Charm Looking for a Bracelet – Tournament of Champions 21
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October 31, 2011 – 12:19 PM | No Comment

By Mike Nelson
For the twenty first time players made their entrance to the grounds of the Tournament of Champions, as a field of 140 Red Hot Poker Tour elite entered the tournament …

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Hammer Of The Goddard: Shaun Goddard Pounds His Way Through Tournament Of Champions XIX

Submitted by on January 21, 2011 – 1:17 PMNo Comment

by Michael Stone

Nobody ever expects balmy weather in Toronto during the second week of January. But still, an overly torrential snowstorm was predicted for the same day as the Red Hot Poker Tour’s 19th Tournament of Champions. For many, coming from out of town and from in, getting to Norma Jeane’s Restaurant in Mississauga was looking to be an arduous trek.

[The next section is best read while listening to this song]

But come they did, through the lands of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow. One player in particular, we would soon find out, brought along his Hammer of the Gods, and drove his chipstack to new lands, fighting through the hordes that sang and cried. And in the end, he reached not Valhalla, but Vegas, earning a seat into the 2011 World Series of Poker. And because we’re on a roll with Led Zeppelin references, it is only natural to say that this Tournament of Champions would prove to leave most Dazed and Confused, others Rambling On, and the last man standing enjoying his Celebration Day.

Traditionally a Tournament of Champions begins after Dean MacNeil has listed the previous season’s superlatives. But this time he had a little extra pep in his step carrying out his duties. Mainly because, before running through the list of Red Hot’s regular season stalwarts, there were some outside Red Hot successes to recount: Sal Villaluz and Kai Wang won online tournaments to gain entry into the WPT’s Celebrity Invitational event in Los Angeles later this year (the former also winning the previous night’s Elite Showdown tournament to win a WSOP seat); Grantel Gibbs had three deep runs in Atlantic City tournaments, securing over $20,000 in prizes; former champ Osman Soubra made a deep run and a big score in a Niagara Falls tournament; and another former champ, Gary Biggar, recently made the final table of PartyPoker’s Monthly Million tournament for a five-figure score.

Beaming with pride, Dean emphazied that “the competitive structure and skill set at Red Hot Poker Tour is truly a proving ground and continues to produce real poker talent. Red Hot Poker Tour Members have had an incredible year with four Members with WSOP cashes, a big CPT cash, and numerous online success stories … And 2011 promises to be even bigger!”

As for the Red Hot season leaders, Lisa Clayton won her fifth straight Ladies points championship (just two more in and she’ll catch Lance Armstrong!), and Jeff Vandenberg became the first player (later joined by Mr. Villaluz) to top the 100,000 points mark for a single season.

But before the 134 gathered starters would be let out of the gate, Season 18 champion Jason Acton was brought up to offer some encouraging words. He did so by relating his three favourite poker quotes.

  • “Sometimes you have to go out on a limb, because that’s where the best fruit is” –Doyle Brunson
  • “If you can’t spot the sucker within the first minutes at the table, then you’re the sucker” –Anonymous (from the back of the room, Shaun Goddard claimed that fictional movie character Mike McDermott from “Rounders” was the source for this, offering the fact that it was written on his card protector as proof; most were dubious)
  • “I’m gonna need a drink” –Gavin Smith, at a Red Hot event

And with those pleasantries aside, it was time to shuffle up… and deal!

As with most beginning stages of a Tournament of Champions, the excitement of the room turned into quiet concentration. There weren’t a lot of early bustouts, as there have been in Championships past, but that only added to the still intensity of the day. The room was ready to do some serious business. Except, notably, for one table, where big stack Shaun Goddard and some of his HBO cronies were holding their own private party, filled with good-natured cursing and taunting and generally wild play. A good example of this: Goddard, egged on by a ribbing from Chris Wilburn at another table, decided to raise blind from early position. Two players moved all in behind him, and then Jeff Hummel, from the big blind, ALMOST made it a third with his ATs. Goddard, still blind at this point, finally looked down at his hand, and was shocked to find pocket kings! He made a boat on the river and busted two dejected players.

As more players were eliminated and tables broke, some interesting table dynamics emerged. Most notably, Season 15 Tournament of Champions runner-up Kevin Galley and Goddard were placed side-by-side, the latter having position on the former. It didn’t take too long for their piles of chips to collide in a big way. On a flop of 7-2-3 Shaun bet out, a shortstack behind moved all-in (with what later turned out to be queen-high and no draw!) and Kevin reshoved. Shaun made the call and when the players turned up their hands Shaun showed 72o for two pair, but Kevin had a set of threes, which was good enough to rake in a 100,000-plus-chip pot. With 4 tables to go it looked like it was going to be hard to keep Kevin from coasting to the final table chiplead. Unfortunately for “Mr. Gruesome”, the Viking on his left wasn’t going to make it easy at all.

