By Scott Long
The second Florida Million had its parallels to the inaugural event, right down to a contentious chop discussion and final table filled with qualifiers from the host room.
But this year’s Million, which played out Dec. 11-12 at Palm Beach Kennel Club, featured a final heads-up match that had every bit of excitement the original event lost when Charlie Miller and Alexander Gregory reached a deal to give Miller the title and Gregory the most cash.
Maurice Hawkins, a three-time World Series of Poker circuit ring winner from Coral Springs, had to sweat out a victory against Stuart’s Keith Cummings, who was playing in only his second tournament and resisted constant requests from Hawkins to chop three-handed.
“This is what you wanted; you got me heads-up!” Hawkins said to the crowd’s giggles just after he eliminated third-place finisher Tom Nasuti to set up the David-vs.-Goliath heads-up match with Cummings.
Cummings, easily a 4-to-1 chip dog to Hawkins, doubled through the eventual champ and then pulled almost even, but was eliminated when both turned trip queens and Hawkins had the better kicker. Hawkins, who was second in chips when the chop was finalized, won $98,383, and Cummings won $49,018, fifth-most since he was shorter in chips than most when the chop came.
“It’s just very special to me to do something positive and to keep doing it,” Hawkins said of the latest of his impressive victories. “I run good because I live good.”
Hawkins, who entered Day 2 in third place with 427,000 chips, was at the center of chop negotiations when play made it to the final table of 10 players. Much like the first Million, the negotiations were lengthy and at times contentious, but eventually the final 10 agreed to chop all but $50,000 of the remaining prize pool based on chip stacks, with the final three splitting the $50,000.
When it got down to three-handed, Hawkins and Nasuti, Palm Beach Kennel Club’s Player of the Year, were willing to chop again, but Cummings, comfortable with the money he had from the first chop, wanted to play.
“I was just here for the competition. I didn’t want to concede the event. It wasn’t the money,” Cummings said. “I kept saying I had no business being here, so I was just happy I got this far.”
And he got farther when Nasuti got it all-in with pocket jacks and Hawkins eliminated him when his ace-king flopped top pair.
Hawkins, heads-up with the greenest player in the tournament, knew he had everything to lose.
“If he beats me he has notoriety. Not to take anything away from him, but I think I was expected to beat him,” Hawkins said. “No one remembers second place. It’s not like there’s a picture on the front page and they go, ‘Who got second place?’ ”
For the second event in a row, the final table was heavily populated by players who qualified at the host location. Hawkins dismissed any notion of a homefield advantage, but admitted those players did have something going for them.
“We go home to sleep in our beds, and they go sleep in their hotels,” Hawkins said.
The final table also saw a player who made a deep run in the first Million. Eric Kolodny, who was 19th in the inaugural event, won $47,403 this year. Todd Louer actually won the second-most money ($95,168) by virture of being the chipleader when the chop was made.
What’s next for the final two?
Cummings doesn’t plan on playing considerably more, but says he will put his new confidence and hefty bankroll to work in the World Series of Poker circuit event at PBKC in February.
Hawkins also will be there, but not before heading north for some earlier circuit events.
“Maurice is the best player in Florida,” PBKC director of poker operations Noah Carbone said. “I’d put him up against anyone.”
The third edition of the Florida Million is expected to take place in April, finishing at Daytona Beach Kennel Club.
(1) Maurice Hawkins, $98,383
(4) Todd Louer, $95,168
(7) Jerry Argento $70,684
(3) Tom Nasuti, $52,403
(2) Keith Cummings $49,018
(6) Eric Kolodny, $47,403
(5) Max Marion, $47,403
(8) Mike Gilham $34,018
(9) Chase Fredensburg, $34,669
(10) Jack Richley, $17,856
The list above reflects monetary payouts while order of finish is in parenthesis.
11. John “Spyder McCarthy $6,950
12. Tonia Ann Williams $6,950
13.Anthony Vitale $6,950
14 Jason Shinbaum $5,550
15. Donald Albaum $5,550
16. Marc Lowe $5,550
17. Bruce Berarducci $4,400
18. Ou Chhun $4,400
19. Thomas Sean Lana $4,400
20 Jeff Charlton $4,400
For more be sure to pick up your FREE copy of Ante Up’s January issue in your local poker room.