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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Red Hot Poker Tour’s® Season 12 Championship

Submitted by on December 10, 2008 – 4:05 PM12 Comments

By Michael Stone

The first big snowfall of the season couldn’t stop 130-plus Red Hot Poker Tour players from once again congregating at the Brick Yard BBQ to see who would be named the Tour’s Season 12 Champion. As the white stuff fell outside, the tournament area inside was packed to the rafters with past champions, new faces, and piles of excitement, as two players would be leaving at the end of the day with free rides to the World Series of Poker, courtesy of PartyPoker.

  TOC 11 winner Gary Biggar
  Red Hot Poker Tour – Season 12
Tournament of Champions winner

John Lawson
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Brickyard Barbecue, Etobicoke, Ontario

Nick McGowan ran through this season’s regular season leaders. Katie Lewis and Dave Kersey were introduced, as Top Female and Hardcore Champion respectively, each having set new records in their categories. And Bill Bawden waved to the crowd from his seat at the Feature Table, having once again topped the regular season leaderboard with the most points. “Bill has accumulated more then a quarter of a million points in his career,” noted Nick, shaking his head in disbelief. “We couldn’t think of what to get him this time, so we’re just going to sew together five 50K jackets.”

A new tradition began, as Season 11 Champion Gary Biggar was brought up to the microphone to get the proceedings under away. “Today there will be no donkeying,” he deadpanned, with the tone of a stern schoolmarm. “If you do donkey someone, you will now be known as a ‘clown’. So… shuffle up and deal!”

It didn’t take long for our first casualty. And wouldn’t you know it, Gary was the one who delivered the knockout blow! About five minutes into the tournament, Jasper Moester stood up, and with as much hubris as he could muster, yelled, “I’m going to knock out Gary Biggar!” He slammed his hand down on the table and enthusiastically announced, “Queens, beotches!” Though Gary didn’t announce his hand to the crowd, word quickly spread that he had aces. Jasper, looking shell-shocked, took his quick exit with a smile… and a celebratory paddywhack from dealer Tye. “I promised [that] to the first one out,” he informed the crowd sheepishly.

But not all the former champions in the room were rewarded by their big pairs. At the Feature Table Pam Riehl took out two former champions – Richard Hebert and Jimmy Herrera – on the same hand! Her pockets nines flopped a set to crack the former’s aces and the latter’s kings. Sealing Jimmy’s fate was Bill Bawden, who snuck away with Jimmy’s jacket before he could do his patented stand-up-and-get-dressed-to-go-all-in move. He never had a chance after that.

Action slowed after that, as players tried to hang on to the dinner break. As we sat down for another fine Brick Yard BBQ meal, forty lucky players were still alive. It didn’t take long, though for five tables to shrink to four, and then further down to three and two. We fast approached the final table bubble and the action started to heat up… and get a little crazy!

On one table, AK – which had flopped top pair and the nut flush draw – couldn’t get there versus pocket aces in what turned out to be a huge pot. On the other table, Giancarlo Marrelli seemed to be trying to raise his opponents out of their final table seats single-handedly. Arthur Farris finally had enough. After another Giancarlo raise, Arthur announced, “Well, any two can win, right?” before shoving all-in. Giancarlo thought for a long time before making the hero call with A3. Arthur proudly showed that he was making a move with J8s. His pride was rewarded with a jack on the flop, and a jack on the river, and he raked in a mountain of chips.

Giancarlo tried to get all his chips back right away, embarking on a shove-a-thon. John Koh got caught in the crossfire, when he called yet another Giancarlo shove with pocket kings, and lost when Giancarlo’s A7 made a runner-runner straight.

As the field shortened to ten players, and a break was announced for a chip-out, Bryanna Donne was seen hummingbirding around the tournament area. “How many is it to final?” she asked of no one in particular. “God I can’t stand this!”

Play turned to hand-for-hand when the players took their seats again, and it wouldn’t be until Arthur – newly-shortstacked after losing a big pot to Pamela – shoved his A6 and lost to John Lawson’s pocket jacks… and with that, our twelfth Tournament of Champions final table was set.

