Mike Watson has accomplished a lot in his poker career. He has a WPT title, and he even won $1,000,000 in a Super High Roller at WSOP Europe back in 2012 – but the bracelet still eludes him. Watson got heads up for poker’s most coveted prize for the fourth time in his career Thursday afternoon in Melbourne, and even took the lead at one point, but by the time the final card was dealt Watson was congratulating Sam Higgs on a job well done.
Higgs, the fourth Australian to capture WSOP gold in five events so far at the 2014 World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific, entered the final table with a commanding chiplead – but he had some serious obstacles to tackle along the way. Not only was Watson standing between Higgs and victory, but another of Canada’s greats – Jonathan Duhamel – was looking to add a second bracelet to his 2012 Main Event title at Higgs’ expense.
Other players might have gotten rattled by dealing with such an accomplished final six, but Higgs enjoyed himself and took it all in stride.
“Definitely great to play against these guys,” said Higgs. “They are excellent players. Good to talk to them at the table too, I had a good time.”
With a field of 80, the field had to get down to eight players before they reached the money – a mark they hit fairly quickly on Day 2 as Nathan Pan went out on the bubble. While eight had secured a cash and a seat at the official final table, it came so early in Day 2 that it was decided they’d play down to six.
Richard Johnston fell in eighth at the hands of Watson, while Kahle Burns – who finished fifth in the inaugural APAC Main Event, went out in seventh, bringing the second day of play to a swift conclusion.
Seat 1: Mike Watson – 145,000
Seat 2: Ismael Bojang – 44,000
Seat 3: Sam Higgs – 667,000
Seat 4: Jeff Rossiter – 63,500
Seat 5: Jonathan Duhamel – 153,000
Seat 6: Jamie Pickering – 99,500
The pace rarely slowed on the final day either, with Ismael Bojang getting his last 14 big blinds in with A K J T against Watson’s A Q Q 9. The flop was 9 6 4, keeping Watson’s queens the best hand, but the 7 added straight and flush outs (albeit with Watson holding two spade blockers) going into the river. The 4 left Bojang with just ace-high and Watson scooped the first major pot of the day – leaving Bojang felted in sixth place.
Duhamel, Jeff Rossiter and Jamie Pickering were woefully short-stacked by this point, but each managed to double on several occasions to stay in the hunt. After Duhamel picked up his double through Watson, Rossiter took his shot with J J 9 4. Watson held K K T 9, blocking Rossiter’s lone flush draw, but the flop added a few additional outs as it came down A 9 7. The turn was a disaster for as the K had his hand dead with one card to go, and Rossiter – who came into this final table third-best out of six with $5.4 million in career earnings – went out in fifth.
Pickering was the next on the chopping block, getting all in on a flop of 7 6 4 and receiving calls from Watson and Higgs. The turn as the 5 and Higgs bet Watson out of the pot, tabling A K K 7 for the nut flush. Pickering was dead to rights with K K 6 2, and the meaningless Q wrapped things up. This fourth place finish is not Pickering’s best result in a WSOP PLO event – he took second to Vanessa Selbst in her first bracelet win back in 2008, just four days after Pickering made the final table in yet another PLO bracelet event.
It would take just 10 more hands for Duhamel to get his last few chips in. He held 7 5 4 2 for very live connected cards with flush possibilities, but Duhamel had seom catching up to do against Higgs’ A K K 6. The Q 8 8 flop gave Higgs a flush draw and left Duhamel needing runners to double up. The T turn made Higgs’ flush and the 6 was the river, sending the former World Champion out two spots from an elusive second bracelet.
After 54 hands six players had become just two, and it would take almost exactly that long for the heads-up match between Watson and Higgs to be decided. After starting with a lead of just over 2-to-1, Higgs lost a massive pot to Watson’s flopped set of deuces, yielding the lead for the very first time since midway through Day 2.
Higgs soon pulled even, took down a big pot without showdown, and then grinded Watson down to almost nothing. On the 110th hand of the day, Higgs limp-called and saw a flop of Q J 5. Watson fired big, and after Higgs called Watson pushed the rest of it in on the 4 turn. After thinking it over, Higgs called and showed 9 8 6 4 for a pair of fours, a club flush draw and two gutshot straight draws. Watson held K K 6 7 for kings and an open-ended straight draw, putting him ahead going into the river, but the T hit one of Higgs’ straight draws instead.
“It was a tough call, he was short, and that’s why I had to call,” explained Higgs. “I definitely had outs with the double gutshot and flush, so I just went for it. It feels awesome to win. As soon as that ten came down it was relief.”
The Australian contingent officially sealed another bracelet at APAC, and for the fourth time in his career Watson fell one spot shy of his first WSOP bracelet.
2014 World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific – Event 5 ($5,000 Pot Limit Omaha) Final Results
- Sam Higgs – $112,617
- Mike Watson – $69,678
- Jonathan Duhamel – $45,867
- Jamie Pickering – $32,108
- Jeff Rossiter – $23,794
- Ismael Bojang – $18,607
- Kahle Burns – $15,315
- Richard Johnston – $13,232
Heath Chick contributed to this story
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