Joey Couden has been knocking on the door all summer but he had never been allowed to enter the final table. Having a few narrow misses, Couden's summer was decent but he kept falling just before the pay jumps started getting juicy.
It wasn't the case in the Event #53: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, though. Couden came back for the final day second in chips with 20 players left and he was able to close it out, banking $244,370 and his first WSOP bracelet.
"I felt pretty good all summer. Just wanted to stay focused. As long as I don't make any mistakes, I feel fine where I bust, it's variance," Couden said, knowing that the only way to break it led through a patient and precise grind.
Today was his day. He won, quite literally, at the eleventh hour as the heads-up match against Bruno Fitoussi was about to halt for the day with only 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the extra level. But Couden was able to finally deny his last opponent in a preflop all-in situation. He hit an ace on the flop to crack kings and then held through the remaining streets to have his name engraved among the greats, beating a field of 935 entries.
Final table results:
|1||Joey Couden||United States||$244,370|
|3||Eli Elezra||United States||$106,183|
|4||Mike Matusow||United States||$75,708|
|5||Christopher Conrad||United States||$54,738|
|7||Dustin Pattinson||United States||$29,862|
|8||Gregory Jamison||United States||$22,541|
What made Couden's first victory truly special was the company he had to prevail in. With decorated veterans such as Eli Elezra, Mike Matusow and Daniel Negreanu all making the final table, Couden may have been overlooked but he left all seasoned heroes behind. Couden had previously made two final tables for bracelets but battling some of the most iconic players in history is a unique experience.
"It was just a lot of fun getting to hang out with Matusow, Eli and Bruno. They're such great personalities. I had a great time."
Couden had the best imaginable start to the day. He busted another big stack Brad Albrinck in the first minutes when he flopped top two pair against top pair and both flush and low draws. The chips went in in a dramatic fashion but Couden made a full house on the turn to leave Albrinck stone dead. That clash catapulted Coulden to a massive lead with 1.3 million out of 7 million in play.
"I checked, he bet, I potted it and he snap-jammed," Couden reconstructed what happened on the flop. While it was a tough situation with a lot on the line, he still pulled off a call after giving it only about 30 seconds.
"It's a pretty big tank for me," Couden laughed. "A lot of people think that he'd have three kings there but I don't think he would snap-jam," he explained his thought-process during the hand.
Since then, Couden never really had a tough time regarding his chip stack, sitting near the top or at least in the top half virtually until the very end. When the final 10 players took their seats on the final table, Couden was in fourth place. But he wasn't eyeing the title just yet, trying to focus on one hand at a time.
"I tried to stop thinking like that years ago. You don't bust the tournament and lose the buy-in, you lose first place every time you play the tournament and bust," Couden explained.
Negreanu was the shortest player, bringing only 19,000 to the table with the blinds at 10,000/20,000. The all-time winningest player went on a rush and scored several doubles to bounce back to almost 20 big blinds at one point, but he couldn't eventually squeeze out more than ninth-place finish, following the elimination of defending champion Nathan Gamble in 10th.
They both fell to Elezra who was the most dominant player at the table, joining more pots than anybody. Elezra then extended his streak by busting Gregory Jamison in eighth. Meanwhile, Couden was still chilling with a solid stack. The only brief stint that saw him getting a little shorter was after a dinner break when he was down to 14 bigs for a moment. But he busted Dustin Pattinson in seventh and re-established his position.
Couden, Fitoussi, Elezra and Matusow all held the lead at some point during four-handed play but Matusow lost a big pot in a flush-under flush contest against Couden and soon fell in fourth. Elezra had to settle for bronze and Couden and Fitoussi ended up competing for their respective first title.
Couden had a huge lead, and while Fitoussi had a tough skin and doubled several times, he wasn't meant to turn it around. Couden never relinquished his lead and took home the bracelet. Crowned PLO8 champion, Couden said he will probably appear in the $10k Championship event that starts tomorrow to pursue a back-to-back-victory. Couden will surely stick to his gameplan which has proved successful: "Stay focused on one hand at a time."