Family, friends and spectators made their way into the Brick Yard’s back room, and MC Michael Bennett Leroux introduced the remaining players:

Linda Lewis London 13,000
Bryanna Donne Windsor 16,000
Maher Saleh Ottawa 33,000
Rommel Leyson GTA 47,000
Giancarlo Marrelli GTA 66,000
Gary Sanwald Kitchener 78,000
Pamela Riehl Kitchener 88,000
John Lawson Toronto 90,000
Ron Fahner London 100,000


With the escalating blinds ballooning to 3000/6000, with a 1000 ante, it seemed unlikely that this final table would match last season’s 170-hand marathon. But that would be for the players to decide.

Their first decision, on the fourth hand of play, was to bust Linda Lewis in ninth place. Her A8 was no good against Bryanna’s AJ, consolidating our two shortest stacks into one medium stack. Two hands later, two of our biggest stacks performed a similar consolidation routine, when Gary Sanwald’s slowplayed AK lost to John’s KJ, after a king hit the turn and a jack hit the river. John took a big bite out of Gary’s stack with that one.

There was a short period of inaction after that. A Rommel Leyson raise – or “Rommaise” – preceded the first of over a dozen walks that occurred at the final table. It seemed, at times, that no one was willing to break away from the pack and sprint to the Champions trophy.

Maher Saleh of Ottawa showed that someone was willing to play for it all. After moving all-in and stealing the blinds on hand #14, he tried the same trick on the very next hand. Gary, newly shortstacked after his tangle with John, joined Maher’s chips in the centre of the table. But both men were surprised when Ron Fahner became the third member of their all-in party. They weren’t so surprised when they saw the big stack’s hand: pocket aces. Neither Maher’s fours nor Gary’s AK could catch up, and the former was busted in seventh place, while the latter – making his second appearance at a Tournament of Champions final table — exited eighth.

Giancarlo was the next to go. After Pam limped in from the small blind, Giancarlo moved all-in from the big blind. Pam thought for a moment, tried to put Giancarlo on a hand, and reluctantly called. “We’re going to find out what Giancarlo was pushing with,” said Michael into the microphone. “So am I,” smiled Giancarlo from the table, after having been caught making an all-in-blind move. His 92o was no good against Pam’s KQ, and Giancarlo finished up in sixth.

Over the next 16 hands, we saw very few showdowns, with each player taking their share of pots with flop and turn bets. But hand #38 proved decisive for one player. Four saw the 4-J-8 flop, and Rommel immediately Rommaised all-in. He got calls from both Ron and Bryanna. The turn was checked, but Ron bet the river when his J9 made two pair. It was good enough to bust Rommell and his K4 out in fifth place.

Ron used momentum to dominate the next stretch of the action, taking down many small pots with post-flop bets. But his rule over the table didn’t last long when, in the span of four hands, he doubled up both of the ladies.

TOC 11 winner Gary Biggar  

First was Bryanna. She moved in over a Ron raise with pocket kings, and though her opponent flopped a scary flush draw – sending Bryanna running to the back of the room in terror – her hand held up to take down a pot of over 140,000 chips! Then it was Pam’s turn. Taking Bryanna’s lead, she too moved all-in over one of Ron’s raises. Only her JdTd was in bad shape against Ron’s AhTh… until, that is, she flopped an open-ended straight draw. This time, however, the draw got there and Pam’s stack was healthy again.

The frenzy of chip movement dissipated, however, when dealer Greg Burns set up three walks in a row! It was looking like he need lessons in creating action! Things picked up soon enough, though, when Pam raised the button and Big Stack John reraised all-in from the big blind. After a bit of a think, Pam gave her response: “Let’s gamble!” Her AK was behind John’s pocket sevens, and never caught up, busting Pam out in fourth place.

After more than ten hours of play the tournament had finally reached the prize bubble, as only two of the remaining three players would win a seat into a World Series of Poker event. The bubble, a notoriously slow and agonizing time in a poker tournament, would last all of one hand! After a Bryanna raise and a John call, the two players saw a flop of K-8-7. John bet out, and Bryanna pretty quickly moved all-in. Even more quickly was John’s call. And even more quickly than that was the “Damn!” that escaped Bryanna’s lips, knowing full well that her pocket queens were in bad shape. Sure enough, John rolled over KhJh, which held up long enough to bust Bryanna in third place.

And with that, John Lawson and Ron Fahner had become the latest two members of Red Hot’s Team Canada Poker, winning seats into a $1500 event at next summer’s World Series!