When the tables broke from 3 down to 2, Kevin still had the chiplead, nursing his 90k stack. With him on the table were Shaun, Sal Villaluz, and Ramakrishna Daggupaty (wearing a pair of OG Greg Raymer 2004 snake-eye sunglasses) all in the 50k range. The other table was way less chip-heavy, but featured much more estrogen. Four women were still alive, sitting side-by-side: Lema Sole, Jess LePage, Marlene Scott, and 3-time Tournament of Champions final tabler (and one time Champion) Jennifer Garlicki were all looking to bring a softer touch to the final table. This was probably a determining factor in the jovial mood surrounding their table, in stark contrast to the stressful vibe that blanketed the other table. It probably didn’t help that Shaun was ruling that roost, pillaging pots and making it damn near impossible for anyone else to gather some chips. In one example, he called Ram’s raise, and then moved in blind before the flop was even dealt. A dumbstruck Ram could only fold; Shaun happily showed his set of jacks.

This aggressive style lead to a substantial Goddard chiplead, so much so that as players stopped for a break just before the final table bubble burst, a quick count revealed that Goddard had more in his stack than the six players at the other table had combined! “Really? That’s so gross!” he said when informed of this fact.

When players returned to play, it didn’t take long to get down from a dozen left to those who would make the final nine. Stephan Sabourin was the first to go busto, losing an all-in confrontation when his pocket aces were cracked by Jeff Adams’ set of tens. Ram was next out, felted by Kevin Galley’s pocket nines. And though the bounty officially went to Jeff, it was Ed Wendling who crippled Jess LePage when her AJ lost a race to his 99. She wound up busting a few hands later, just as Dean Merrill – playing in his first Tournament of Champions — was also in the process of busting on the other table (to Kevin again, who this time was holding kings). Officially Dean finished 9th and Jess 10th, but neither of them would have a chance to actually sit at the final table.

Those who did make the final 8, however, had a lot of work to do to catch up to the two overwhelming chipleaders:

name chips region
Kevin Galley 137,000 TOR
Shaun Goddard 112,000 HBO
Jeff Adams 83,000 HBO
Ed Wendling 64,000 HBO
Sal Villaluz 58,000 RC
Mike Schmutz 34,500 WIN
Jennifer Garlicki 33,000 LON
Tom Brennand 18,500 KWC

When players returned from a short break, they found a roaring fireplace running behind dealer Enzo, and blind levels of 2000/4000 with a 500 ante.

It didn’t take long for the final 8 to be pared down to 7, as on the third hand Tom Brennand’s AJ lost to Sal’s 75o, busting our friend from Middle Earth in 8th place. Things proceeded slowly from there, until Ed Wendling suddenly got bored and went all-in blind 2 hands in a row. On the third hand of this stretch he told the table he was going to “take a look” before going all-in again anyway. You’d think this kind of volatile play would make Ed the next to go broke, but in fact it was Windsor’s Mike Schmutz who busted in 7th when his pocket threes were crushed by Sal’s pocket tens. This was a mere pit stop in the Ed show, however. After a period where Shaun was very active and aggressive, he limped on the small blind, and faced an immediate – and most likely blind – all in shove from Ed in the big blind. Shaun took a while, reasoned that he had the best hand, and called with Q2. Sure enough he was way ahead of Ed’s 82 and the better hand won, shipping a 61k chip pot to Shaun and knocking out Ed in 6th place.

It was then Kevin’s turn to move a lot of chips around the table, as he entered a 4-hand stretch where lost, then won, then lost a huge pile of chips. The first hand saw him double up Jennifer when his QJ couldn’t run down her A8. The second had him calling from the big blind with KQ when Sal shoved from the small blind with A2, and spiking a king on the turn to double up. But just when it looked like our former chipleader was bound for a comeback he got derailed for the last time by Shaun. The hand started small enough, when Kevin limped in and Shaun checked his option. Kevin bet the Qd-Jd-7c board, and Shaun called. The Jh on the turn caused Kevin to check, Shaun to bet the full size of the pot, and Kevin to checkraise all-in. Shaun called quickly (“I have three jacks,” he said, matter of factly), and was ahead of Kevin’s bottom pair and flush draw combo. Kevin couldn’t hit the diamond he needed, and finished the tournament in 5th, shipping a huge 250k-chip pot over to Shaun in the process.

From this point it looked like Shaun was going to run right over the table, like a Clydesdale stomping on a field of daisies, taking small pot after small pot with well-timed bets and raises. But Sal, getting shortstacked by the hand, mounted a massive and improbable comeback over the next five hands. Well, improbable would be apt if it were any other player. But Sal has been a dominant force on and off the Red Hot felts over the last several seasons. So any good fortune he has these days seems almost expected.

First he called Jeff’s shove with 97s (he was shortstacked and pot-committed), and beat A2 when the board came T3J38 to make him a straight. Then, after Jeff shoved, Sal reshoved, only to run into Shaun behind who called them both down. Jeff had A4, Sal had A5 and Shaun had pocket twos. The flop came A6658 and both players took huge chunks of chips out of Shaun’s big stack. The Sal comeback was complete several hands later, when he open-shoved from the small blind, only to find Shaun behind him who insta-called. Normally this would be cause for alarm, but Sal jumped up and slammed his pocket aces on the table. Shaun meekly showed his A4, and again he was forced to send a tonne of chips Sal’s way. “I only have 200k now,” he good-naturedly joked, “this is horse crap!”

