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John Hennigan Wins 2007 Borgata Winter Poker Open

Johnny World Earns $1.6 Million, Takes Home First WPT Title


Forget money bubbles, and seven levels of play, and everything else that came before, at the 2007 Borgata Winter Poker Open final table only two things mattered: a WPT title and the $1.6 million first-place cash prize.

The chip counts and seating for the BWPO's six finalists were as follows:

1. Joe Simmons - $5,500,000 (seat No. 1)
2. John Gale - $4,830,000 (seat No. 2)
3. John Hennigan - $3,255,000 (seat No. 5)
4. Chuck Kelley - $1,630,000 (seat No. 3)
5. Michael Sukonik - $1,305,000 (seat No. 4)
6. Jon James - $535,000 (seat No. 6)

At 5 p.m. EST, and in front of a filled-to-capacity Borgata Events Center, tournament MC Linda Johnson performed the player introductions, and play began with $25,000-$50,000 blinds and $5,000 antes.

A lively studio audience, many of whom lined up hours in advance for seats, needed to wait only 15 hands to see the final table's first elimination. Jon James entered play as a prohibitive short stack, and moved all in twice during early action before receiving a call. After a $130,000 raise by John Gale, James came in over the top for his last $410,000. Gale thought for a moment, called, and showed Jheart 8diamond. Despite taking the lead with Kdiamond Qclub, James became the BWPO's sixth-place finisher ($276,935) when the 8club 7spade 5heart 7heart 10spade board made eights and sevens for Gale.

A $750,000 loss to Gale cost Michael Sukonik over half his chips (Sukonik folded to an all-in bet on a 9heart 8diamond 6club flop), and sent the Pennsylvania native to the bottom of the leader board. Down to $500,000, Sukonik survived for another 15 minutes before moving all in from the small blind. John Hennigan, the big blind, called, and for the second elimination in a row, the stronger hand failed to hold up, as Hennigan's 10heart 9club paired a nine on the Qdiamond 9heart 5club 3club Qspade board to crack Sukonik's pocket eights (fifth place - $332,322).

The Sukonik elimination bumped Hennigan's stack up to the $7 million mark, and then the new chip leader distanced himself even further from the field courtesy of one of the night's most lucrative bustouts.

Day 4 chip leader Joe Simmons opened action with a $250,000 raise that both Gale (button) and Hennigan (big blind) called. The Kclub 9club 3diamond flop led to a Simmon's $600,000 bet, and, after Gale folded, Hennigan raised all in. Simmons called with his remaining $3,090,000 and showed Kheart Jheart to Hennigan's 4club 3club. The 10diamond turn put Simmons one card away from doubling up, but the Philly native, and former manager of the rap group The Roots, exited the BWPO in fourth place ($387,709) when the Aclub river completed Hennigan's club flush.

After raking the pot, Hennigan, in possession of $10 million, increased his chip lead to almost 3-to-1 over Chuck Kelley, his closest competition.

For Gale, a British-born pro and WSOP bracelet winner, a steady decline down the leader board ended with a heads-up match against Hennigan. In his final hand in the BWPO, Gale raised to $275,000 and Hennigan called. Gale bet $400,000 on the Aclub Kspade 4spade flop, and then moved all in when Hennigan raised to $1.5 million. Gale's Aspade 6diamond needed to improve against Hennigan's Adiamond 9spade, but when the 5spade and 7diamond came on the turn and river, Gale walked off the televised set as the third-place finisher ($443,096).

Following the WPT's customary money presentation ceremony, the 2007 Borgata Winter Poker Open featured a heads-up match that pitted a seasoned poker veteran against a successful tournament amatuer.

For Hennigan, whose nickname "Johnny World" references the high-stakes pro's infamous propensity to bet on nearly anything, the BWPO marked a second World Poker Tour final table appearance. The fourth-place finisher at the 2002 Five-Diamond World Poker Classic (the first ever WPT televised event), Hennigan entered action as one of the final table's most respected, and feared, players.

Coming off a third-place finish at the 2006 Festa al Lago $5,000 prelim, Kelley, a retired stock broker who bought into the event, survived as a middle-of-the-leader board participant for two days en route to the BWPO final table.

The chip counts going into heads up play were as follows:

1. John Hennigan - $11,670,000
2. Chuck Kelley - $5,460,000

Despite the greater than 2-to-1 deficit, Kelley battled for almost 30 hands, yet he remained unable to close the gap. At 9:29 p.m., the 2007 Borgata Winter Poker Open ended on, of all things, a very public miscue.

Hand 116 started with a Kelley $550,000 raise and a Hennigan call. After Hennigan checked the 7spade 3diamond 3spade flop, Kelley fired $700,000 into the pot. Hennigan matched the bet, and checked for the third time when the Aheart landed on the turn. Kelley responded with yet another $700,000 bet, and then, after the call, flipped over his holecards.

While Kelley prematurely exposed his Qheart 7heart, tournament officials ruled the hand live, and Hennigan immediately pushed all in on the 3heart river. Following a Kelley call, Hennigan became the Borgata Winter Poker Open's newest champion when his Aclub 5heart gave him the superior treys full of aces boat.

Kelley, who credited final table jitters as the cause of the holecard miscue, earned $849,082 for his runner-up finish.

"It's a lot of money, its the biggest tournament I've ever won," Hennigan admitted following the $1,606,223 victory. "I'm just very excited, and very thankful that I had a lot of good fortune at the final table."

He was already a two-time WSOP bracelet winner, and the BWPO final table performance netted Hennigan his first World Poker Tour title.

"I'm shocked right now," Hennigan smiled. "I've won a few tournaments in the past, and it usually doesn't sink in for the first few hours. I'm just soaking it in. Two hours from now I'll be really excited."