But there was still something to play for, as both men appeared eager to become Red Hot’s next Tournament of Champions winner. Heads up play began with John looking like a sure bet to take that title:

John Lawson Toronto 367,000
Ron Fahner London 164,000


As blinds increased to 6000/12000 with a 2000 ante, the anticipation in the room was for a long heads-up battle. Would it be as long as the 110-hand affair between Gary Biggar and Wayne Desmarais from last season? The answer to that question was found soon enough on hand #70 of the final table. After Ron limped the small blind, John raised from the big blind. Ron reraised all-in, and in the flash of an eye John called. Ron was on a move, showing 9d7d. John was in good shape with his pocket eights. But the flop of A-Q-7 with two diamonds had other ideas. The turn was a very safe Ac, and the 3c on the river sealed Ron’s fate, making John Lawson the Season 12 Tournament of Champions winner! After moving up to 37th on the All-Time points list, but barely squeaking into the tournament, John could finally hoist the Champions Trophy. Congratulations to John Lawson, and good luck to you and Ron at the World Series!

TOC 11 winner Gary Biggar
Red Hot Poker Tour – Season 12
Tournament of Champions winner

John Lawson


  • Interesting poker stuff. Checkout my poker site if you want, quite new but am getting there :)

  • Giancarlo79 says:

    oooooh, James Arsenault – Barry Greenstein

  • Giancarlo79 says:

    So, here’s a cool read. I’ve been thinking about poker pro’s and if you can compare any of them to our coveted Red Hot players. Here’s what I’ve come up with, feel free to add:

    Ian Chanonat – Hands down, without a doubt, definitely . . . MIKE MATUSOW!
    Thomasz (can’t remember his last name) – Tony G (just looks like him)
    Alex Cabraja (where the heck has this guy gone?) – LMAO! Phil Hellmuth, all the way!
    Rhea Tubigan – Evelyn Ng
    Adam Domenchini (another MIA) – Alan Cunningham
    Gary Biggar – Gary Biggar, lol.

    That’s all I can think of for now, even though I’ve thought of more in the past. I’m sure they’ll pop into my brain again.

  • erotik says:

    Dies ist ein gro?er Ort. Ich m?chte hier noch einmal.

  • Giancarlo79 says:

    I think looking at Red Hot tourneys, especially the TOC, are a great gauge to see how a lot of the Red Hot/Red Club players will fare. When I played TOC this past season, I noticed a lot of dead money on the table, tons of scared play because the stakes were a little higher than just accumulating points, so I hear where you’re coming from.

    I just it was a little different online. I still run into idiotic play regardless weather I’m playing a $6 tourney, or a $55 buyin.

    Honestly, I’m going to work my butt off to satellite my way into a few big money events this year, be it the monthly million, the Sunday million, scoop, WSOP, etc. While there still is idiotic play, you run into a lot more dead play at these tables as well.

    Hey, here’s a cool idea you should try. I’ve been using it now and then, and it’s been pretty effective. Play tournaments semi-blind, stopping only to look at hands when faced with opponents who will not fold to a bet. I do this until you get to a point in the tournament where the relative chip stacks/BB affects this style of play, i.e. numerous short stacks appear at your table, where it would be idiotic to play blind knowing someone is likely to reraise you, or raise when you limp.

    It’s a practice that I self implemented when I heard about Annette_15’s interesting tournament win, and it definitely helps in your reads on the table later in the tournament when the blinds get a little steep. You have everyone pegged by that point.

  • Giancarlo, re: your top 5 list:

    It’s really tough to gauge how well these people would do in larger buy-in tournaments, because I’ve only played with them in micro-stakes tourneys. It’s a lot tougher to make a decision when you’ve paid 3-4 figures to get your seat, then it is if you’ve paid six bucks.

    There are some players I have my eye one who I think would make the transition quite smoothly to larger buy-ins. But I’ll keep that information to myself. Wouldn’t want anyone to get a swelled head… ;)

  • Giancarlo79 says:

    I’m an idiot. How can I forget about Sal Vilalluz? Wow! This guy already has a couple of CPT final tables to his credit, and just got back from the WPS in the dominican.

  • Giancarlo79 says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe in racing when I have more than 20BB’s behind me . . . so, I guess a fold is a good move coming from me.

    If John was the initial raiser, I would have put him on a wide range of hands, but because he raised the UTG’s min raise, I had to narrow the hands he was playing, and justly so.

    So, Mr. Stone. How about a top 5 or 10 of players from Red Club to hit the big time in an online or live tournament?

