Council Bluffs, IA (April, 2014) — After three intense days of competition in the Main Event at Council Bluffs, Blair Hinkle, the defending champion in this tournament, emerged from the fray victorious yet again.
Hinkle’s performance is one for the record books. This is the first time in the history of the World Series of Poker Circuit that anyone has won the Main Event at the same stop two years in a row. Hinkle also has another victory in the Main Event here (in August 2010), and he is the first person ever to win the same Main Event three times. In fact, only one other player, Chris Ferguson, has three Main Event rings.
Hinkle’s victory seemed destined almost from the start. On Day 1, Hinkle went on an incredible hot streak. He finished the day atop the chip counts, and he accumulated so many chips that he held about 2.5 times as much as his nearest competitor. He had more chips after Day 1 than two players had at the start of the final table. At the start of Monday's Day 3, Hinkle entered the final table second in chips, just behind the leader, Ken Douglas, who eventually finished third.
Hinkle stayed humble despite his historic achievement, focusing on his play rather than his impressive results. He said after his victory, “I don’t think it’s set in exactly yet. I think I just take a lot of pride in my play and winning the tournaments. I think that my play is pretty good as we get deeper and it really starts to turn up to a higher level as we get closer to the final table and throughout the final table. I think that’s what I’m proud of. Winning each time doesn’t matter as much to me as playing well and feeling like I deserve to win it, I guess.”
The final table was a fast-paced affair. The first elimination (John Holley, ninth place) occurred after only 20 minutes of play. After just three and half hours, seven players had been eliminated, leaving Hinkle and Matt Bond to play heads up for the title. Bond started heads-up play with a substantial chip lead -- about 3,500,000 to 1,400,000. However, Hinkle took over the lead after 30 minutes, and nearly put the final nail in the coffin after just over an hour of heads-up play. Bond moved all in with Ac-Jh, and Hinkle called him with Qd-Qc. Fate smiled on Bond this hand, though. A jack fell on the flop, and another on the turn.
If Hinkle seemed destined to win from Day 1, Matt Bond seemed destined to win for much of the final table. On just the second hand of the day, he doubled up through the chip leader, jumping up the leaderboard and knocking Ken Douglas down to an average chip stack. Bond stayed near the top of the chip counts for the rest of the day, and his victory over Hinkle’s pocket queens made it seem like victory was inevitable for him.
Hinkle had other ideas, though, and he stayed focused despite the ups and downs of the day. “If I ever start to think I’m going to win again I try to keep myself in check,” he said. “If I got too far negative the other way I say ‘Hey, you’re playing good keep it going and see what happens.’ I don’t like to tell myself that I’m going to win or that it’s not going to happen again. I just try and keep focused on every single hand that I play and keep playing well.”
Despite being second in chips for much of the heads-up match, Hinkle continually battled back, keeping enough chips to remain a constant threat to his opponent. After about five hours of heads-up play, he won two all-in pots in quick succession, retaking the chip lead. A few minutes later, he sealed his victory and his place in the WSOP Circuit history books. He won $90,700 for his first-place finish.
Even before the final table, this tournament was filled with stories and subplots. The last player eliminated Sunday night was Alexandru Masek, who holds the record for most career WSOP Circuit rings. He won his record-breaking eighth ring about a month ago in St. Louis, and nearly extended his own record here at Council Bluffs. He made the final table of two preliminary events, and finished in 10th place in the Main Event.
There were also several players who have made a habit of performing well here at Council Bluffs. In addition to Hinkle, whose amazing achievements speak for themselves, Charles “Woody” Moore and Bernard Lee have also found consistent success in this tournament. Moore finished second in this event two years ago, and fifth in 2010 (when Hinkle won it for the first time). Bernard Lee also made a deep run that year, eventually finishing in 10th. He also finished fourth in the Main Event here in 2008. Moore continued his run of final tables this year, eventually bowing out in seventh. Lee just missed the final table, finishing in 12th place.
A few competitors here are famous for their deep runs in the World Series of Poker Main Event. Bernard Lee finished in 13th place in 2005. Dennis Phillips is a former November Niner, finishing third in 2008. Phillips entered both Day 1A and Day 1B, but was unable to make it to Day 2. Phil Mader made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event 2013, eventually finishing in 43rd place. He made Day 2 here at Council Bluffs, but was eliminated just short of the money.
The Main Event was the 11th of 12 gold ring events on the WSOP Circuit schedule at Council Bluffs. The $1,675 No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 247 entries generating a $370,500 prize pool. The top 27 players were paid.
The tournament featured two starting flights beginning Saturday at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. playing 12 levels apiece. The noon flight boasted 150 entries and advanced 53 while Saturday’s flight boasted 94 and advanced 28.