Each and every poker player needs a little luck. Just ask Brandon Cantu. Sure, poker is a game of skill. But luck can also carry a good player a very long way.
On June 28, 2006 Cantu, a 25-year-old semi-professional player from Las Vegas, was competing in his biggest poker tournament ever. With 64 players still contending in the tournament on the second day, Cantu found himself nearly all-in with most of his chips in the pot and drawing slim against none other than Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, the 2004 World Series of Poker Champion. With Cantu’s tournament life hanging in the balance, Raymer had the best hand, by far. But luck sometimes appears when least expected. The angels of mercy resuscitated Cantu with two near-miracle diamonds to complete a flush, which eliminated the poker superstar and stunned those who witnessed the decisive moment. That pot ignited a flame in Cantu that would never extinguish. In fact, as it turned out, that crucial hand made Cantu three-quarters of a million dollars in extra prize money.In Event 2, Cantu burned through a record-field of 2,776 players – an astonishing number in size and scale. Consider that the $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em event was the second-largest poker tournament ever in history. Already on pace to shatter every previous poker mark ever recorded, the first open event of the 2006 World Series of Poker was a complete sell-out. Only the 2005 WSOP main event attracted more participants (with 5,619). The total prize pool amounted to $3,789,240. There were 277 players who collected prize money.
After two long days of play, the final table was set. ESPN was on hand to film the finale for later broadcast. When the first hand was dealt out in front of a standing-room only crowd packed inside the Rio Convention Center, the seating positions and chips counts were as follows:
|Phong “Mark” Ly||$516,000||2|
|Juan Carlos Mortensen||$337,000||5|
The first player to be eliminated was a bit of a surprise. In fact, the final stages of the tournament were an absolute nightmare for Carlos Mortensen, the 2001 world poker champion. Towards the end of play on Day Two, the superstar Spaniard (who was actually born in Ecuador – a little-known fact) was sitting comfortably, with an impressive chip lead. Given Mortensen’s aggressive style, he was clearly a favorite to go far. Many poker observers began speculating that Mortensen might be on his way to a third WSOP gold bracelet. Then, everything began to unravel. Mortensen lost about half of his chips late on the previous night, and then proceeded to lose the other half within an hour at the final table. The final dagger came quickly. On his last hand, Mortensen was getting perilously low on chips and moved all-in with pocket fours. Phong “Mark” Ly was in the blind and called. Ly caught a queen on the turn to make a higher pair, which dashed Mortensen’s dreams of victory. Mortensen, a.k.a. “The Matador” got to play the ill-fated role of the bull in this event, and was dragged out of the ring in ninth place good for $71,617 in prize money.
After Mark Swartz was eliminated in eighth place (good for $88,668) two more long-time poker veterans were eliminated. Ron Stanley, perhaps best-known for his close encounter with poker legend Stu Ungar at the 1997 WSOP final table, moved all-in with A-9 suited after Lee Padilla opened for a raise. Don Zewin, who has been playing in WSOP events for 25 years, re-raised all-in with 8-8. Padilla was pot-committed and made a tough call with A-J of spades. Remarkably, Padilla caught three spades – good for a flush. Within mere seconds, Padilla had knocked out two consummate professionals and the tournament was suddenly down to just five players. Ron Stanley, a.k.a. “The Carolina Express” (1991 WSOP gold bracelet winner), was derailed at the seventh-place finisher, good for $107,614. Don Zewin – who finished third in the 1989 main event (losing only to Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan) – collected $126,940 for sixth.
That big hand put Padilla up over 1,000,000 in chips for the first time—only 15,000 behind Cantu in the chip-count. That would be as close as he would get.
Brent Roberts, a college student from Staten Island, NY, arrived at the final table as a player primed to make history. Roberts, who turned 21 only three weeks ago (Note: The legal age to enter the WSOP is 21), would have been the youngest World Series winner in history, eclipsing Eric Froehlich’s mark set last year. But it was not to be. Roberts took 7-7 up against Lee Padilla’s A-Q and lost when a queen fell. One must now wonder where Roberts will go from here. Winning $151,570 in his first WSOP tournament ever is quite a benchmark of accomplishment. (Note: It is believed that Roberts is the youngest player in WSOP history ever to make it to a final table)
Lee Padilla’s last hour was a complete disaster. He went from a million in chips down to the felt in what can only be described as a disappointing series of bad hands and unfortunate breaks. Padilla, an almond farmer from Modesto, CA, went out fourth when his A-3 was cracked by Mark Ly’s A-10. Fourth place paid a very respectable $176,579.
Mark Ly was the only player to knock Cantu from his chip perch at any point. Ly hit the 2,000,000 chip-mark when he won a monster pot with A-Q versus Cantu’s 6-6. But Cantu wasn’t fazed. Soon thereafter, Dr. Drew Rubin was eliminated when his A-6 lost to Cantu’s 8-8. Rubin, a clinical psychologist from Hollywood, FL, was diagnosed as the third-place finisher and billed the prize pool for $226,597 – which came to about $7,500 an hour for his time.
Down to heads-up play, Brandon Cantu enjoyed a 3 to 2 chip lead over Mark Ly, about 2,400,000 to 1,760,000. The final outcome did not take long. Ly lost most of his chips when he overplayed his hand holding J-4, after the turn showed A-J-6-7. Ly re-raised all-in holding second pair. Big mistake. Cantu called instantly with A-K – good for top pair, top kicker. The river failed to rescue Ly, who went out just two hands later.
Phong “Mark” Ly a Vietnamese-born 27-year-old professional poker player, was the runner up. Ly, who is married with two children, now resides in Los Angeles. He received $416,816.
In his first major final table appearance, Brandon Cantu won an astounding amount of money—$757,839 for first place. He also received the coveted gold bracelet, traditionally presented to each and every WSOP winner.
“I have no skills in life other than poker,” Cantu joked afterward when asked why he decided to turn pro. “That’s it for me, maybe I’ll retire.”
But Cantu also admitted to having at least one goal, which he has not yet achieved. “I still have not won our home poker game tournament,” he said. “It has a $20 buy-in. They all keep making fun of me that I never win. When I win that one, my life will be complete.”
Dieser Artikel erschien auf PokerOlymp am 19.04.2007.