Daniel Negreanu wins the Jack Binion WSOP Circuit Main Event
2006, Jason Kirk  

By the end of the third day of play at the Jack Binion WSOP Circuit Main Event, only 9 players remained in a field that had once been 241-strong. Among the survivors were two relatively well-known pros, two aspiring tournament rounders, and one poker superstar. It wasn't a final table jam-packed with star power, but the dynamic between tight and loose seemed as if it would offer some excitement as the day began. In order of seating assignment, the final table participants were:


1 Brian Lamkin - Austin, TX - 600K
2 Daniel Negreanu - Las Vegas, NV - 410K
3 Robert Schulz - Southaven, MS - 229K
4 Lee Markholt - Eatanville, WA - 177K
5 Wendell Barnes - Charcton, MA - 237K
6 Bryant King - Spokane, WA - 200K
7 Brandon Adams - Boston, MA - 103K
8 Kia Mohajeri - Bockledge, FL - 331K
9 Chad Brown - Los Angeles, CA - 123K

The action was slow in the early going. Preflop raises and re-raises were most definitely not in short supply, and only a small number of hands ever got to the turn card in the first 45 minutes. It was only a matter of time until two big hands butted against each other, and when it finally happened the first departure of the day was set. Brandon Adams announced himself all-in, and Chad Brown moved his short stack in behind Adams. Brown held A-Q, putting him into a coin-flip situation with Adams' pair of jacks. Without any help from the board, Brown took 9th place and earned $45,970.

In the next 20 minutes two more players were eliminated. Local player Robert Schulz was the next to go when he ran into Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu made a raise and Schulz immediately came over the top for his last $96,000 in chips. With the other players out of the way, Negreanu made the call and showed 9-9. That had Schulz's 7-7 crushed, and when neither of his 2 outs hit the board he took home $68,685 for finishing in 8th place. Within minutes Wendell Barnes joined Schulz on the rail, also at the hand of "Kid Poker." Barnes came in for a raise from early position and called when Negreanu re-raised him from the small blind. Negreanu check-called $90,000 on an A-9-3 flop, and immediately called Barnes' all-in move when the turn brought another 9. Barnes showed A-3 for the flopped two pair, but Negreanu's A-A gave him the unbeatable full house. Barnes took home $91,580 for his 7th place performance. After a break between levels, Negreanu solidified his position when he flopped two pair with A-Q against initial chip leader Brian Lamkin. Not only did he manage to cripple Lamkin, but when he scooped the pot he held over half the chips in play.

It was during this time table dynamic finally loosened up enough to get some pretty big pots going. Lee Markholt doubled up through Bryant King, who chased a flush draw and missed. Markholt then bled some of those chips to short-stacked Brian Lamkin and Kia Mohajeri. It was the first contested pot of the day for Mohajeri, who began to fearlessly attack his opponents with greater frequency. In the middle of this flurry of big pots was the knockout of Brandon Adams at the hands of Lamkin. Adams made an desperation all-in move with K-9 and found himself unfortunate to be up against Lamkin's A-Q. He showed great poise for a player coming to the final table with the shortest stack, and his $114,475 performance was an all-around admirable on. Then, just minutes after knocking out Adams, Lamkin rounded out a chaotic hour when his 8-8 failed to hold up against Kia Mohajeri's A-K. Lamkin played solid poker with the chip lead throughout the latter half of the tournament and earned every cent of his 5th place $137,730 prize.

On one of the first hands after Lamkin's exit, Bryant King challenged a steal raise from Daniel Negreanu by re-raising to $120,000 before the flop and then moving all-in on the flop. Negreanu folded; King showed T-T and stacked his chips. This matchup would become the dominant one of the night, along with more frequent confrontations between Kia Mohajeri and Negreanu. Left out in the cold was Lee Markholt, who lost all traction once play was four-handed. He bowed out in 4th place just after the dinner break when he made a desperation move with J-8 and ran into Mohajeri's A-A, taking home $183,160.

Three-handed play was as interesting as anyone could have asked for. Kia Mohajeri, who had been so quiet for over a day, sprung to life with his newly acquired chip stack and began challenging Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu would later say that Mohajeri was one the players he didn't have a good read on coming into the day, so it was all the more impressive that he handled the attacks well and didn't give away his chip lead. Bryant King also continued to step up against Negreanu with big preflop re-raises, but Negreanu began calling those raises and outmaneuvering King after the flop. On one particularly well-played hand, Negreanu had King count down his stack after a re-raise and then bet exactly enough to move King all-in. (He flashed 6-6 after King mucked A-K face-up.) The three-way dance finally ended when King re-raised all-in over the top of Mohajeri, who called with A-J and was subsequently crippled. He managed one double-up before he moved all-in with a dominated K-J, taking home 3rd place and $228,690 for a patient but aggressive performance.

The David vs. Goliath heads-up match was clearly the one the crowd had been waiting all night for. Bryant King had a substantial cheering section, and Daniel Negreanu's popularity is off the charts no matter where he plays. In the end, however, it only lasted about 15 minutes. Negreanu later said that he felt he matched up well against King, whom he described as a great pre-flop player, because he thought he could outplay him after the flop. In the end Negreanu did match up well with King, who seemed just to run out of steam once play became heads-up. King took home $416,690 and once again showed himself to be a skillful player, adding his 2nd place finish to a resume that already included 21st in the 2005 WSOP main event and 5th place at the August 2005 WSOPC main event in Tunica .

For Daniel Negreanu, it was good to finish out one of the first major tournaments of the year with a strong performance. It's obviously important for anyone who plans on playing every $10,000 or higher event on the calendar to get off to a good start, but for Negreanu there's another factor: he wants to make a run at Player Of The Year recognition again in 2006 after what some people have described as an off-year in 2005. It remains to be seen whether he will get back to his 2004 form, but he's definitely starting off on the right foot.

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