She may not have been the most famous woman player at the final table — Nani Dollison with three WSOP bracelets held that distinction — but Angel Word also played like a champion, mixing it up fearlessly with the boys as she battled her way to victory in the second event of the Harrah’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit tour at the Grand Tunica Resort and Casino.
Word, a 30-year-old mother of two boys who lives in Bowdon, Georgia, is not exactly some faint-hearted female: She works as a nurse in a medical center surgery department.
Playing poker for only three years, Word already has a nice resume. This is her seventh final table in 10 attempts, and she has a win in the ladies event at the Jack Binion World Poker Open, along with a fifth in the WSOP ladies tournament last year. Her victory was worth an official $75,944, though she made an even-money chop with runner-up Glyn Banks.
This $500 no-limit event drew another excellent turnout of 540 players. First-day action ended with 15 players left. Ben Heiks, Scott Ellegood and Banks, all in the 37,000-chip range, were the leaders. When it got to the final table, Joe Simmons had moved in front with 149,000.
Two minutes after action started, blinds went to 4,000-8,000, with 1,000 antes. James Monroe, a pro and former software developer, arrived lowest-chipped and went out in 20 minutes. He pushed in for 44,000 with K-J. Ellegood covered him holding A-J, which held up. Tenth place paid $2,881.
After that first flurry of action, play became quite cautious, with hardly anyone venturing to call an all-in bet. During this time, Ed Pellegrini began lobbying for a deal, with each player assured of $20,000. Deals are complicated by the fact that Harrah’s requires events to be played out, with players signing tax forms for amounts matching their eventual finish, so Ed couldn’t get any buyers.
Some 90 minutes after Monroe departed, a big hand finally came down. Holding pocket jacks, Word moved in for 102,000 and got action from Elleson, who had pocket 9s. Elleson had a flush draw on fourth street, but missed, and the Angel flew into a lead she would never relinquish.
A few hands later, Elleson, down to his last 14,000, moved in with A-7, got two calls, tripled up and began a remarkable comeback. Two hands later, John Bennett was less fortunate. All-in with K-10, he made a third 10 on the river, but it did him little good because Simmons, with 7h-7s, had hit a heart flush on the turn. The investment banker picked up $5,238 for ninth place.
Ben Heiks had better luck. "Not what I want to see," he said after he went all-in for 42,000 with Q-6, only to have Banks call and turn up A-Q. But a miracle board of Q-5-4-8-7 gave Heiks a straight.
It was only a reprieve, though. Later, when Simmons opened for 30,000, Heiks came over the top all-in for 59,000 more. After long thought, Simmons called with Qh-8h and outran Heiks’ Kh-3h when an 8 flopped. Heiks is a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama who says he learned the game by watching Celebrity Poker Showdown. He earned $7,857 for his eighth-place finish.
Pellegrini was next to make his final play. Under the gun and close to being blinded off, he raised for his last 11,000 with Ac-9c and got picked off by Banks, whose pocket 8s turned into a straight when the board showed 10-9-5-Q-J. Pellegrini, whose nickname is Cajun Squeeze, is a jewelry vendor/pawnbroker who used to set up shop (jewelry, not pawnbroking) at Binion’s during the WSOP. A player for 26 years, he has numerous cashes, including wins in 7-stud hi-lo at Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl, and in no-limit at the 4-Queens. His hometown is Tylertown, Mississippi.
Ellegood, recovered from his 16,000 low point, now took a big leap up when he took a huge main pot in three-way action. First, Corrie Wunstel moved in for 46,000 with Q-10. Ellegood called with A-J, and then called again after Word pushed in with pocket queens. He had two pair on a flop of A-J-10, filled when a jack turned, and now, with about 300,000 in chips, was starting to get close to Word.
Meanwhile, Wunstel, a poker dealer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, cashed out for $13,095.
The action accelerated considerably. As stakes went up, Simmons went out. With blinds now at 8,000-16,000 and 3,000 antes, Simmons, a Shreveport, Louisiana resident originally from the Philippines, pushed in with pocket 6s. He was a small favorite when Word called with A-J, but then a board of J-10-2-2-9 ended his hopes as he took home $15,714 for fifth place.
Two hands later, Dollison made an all-in 135,000 call after Banks pushed in with pocket jacks.The best she could do was pair her 8 when the board came 9-8-7-7-J, and she left in fourth place, richer by $18,333.
Dollison, a poker player/poker dealer who lives in Hernando, Mississippi, won back-to-back ladies championship bracelets at the WSOP in 2000 and 2001. That second year, she also won the opening event at the WSOP, a victory worth $441,440.
This tournament hadn’t long to go. Immediately after Dollison’s departure, Ellegood’s run came to an end. He raised and Word came over the top to put him all in. Ellegood called for about 160,000 and turned up K-4. Word had him in bad shape with Ah-9h. A board of 7-6-5-10-6 did nothing for either player and Ellegood, a 29-year-old resident of O’Fallon, Missouri who did not volunteer much information about himself, settled for a third-place payday of $20,952.
Heads-up, Word still had the lead, but Banks wasn’t that far behind. He suggested a chop and Word agreed. Both immediately pushed in on the next hand. Word was way behind with A-2 to A-6 for Banks, but she got lucky when the board came Q-10-2-9-J as she nailed down her win.
Banks, a pro from Smithville, Tennessee, has been playing poker for 30 years. He has a number of cashes, but one of the highlights of his career was knocking Phil Ivey out of a tournament. "I enjoy playing the game, win or lose," he said. Second place paid an official $40,066.
Word, ecstatic over her victory, says she plays poker as much as she can, "when my sons, who are 9 and 7, aren’t having sports activities." Word has been a nurse for eight years and an emergency room nurse for three. She learned poker from home games, and after her first major win, hopes to play more tournaments.
Asked if she prefers tournaments or live games, she said she would rather play tournaments "because nobody can reload."