At 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night in Las Vegas, a father watched his 25-year-old son playing in a poker game. Not just any poker game, but one of the biggest poker games of all — the final table of a world championship event.
Art Young watched with fatherly pride as his son, Brett Jungblut, was playing heads-up against one of the best tournament players in the world, a three-time gold bracelet winner named "Miami John" Cernuto.
Art Young knew the feeling of playing heads up for a world championship. Twice before, he had taken his seat at the final table under the bright lights in Las Vegas. And two times, he had walked away from that final table with a feeling of disappointment. A feeling of pain. A feeling of sadness. Sure, a second place finish is worth a lot of money. But nothing beats the thrill of victory.
For all his in-the-money finishes and years in tournaments and cash games, Art Young was just another poker player standing along the rail inside the second floor ballroom of the Horseshoe Casino — except for one thing: His son was sitting down at the final table, playing for the World Championship. The tournament was billed as the "Omaha High-Low World Championship," since it’s the event with the highest buy-in of three Omaha High-Low events at the 2004 World Series of Poker.
The tournament began with 121 entries, and 112 were eliminated on day one. The final table consisted of nine players. The finalists were eliminated in the following order:
9th — Karen Longfellow, a retiree from Plant City, Florida was eliminated by the thinnest of margins. She went all "all in" with her last $12K with two pair — Qs and 7s. Longfellow was inched out by Erick Lindgren’s two pair — Qs and 8s.
8th — Minh Nguyen was making his third final table at this year’s WSOP. The two-time gold bracelet winner (2003 Pot-Limit Hold’em and 2005 Omaha High-Low) fell short in his bid to join Scott Fischman (who has won twice) in this year’s bracelet battle. Nguyen started the day low with just $18K and failed to establish any momentum during his hour in the finale. The key to winning in Omaha High-Low is "scooping" pots, not splitting them. Nguyen didn’t scoop all day. He received $17,060 for 8th place, and remains the points leader in the race for Best All Around Player.
7th — Thor Hansen is one of several Norwegians at this year’s World Series. He’s easily themost widely known Scandinavian player — having won two gold bracelets (1988 Seven-Card Stud and 2002 Ace-to-Five Lowball). Lowest on chips, Hansen was forced to go in with a dog hand, which failed to bark. Hansen, who now lives in Los Angles and plays most of the big events, finished in 7th place with $22,740.
6th — Erick Lindgren came to the final table second in chips, but was never able to establish any momentum. He split most of the pots he was involved in, and saw his stack slowly dwindle from $115K at the start of day two — to just over $15K on the final hand he was dealt. Lindgren’s A-3-6-Q was hammered by Huck Seed’s full house, which meant a 6th place finish. Lindgren received $28,440.
5th —Mike Wattel — Despite being cheered on by recent gold bracelet winner, Cyndy Violette, Wattel had a rough day. Wattel, a 33-year-old poker pro from Phoenix, began as the chip leader. But much like Lindgren who also had chips early, he watched helplessly as his chip stacks slowly disappeared. Wattel missed a low draw on his final hand of the night and ended up with 5th place prize money of $34,120.
4th — Huckleberry Seed won the world championship in 1996. He’s been through some ups and downs since that breakthrough victory eight years ago. His bid to win this event came up short when he suffered a horrible last hour at the final table. He went from a stack size of about $120K down to the felt, and on his last hand made two pair (aces and kings) — which lost to Brent Carter’s flush. Seed took $45,500 for 4th place.
3rd —Brent Carter has been one of poker’s most consistent performers over the past decade. He’s made countless final tables and has finished in the money as much as anyone who plays tournament poker full time. For all his achievements, Carter hasn’t won a gold bracelet in ten years and was determined to break the streak. It didn’t happen. Carter had a terrible run of cards in his final half-hour — the key hand losing with a straight to Jungblut’s full house. Third place for Carter, the former racehorse owner and trainer originally from Chicagoland. He collected $56,860.
When heads up play began, the chip counts were as follows: Brett Jungblut, $375K and "Miami John" Cernuto, $230K.
The heads up match was an interesting contrast. It was Cernuto’s age and experience versus Jungblut’s youth and determination. Although Jungblut had made final tables before (and won an event a year ago in California) nothing could match the pressure of playing heads-up at the World Series of Poker.
The duel lasted about 90 minutes. Cernuto desperately tried to make headway against the tough and aggressive Jungblut. But each time it looked like Cernuto might seize the chip lead, he lost a key hand and then struggled to protect his stack. He wavered between a 3 to 1 and 4 to 1 chip disadvantage most of the match, and at one point seemed to realize that he would not be able to overcome Jungblut’s dominant position.
The final hand was dealt with Cernuto down to just $40K: Jungblut, 10-9-5-3 and Cernuto, Q-10-8-2.
The final board showed 9-9-8-J-3. Cernuto made a queen-high straight. But Jungblut had a full-house, 9s over 3s and won the last pot of the night.
The room literally exploded with cheers when the hands were revealed. Many in the audience were clapping because a relative newcomer to the tournament scene (Jungblut) had managed to overcome the odds and defeat one of the most formidable lineups in poker.
Recall, when play was three handed, Jungblut faced Huck Seed, Brent Carter, and "Miami John" Cernuto — not exactly the pushovers at the poker table.
"The support I had was incredible," Jungblut said afterward. "My father is here. My mom, too. The support I’ve had is huge and that means a lot of me."