World Poker Tour commentator Mike Sexton pretty much summed it up when he congratulated a "living legend" for winning a Legend: the 2004 Legends of Poker Championship/WPT, at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles.
Doyle Brunson, poker’s all-time everything, was out-chipped 3-1 when he got heads-up with Lee Watkinson. From that point on he completely outplayed, outmaneuvered and dominated Watkinson in a tour de force demonstration of poker mastery as he confidently steered his way to victory in the televised event.
He wasn’t up against any pigeon, either. Watkinson set a record with back-to-back WPT seconds after being runner-up at The Mirage event barely a month ago. Watkinson came to today’s final table the big leader with $2,466,000.
Appropriately, Brunson’s victory set another record, as he outlasted the largest field in WPT history: 667 players. The final six sat down playing with $2,000 antes and blinds of $10,000-$20,000, a full hour left.
Play started cautiously, with only one all-in in the first 10 hands. Real estate broker Tom Lee was one of the two short stacks. On hand 11 he had pocket 9s and called when Joe Awada raised to $75,000. On a flop of K-8-7 he moved in for $85,000 and broke when Awada called with pocket jacks. Lee picked up $99,150 for finishing sixth
Three hands later, Watkinson did much better with 9-9. He raised to $50,000 and got two calls, then flopped a set when the board showed 9h-8h-7h. He cagily checked the flop and then the turn, when a 7 gave him a full house. A deuce on the river was the perfect card for him because it gave Awada deuces full. Watkinson bet $150,000 and Awada moved in, cashing out in fifth place as Watkinson pulled in a $1.2 million pot.
Awada, originally from Lebanon and now a game designer in Las Vegas, has numerous tournament wins, including a bracelet in 7-stud at this year’s WSOP. Fifth place paid $132,200.
Watkinson now had a bit over $4,000,000, followed by Brunson with around $1,400,000; Pete Lawson with $1,000,000 and Grant Helling with $200,000.
Korean-born Grant Helling, an electrical contractor, was the other short stack. He moved in from the button for about $115,000 with A-3 and flopped a trey. Watkinson called with 9-8 and turned a 9, and in only 23 hands the field had been cut in half as Helling cashed out fourth for $170,175.
Watkinson, who seemed unstoppable to this point, now had $4,553,000 to $1,480,000 for Brunson and $666,000 for Pete Lawson, a 24-year old pro. Lawson got some breathing room when he doubled through against Watkinson. He had A-7 versus A-K and flopped a 7. On hand 26 he gave back a lot of chips when he raised to $300,000 on a board of 8-8-4-7, then folded when Watkinson re-raised $400,000 more. He then busted out on the next hand. He had J-6 and paired when the board came 7-6-2. He bet $115,000, Watkinson made it $300,000 to go and Lawson moved in for $610,000. Watkinson also had a 6, but with a queen kicker. Lawson took home $272,665 for finishing third. Only 27 hands and we were heads-up.
The count stood at $5,042,000 for Watkinson, $1,667,000 for Brunson. Before play continued, there was the traditional bringing-in-the-cash ceremony. This time they had tuxedoed "butlers" pedaling around on unicycles and juggling wads of bills before tossing them on the table. "Mexican bankrolls," sniffed Brunson, as he saw the stacks had Franklins on the outside, dollars inside.
The heads-up match resumed with $2,000 antes and blinds of $15,000-$30,000. Brunson doubled up on the first hand. He had 6-5, and a flop of 7-4-3 gave him a straight. He just called when Watkinson, with 5-3, bet $100,000. When a 10 turned, Watkinson bet $200,000, Brunson raised $400,000 and Watkinson moved in. On hand 42 there was $664,000 in a pot when Brunson bet $500,000 on the river and Watkinson folded. Brunson may have taken a small lead then, but he definitely took the lead on the next hand. Pre-flop, Watkinson re-raised to $300,000, bet $600,000 when the flop came 8-6-5, then folded when Brunson moved in.
By the time limits went to $20,000-$40,000, with $5,000 antes, Brunson had about 4.6 million to 2 million for Watkinson. A few hands later he had pocket 10s, checked the flop and turn, then bet $400,000 into a board of A-9-3-9-3. Watkinson, perhaps thinking it would be a split pot, called and lost. Two hands later Watkinson, with Q-3, bet 150k into a flop of Q-J-7. Brunson, with Qh-9h, moved him, and it was all over when an ace and 8 came. Watkinson got $578,375 for second and the one and only Texas Dolly earned $1,173,260 plus a $25,000 Bellagio seat for his victory.
Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson is an old-time road gambler who has been playing poker for 50 years. He was born in a small Texas town, in high school won the mile-run Texas championship and was drafted by the L.A. Lakers, but tore up his knee in an accident. He has two World Series championships, won back-to-back, both times with 10-2. He has nine bracelets in all and was the first to pass the million-dollar mark at the WSOP. He plays in the highest side games around.
As much as for his playing accomplishments, Brunson will always be remembered for his groundbreaking 1979 poker book, "Super/System, which is still considered the bible of poker books. He wrote the chapter on no-limit hold’em, while Bibby Baldwin wrote on limit hold’em, David Sklansky on high-low stud, Mike Caro on draw poker, Chip Reese on 7-card stud and Joey Hawthorne on lowball.
Event #33 Results
(DAY 4 FINALE)
$5,000 + $150
$3,335,000 PRIZE POOL
1. Doyle Brunson $1,173,260
(+$25,000 Bellagio Seat)
Las Vegas, NV
2. Lee Watkinson $578,375
3. Peter Lawson $272,665
4. Grant Helling $170,175
5. Joe Awada $132,200
Las Vegas, NV
6. Tom Lee $99,150
7. Paul Phillips $82,625
Las Vegas, NV
8. Edward Moncada $66,100
9. Perry Friedman $49,575
San Marcos, CA
10.John Sacha $33,050
11.Stephen Gin $33,050
12.Adam Schoenfeld $33,050
San Jose, CA
13.Hans "Tuna" Lund $29,745
Lake Tahoe, CA
14.Michael Dean $29,745
Indian Rock, FL
15.Seyedin Moji $29,745