All good people inevitably come to realize that there is more joy in seeing a loved one accomplish something big than succeeding for oneself. When Bob Meyer proudly watched his wife Mary Jones Meyer win the 2006 Ladies World Poker Championship late on a Monday night at the Rio in Las Vegas, it was as though he personally had won poker’s world championship. Meyer rushed to the stage and hugged his wife in a whirlwind dance immediately after witnessing her first major poker tournament win and $236,094 in prize money in the most dramatic fashion.
"I definitely owe this tournament to my husband and his training," Mary Jones Meyer said immediately following her victory. "He taught me many things about poker and we play together all the time. It was definitely a team win."
All Mary Jones Meyer did was win the biggest and richest women’s poker tournament in history. A whopping 1,128 players — nearly twice as many participants as last year — competed in the Ladies World Poker Championship at the World Series of Poker.
Last year’s ladies event was most memorable having been won by Academy Award-nominated actress Jennifer Tilly.
Unfortunately, the defending champ and several other major Hollywood and television stars went out earlier in the event, along with 1,119 others. That left a final table of nine players that was no less short on talent or enthusiasm. A huge crowd flooded into the ESPN arena to witness the championship finale, which lasted four very exciting hours.
The final table was comprised of women of all ages and backgrounds. Ages ranged from 24 to 50. Players were from Nevada, Texas, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, California, Illinois, and Austria. Two of the players admitted to being expectant mothers (very likely a WSOP first!).
After blitzing through 18 players in the initial hours of Day Two, play at the final table started-off cautiously, as each player wanted to maximize her stay in the big game.
Then, Elle Ahlgren, a fashion designed from Las Vegas, went out in ninth place and received $23,096.
Next, Laurie Scott went out with pocket threes against ace-seven after an ace hit the board. Scott, a data analyst from Austin, earned $25,662 for eighth place.
Devi Ortega, a Bronx-born professional pool player now living in Oklahoma, could not catch a break when she moved all-in with pocket tens, which was broken by two hearts which completed a flush. Ortega pocketed $30,794 for seventh place.
Julie Allen, who is finishing up a Masters Degree in education, has been playing poker for two years. She went all-in on her final hand with king-queen suited, but the royal couple could not conceive. A set of eights put Allen out in sixth place, which paid $35,927.
Sue Luckenbaugh wasn’t very lucky. The horse trainer from Saratoga, New York was eliminated holding two-pair versus a full-house. Luckenbaugh managed to win her way into the event by paying only $26, and then won a satellite tournament. Fifth place paid $41,059.
Reka Hallgato went out next when her pocket fours were cracked by a straight. Hallgato, originally from Budapest, Hungary and now residing in Hollywood, Californi, received $51,324.
Just when it seemed that Shawnee Barton might run away with the top prize, she started taking some beats. Barton was up to a 3-to-1 chip lead when play was three handed. But, each time Barton seemed to have the edge in a big hand, disaster would strike. This only added to the tension and excitement of the final table match, which produced countless exciting hands and dramatic moments.
Barton did win one big hand which eliminated the next player. Beatrice Stranzinger was getting low on chips and tried to make a move with a weak ace. But Barton called her opponent’s all-in move with queen-jack suited and then caught a queen. That put the Austrian poker player out in third place, which paid $71,340.
There were four all-in hands which miraculously did not produce a winner (two were split pots) before the final extraordinary ending. Exhausted from playing all day and much of the night, the clock showed 1 a.m. when the biggest hand of the tournament was dealt.
Barton started off with king-nine versus Mary Jones Meyer’s ace-ten. After the flop came 9-7-2, May Jones Meyer made a bluff bet of 200,000 (holding nothing but two naked overcards) and Barton raised all-in for 700,000 more with top pair (nines). Incredibly, Mary Jones Meyer called the huge raise and then spiked an ace on the river.
The crowd loved every minute of it and roared loudly. Barton could not stand to watch as most of her chips were pushed across the table to her opponent.
A few hands later the Ladies World Poker Championship ended when Barton started off with the best hand once again (holding ace-four) and raised with her last 170,000 in chips before the flop. Mary Jones Meyer had more than enough chips in her huge stack with which to make the call, even holding the less than stellar queen-six. Four blanks were dealt. Then, the captivating card fell from the dealer’s hand, hitting the green felt softly, bringing a bizarre concoction of both elation and grief. A six crushed Shawnee Barton’s dreams of victory and made a poker champion out of Mary Jones Meyer.
As the runner up, Shawnee Barton, an artist from Chicago, collected $123,178 in prize money. Barton could certainly be proud of her performance in this tournament and although she did not win, she had much the best of it in key situations when all of her chips were at risk. For any poker player, that is all one can ask.
Mary Jones Meyer won nearly a quarter of a million dollars for her first place finish. Perhaps more momentous to any serious poker player, she received the coveted WSOP gold bracelet. WSOP sponsor Corum Watches also contributed to making the event memorable by donating a stunning diamond-studded ladies wristwatch, exclusively-designed for this special championship event.
Visibly shaking and unable to speak in the moments immediately following her stunning victory, the 2006 Ladies World Champion finally caught her breath. "This is the second-happiest moment of my life," she said.
To know and appreciate what the happiest moment of Mary Jones Meyer’s life has been so far, all one had to do was glance across the arena at a smiling, joyful husband with an unmistakable twinkle in his eye.