Thanksgiving Day turned out to be Phil Gordon’s lucky day as he collected $600,000 for finishing first in the FullTilt.Net Championship at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas.
With a packed audience that was filled with professional players like Patrik Antonius and Perry Friedman, it was Gordon’s aggressive play that helped him beat out six other contenders during the four-hour live broadcast on FSN.
The first player to exit for the day was four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and main event fourth-place finisher, Allen Cunningham. Well-known for making it deep into numerous tournaments, Cunningham had no such luck when his ace-king ran into John Juanda’s pocket aces.
In a theme that would hold strong throughout the competition, recent European Poker Tour winner and World Poker Tour title holder Roland De Wolfe and former Celebrity Poker host Phil Gordon battled early for the chip lead and continued to attack one another throughout the day.
The only amateur at the table was next to go, Full Tilt’s online qualifier from Sweden, Stefan Rehn. He was sent on his way when his ace-queen ran into Phil Gordon’s pocket kings. Having won a final table on Wednesday to earn his spot into Thursday’s live final, Rehn didn’t walk away empty-handed as third place through seventh earned $25,000.
Although primarily quiet throughout early play, Toto Leonidas was forced into action when his chip stack dwindled. All in with ace-jack, he was called by De Wolfe, who was holding pocket eights. The flop came 10-8-7, giving Leonidas a straight draw and De Wolfe a set of eights. The turn brought a 9 and the river a 5, giving Leonidas the straight and doubling him up. He then went on to end John Juanda’s night soon after, by beating him on the river when he hit his ace.
Down to three-handed play with Leonidas, De Wolfe, and Gordon, action resumed with deep stacks and rapid-fire play with the blinds escalating dramatically in the made-for-television-style tournament format.
Leonidas continued to play the role of antagonist, giving the other players headaches as he built his stack back. In the end though, it wasn’t meant to be, as he tried to bluff Gordon with 10 Clubs 9 Spades. Gordon, holding K Hearts 2 Diamonds, hit a pair of kings when the flop came K Spade J Diamonds 8 Hearts. With only eight outs, Leonidas’s hand failed to improve and he was out in third place.
As play continued heads up, Gordon started with a small chip lead and kept increasing the pressure on European superstar De Wolfe. By winning several small pots, Gordon developed a slight edge, only to see De Wolfe make a quick run, taking down several pots and the chip lead.
In the end, however, both players went all in and Gordon’s A-7 off-suit proved to be too much for De Wolfe’s 9-6 suited. Neither player’s hand improved, giving Gordon the win and the $600,000 first-place prize. De Wolfe earned $250,000 for finishing second.