Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #20 Eric Baldwin
2009 was a breakout year for Eric Baldwin. After all, winning your first WSOP Bracelet and $1.5 million in live tournament earnings is nice, but adding the title of 2009 CardPlayer Player of the Year to your trophy case is something that can be remembered forever. So how do you follow up a year in which you were player of the year? Well leave it to “Basebaldy” to show you how.
2010 began well for Baldwin who’d finish runner up at the $2,000 buy in Pot Limit Hold em’/Omaha event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. Then after a min-cash at the L.A. Poker Classic, Baldwin found another coming out party at the WPT series of events, beginning with a runner up finish in the $1k buy in at the Five Star World Classic at the Bellagio. He’d follow the $1k runner up finish with another final table at the $5k event just a few days later, finishing in 6th place. Not a bad start to the series.
But Baldwin made further headlines at the World Poker Tour Five Star World Classic, as he’d make yet another final table. This time, it was in the $25,000 buy in Championship Event and a guarantee for some television time for the UB.com pro. The 195 players that paid the $25k to buy in created a massive $4.7 million prize pool, and the Bellagio saw a host of incredible names make it to the final table, including past WSOP Main Event Champions Phil Hellmuth (who finished in 7th) and Scotty Nguyen (out in 8th). When the final table of 6 was comprised, Baldwin found himself seated with 2004 Main Event Runner up David Williams, high stakes cash pro David Benyamine, and a trio of poker stars in Shawn Buchanan, Bill Baxter, and John O’Shea.
After surviving the extremely tough final table, David Williams eliminated Shawn Buchanan to pit him heads up with Baldwin for the WPT Crown. When heads up play began, David Williams held an almost 3 to 1 advantage on Baldwin for the WPT Championship, but it was Baldwin who was the aggressor on the final hand. Putting 20 big blinds in against Williams, David finally made a reluctant call with pocket deuces, while Baldwin turned over the Ace of hearts and the 5 of hearts to produce a dramatic flip for Baldwin’s tournament life. The flop improved Baldwin’s hand coming A-7-6, but the turn card swung the advantage back Williams’ direction with a two, and Williams’ set of deuces had Baldwin drawing dead to the river. The runner up finish gave Baldwin the largest score of his professional career with a $1,034,715 prize for finishing in 2nd place, but Baldwin was denied his first win of the year.
Baldwin carried his play into the World Series of Poker cashing a further 4 times, including a deep run in the Main Event. Eric was one of the few big named pro’s to survive late into day 7, and ultimately finished in 59th place, after having really battled for much of the tournament. But in leaving the WSOP, the one thing that was still escaping Baldwin was a victory on the year. Despite three 2nd place finishes, and more than a million in earnings on the year, the thing that tournament poker players are chasing most after are titles, and Eric was still in hot pursuit of one.
The final tables kept coming for Baldwin, who’d finish 4th at EPT London €1,500 buy in event, and then 8th at the WPT Festa Al Lago $1,000 buy in event. But still, the first place title eluded him, until there was a shootout, in of all places, Compton, California.
The North American Poker Tour had moved their televised final tables to the Crystal Casino in Compton from their destination at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens because of a TV contract with the WPT. The WPT has exclusive rights to televised poker tournaments at “The Bike” so the Crystal Casino (just 15 minutes to the south) provided a nearby venue that would allow for the tournament to be televised. Everyone wanted in on the $5,000 Bounty Shootout Tournament, but because of limitations on space in the casino, the tournament was limited to just 81 players. Baldwin emerged victorious in the first round, defeating the 8 opponents at his first table, and advanced to another star-studded final table that included recent November Niner Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Tom Marchese, and his WPT Nemesis, David Williams. As play wore down to just 3 remaining players, it was Baldwin sitting with Williams again, with one of Baldwin’s best friends, Justin Young. The three handed play was an outright slugfest which wore on forever, until David Williams finally made a move. Williams moved in the rest of his chips with AQ and Young made the call with two Tens, and when the AQ failed to improve, Young would win the race placing him heads up with his buddy for the NAPT title. After assuming the chip lead through Young, Baldwin got Justin all in with Young holding AQ versus Baldwin’s pocket Kings. When the Kings held, it was Baldwin who emerged victorious from the 14 hour final table, and sealing his first victory on the year. The more than $150k in earnings from the bounties and winnings must have seemed like a mere consolation as Baldwin clenched the glass spade trophy and the title of NAPT Los Angeles Bounty Shootout Champion.
At the end of the year, Baldwin finished with $1,525,558 in earnings, which actually eclipsed his 2009 total by a little more than $20,000 when he won Player of the Year honors. But what is a scary proposition for Baldwin’s opponents on the felt, is that in his mid-twenties, his best years and likely more championships, are still in front of him.