It all started ten years ago in San Jose, California. Back then, 243 players were trying to shoot the poker stars down from the sky and win the bounties set on the famous professionals. They failed to do that as Phil Gordon emerged victorious, winning $360,000.
Ten years later, however, things have changed. The number of entries tripled and the total prize pool grew exponentially. And although stars like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen, and Mike Sexton are still participating, the outcome is quite different. No more legends winning the famous World Poker Tour (WPT) Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event, only members of the newer generation. Players like James Carroll, who beat down a record-setting field of 718 players to secure his place in the WPT Champions Club.
Not only did Carroll handle the greatest pros who have ever played the game, but he also managed to survive a very tough final table filled with rising stars. Those stars included Garrett Greer, who finally reached a WPT final table after being the bubble boy twice in the last 13 months. Or Dylan Wilkerson, who was runner-up in this year’s WPT Fallsview Poker Classic. And let’s not forget Nam Le, who had the possibility to become the first player ever to win the same event twice. Le won the WPT Bay 101 back in 2006.
Unfortunately for Le, he could not rewrite history after being eliminated in the early stages of final table action. The first player to leave was Greer, who had only 24 big blinds to start the final day. He shoved his snowmen after just 27 hands and was called by Wilkerson’s pocket nines. The board bricked and Greer left the event $174,080 richer.
Le was the other shortstacker and was forced to move all-in with Ace-Three. Carroll denied the former winner’s chances at making history, calling with pocket fives and eliminating him in fifth place. For his performance, Le cashed in $223,810.
The four-handed play was a real grind for all the participants, lasting over 100 hands. Mukul Pahuja was the unlucky number four, busting out of the tourney after a bad beat. He raised all-in with his Ace-Queen and was in very good shape when Wilkerson called with Queen-Ten. The flop, however, ruined everything for Pahuja when his opponent hit a Broadway straight. Pahuja cashed in $320,800 for his fourth place. He also finished second back in November in the WPT Montreal Poker Fall Classic Main Event.
Shaun Suller soon followed, being eliminated at the hands of the future winner. After a K-4-2 passive flop, Suller called the Queen turn and check-raised all-in the Jack river. Carroll quickly called, showing his Broadway straight. Suller had only two pair and left the table $477,470 richer.
Heads-up play was a fast-forward affair. Carroll had the upper hand over Wilkerson and 15 hands later, he also eliminated him thanks to a great hero call. Wilkerson min-raised pre-flop and made a standard continuation bet on a 9-4-2 rainbow board. Carroll raised the c-bet and had a tough decision to make after his opponent moved all-in on a 2 turn. Carroll eventually called with two small pair as he held Six-Four. Wilkerson had Ace-Five for the bluff and the gutshot that never came. The bluff cost him yet another second place finish in less than a month. Nevertheless, he did earn $728,650 for his overall performance.
Congratulations to James Carroll, who won the highest single payout in WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star history: $1,256,550. Carroll is also a successful online tournament player, cashing in almost $3 million on PokerStars, Full Tilt and the defunct Cereus Poker Network, according to PocketFives.com.