Steve Wilkie was down but not out several times at the MSPT Denver Poker Open $1,100 Main Event at Golden Gates Casino. He kept hold of his precious tournament life no matter how short his stack got, and he climbed out of more than one deep hole at the final table to ultimately emerge as champion.
Wilkie won $85,149, his biggest live cash, and it comes just a few months after he chopped the Colorado Poker Championship $1,100 Main Event for $60,114.
He said he really felt his game taking off in recent months, and he now has two wins as evidence.
While Wilkie had a nice stack heading into the final table, ranking third in chips, the early stages were completely dominated by Ryan Remington. After coming in as the second stack just a bit behind Leonardo Valenzuela, Remington caught fire.
He made several big hands and caught a bluff from Valenzuela, and by the time Valenzuela busted in eighth, Remington had half the chips in play. He only added to that when he coolered Sam Benavram with aces over queens.
Meanwhile, Wilkie sank to the bottom of the counts when four-handed. He was below five big blinds after making an inferior flush on the river against Tony Piazza. However, he slowly began his climb back by doubling his last three big blinds with king-nine against the jack-three of Piazza.
After he picked off a big bluff from Remington with nines on a board with two overs and three to a flush, Wilkie really caught a charge.
"All right!" he exclaimed with a clap. "Now we're playing poker."
Still, when he got heads up with Remington, it seemed he was destined for second place. After all, Remington had been running like hot fire and had more than 6 million chips of about 8 million in play.
The British transplant wasn't having it though, as he opted to employ a small-ball strategy and began to chip away at his deficit. Nearly every pot the two played was limped, and showdowns were frequent as neither player seemed willing to risk many chips aside from the times Wilkie overbet shoved and showed top pair of aces in raised pots.
About an hour in, Wilkie took the lead when he made trips against Remington's top two. A disgusted Remington could hardly believe the hands Wilkie was making.
Finally, Wilkie completed the comeback when he won a race with sevens against ace-king, ending the two-hour match. While both players seemed happy to battle over small pots, they'd finally found hands, along with the fact that only 40 big blinds were in play that late in the structure, that compelled them to get stacks in.
"That was a grind man," Wilkie said afterward with a grin. "It feels incredible."