The annual Tournament of Champions (TOC) is no ordinary poker tournament. There is no buy in. The only way to enter is by being placed in last years tournament, being a previous WSOP (World Series of Poker) winner or by winning a recognised TOC event. This years three day event, held at the Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas, climaxed on the 29th July 2001.
The final four players, from a field of 402, were three tournament greats; T. J. Cloutier, Scotty Nguyen and "Miami" John Cernuto, plus a relative unknown, Brian Saltus, a 60 year old attorney from Idaho, who only became a tournament player a year ago. At three in the morning Saltus found himself heads up with Cloutier. Cloutier was chip leader, with about $1.7 million to Saltus's $300,000. Salthus managed to battle back from this huge deficit to take a small lead.The antes were $6000. Cloutier, on the button, posted the small blind and raised. Saltus called, making the pot $202,000. The flop came rainbow, J-10-9. Saltus pushed $40,000 into the middle and Cloutier went all-in. Saltus called. On their backs the cards revealed Cloutier had A-J, the top pair. Saltus showed 10d-8d for a lower pair and an open-ended straight draw. The turn card came as a four, no use to either player. If the river helped neither player, Cloutier would have a chip lead that would be nigh high impossible to overcome. Qs hit the river, filling the high end of Saltus's straight and winning him the TOC 2001 title
The irony was not lost on the watching crowd that this was the second bad beat Coultier had suffered on the final card in a major tournament in two years. In the 2000 WSOP he had suffered a similar fate to Chris Ferguson. It is a testament to Cloutier that he accepted the defeat gracefully with the words "What can you do? I wanted to win the tournament. I didn't. I can't go crawl off into a corner somewhere."
Graham Kendall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated 21st Jan 2002