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PartyPoker may have taken over the reigns at the World Poker Tour, but the prestigious tournament series keeps rolling just like it always has. The latest stop on Season 8 was the Southern Poker Championships at the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is not one of the WPT’s most well-known events, but there were still 208 players on hand to put up the $10,000 entry fee. It took four days of hard-fought poker combat before a winner could be crowned, the final table contest not concluding until well into Thursday morning.

When the dust had cleared, the winner was a fitting one. Hailing from the other side of state lines in Alabama, Hoyt Corkins is as southern as poker players come. Known as the “Alabama Cowboy” for the stylish stetson unfailingly perched on his head, Hoyt really does own a sizable amount of cattle. The Southern Poker Championship title was his second WPT crown, adding to the bracelet he picked up at the Foxwoods World Poker Finals on the WPT Season 2 tour.

Hoyt is one of poker’s old guard, who has continued to post excellent tournament results throughout his career. Despite vanishing from the poker world from 1992 to 2003, he has over $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. A large slice of that comes from the World Series of Poker, at which he has recorded 11 cashes and captured 2 bracelets. Going into the final table at the WPT Southern Poker Championship, he was as concerned with his standing in the game as he was with the prize money. “I want to get first or second because that will get me 4,000 WPT points,” he told reporters before play began. “There’s only three people in that club: Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen.”

Chip stacks going into the final table were:

Seat 1: Tyler Smith (1,169,000)
Seat 2: Hoyt Corkins (2,069,000)
Seat 3: Jonathan Kantor (894,000)
Seat 4: Jerry Vanstrydonck (1,044,000)
Seat 5: James Reed (377,000)
Seat 6: Jared Jaffee (762,000)

Tyler Smith – better known by his online moniker “Tydean” – lives just 10 minutes from the casino, so it must have been a short drive home after he was eliminated in 6th place. After taking a big hit, he was forced to commit his final chips with J-3, trailing badly to Jonathan Jaffe’s A-Q. The board was of no use to anyone, running out K-10-6-4-6 to put Tyler on his bike with $86,000 in prize money. Following closely behind him was James Reed, who ended up all-in preflop with nothing more than 7-5 to his name. Once again, Jaffe was the obliging executioner, calling with a pair of 8s in the hole. The flop held a little hope, pairing Reed’s 5, but the 6 and 4 on the end could not complete his salvation. He exited in 5th, on his way to collect $106,000. Despite his penchant for eliminating other players, it was Jaffe next on the chopping block. Holding K-Q, he pushed his entire stack in and was called by Hoyt Corkins with pocket Jacks. It was a classic race, but rather than pander to the excitement, the dealer laid out a board with nothing higher than a 9 on it. That eliminated Jonathan Jaffe in 4th for $135,000.

The next major turning point was so nearly the end of Hoyt Corkin’s tournament. With three players remaining, he was all in with A-J against the pocket Kings of Jerry Vanstrydonck. The board came 9-8-8-5, leaving Hoyt drawing to just three outs. Luckily for the Doyle’s Room player, the poker gods handed him an Ace on the river to keep him in the event and give him the chip lead. Shortly after that crushing blow, Vanstrydonck was felled by his nemesis. His 9-8 was unable to connect with anything that would lift it above Hoyt’s K-Q and he left the event in 3rd place.

That set the stage for heads up confrontation between the Cowboy and Jonathan Kantor. While Corkins has years of experience at this level, Kantor was a relative newcomer to the big stage. He had achieved no major cashes before the start of the WPT Southern Poker Championship, but despite that fact, had still managed to cash in one preliminary event and win another. Although arriving as a total unknown, Hoyt was clearly facing an opponent on a heater. Kantor managed to show his chops and accumulate chips all at once after he pulled off one of the most outrageous bluffs ever seen at a WPT final table. With the board reading 8-5-3-4-3, he committed his whole stack, holding nothing more than 10-6. After Hoyt folded, Kantor flipped over his cards to reveal the bluff. Fans will have to wait until Season 8 airs on Fox Sports Net, to discover just how good a bluff that was.

Despite his opponent’s guts, Hoyt managed to battle back and retake the lead, before finally sealing victory. In the final hand, Kantor pushed all in preflop with K-10 and was called by Corkins, who was holding A-7. An Ace on the flop all but sealed the win, with a final board of A-5-2-8-5 confirming Hoyt Corkins as the $739,000 WPT Southern Poker Champion.

Final table payouts were as follows:

1. Hoyt Corkins – $739,486
2. Jonathan Kantor – $366,643
3. Jerry Vanstrydonck – $196,829
4. Jared Jaffee – $135,079
5. James Reed – $106,134
6. Tyler Smith – $86,837