Marathon man!

Mar 13, 2006 5:00 AM

Poker tournaments are as much a test of mental and physical endurance as playing as skill. Sure, the best players typically have an edge. But after hours and hours of forgettable hands and mundane decisions, everything can become a big blur.

In a sense, time is an adversary of experience, since younger players enjoy certain advantages. This point was demonstrated in the seventh World Series of Poker Circuit championship event of the 2005-06 season, held at the Harrah’s Casino-Resort near San Diego. The winner, 28-year-old Darrell "Gigabet" Dicken quite simply outlasted the competition, which included some very battle-seasoned foes.

No one could have possibly predicted the marathon finale that would take place — as day phased into night, which became the next morning.

When play commenced on the third and final day of play, savvy tournament veteran Kathy Liebert had a slight chip lead over her closest two competitors — Adam Kagin and Darrell Dicken. In what could only be characterized as an atypical event for the final table, it didn’t take long for the first player to be eliminated:

Eleven hours into the finale, and well past midnight, fourth-place was settled when Gary Lent moved all-in with A-K and was called by Darrell Dicken holding 4-4. With 400,000 in the pot and the chip lead at stake, Lent hoped to catch a pair. He missed. That eliminated Lent, who collected $82,840 for fourth.

That big hand gave Dicken a decisive chip lead. With blinds escalating, WeiKai Chang moved all-in with K-7, which was called by both Dicken (J-10) and Liebert (K-J). The final board showed 7-5-2-2-Q, which tripled up Chang. But Liebert was eliminated and had to settle for third place. She collected $113,905.

When heads-up play began, Darrell Dicken enjoyed a decisive 11-1 chip lead over WeiKai Chang. The end seemed near. But those expecting to see Chang bowing out gracefully were in for a very rude awakening. The comeback began.

Chang became the aggressor and quite simply, made the correct play just about every time he was faced with a tough decision. He managed to double-up early in heads up play, putting him at a 5-1 disadvantage. Then, he got lucky when his A-5 outdrew Dicken’s A-8, resulting in another giant leap forward. Chang took a few blows before he managed to double up on another big hand, and after about a half-our duel, he was out-chipped by only 2-1. A few hands later, Chang won another hand, and for the first time in the tournament, he held the chip lead. What remained of the audience braced themselves for what appeared to be another epic duel.

Dicken was accustomed to adversity by this time. Showing absolutely no emotion during the unfortunate turn of events, Dicken continued to play his best game. After three hands, Dicken regained the chip lead. Then, he began to pull away with a series of over-the-top moves intended to put Chang to the test for all of his chips. Nearly an hour after heads-up play started, the final decisive hand of the tournament took place when Chang was dealt 10-10. Chang raised. Dicken, holding J-J, re-raised all-in. Chang thought for a moment, and called. He instinctively knew he was in trouble, a fact confirmed when the hole cards were revealed. Chang needed one last miracle, a ten, which did not come. The pocket jacks held up and Dicken was the champion.

Darrell "Gigabet" Dicken, from Waterloo, Iowa gets his unusual nickname from playing online poker. "Gigabet" is well-known in Internet poker circles, having won a considerable amount of money in recent years. Dicken acknowledged that online poker helped to sharpen his real-life tournament skills.

When asked about keys to surviving a marathon finale, Dicken replied: "I was just playing good cards and position, waiting for the right moments. I got lucky once in a big pot, and also got unlucky once. So, it balanced out."

Dicken received the coveted WSOP gold and diamond ring presented to each Circuit winner. He also collected $372,780 in first-place prize money.