"Youth must be served," goes the old saying, and it's certainly proving true at the WSOP Circuit tour here at the Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs. We've had three events thus far, and all of them have been served up to players ranging in age from 21 all the way to 22.
Tonight the second 21-year-old, Cody Slaubaugh, took down the $300 no-limit event, totally dominating the final table in an awesome show of strength. He arrived at the final table with a substantial lead, holding 136,500 of the 594,000 chips in play, knocked out four of the first seven players, then got heads-up with a lead of about 5-1. His final opponent, Danny "Danimal" Walker, a 22-year-old student, managed to get close after doubling through, but Slaubaugh finished him on the next hand to take home $35,543 for first place.
Slaubaugh, of Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, has been playing poker three years, two full time. His prior poker highlight was finishing second in an Aussie Millions $1,000 rebuy event this year that paid $77,000 in U.S. dollars. Before that he was a student, but even then his real interest was poker, and when his grades suffered he turned to his first love. His nickname in school was "Thug," and now it's "Thugmoneymaker." He's been a no-limit tournament specialist, and now is trying to expand to other events, such as Omaha/8 and H.O.R.S.E. His hobbies are snowboarding, music and sports.
This final table started out super-fast, taking only 34 hands to get down to the final three. Then some kind of world's record was set, because for the next 55 hands, until it became heads-up, there was not a single hand where Walker was up against the other finisher, Mike Armstrong. In every called pot it was always Slaubaugh versus one of the two. The reason, Slaubaugh said, was that he felt they were playing passively, just trying to move up a notch, and he took advantage by aggressively raising to force one of them out or take the blinds and antes. He said he had adopted this style of play at the third table, when he detected tightness. He picked up a lot of pots with aggressive play, and his loose image paid off when he had big hands.
The final table got underway with 1,500-3,000 blinds, 400 antes and 35:36 left in the round.
Seats and chip counts
SEAT 1 Mike Armstrong 59,200
SEAT 2 Frank Regalado 35,000
SEAT 3 Josh Wininger 55,700
SEAT 4 Ron Haynes 49,600
SEAT 5 Danny Walker 86,400
SEAT 6 Cody Slaubaugh 136,500
SEAT 7 Dave Kerrigan 57,500
SEAT 8 Gary Turille 61,700
SEAT 9 Todd Bentley 49,500
It didn't take long to get action. On the first hand, the flop came Jc-6d-4h. Holding Kd-Jd, Ron Haynes bet his top pair. Walker, with 7h-5h for an open-end straight draw, raised, and then Haynes re-raised for the rest of his 49,000. Walker called, hit his straight when an 8d turned, and Haynes, missing his flush draw, finished ninth, worth $2,293.
Haynes, 49, is a "Culligan Man" from Pella, Iowa with three years experience who enjoys playing in tournaments with his sons. This is first Circuit try.
After 17 more hands, Walker claimed his second victim. Frank Regalado, in the small blind, moved in for 25,000 with pocket 9s, and Walker chased him down with A-Q. A queen turned to leave Regalado, a 42-year-old landscaper in eighth place, which paid $3,440. Regalado, from Miami, Florida, has been playing three years.
Two hands later, Josh Wininger, on the button, pushed in for 25,000 with pocket 7s. Slaubaugh called with pocket jacks. Dead to an inside straight on fourth street, Wininger, a telemarketer from Papillion, Nebraska went out with $4,586 for seventh place. This is the first final table for Wininger, who learned poker watching TV, has a bible studies education and plans to go to a seminary in the future to become a pastor.
A hand later the round ended. Slaubaugh now had a daunting chip lead with about 265,000 chips. Play resumed with 2,000-4,000 blinds and 500 antes. Six hands later we lost another player. Todd Bentley pushed in for 48,000 with K-J. Walker called, turned up an A-Q, and called out, "Put a bullet out there!" He got his wish twice over. Two aces hit the board as Bentley, a former cattle feeder, fed all his chips to Walker. This is the best finish ever for Bentley, who is 29, lives in Oakland, Iowa, and started playing in home games 11 years ago. Tonight he collected $5,733 for finishing sixth.
Right after that, Armstrong took a 55,000 bite out of Slaubaugh's chips when he re-raised all in with Q-9, sucking out against Slaubaugh's Ac-Jc when a 9 hit fourth street. But Slaubaugh quickly got it back and more when he knocked out Gary "Trick" Turille. He moved in with Ah-Qh, and Turille, calling with Ad-9c, was dominated and couldn't catch up.
Turille, 54, is a general manager from Omaha with hopes of someday turning pro. He learned from friends, has been playing 30 years and says his poker highlight (?) was once losing with quad 10s. Fifth place was worth $6,879.
Now came the hand that seemed to lock up things for Slaubaugh. He opened for 11,000 from the cut-off seat, then called when Dave "Cookie" Kerrigan moved in for 51,500. Slaubaugh turned up pocket 6s and Kerrigan, showing pocket queens, jumped up and slapped the table in frustration when Slaubaugh flopped a winning set of 6s.
Kerrigan, 50, is from Omaha and learned poker at age eight playing with his brothers. He got into this event via a satellite. His best prior highlight was finishing seventh in an Omaha/8 World Championship event at Reno. He earned $8,026 for fourth.
As play contined three-handed, Slaubaugh pulled a made-for-TV move. With a pot of about 70,000, and a board of 10-8-2-K-5, Slaubaugh bet 99,000. When Walker hesitated, Slaubaugh asked, "Can I show a card?" knowing the answer would be no. He then promised Walker to show his cards if he folded. Walker did, and Slaubaugh turned up 4-3!
As the round neared an end, Saubaugh lost chips to Armstrong, but still led with about 280,000 to 210,000 for Armstrong and 105,000 for Walker.
Blinds went to 3,000-6,000 and 500 antes, with Slaubaugh continuing to play every hand. Finally, on hand 89, Slaubaugh put Armstrong all in, holding A-J against A-10. The board changed nothing, and Armstrong, a 45-year-old computer programmer, finished third for $9,172. A combination of brain and brawn, Armstrong is a Mensa member and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do who began playing poker with his buddies in high school 30 years ago.
Heads-up, Slaubaugh had almost 500,000 to about 100,000 for Walker. Seven hands into the match-up, Walker moved up to about 270,000 when he raised to 25,000 with pocket queens and Slaubaugh moved him in, losing with As-4s.
But the next hand ended it. Walker opened for 20,000 with A-Q, Slaubaugh raised to 60,000 with A-K, and Walker pushed in. The king kicker held up, and Walker got $18,345 for second. Walker learned poker as a freshman in college. He's been playing four years, and his prior highlight was winning a tournament at the Wynn in Vegas that paid $7,000.