"It's all timing anyway. That's what poker is all about." - T.J. Cloutier
No one has more major tournament wins than T.J. Cloutier's astounding number of 58 victories. Without a doubt, he might be the best player of all time who never won the main event at the World Series of Poker. This past year was not an easy one for T.J. Cloutier. He battled back from serious health problems including a heart attack and a blood clot in his brain. He also fought off a field of 466 of the toughest players in the world and emerged victorious to pick up his 6th WSOP bracelet.
T.J. said that he had been practicing online in order to prepare for this year's WSOP. Every night he would play $11 buy-in tournaments so he can get used to playing in tournaments with thousands of players. His practice paid off. He made it to his 39th final table and won the WSOP Event #13 $5,000 No Limit Hold'em tournament that had a prize pool worth of $2,190,200.
Here is the final table line up and chip counts:
Seat 1: Dustin Woolf (Los Angeles, CA) $233K
Seat 2: Todd Brunson (Las Vegas, NV) $16K
Seat 3: Jason "Doc" Berilgen (Houston, TX) $159K
Seat 4: Gavin Smith (Las Vegas, NV) $142K
Seat 5: Neal Wang (Los Angeles, CA) $630.5K
Seat 6: T.J. Cloutier (Richardson, TX) $281.5K
Seat 7: John Hennigan (Philadelphia, PA) $$363.5K
Seat 8: Hieu Tony Ma (South El Monte) $61K
Seat 9: John Bonetti (Houston, TX) $248K
Seat 10: Steven Zoine (Merrick, NY) $194.5K
Here are some quick facts about our final table players... Dustin Woolf's friends nicknamed him "Neverwin." Todd Brunson is a professional poker player, real estate investor, and the son of Texas Dolly. Jason "Doc" Berilgen is an oncologist who's trying to make a name for himself. Originally from Ontario, Canada, Gavin Smith made his second final table this year. Our chipleader Neal Wang is self-employed. T.J. Cloutier has 46 cashes at the WSOP and has won five gold bracelets prior to this year. "Johnny World" Hennigan won a bracelet at last year's WSOP. Hieu "Tony" Ma was born in Vietnam. He's nicknamed "TTT" which is short for "Tony the Tiger." Tony Ma won one WSOP bracelet. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, John Bonetti is retired. He has won three gold bracelets. Steven Zoine, a contractor, is married with two kids. He has only read one poker book and it was written by T.J. Cloutier.
On the first hand at the final table, a shortstacked Todd Brunson moved all in with A-10. Dustin Woolf called with 77. Todd Brunson flopped a ten and doubled up. A few hands later, Todd Brunson moved all in again. He had pocket aces and Neal Wang called with AQ. The flop seemed harmless: 10-2-3. When a 5 fell on the turn, it started to look bad. If a four spiked, then both players would chop. And yeah, the river card was a 4 and both players chopped the pot.
Gavin Smith won a big hand with the Hilton Sisters and doubled up against John "Johnny World" Hennigan's JJ. A few hands later, Johnny World would get back most of those chips when Gavin Smith's AQ ran into his Big Slick. Gavin's stack took a big hit. He eventually would get knocked out by T.J. Cloutier and finished in 10th place. Gavin Smith won $24,090 for his efforts.
Jason "Doc" Berilgen made a run when his pocket Kings doubled up against Todd Bruson's Big Slick. Later in the same orbit, T.J. Cloutier flopped a set and eliminated Tony Ma, who collected $43,805 for 9th place.
T.J. Cloutier lost a big pot when his pocket tens ran into Steven Zoine's KK. Zoine doubled up there. On the very next hand, Todd Brunson and his shortstack was knocked in 8th place. Todd won $65,705. Dustin "Neverwin" Woolf was the next player to get eliminated. Steven Zoine took him out. Woolf won $87,610 for 7th place.
T.J. began his run when he doubled up against the chip leader, Neal Wang. T.J.'s AQ beat out Neal Wang's 99 when he spiked a Queen on the river. That was a huge hand for T.J. and he almost moved into the chip lead, more importantly, T.J. gained momentum. A few orbits later, T.J. Cloutier moved all in with AA. John Hennigan called with A-10s and T.J.'s aces held up. Johnny World Hennigan was knocked out by T.J. and finished in 6th place. He won $109,510.
John Bonetti knocked out Jason "Doc" Berilgen when Bonetti's KK held up against Doc's 66. Jason "Doc" Berilgen won $131,410 for 5th place. Also in that same orbit, T.J. pushed all in with the Hilton Sisters against John Bonetti's Big Slick. T.J. Cloutier's Hiltons held up. Bonetti was knocked out in 3rd place and won $175,215. T.J. was just $400K behind the chip leader, Steven Zoine when they began heads up play.
With a flop of 10-9-7, T.J. flopped a nut straight with J-9. Both players were all in on the turn after Zoine caught a set. T.J. won a monster pot worth almost $2 million. It appeared that the tournament was going to end when Steve Zoine was all in preflop with AJ versus T.J.'s KK. T.J. had the lead until the flop when an ace fell on the turn. Zoine caught one of his six outs and doubled up.
T.J. Cloutier ended up moving all in against Zoine preflop with A5. Zoine had AK. The flop was 6-8-9 and T.J. flopped a gutshot straight draw. He had seven outs in all. When the 7 spiked on the river for a straight, the crowd went a little crazy. Steve Zoine won $352,620 for second place. He played stellar poker for three long days. It took a river suck out to prevent him from winning his first WSOP bracelet. T.J. won $657,100 and his sixth gold bracelet.
"I sucked out on him in a big pot. I'm embarrassed," T.J. said to his wife on his cell phone minutes after he won.
Although he's a little older now, T.J. Cloutier is no where close to giving up playing in tournaments. His WSOP win in the $5,000 event is proof that he's still one of the toughest players around. Tomorrow, he begins his quest to make it to his 40th final table. He's also hoping that he can put himself in position to win the main event, after all, he's been practicing online almost every night!