The Third Wee Toon Poker Tournament threw the usual twists and turns into the melting pot but it was David Wood who took victory after being so close in the previous two tournaments. Defeating Stewart Wareham in the Head's Up David was obviously delighted to add a well deserved victory to his already successful year and cement his place in the history books.
With the build up to this Tournament having been prevalent in most people's minds for the past few weeks, it was with a huge sense of relief to get the talking over with and get down to the action on the tables.
With eleven players making themselves available the contestants were split over two tables. Taking their places at Table One were a couple of new players, keeping the action fresh and exciting. Stuart Hall took up the Dealer's position in his first ever game, followed by Steven Wood, David Wood, Martin Coffield, Grant McGeachy making his first appearance at WTPT and John Woodford.
Seated at Table Two were Alan Goddard, Kim Wareham, Paul Brodie, Stewart Wareham and Robbie Judge giving Table Two a strong sense of experienced players battling for a chance at the Top Table.
With Table Two having one less player than Table One it was going to prove even tougher for the players to qualify from this table, and things became even harder when Tournament II winner Paul Brodie came storming out of the gates taking several early hands and establishing a sizeable chip lead over his opponents. Using his chip count to raise out his competitors meant a lot of hands were falling his way and as play progressed he stretched even further out in front putting the pressure on those trying to keep up.
Meanwhile on Table One it was an excellent start for first time player Stuart Hall, who took the game in his stride and managed to amass a chip lead over his more experienced rivals. So much so that even early on Tournament I winner Martin Coffield found himself All-in against John Woodford hoping to double through. Unfortunately Martin ran into a Flush compared to his straight and the first casualty of the night was handed the booby prize of the candy bracelet. I have a feeling that this one will not be cherished so fondly as the one he received last winter!
Back at Table Two things were hotting up with Poli so dominant all other players were struggling to continue with the blinds beginning to rise. Alan Goddard found himself facing Stewart in an all-in call and was disappointed to see Stewart pull Paired Aces after the Flop against his pocket pair Kings and he was next to join Martin on the sidelines.
Soon after this Kim found herself going all-in, hoping to double through and secure her place for a few more hands; but once again it was Stewart who accepted the challenge. Both players had Aces but Stewarts better kicker held out and Kim's good play in recent games deserted her at the crucial moment.
Then in an amazing twist of fate chip leader from Table One Stuart was moved over to Table Two, thus Paul now had a serious challenge on his hands for top spot. And as the Community cards unfolded on Stuarts first hand at the new table, Paul and Stuart checked, raised and counter raised all the way to the River. It was at this point that Paul put the new player on the spot calling all-in and forcing him to make a momentous decision. He decided to call and Poli looked exasperated as he could only turn Ace High and feared his hopes would be severely dented. But Stuart had misread the hand and had only made King High when he thought he might have had a Straight! Paul was obviously ecstatic at knocking out a well stacked opponent and putting his own chip count into orbit!
Now down to seven players and it was going to be one misfortunate who would miss out on a shot at the top table and a chance for one of the prizes on offer. Robbie went all-in and Stewart called, once again showing a superior kicker with both players holding Aces. As the cards came out, anything higher than a Nine on the River would have given Robbie a split pot and another shot at the glory, but a Five sealed his fate and gave Stewart a more healthy chip count as both He and Paul joined David, Steven, Grant and John at the Top Table and a shot at the title of Tournament III winner.
Play continued amongst the remaining six contestants, Grant giving a good account of himself in his first game but he was finding himself short stacked along with John and Steven. David and Stewart were reasonably placed above average but Paul was still way out in front. Steven started to find the game slipping away from him and was all-in against David, losing out in the family battle and missing out on a pay out from 6 th place, with David happy to add to his own stash.
Then came another amazing twist in the game. Paul had been so comfy right from the start was faced with an all-in call from Stewart after both players had raised through the Flop and Turn. Paul called the all-in thinking Stewart was bluffing but Stewart had made the Flush and Paul was drawing dead and a huge whack was drained from his stack.
Now Stewart was in pole position and way ahead of the rest. Paul's confidence drained he went all-in against David and ended up losing out once more and was amazingly out of the game after looking so comfortable for so long.
Even at this stage it was going to be a struggle for Grant or John to make the heads up but both players battled on hoping to find a hand that could see them start a comeback. From this backdrop both John and Grant were all-in against David, and he held the best hand right to the River where a Jack gave John the spoils, a foothold in the game, and knocked Grant out after a brave effort on his behalf. Taking Fourth place in his debut in such a highly competitive game as Tournament III can be seen as a major achievement.
Down to the final three now and blinds were exchanged and hands fought over in the usual tight fashion. Just waiting for that killer hand to put you through or knock an opponent out left the tension building until David started to dominate proceedings, firstly taking a large pot from Stewart then sending John spiralling out in third place with pocket Queens helping him on his way and marching onwards to the Head to Head.
With the momentum firmly behind him, Stewart needed to stand strong against his well stacked adversary. Hoping to double through he called all-in with Queen-Jack suited, but David turned pocket Queens as he had done so previously and leaving Stewart with a mountain to climb if this game was to last much longer.
A Ten-Ten-Nine Flop added to the electric atmosphere by giving Stewart several outs and a chance to survive. A King or an Eight would give him the Straight and a Jack on the Turn increased his hopes. Now he needed a Eight, Jack or King to play on; but David had made a Straight Flush draw and a King of Diamonds would have given him a glorious finish but when a Seven turned on the River the game was over and David took the honours, the Queens standing up to anything Stewart had to offer.
David took the honours in his usual modest way but he must be thoroughly delight with his overall play during the Tournament. At no point did he look like he was falling out of the game and that's a testament to the way he has been performing not only recently but throughout the year. Stewart can also feel happy with his own performance making the top table for the first time and only narrowly losing out to the stronger opponent.
An interesting Tournament through up some amazing twists and turns and not only whetted the appetite for the remaining games in the 2005 season but also started the build up to Tournament IV in the hope it can live up to and surpass the previous three.