Even in the world of poker, you don't earn half a million bucks without working for it. And when today's $25,000 High Roller event at the 2010 PCA wrapped, these players were deep into their 26th hour at the table. What began at 4pm on Monday ended at 8.45pm on Thursday - and William Reynolds, from Sioux City, Iowa, emerged the victor, having high-rolled his way to a $576,240 purse.
"It was the most roller coaster of a ride I've ever been on," Reynolds said. "It looked like I was going to be the final table bubble. On day one, I was down to 5,800 chips. From there I won a race and it was all up from there."
Few would argue that Reynolds had worked the hardest, and this was an object lesson in shifting gears at precisely the right time. He was the shortest of all of the last nine who played a gruelling session late last night, but found impeccable moments to get his chips in and earn the double ups in the right spots. With chips, he was suitably on the attack, applying pressure and chipping up until he got it heads up with last year's runner up, Will Molson.
"I feel great," Reynolds said. "I can't count the amount of times I was all in. I was ready to be on the beach and up in my hotel room."
The heads up duel - predictably dubbed the "Battle of Wills" - started with the players almost even in chips, and it's difficult to discern where either of them made anything even approaching a mistake. There were the expected swings this way and that, but it just so happened that Reynolds's continual force gradually wore Molson down. They eventually got it all in pre-flop: Reynolds had A♦T♦ when Molson had K♣8♦. The board was ace high and we were done.
It wasn't all about the Wills, of course, and when we started a little after noon, there were eight players at the plate.
Seat 1: Adolfo Vaeza, Uruguay - 790,000
Seat 2: William Reynolds, USA - 482,000
Seat 3: Michiel Brummelhuis, Holland - 394,000
Seat 4: Dimitry Stelmak, Russia - 150,000
Seat 5: Will Molson, Canada - 669,000
Seat 6: Tobias Reinkemeier, Germany - 1,072,000
Seat 7: Lisa Hamilton, USA - 440,000
Seat 8: Matt Marafioti, Canada - 236,000
Even with the blinds wound back to the start of level 21, Dmitry Stelmak was in possession of a micro stack, the kind that had to be moved in as soon as possible. In the event, it was the second hand of the day. With action folded to him on the button, he found K♥T♥ and shoved for 150,000. Tobias Reinkemeier, the chip leader, picked him off with A♥T♣, and after a blank board Stelmak was on his way back to his room before many stragglers had even left theirs.
Matt Marafioti assumed the role of short stack, a position to which he had grown accustomed through a long, patient grind on day three. And he showed no urgency to change his tactics on the final table either, refusing to be drawn into the small skirmishes that broke out between Reinkemeier, Adolfo Vaeza, Molson, and a very active Lisa Hamilton.
But Marafioti finally found pocket sevens at the same time Reynolds found A♥K♠. They got it all in. Reynolds, who had managed to double up his own short stack on countless occasions the night before, continued flipping good. An ace on the turn skewered Marafioti, and he was sent back to the high stakes online cash games with $87,465, or a couple of buy ins at the nosebleeds.
It was around this point that we saw our first major pot between big stacks. Indeed, it couldn't have been bigger: Molson and Reinkemeier were the daddies at the time they got all their chips in the middle with big draws. Each of them was open ended on a J♣8♦T♦ flop: Molson had K♥Q♥ but Reinkemeier was favourite with K♦9♦, an added flush draw.
But why follow a straightforward script? The rivered A♠ gave Molson a broadway straight and a huge double up. He vaulted close to two million in chips - the most he had had since about this time last year and that match up with ElkY.
The willingness of the big stacks to lock antlers encouraged those with smaller holdings to do the same. Michiel Brummelhuis and Lisa Hamilton got it all in -- aces for the Dutchman against pocket nines for Hamilton. When a nine flopped, it looked as though Brummelhuis was going to be marched directly to the bad beat exchange. But then an ace rivered to leave Hamilton contorted into a shape gymnasts call "The Rivered Two Outer".
