It may be 26 years since he won the WSOP Main Event, and the hair has grown grey (on head and beard), but Tom McEvoy today showed he has lost none of his shrewd poker ability. What makes this victory so sweet is the field he had to overcome - no less than 19 other world champions. Money was not at stake, but a lot of pride was. Oh, and a beautifully restored 1970 red Corvette.
The older champs like Amarillo Slim (1972) and Doyle Brunson (1976 & 1977) sat down with the young guns like reigning champion Peter Eastgate in a battle of old-style poker against new. And the old-(ish) game won.
Team PokerStars Pro McEvoy beat 2002 champion Robert Varkonyi heads-up, but only after what seemed like a marathon three-handed encounter with Dan Harrington (1995). These guys have so much experience bottled up between them that none was going to make a silly slip.
As the levels past, though, and the blinds increased, something had to give. It came when Harrington found 9♣9♥ - but also found McEvoy in tricky mode. McEvoy had opened with a raise pre-flop, then Harrington came over the top for half his remaining 30,000. Call. The flop was A♠Q♣4♠ and McEvoy checked-called Harrington's 15,000 push. His K♦Q♦ was good, and the 8 turn and 3 river kept him ahead.
At the start of heads-up play he had nearly a 3:1 chip lead over Varkonyi, and although the New Yorker began to grab some back, it was all over when we least expected it. They saw a flop of 7♣5♠8♣, Varkonyi bet 4,000 and McEvoy called. The turn, 6♣, set off an unstoppable train - Varkonyi bet 8,000, McEvoy made it 16,000, Varkonyi pushed all in. Call!
McEvoy had the nuts, Varkonyi didn't. The river was K♣, improving his hand to a flush, and that was that. As well as the car, McEvoy picked up the Binions cup, presented by Jack Binion himself, who shaped the World Series way back in 1970.
The tournament had attracted the great majority of past main event winners, including Team PokerStars Pros Peter Eastgate (2008), Joe Hachem (2005), Greg Raymer (2004) and Chris Moneymaker (2003).
Only Eastgate made it through to today's final table, although Raymer was quite busy elsewhere during yesterday's day one - he was pocketing more than $700,000 for coming third in the $40,000 no limit final. Even then, he showed great respect for the Champions Invitational by playing a few hands of it on his supposed $40K dinner break - then trying to salvage his blinded-away stack when he'd done on the big feature table.
Eastgate didn't last long on the final table. Three hands, in fact, is all it took before he pushed with 6♠7♠ but ran into Harrington's pocket aces. Another small victory for the old school.
Congratulations to Tom McEvoy on his tremendous performance.
All photos © Joe Giron, IMPDI