Some invitations are simply meant to be accepted. When the parents invite you for holiday dinner, you should probably accept. If your significant other invites you on a trip to a luxurious vacation destination, thinking twice might cause you some trouble. And when PokerStars.net invites you to play in the prestigious $25,000 buy-in Invitational Bounty Shootout, you just say yes.
The invitation-only event not only boasted of a $460,0000 first place prize, but $5,000 bounties were placed on every player, the fields were challenging and perfect to feed any player's need for a great game, and the event was set to be filmed by 441 Productions for broadcast on ESPN2. So when asked to play, whaddya say?
So said the 49 players who accepted their invitations to this unique high roller event, and while it was fun for everyone involved, there were seven players especially excited about the final table because they won their seats by taking down their first heats on Tuesday, February 23 and each claimed $75,000 for doing so. In addition, players collected bounties from that first table, and several were in contention for the $100,000 bonus established for the ultimate bounty hunter, the one who personally handled the most eliminations.
And no one could be happier that he accepted that invitation than to play in the $25K Bounty Shootout than Ashton Griffin. He won his first day's heat, then took a day off before the final table but spent the night before playing online poker, putting him at an all-important final table with no sleep. But sleeping during breaks and staying focused took the young pro all the way to the winner's circle and $460,000, in addition to collecting $30,000 for bounties throughout the two day event.
Final table action got underway on Thursday, February 25, in a rather large ballroom at the Venetian with the following seven players, all starting with 150,000 in chips:
Seat 1: Joe Cassidy
Seat 2: Faraz Jaka
Seat 3: Peter Eastgate
Seat 4: Scott Seiver
Seat 5: Ashton Griffin
Seat 6: Hoyt Corkins
Seat 7: Brett Richey
Just over an hour into the action, Team PokerStars Pro Peter Eastgate was already one of the shorter stacks at the table. He took some hits early, and when he finally decided to push with pocket eights, Seiver was able to call with pocket jacks, and the board couldn't help Eastgate. He was the first to exit the table in seventh place.
Several hours later, Brett Richey had become the short stack and pushed with A-K, which held up to the A-8 of Cassidy. But on the very next hand, Richey tried it again, this time with A-Q. Griffin called with K-Q, and everything looked good for another double until he was three-outed by a king on the river, sending Richey out in sixth place.
It wasn't until after the dinner break that players got aggressive and action sped up. The first thing to happen was an all-in move from Faraz Jaka with Q♠T♦ and a call from Seiver and his A♣J♣. The board came A♥9♣2♣A♦2♥, and the full house knocked Jaka out in fifth place.
Moments later, Corkins doubled through Seiver with pocket jacks over fives, and Scott Seiver was the shortest stack of the four. He was clearly looking to move and ultimately did so with Q♠T♥. However, Corkins made the call with A♥K♣, and the board hit 6♦7♦A♦K♥7♠ to eliminate Seiver in fourth place. However, Seiver took with him a $100,000 award for collecting the most bounties - eight in all - during the tournament. Not a bad consolation prize, indeed.
It took three hours to find an all-in and a call that changed the make-up of the table, and the hand happened with Joe Cassidy pushing from the small blind with A♦2♦and Ashton Griffin calling immediately from the big blind with A♠9♦. A nine came on the flop and solidified Cassidy's position as the third place finisher.
Corkins came in as nearly a two-to-one underdog in chips, and it was only two hands into it that he risked it all. The two went to see a raised flop of 4♠5♦9♠, and a raising war ensued during which Griffin pushed all-in and Corkins insta-called for his tournament life with 9♥3♥. But Griffin showed 9♦8♦ for top pair with the better kicker. And the 7♥ turn and J♣ river ended the tournament. Hoyt Corkins had to accept second place.
And Ashton Griffin became the first NAPT $25K Bounty Champion. He accepted the invitation to participate, and it paid off in spades...and hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Lack of sleep mattered none, and the experience of the competition did not dissuade him. He plowed through the table and made it worth every moment of his time.
Congratulations to Ashton Griffin and all of the prize winners in this exciting inaugural event!
For all of the double-ups, bustouts, struggles, triumphs, and even a nap story or two, check out the final table coverage.
All photography © Joe Giron