Mark "Pegasus" Smith, who breeds and races thoroughbreds, found himself far behind Manelic "Manny" Minaya in the late stages of the $5,000 championship event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Grand Casino Tunica. But he got out his whip, surged ahead and crossed the finish line first to win $306,003 plus a seat in next year’s WSOP main event, along with the striking gold ring that heralds his title.
Besides his equine activities, Smith, 54, who is from Georgetown, Kentucky and has three children, is also a real estate developer, owns a waste water public utility company and is the chief deputy coroner for Scott County, Kentucky.
That leaves him time for maybe one tournament every three months. He also made a final table in the $1,000 no-limit event, placing 10th and winning $3,899. Before that, he only had two small cashes, in this year’s WSOP Seniors event, and at the World Poker Challenge in Reno last year.
Smith played in 18 satellites the first day, winning or chopping 11, and won his seat in the main event via satellite. He said his style of play is to be aggressive. He was tutored by several pros, who told him that the "middle pedal is the brake."
Smith, who learned to play in home games two years ago, said he doesn’t play cash games because "I don’t gamble."
Runner-up Minaya, who is in billing and collections, had collected 1,225,000 of the 1,970,000 chips in play with four players left and at that point seemed a certain winner.
Action at the final table started wth blinds of 6,000/12,000 and 2,000 antes, 1 hour, 1 minute left. Chip leader, with 373,000, was 21-year-old LSU student Ryan Lenaghan.
First out, on the fifth hand, was Ronald "Huerko" Huerkamp. The locksmith got locked out when he called Smith’s 39,000 raise with his last 24,000 holding A-10. Jae Chang also called for three-way action. The pot was checked down as the board came K-8-4-4-2, and Chang took it with pocket jacks. He earned $18,889 for finishing 9th.
Blinds went to 8,000/16,000 with 2,000 antes and 90-minute levels. On the first hand, Lenaghan moved in for his remaining with Qd-2d, losing to Jody Stanfill’s A-5 when the board came A-8-2-9-9. Lenaghan is from Baton Rouge, Lousiana and learned poker three years ago playing with friends. He collected $37,778 for eighth.
Now came the most spectacular hand of the night. With a board of Qh-9h—9c, Chang moved in with pocket 10s and Jody "Slick" Stanfill called for 251,000 holding Qc-Jc. An 8c turned, and now Chang was dead to just two off-suit 10s. A 10 came, giving Chang 10s-full. Unfortunately for him, it was the 10c, giving Stanfill a king-high straight flush and the chip lead with 770,000.
Hoyt Lance finished seventh when he moved in for 102,000 with A-Q and ran into Manelic Minaya’s A-K. A 3-1 underdog, Lance couldn’t help and cashed for $37,778 in seventh place.
Chang finished sixth and cashed for $47,223.
As blinds became 10,000/20,000 with 3,000 antes, Minaya still led with 722,000. Four hands later, he seemingly nailed down the tournament by knocking out Stanfill and moving well past the 1,000,000 mark. "Slick" moved in for 242,000 with pocket treys and Minaya, after some thought, called with pocket 9s. A board of J-2-2-5-J changed nothing and Stanfill finished fifth, which paid $56,667.
As the level ended and players went on dinner break, Harold "Big Daddy" Mahaffey, perpetually short-chipped, went all in for the umpteenth time and again survived when his A-10 beat Minaya’s Qh-10h. But that didn’t dent Minaya’s stacks much, because he still led with 1,175,000.
Blinds became 15,000/30,000 with 4,000 antes. Big Daddy had one more all-in escape when both he and Glyn Banks had A-9. But one hand later, when Banks raised to 90,000 with Ah-8h, Mahaffey moved in for 3,000 more with Ad-10d. This time he lost with the best hand when the board came 8-7-5-7-A and took home $75,556 for fourth place.
Smith began to draw close to Minaya when Minaya raised pre-flop with pocket 9s and Smith moved all in for 220,000 more. A king flopped to give "Pegasus" the pot. After picking up another when he came over the top all in again to chase out Banks, he had roughly 680,000 to 740,000 for Minaya.
A dozen hands into the new level, the tournament got heads-up. Banks had 6-5 to 5-3 for Smith. When a flop of 5-4-2 paired his five and gave him an inside straight draw, Banks moved in for about 480,000. Smith also had fives, with a smaller kicker, but he also had an open-ended straight draw. An irrelevant 9 turned and then a 6 gave Banks his straight and the chip lead.
Banks, nicknamed "Gidget," cashed for $94,445.
Heads-up, as bundles of cash were brought out on a silver platter, Smith had 1,117,000 to 854,000 for Minaya. The match only lasted a few hands. On the final deal, all the money went into the middle on a flop of 8-7-2. Minaya led with pocket 9s to Smith’s A-J. An ace turned, and that ended the show.
Minaya, who got $160,557 for second, originally is from the Domican Republic and now lives in Tampa, Florida. He’s made five final tables and finished 61st at the 2005 WSOP main event, winning $145,875.