BY RUSS SCOTT
JUNE 3, 2008
ARMY POKER CHAMP FALLS JUST SHORT IN REPEAT BID
For a while Saturday it looked as if Warrant Officer James P. Morris might pull off the improbable — a successful defense of his 2007 U.S. Army No-Limit Texas Hold’em championship.
Morris, 26, who grew up in Port Chester, N.Y., won the Army’s first-ever worldwide poker competition last spring. Against the odds, he advanced again this year to the championship online final table before a run of lousy cards doomed him to a fifth-place finish.
“The final table was horrible for me,” said Morris, who qualified for this year’s finals in a live tournament at Fort Lee, Va., but competed in the online finals Saturday from his new duty assignment as an electronic systems technician in Korea.
“I had three good starting hands that I can remember — K-K (didn’t get any action), A-J and K-Q. Other than that, I promise you that I did not win one single hand without bluffing,” Morris said. “I wish I would have gotten just a few good hands at the final table and maybe I would have a different story to tell,” he said in an e-mail from Korea.
“But I guess making the final table was still good,” he wrote in an understatement. He won a flip video camera, which he can add to the $3,500 home theater system he captured last year. The tournament offers prizes and bragging rights instead of cash.
Conducted by the Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, the event drew about 2,000 players last year and nearly as many this year. The winners of 45 live qualifying tournaments at Army installations around the world advanced to the championship round online. Using a shootout format, five players made the final table by defeating all opponents at their first table.
To reach the final table, Morris had to get past Tom Roemer, 47, a Walcott, Iowa, dentist who won the qualifying tournament in April at the Rock Island Arsenal, located on a Mississippi River Island in the Quad-Cities area of Illinois and Iowa. Roemer was eligible to play in the Arsenal Island event thanks to an invitation from a friend who works there.
“Your guy from Rock Island is a very solid player,” said Morris. “We battled heads-up for about 30 minutes before I got past him and moved on to the final table.”
Roemer has indeed been solid lately. Just days after winning against the 80-player field at the Arsenal, he placed fourth in a big tournament at Riverside Casino near Iowa City.
“I managed to take him out with A-4 against his, I believe, K-7 when I put him all-in pre-flop,” Morris said. “I think if Tom had started at a different table, he too would have been at the final one.”
Other than Roemer, Morris said the players at his first table were “out of control.” The fireworks started early. “When a player raised to 150 pre-flop on the first hand, with blinds of only 10-20, I knew what kind of game I was in for,” said Morris.
“After about three hands, I picked up K-J and definitely wanted to play it. But one guy moved all-in and then another guy did as well. Obviously I folded (but not before dumping about 600 chips of my 1,500 starting stack into the pot),” Morris said. “We weren’t even five minutes into the game and lost a guy from Japan. He had A-K and the winner of the pot had A-A. My K-J would have been the winning hand with trip jacks.”
After that shaky start, Lady Luck had to step in for Morris.
“The very next hand I had J-J and moved all-in. A guy called me with K-K and I thought I was done,” the soldier said. “Luckily, a jack hit on the river! I must have caught about nine sets of trips at that table alone. Tom from Rock Island said he couldn’t believe all of the pocket pairs and sets I was hitting.”
That all changed once the final table started. Although he only had to outlast four other players — representing Fort Bliss, Fort Monmouth, Fort Leonard Wood and Iraq — to win his second Army title, it just wasn’t in the cards.
“I was getting absolutely nothing the whole time. Finally, with the blinds moving up fast, I faced being blinded out in about two more hands. So, I pulled the trigger with J-6 of spades and obviously didn’t move on,” Morris said. The names of the other four final-table players were to be released later by the Army and will be reported at www.luckydogpoker.com.
Meanwhile, a disappointed Morris wrote: “I didn’t stick around to watch after I lost. Maybe I’ll give it another shot next year.”
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2008 RUSS SCOTT
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