Six years ago, Hoyt Corkins found himself holding the championship trophy in the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods, claiming his first World Poker Tour victory. After three more final tables and 11 more cashes, Corkins was back at the final table at the Southern Poker Championship on Wednesday night with the chip lead, focused on winning his second WPT title. Besides the money and fame, Corkins had something else on his mind.
"I want to get first or second because that will get me 4,000 WPT points and there's only three people in that club: Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen," Corkins told the World Poker Tour before play began. After his A-7 held against Jonathan Kantor's K-10, Corkins became part of the elite group of WPT champions and pocketed $739,486 in first-place prize money.
"To try and play with those guys and to be in the same company with those guys is a big thrill," Corkins said to the WPT. "The money is great, but the trophies and the achievements, that is a big thrill to me."
Corkins now has $3.3 million in earnings on the World Poker Tour and more than $5 million in his career. One of poker's most recognizable faces, Corkins has earned at least six figures in each of the past seven years of his professional career on the circuit.
Runner-up Jonathan Kantor is riding his run-good as long as he can. Kantor won the $2,000 no-limit hold 'em event at the Southern Poker Championship for $68,443 on Jan. 20 and was ready to play the main event. That decision paid off for Kantor as he took home $366,643 for second place. According to the Hendon Mob Web site, Kantor didn't have a notable cash in his career until Jan. 18. Talk about a great 10 days ...
Jerry Vanstrydonck finished in third for $196,829 and the biggest cash of his career. His best previous finish was a 19th-place result at the Bellagio Cup last year. He was eliminated by Corkins in a huge pot after Vanstrydonck had lost the chip lead. Corkins raised from the button to $200,000 with Kc-Qs and Vanstrydonck moved all-in for $1.61 million. Corkins made the call, and his hand held, giving him the chip lead going into heads-up play.
Playing in his first WPT main event and first $10,000 event, Jared Jaffee had won the $500 no-limit hold 'em preliminary event in Biloxi on Jan. 15 for $49,904. He followed that up with a third-place finish in the $300 no-limit event on Jan. 21 and now a fourth-place finish in the main event.
James Reed finished in fifth place in his first $10,000 main event and earned $106,134. With his family following him on the rail throughout the tournament, he entered the final table as the short stack and busted when he moved all-in with 7-5 on Jaffee, who held 8-8. Finishing in sixth, Tyler Smith remains a big fan of Biloxi. Last year he finished second in the $5,000 Gulf Coast Poker Championship main event for $124,406, and on Wednesday, he finished in sixth and took home $86,837. Smith, known online as "tydean," has had his share of success on the virtual felt as well. He's only 23, so we'll probably be hearing a lot more about him in the future.
Aussie Millions Update
It's hard to believe that through the first few weeks of January, I've already said to numerous people that it might be the year of Annette. Winning a preliminary event at the Aussie Millions last week for 40,000 Australian dollars (about $35,852) was just a start for the 21-year-old, as she now finds herself in second place in the Aussie Millions main event and has already guaranteed herself 75,000 AU$. There's still a long way to go in the tournament, and some very tough competitors remain in contention.
It also might be the year of Dan Shak. Over the weekend, Shak defeated Phil Ivey to win the 100,000 AU$ buy-in to take home 1.2 million AU$. Shak has also continued his run in the main event, finding himself in sixth place heading into Day 4. Shak has very quietly amassed more than $2 million in career earnings and is looking to add 2 million AU$ more with a victory in the main event.
Kosmas Dratsas leads the way at the end of play on Day 3, but is trailed very closely by Obrestad and Sorel Mizzi.
The Aussie Millions tournament series also offers tournaments during the main event and after it's finished. Among those events are a 5,300 AU$ heads-up tournament (won by Kyle McMurphy), a 1,100 AU$ no-limit hold 'em team event (won by Mel Judah and Mick Guttman) and a 10,500 AU$ pot-limit Omaha event that currently has four players remaining. Michael Guttman leads the final four, followed by Mike Watson, Erik Seidel and Florian Langmann. The series offers 20 events in total ,with 16 either completed or in progress, and I'm excited for the high-rollers HORSE Event 18 that begins late Thursday ET.
Borgata Poker Open
In New Jersey, Thursday meant the start of the $2,000 64-player double-elimination heads-up tournament. Professionals Gavin Smith, Paul Wasicka, Jeff Madsen, Mike Leah, Olivier Busquet, Nick Binger, Michael Binger and Chris Bell made appearances along with Olympic champion Michael Phelps. While play is currently under way and the results aren't known at this time (3 p.m. ET), Phelps has advanced to the second round as his opponent failed to show.
The main event of the Borgata Poker Open, a $3,500 buy-in no-limit hold 'em event, will have two starting days, Sunday and Monday. With a $2 million guarantee, expect a huge field for this event.
Small blinds: Victory Poker will launch Feb. 1 with a solid roster of professionals, including Antonio Esfandiari, Alec Torelli, Paul Wasicka, Lee Markholt, Danny Wong, Andrew Robl, David Chicotsky, Brian Rast and more. The site will be part of the Cake Poker network. ... Speaking of Cake Poker, the site apparently had bought T.J. Cloutier's WSOP bracelet and, according to Poker Royalty's Brian Balsbaugh, will eventually return it to Cloutier. ... The L.A. Poker Classic is eight events into the 51-event schedule. Tournament Director Matt Savage has just about every type of tournament on the schedule. I'm looking forward to Event 43: the Iron Man no-limit hold 'em event. No breaks, no deals and 50 percent for first place. The winner that day will be Red Bull. ... Congrats to "The Poker Beat," which won Bluff magazine's Reader's Choice awards for best poker podcast. Poker Edge in 2011? ... Full Tilt and its players donated $580,000 for Haiti relief efforts. PokerStars donated more than $1 million. Well done, poker world.