Devil Rays Pitcher Wade Townsend
‘Buys’ $700 No-Limit Event for $100
He Pays to See Final Opponent's Cards
After Folding and Puts Info to Good Use
Tunica, MS - Wade Townsend, a pitcher with the minor league Tampa Bay Devil Rays, had gotten heads-up with Gene Frank in the 12th event of the WSOP Circuit stop, $700 no-limit hold'em. The board showed Qh-Qs-9h-3h. Frank moved in and Townsend tried to figure out what he had. "You got nothin', right?" he probed. Townsend folded, then offered to pay Frank $100 if he could show a pair. Frank showed him a 9-4 and Wade tossed him a bill. "Now it's a $600 buy-in," Frank cracked.
But Townsend had gotten full value for his money. He was trying to get information, and now he knew that Frank could play loosely, and he wouldn't need a great hand to challenge him in the future. He played with confidence, sensed that Frank was "desperate," and four hands later it was all over.
Townsend, 24, from Dripping Springs, Texas, is a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He collected $77.042 and a gold championship ring for his victory. Until they got heads-up, Frank had dominated the table, but once it got two-handed, Townsend, who likes to play heads-up, took over completely.
Townsend has been playing poker for three years. This was his first Circuit try, and his first cash of any significance. He plays all games, preferably pot-limit Omaha and heads-up no-limit, and felt his experience heads-up gave him a big edge.
A ballplayer at Rice University, Frank was named 2004 Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year after running up a 25-3 record. He was also named 2004 Academic All-American of the Year with a 3.59 grade average. In 2003 he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, but decided to return to Rice and earn his degree in history. He was a first-round pick by the Rays in 2005, but suffered a torn ligament in his elbow, underwent surgery, missed the entire 2006 season, and saw limited action last year. He said he's ready to get back to the mound this year.
The second-day final table started with 10,000-20,000 blinds and 2,000 antes, 37:18 left, and Frank well in front with 841,000 chips.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1. Gene Frank 841,000
Seat 2. Wayne Harvey 326,000
Seat 3. Rex Rigdon 324,000
Seat 4. Justin Cometti 218,000
Seat 5. JimmyTidwell 450,000
Seat 6. Curtis Van Gilder 129,000
Seat 7. Wade Townsend 155,000
Seat 8. McDonald Ledbetter 595,000
Seat 9. Chance Steed 39,000
Seat 10.Scott Sitron 382,000
This would be the fastest final table in this series. It took only 45 hands to get heads-up, and was over in not much more than two hours. On the sixth hand, a relatively low-chipped Curtis Van Gilder moved in with A-2 and lost to Townsend's Q-8 when a queen showed up on the river. Tenth place paid $3,073.
Van Gilder, 47, is a business owner from Port Byron, IL. He's married with two children and learned poker in home games 30 years ago. This is his first Circuit, and he has a 431st in the WSOP main event and a second at the Heartland Poker Tour, both last year.
Two hands later, Chance Steed was all in holding J-10 when a flop of J-9-5 gave him top pair. That wasn't much good against Frank's set of 9s, and he went out ninth with $5,122.
Steed, 30, is an investor from College Station, Texas. He's been playing about two years, learning from TV, played in around five Circuits and got here today via satellite. He enjoys lots of golf and snowboarding.
As the level ended, Jimmy Tidwell was left short after Townsend doubled through against him. Tidwell had opened for 90,000 with Kc-Jc and Townsend, with Ac-Kh, moved in for 298,000, then pretty much nailed down the pot after an ace flopped.
Blinds were now 15,000-30,000 with a 3,000 ante. On the second hand, Frank opened for 80,000 with Kd-10, and Wayne Harvey re-raised all in for 215,000 with Ac-9h. Frank moved in front when a flop of Q-10-5 paired him, and Harvey took home $7,476 for eighth when he couldn't improve.
Harvey, 36, is a self-employed contactor from Savannah, Georgia. He's married with two children, learned poker in home games two years ago. This is his 10th Circuit. He won a $500 limit hold'em event here in 2006, and has a 34th-place finish in $2,000 pot-limit hold'em at the WSOP last year.
Action continued fast as we lost our fourth player on the 23rd hand. Tidwell had to post his last chips from the small blind, and against two callers didn't have much hope when he looked at 5-2. A board of Q-10-9-5-J paired his 5, but gave Justin Cometti a straight. Tidwell got $9,960 for seventh.
Tidwell, 33, is from Leoma, Tennessee where he is employed by AT&T. He's married, has two children and learned poker "the hard way" two years ago. This is his fifth Circuit.
Six hands later it was McDonald "Mac" Ledbetter who checked out. He tried an under-the-gun all-in move for 216,000 with just 10-8. Rex Rigdon called with pocket 10s which easily held up. Ledbetter got $12,445 for sixth.
Ledbetter is a 22-year-old student from Oxford, Mississippi who's been playing for four years. He's played 11 Circuits now, and his highlight was a seventh in a Circuit event in August.
Seven hands later, Scott "Scotty the Fish" Sitron finished fifth for $14,929. He moved in, a big favorite with A-K to Frank's Ac-3c, but was drawing dead when a flop of 10c-8c-2c gave Frank a nut flush.
Sitron is 24, from Glendale, Wisconsin, and is a student and delivery driver. He's played six years and this Circuit is his first. His poker highlights are "having my hands hold up and waiting an hour for valet to find our car." He also enjoys sports.
Action remained fast as Cometti departed a few hands later just as the round ended. Townsend moved in for 615,000 with A-10, and after long hesitation, Cometti called with A-2. Cometti jumped into the lead with two pair when the flop came A-Q-2, but Townsend overtook him with a bigger two pair when a 10 turned. Fourth paid $17,413.
Cometti, 25, is a bartender from Fairhope, Alabama.He's played eight years and this is his fourth Circuit. His poker highlight: "Grinding 4-8 hold'em for a living."
A rough count showed Frank still leading with about 2.6 million while Townsend had around 900,000 to 250,000 for Rigdon.
Blinds now went to 20,000-40,000 with 5,000 antes, and five hands later we were down to two. Townsend re-raised with pocket aces to put Rigdon, with A-10, all in. Rigdon couldn't catch anything, and took home $19,898 for third. "You gotta find aces at the right time," Townsend said.
Rigdon, from Twin City, Georgia, is 48, self-employed and married with five children. He's been playing poker "too long to remember" and has played about a dozen Circuit events.
Heads-up, Frank led, 2.1 to 1.7 million. Townsend quickly took over. He raised to a million, forcing Frank to fold after betting into a board of Kc-Ks-3d-Qs-4s. Then he took down another big pot when Frank, holding pocket jacks, bet out with a board of A-Q-9-Q. Townsend, with Q-10, had trips. The count was now reversed, 2.5 million to 1.3 million in Townsend's favor. "I'm glad to see him leave," Frank remarked as the dealer changed tables. The next one wasn't any more helpful. Frank bet 400,000 when he had A-10 and the board showed 8-7-4-8-10, only to have Townsend call and turn up a third 8.
A few hands later, Townsend bought his $100 worth of info. On the final hand, the board showed 9-8-3-J. Townsend made a trap bet of 100,000, Frank moved in, holding 9-7, and the Devil Rays pitching ace threw a third strike, turning up 10-7 for a straight.
Frank is 63, from Evansville, Indiana, and owns an insurance agency. Married with three children, he's been playing some 50 years. His cashes include a second and eighth in Jack Binion World Poker Open events, a fourth in $1,500 7-card stud at the WSOP, and a seventh in the New England Poker Classic.
-- by Max Shapiro