyr ($135,163.04)*
4. El_Canonero ($148,769.85)*
5. benpatt ($63,000.00)
6. fishfinder22 ($48,000.00)
7. MBNJR ($33,000.00)
8. jkidd1084 ($18,000.00)
9. cainearized ($11,625.00)

*= based on a four-way deal where $30,000 was left for the evenutal champion

For more information on how you can qualify for the Sunday Million, hit up the Sunday Million page.

Kristin Bihr
@PokerStars in Sunday Million