This hijinks didn't stop there, and we went straight back to the Molson v Reinkemeier show. After Brummelhuis opened from the button, Molson three bet from the small blind and Reinkemeier shoved for 446,000 from the big. Brummelhuis' involvement was over, but Molson thought about calling, then did just that. But his A♥J♥ never caught up with Reinkemeier's A♦K♦ and the balance seemed to shift in favour of the German again.
It was, however, a false dawn for Reinkemeier. He had gone from chip leader to the man most picked on in less than three hours - but he didn't seem the type to chip down to a silent demise. When it came to it, the only thing awry was his timing. Reynolds opened in early position and Reinkemeier shoved with pocket eights. Reynolds, though, was hiding pocket kings and the executioner's axe fell swift and clean. Reinkemeier was out in sixth, the first player to earn a six-figure pay-day.
Reynolds was now comfortable, while Brummelhuis and, in particular, Hamilton were the short stacks. When you're in that position and find pocket jacks in the big blind, there's as good a reason as any to squeeze when the two chip leaders go raise (Reynolds, button) and call (Molson, small blind). Hamilton re-raised and couldn't fold when Molson set her all in.
But Molson's A♣Q♥ plus a Q♣ on the turn sent Hamilton to the cash cage on a promise of $133,770. It was Hamilton's second major cash in the past year and he champion of the WSOP ladies event is now the highest grossing woman player at the PCA.
Last night's titanic struggle to make nine players into eight was hardest on the Dutchman Brummelhuis. He was a dominating chip leader at the time they went down to that pseudo final table, but many of the short-stack double ups were at his personal cost. It meant that when he came to the final table, his natural game was also hindered, and although he clung on though escalating blinds for as long as seemed decent, he perished in fourth.
Having had their fun, the poker gods didn't torment Brummelhuis too much longer. When he shoved the last of his stack in with Q♠9♥, Reynolds had found another big hand: aces. Call, flop, turn, river, out.
Throughout all this ridiculousness, Vaeza had looked on like a man who knew his A-B-Cs but had landed in the land of 今日は, ждали and här i år slutspurten. He had gone on a spectacular surge on day three, and had been remarkably solid throughout. But by the time they were three-handed, he found his monster stack diminished. He was in shove/fold territory for a long while. Until suddenly he wasn't.
The critical hand came when Vaeza called a Reynolds raise in the big blind and all the money was destined to go in. Reynolds had nailed top-pair, top-kicker, while Vaeza was open-ended. This time, the draw did not get there, and Vaeza replicated his third-placed finish from the High Roller event at EPT London. Taking into account currency fluctuations, his $218,150 here is pretty similar to the prize he took on the other side of the Atlantic. This guy is a High Roller specialist, and long may it continue.
So began the battle of Wills. The 22-year-old Molson, from Montreal, against the 21-year-old Reynolds from Sioux City, Iowa. This was a close to a coin flip as any ace-king pocket pair showdown: each of these can play - and play very well indeed.
This time, it was the American who prevailed. "The smile is from ear to ear," Reynolds said.
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Swedish, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese/Brazilian blogs through an online translator and seeing how similar it is to its original version, which appeared here about ten minutes before.
And so there we have it for another year. The adventure is over. Harrison Gimbel's glorious triumph in the Main Event made him $2.2 million richer, and maybe next year we'll see him trying to prise the High Roller's trophy from the hands of Reynolds.
No doubt your A.C.E. reporting team of Stephen Bartley, Howard Swains, Alex Villegas, Brad Willis and Simon Young will be here to find out. And our peerless photographers Joe Giron and Neil Stoddart will likely be wielding their © signs over their terrific snaps this time next year too.
The EPT now moves on to Deauville in France next week, while the newly-commissioned NAPT train will chug towards the Venetian in Las Vegas next month. Then it's all the fun of the LAPT with a trip to Punta del Este in Uruguay. PokerStars Blog will have coverage of them all.
Thanks for reading this week and goodnight from the Bahamas. Here's where we turn into Kalik-battered conch.