After a brief Shaun comeback, an interesting table dynamic emerged. Second place would win airfare and accommodations during next summer’s Red Hot Vegas Invasion, while the winner would get the same plus a $1500 World Series of Poker seat. And with the stacks lined up the way they were – with Shaun and Sal sitting on 250k each, Jennifer at 50k and Jeff nursing only 10k – would the big stacks run into each other, or would they stay out of each other’s way?

This question was answered almost immediately when Sal limped in from first position, and Shaun shoved all-in. Jeff called from the big blind and Sal sighed and folded, biting his tongue but obviously wanting to scold Shaun for his tactical error. Shaun’s AQ was ahead of Jeff’s A8, but an eight hit the flop keeping Jeff alive. Sal never said for sure but it was clear that his hand, had he been allowed to stay in, would have knocked Jeff out.

Moments later Shaun open-raised all-in, and Jeff called. Sal showed AQ in the big blind and again laid it down. Correctly, it would turn out, as Shaun showed pocket queens and Jeff had woken up with pocket aces! Jeff doubled up again, but his stack was still little more than a nub.

Hand #43 of the final table put the final stamp on a theme that had been running all day long: Shaun was running good. He raised to 24k, and Jennifer shipped all-in for 55k total behind. Jeff also called, but for barely a big blind. Shaun felt pot-committed, and had more than enough chips to spare, so he called with A3, which was behind Jennifer’s AK and about even with Jeff’s A2. Before the flop, tournament director Scott McFayden, wearing a bemused facial expression born from having played and watched a lifetime’s worth of poker, quietly told the people around him that Shaun was too lucky for a 3 not to come. Sure enough a 3 hit the flop, and then another hit the river, giving Shaun two more bustouts to add to his ledger. For the record, Jennifer finished in 3rd and Jeff in 4th, both excellent runs but still just short of the prizes.

Heading into heads-up, both players knew that they were at the very least going to Vegas next summer. The only thing left was to decide who was going to get to play in the World Series (in Sal’s case, he had already claimed this prize the previous night, but a second chance at the big dance was more than enough of a carrot on the stick for him). The chip counts going into heads up play looked thusly:

name chips region
Shaun Goddard 347,000 HBO
Sal Villaluz 189,000 RC

Shaun put his big stack to work, winning 7 of the first 10 hands heads-up. Unfortunately, 2 of the hands he lost were double-ups for Sal. The second one, which ended with Sal reraising all-in on a T8T board and Shaun calling with just Q5 (for no pair and no draw and no hope), put the latter in a sour mood for the first time all day. Which probably caused his head-scratching play on the very next hand, where he bet the flop, bet the turn and bet the river – putting half his stack in the middle up to this point – before folding in frustration when Sal shoved. And it surely caused his 116k-chip blind shove on the very next hand after that.

“We’re not playing any more flops for free,” Shaun said, a little wearily. Sal obliged by open-shoving the next three hands, taking an even larger stranglehold on the match. But, as Chris Ferguson has said, “The one way to get off tilt [is] to put a bad beat on someone else” (feel free to use that quote next time, Jason Acton). And, sure enough, when Shaun’s K6 all-in call versus Sal’s A7 shove flopped a king, the 230k-chip pot was more than enough tonic to get Shaun back on track.

Further proof of this fact was that Shaun bullied his way to winning 9 of the next 11 pots before finally striking the match’s decisive blow. On hand #70 of the final table Shaun shoved, and Sal tanked for a while before he resignedly said, “Ok, let’s do this,” and called with AJ. Unfortunately Shaun had QQ and he flopped his set for like the umpteenth time that day to seal the 520k-chip pot, and knock Sal down to just 15k.

It took Shaun 3 more hands to put Sal away (doubling him up twice in the meantime), eventually calling Sal’s shove with the “best hand on the internet”, Q7, and dominating Sal’s 97. When the board came 8T43T Shaun Goddard had won the Red Hot Poker Tour’s 19th Tournament of Champions.

In the aftermath of his victory, Shaun posed for countless photos, in front of his messy but enormous chipstack, wearing his red Champion’s jersey and a yellow Michigan University cap (“Go Blue!” was a mantra he used throughout the day, for self-motivation). His dad, long-time Red Hot player Bob Goddard, beamed from the sidelines clutching the family’s newly-won spoils of victory: the Champion’s Trophy (“Just one more thing for [his wife] to clean!” he joked).

Congratulations to Shaun Goddard on his victory, and good luck at the World Series of Poker this summer. Remember to bring your hammer, for it served you well on this day, as evidence by the trail of smashed chipstacks you left in your wake, on your way to victory.

[See the photo gallery]

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