    Here’s my picks:

    1. AKTor_ (already a 10th in WSOP live event and some nice late runs in some big online games, you have to put him at the top of the list)
    2. Unstoned (Not kissing ass here, you’ve come a long way from just “making moves” at Red Hot events. It’s only a matter of time before hitting the big time)
    3. Wargawd (in the words of Russell Peters, this guy is “TOO GOOD” to not have any big finishes, I’ve played at tables with him on multiple sites, and his game is impeccable)
    4. DanLuzi (Really, Really solid player, and if school didn’t get in the way, this guy would probably be playing poker for a living already)
    5. Giancarlo79 (I have to put my name in this list, since joining PokerVT, I’ve definitely elevated my game, final tabling at the WSOP freeroll online, online wildcard, and TOC shortly after joining PokerVT. With many final tables and cashes in medium events, I can definitely see a big tourney final table in my near future)

  • With those stack sizes, it’s *definitely* a push or fold situation. There’s definitely no room to call and see a flop. And there’s no way John is folding if you shove. He’s way too committed to the pot.

    So you have no fold equity, and just “hope” that he only has AK, and not KK.

    I probably still shove, though, given John’s loose aggro image (at least when I’ve played with him). QQ is way ahead of the range he’s making this play with. Gosh, I can seem him doing this with a hand like AT or even 88. Seriously.

    Me in the million? Was doing well, early. Then I picked up QQ (there they are again) after a limper and an oversized raise from the guy who had been raising and reraising every other hand. I figure it’s time I take a stand against him, so I reraised. He pushed back, and I shoved. Naturally he called with Aces and I was done early.

    I’m playing again on March 1st, so maybe second time’s a charm…

  • Giancarlo79 says:

    Well, to tell you the truth, I chickened out. Here’s how it played out in my head:

    UTG doubles BB, has been playing virtually every hand, not putting him on anything here.
    UTG + 1 (John Lawson), reraises to 18k. I have 45k behind, now normally calling is not an option here for me. Calling would commit 40% of my stack. It’s allin or fold normally, but then I started to think about John Lawson’s play so far, and hands from the past.

    I picked up from physical tells that he was worried about me calling. A nervous swallow, a clearing of the throat, a look down, and I knew he wasn’t happy I was thinking about calling. I put him on AK. So, now what?

    Well, with the amount John invested preflop, he was shoving regardless on the flop. I figure an A, a K, and I’m out of there saving the other 60% if I decide to call and avoid the preflop race situation I so much hate to be involved in. I’m getting severely close to stating “call”, then “it” pops in my head. “But what if he has KK or AA?”. KK starts popping in my head, even though I had already evaluated and taken this hand out.

    So, I look at my stack and see 45k, as opposed to 27k or 0k, and I decide to fold hoping to pick up a decent hand next hand, figuring that UTG is playing extremely weak and will have a better situation there to win a hand.

    When I look back at the hand, I don’t see a problem with any 3 of the ways to play the hand, it’s one of those situations where it depends on the players style. Not too many Red Hot players at that tournament would’ve laid it down, they would have reraised allin and chose to let the coin flip. I don’t like to let the coin flip unless absolutely necessary. It definitely wasn’t necessary there, but I still would’ve liked to have played it differently, or not. Still confused about the play. I would like to see some of the pro’s take on a hand like that. I already know that Umberto Brennes would lay it down, I’ve seen him do it in that situation. But, like you said, if you’re playing to win, shove. I think I should’ve called, at least. Would’ve felt better to at least see the flop, even though it would’ve been a race regardless, Lawson was pushing on the flop regardless whether there was an A, K, or rags.

    Btw, how did you do in monthly million?

  • Laying down queens. I remember watching that. Thought it was a bad fold at the time. Or just a super-disciplined one. I guess it’s all about a) stack sizes, and b) Lawson’s image. You were both well-chipped, so maybe you were deep enough to flat call and evaluate the flop. Also, you had position.

    I don’t know, tough one. If you’re playing for first, it’s probably a shove. Right?

  • Giancarlo79 says:

    When Pam arrived at the feature table a couple of hours in, she kept telling me she would take all of my chips. Who knew it would end up happening at the final table, lol.

    An interesting tidbid here: I folded QQ preflop to a min raise and a reraise. John Lawson ended up flipping AK offsuit after the initial raiser folded. It was another one of my 5 minute decisions late in the tourney. Anyone think that was a bad laydown?

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