Raymond Davis, the always entertaining and upbeat player with a fan base all his own, had been having an off year compared to 2003, when Card Player ranked him 17th. Last week he determined to re-focus and play his A game. His dedication paid off, because, despite a lack of cards and being down to $2,100 with 11 players left, he skillfully played his way to victory in event 26 of Legends 2004, $1,000 no-limit hold’em. "I’m serving notice that I’m back," he declared. "I don’t want to let my fans down."
It was a grueling marathon that went past 10:30 a.m. After a while the object of the tournament became, not so much to win as to knock out Paul Darden. With seven players left he gave notice that there would be no deals. Once he departed in fourth place, the three weary finalists instantly made a chip-count deal. At the end, Davis had 217,000 chips while Salah Alsayegh, who works in the Kuwait Ministry of Information, had 109,000 and poker player Ba Tran had 109,000.
The final table didn’t get underway until nearly 7 a.m. Play started with $300 antes and blinds of $1,000-$2,000. The big chip leader with $151,300 was Immanuel Sebag of London, a company director with a World Series second in Omaha and a British Open championship in pot-limit Omaha this year. He collected the bulk of his chips midway through the tournament when he made about eight sets in two hours.
A false hope that this table would end fast was kindled when two players were knocked out in the first two hands. On the first hand, attorney Allen Patatanyan, who finished second in the Hustler Casino’s championship event last month, moved in for $27,000 with pocket 8s. Tran called with A-K and flopped an ace. On the second hand, Kim Cheu Lim, winner of the $300 7-stud event, opened for $8,000 with pocket kings. Davis moved in with pocket 10s, and Lim called for the rest of his $33,800. Davis then spiked a 10 on the river to break Kim’s limbs.
On hand six, Davis took the lead and never lost it. He had J-4 suited, and a flop of J-4-2 gave him top two. Sebag bet $8,000 with pocket queens and Davis moved in for $64,000. After very long hesitation, Sebag called. He couldn’t help, and Davis surged ahead with $133,000.
When limits went to $1,500-$3,000, Davis still led with $120,500 while Hayden had moved to second with $100,500. On hand 42, Sebag, who hadn’t been able to do anything, busted out. With a flop of Kh-Kd-6h, he moved in with a flush draw, made it on the turn, then lost when Can Hua, who had Q-6, filled with a river 6. Darden now announced his no-deal policy. Pass the Red Bull, please.
Another 30 hands dragged by with repeated unchallenged all-ins. Finally, with blinds at $2,000-$4,000, property manager Fran "Irish Mike" Pilkington moved in for $22,000 with A-9. Can Hua called instantly, and a suspicious Davis also called. When Hua moved in on a flop of 10-5-3, an alarm bell went off, and Davis made a great laydown of pocket jacks. Hua had pocket kings, and now six were left.
Three hands later, photographer/poker player Hayden pushed in he $30,000 with A-9. Davis called with Kc-7c, beat her when a 7 turned, and now had close to $200,000. "Just doing my job," he said.
With $1,000 antes and $3,000-$6,000 blinds, Davis was high man with $176,000, Darden low with $37,000. Hand 133 was Hua’s last. After Alsayegh opened for $12,000, Hua made a $68,000 move with K6. Bad timing. Alsavegh had pocket aces and was now very close to Davis in chips.
Davis wrapped things up and moved into a big lead again when he removed Darden and his chip-count objection on hand 142. Darden moved in for $40,000 with Q-J, Davis called with Kc-5c and won when the board came 8-7-5-10-2.
"I’m serving notice that I’m back," Raymond Davis declared after his big victory tonight. "Change that: I’ve never been away." Last year the poker pro had nine major wins and 18 final tables. This year he’s had lots of final tables, but hadn’t performed well once he got there. "Tonight I re-focused my game," he said. "Basically, I tried to stay out of the way. I didn’t get a hand all night and relied totally on skill, which is something I’ve never done before."
Davis said he picked his spots tonight and wasn’t overly aggressive as he usually is. "I picked my spots. If I gambled, I wanted to gamble on my own terms." Davis said he felt good throughout the tournament, though he thought he might be through when he was down to $11,000. He fatalistically moved all in five times in succession and then got to the final table in average shape.