Events that generate real column inches at the WSOP usually involve big pros making the final table. Sometimes, amid stories of Mercier’s second and Hellmuth’s close shave, the success of an ordinary man or woman can be overshadowed. Kirk Caldwell is just such a gentleman. His victory in Event #32 – a $1500 No Limit Hold’em tournament – might not be setting the Twitterverse alight, but it’s no less worthy of adulation.
In poker at the highest level, the smallest shift in your favour can be decisive. Under the bright lights of a World Series feature table, the roar of a supporting crowd can be just the kind of boost you need. “I can’t say enough about my rail,” said Caldwell after his victory. “None of this could have possibly happened without them.” It’s no coincidence that the three Canadian players who entered the final table all finished within the top four.
Some of that large cheering section likely had more than just friendship and national pride to stir them on. Kirk qualified for Event #32 via a mini-satellite run as part of the Orangeville Poker Tour. Everyone who competed in Caldwell’s qualifier will share 15% of his winnings.
That prize money totalled $668,276, an amount the Ontario native admitted was a life changing sum. “I can now pay my debts and work for myself, instead of for the credit card companies,” he said. Known as Pudge to his friends, the amateur player added that the tournament had been, “the best four days of my life.”
His heads up opponent was fellow Canuck, Corbin White. The heated pan-province rivalry began with Caldwell holding a 2:1 chip advantage. That lead would not be relinquished at any point during a heads up battle that took just under 30 minutes.
On the final hand, Kirk put in a tentative raise, before moving all-in after a re-raise came back in his direction. He was willing to take a chance with 8-8 and it looked liked the tournament would be decided on a coinflip, after White flipped up A-Q. He didn’t need it in the end, but a rivered 8 to go with the two 9s on board meant that Caldwell won his first bracelet off the back of a full house.
He might not have generated much of a media frenzy, but this WSOP champion is guaranteed a healthy dose of coverage next time he makes a deep run in a World Series event.
The final table payouts for WSOP 2011 Event #32 were as follows:
1st: Kirk Caldwell – $668,276
2nd: Corbin White – $414,918
3rd: Marc McLaughlin – $292,634
4th: Gabriel Morin – $211,353
5th: Dror Michaelo – $154,506
6th: Randy Haddox – $114,304
7th: Rodrigo Portaleoni – $85,556
8th: Kyle Cartwright – $64,788
9th: Alan Stevens – $49,631