Charm Looking for a Bracelet – Tournament of Champions 21
By Mike NelsonFor 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 area ready to prove their skills and make their mark in Red Hot Poker Tour history. Each seat represented a strong commitment to be the best by outlasting and outplaying opponents at the poker tables.
Great Lakes Brewery joined the Red Hot Poker Tour team by becoming a sponsor of the Championship. In addition to the pristine tournament, Great Lakes Brewery added an extra bonus for the players who made it to the Tournament of Champions, by offering beer samplings, prizes, and a BBQ for the players.
As the tense play went on throughout the day, Great Lakes Brewery made it possible for added entertainment in evening for the players who had the misfortune of being knocked out. Some of these events included another poker tournament with packages of their product as prizes, a chip stacking competition and a good old fashioned pie-eating contest.
The remaining players all had only one goal in mind—to ride out the tournament to the end and take down the title.
The large field was disseminated to just ten players after eight grueling hours of competition.
Peter Chau of Kitchener-Waterloo got the unfortunate title of being the bubble boy when his pocket queens in the small blind ran into Peterborough’s Reesa Fallis’ pocket kings in the big blind. A tough break for Peter, who played flawlessly throughout the tournament, but as is often the case in poker he just ran into some bad luck. His stack was on life support afterward and he was eliminated shortly thereafter. This set the stage for another thrilling final table.
Here’s how the stacks looked going to the final table:
Name Chips Region
Adam Cohen 132,000 HBO
Maureen Sands 92,000 LON
Ahn Tuan Le 73,000 TOR
Chris Jensen 72,000 HBO
Charlene Butler 58,000 HBO
Jon Clarke 55,000 GTA
Brian Wilson 50,000 SSM
Reesa Fallis 29,000 PTB
Linda Lewis 9,000 LON
The Ladies in Red Hot Poker Tour continue their stellar performances at the Championship. While only 12% of the Members are women, in back to back Championships, women have occupied four of the nine seats at the final table. This includes Linda Lewis of London with consecutive final tables, who appears to be carrying on the tradition started by fellow Londonite, Jennifer Garlicki.
First hand in, Ressa pushed all her chips in with an A-8 and was quickly called by Maureen Sands, who showed her a big pocket pair – QQ. The board gave Reesa no help and her day was done. After a long and hard fought battle, Reesa became the final tables first elimination and she was out in ninth place.
The next hand in, Linda Lewis pushed her short stack in with a pair of sevens. She was called by Ahn Tuan Le, who showed here A-J off-suit. The board came 9-4-5-2-6 and Linda was given new life but had a long way to go before her chip stack could be out of the danger zone.
The next player to make his exit was Jon Clarke. He shoved his remaining stack of about 45 K in and got a re-shove courtesy of Ahn. Jon flipped up his K-J and Ahn showed him an ace with a seven kicker. Both players were relieved to see that their hands were both live. Ahn’s ace was slightly in the lead pre flop. The board came 6-2-3-5-3. With no improvement to his KJ, Jon was the next player to make his exit.
Ahn, who was getting involved a lot in the early stages of the final table, was at it once again; this time against former Champion Chris Jensen. Chris’ pre flop raise was called by Ahn, who had position in the blind vs. blind battle. The flop came 4-7-4. The two players checked, the turn came a 9 and Ahn called a big bet by Jensen. The river was a harmless two and after another bet by Chris and a call by Ahn, Chris showed Ahn a well disguised pair of Kings – an over pair to the board and the best hand over Ahn’s 9-8. The pot of over 100k was pushed in Chris’ direction.
Ahn was eliminated in the next hand courtesy of Chris yet again. Chris moved all-in and Ahn called. Chris showed him his KQ, and Ahn once again was slightly ahead with an A-10. The board came 6-Q-6-5-5 and Chris’ two pair Queen’s and sixes was enough to send the lone Toronto representative at the final table packing in seventh place.
With Linda’s stack getting lower and the blinds coming around quickly, she pushed her 8k stack. Chris rose to 17k and was called by Maureen. In a three way pot the board came A-8-J-10-2. Maureen and Chris built a huge side pot with a bet and a call on the turn and river. Chris and Maureen then both flipped up the same hand: A-10. They both made two pair and Linda’s chances did not look good. Linda flipped up the hand she gambled with, a 2-4 of spades. She picked a good spot with live cards and two callers; unfortunately she couldn’t get lucky and was eliminated in sixth place.
Brian was the next player to make a big move when he shoved his 41K stack in the small blind with a pair of three’s. After some thought and odds calculation, he was called by Adam who had Q-8 of diamonds. The flop made things interesting as it came 6d-Kd-6s. With two over cards and a flush draw the players remained in a virtual coin flip. The turn-river came 9c-4c—no help to Adam. Brian successfully doubled up and Adam’s stack took a big hit.
Chris was the next to send yet another player packing. Chris raised under the gun to 20k and Maureen raised all in for 45k behind him. Chris opened his A-9 of diamonds and Maureen called with her K-J, also suited with diamonds. The board offered no help to Maureen and she was eliminated in fifth place.
At this point Chris was steamrolling the table and it looked as though the Tournament of Champions might have its second two-time champion, but he would still have to outlast three other players who wanted the coveted title equally as much, and were just as determined to bring home the trophy.
With the blinds rising on short handed table, players needed to make moves and make them often to stay alive.
After a long period with a lot of action but few flops and turns Adam shoved his 68k stack hoping to get some much-needed blinds and antes. Charlene then pushed all-in from the small blind leaving Chris in the big blind to a very tough decision as he was holding pocket nines. After much deliberation, Chris called. The three players were all in. Chris was the only player with chips behind.
Charlene then flipped up her K-J, a coin flip to Chris’ pocket nines. Adam was not happy to see either caller. He tried to make a move with Q-5 and was ‘looked up’ by the two players.
The board came K-4-8-4-7. After a very deep run and a well played aggressive performance, Adam was eliminated in fourth place. Charlene tripled up her stack and became a force when play came down to three handed. Chris lost a huge portion of his stack but was still had plenty of ammunition to work after that mess.
Chris’s stack then took another big hit courtesy of Brian who called Chris’ all-in with an A-8. Chris showed his K-9. The board came all spades and Brian’s eight of spades gave him the higher flush along with a nice double up.
As the players took a break the chip count of the final three had Charlene in the lead with 215k, Brian in second with 150k, andd Chris in third with 100k.
Chris was not short stack for long as he won the next three hands and was able to build his stack right back with no delay.
After an incredibly solid performance Sault Ste. Marie’s Brian Wilson was next to make his exit. Chris made his standard button raise to 20k, Brian shoved his short stack all-in and Chris snap called.
Chris flipped over big slick A-K and that was the last thing Brian wanted to see while holding A-4.
The board came K-Q-3-8-8, no help to Brian and he was eliminated in third place.
Coming into heads up play Charlene was the chip leader but was up against the tough Red Hot Poker Tour veteran, Chris.
Here’s how the stacks looked at the start of heads up play:
Name Chips Region
Charlene Butler 415,000 HBO
Chris Jensen 154,000 HBO
The blinds and antes were 3k 6k/12k.
Closing in on 12 hours of play, fatigue and exhaustion were just going to have to take a back seat to adrenaline and determination.
Chris continued to be the aggressor and raised almost every time he was on the button. He was working on growing his short stack while Charlene was working to weather the storm and protect her big stack.
After 40 minutes of heads up play, the stacks were fluctuating and Chris was catching up but Charlene never lost her chip lead.
When the blinds raised 7k-14k Chris’ stack had grown his stack 40% to 220k vs. Charlene’s 350k.
Charlene, who was typically calling pre flop on the button for most of heads up play, made a raise to 42k. Chris then decided it was time and shoved his stack in with A-2. Charlene was ready to gamble and deliver a knock out punch and made a snap call. Chris was shocked when she rolled over 8-6 of clubs. Chris’ ace was only a tiny favorite in this massive pot for all the chips in play.
The board came 10c-6h-Jd-7c-5s and Charlene’s pair of sixes was enough to eliminate the former champion and secure her spot in next years Red Hot Vegas Invasion and a seat at the 2012 World Series of Poker.
After the tough loss former Champion Chris was gracious in defeat and felt he played well.
“It’s tough to win one of these. Even if you play well, you run well, anything can happen. It’s anyone’s tournament, anyone can win.”
Earlier in the day Chris told his roommate, Jim “hot Dog” Harrison, the winner of the Season 21 Elite Showdown, that he would never again make the final table at the Tournament of Champions, so his second place finish was well above his own expectations.
“I don’t even understand how poker works, smirked Chris. If I can get second place it’s better than I can ever hope for. Good luck to Charlene, she played well.”
Having a first and second place finish under his belt, there’s little doubt that he does in fact understand the game, but a there’s nothing wrong with a little modesty. His commitment to rise to the occasion earned him the Red Club Championship, and with Jim and Charlene, completed a HBO sweep of Season 21.
The champion Charlene described her feelings as pure shock.
“You dream of getting here but… I’m here.”
Feeling fantastic about her performance, Charlene is now gearing up for her first of possibly a few trips to Vegas.
“I pushed when I needed to push. I won some tight hands earlier when I was low stacked and got lucky when I needed to.”
Chris is a friend of hers and fellow HBO player, and this was not the first time the two were heads up.
“It was tough, I’ve played him heads up before and the last heads up I beat him, so I was confident but still a little nerve-wracked because he’s a great player; but I’m glad I won this one,” she said. By the last hand, Charlene said she was getting tired after a long day.
“I raised hoping he’d fold. Then I figured he would push with any two and I have mid-suited connectors so I took a chance and it paid off.”
With that, Charlene was awarded her title of Season XXI Champion of the Red Hot Poker Tour!
Charlene now has some time to relax and relish in her amazing accomplishment. Soon enough she will have to prove herself yet again, but next time it will be for a World Series of Poker bracelet.