Charm Looking for a Bracelet – Tournament of Champions 21
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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 Season 4 Championship

Submitted by on April 1, 2006 – 4:11 PMNo Comment

Jimmy Herrera Wins Tournament of Champions #4, while Daniel Negreanu Wows the Crowd as the Final Table Announcer.

Saturday, April 1st, 2006 was a truly momentous occasion. Nearly 140 of the top players from the Red Hot Poker Tour filled the Elephant & Castle in Toronto, each intent on leaving victorious. Not only was the prestige of being crowned Tournament of Champions #4 Winner on the line, but so to was the prospect of becoming Daniel Negreanu’s Protégé, a prize which will see one lucky winner living the life of a professional poker player. The opportunity to be tutored by Daniel himself, entrance into tournaments, and the high-roller lifestyle is truly incredible.

Upon entering the Elephant & Castle, players began to fully understand just what awaited them. All of the televisions around the tournament area were continuously showing statistics from the season, including top points winners, most final table appearances, most tournaments attended, and even the top final table percentages. Many players were particularly excited about the camouflage backdrop bursting onto the screen advertising the Red Hot Poker Tour Vegas Invasion. You could practically see the wheels spinning in so many of the players’ heads!

Another new addition to this season’s TOC came as a great surprise to many players: the addition of new Full Contact Poker / Red Hot Poker Tour tables. These magnificent tables had the look and feel of real casino poker tables, and added greatly to the tournament atmosphere. With high quality tables, brand-new plastic Full Contact Poker cards, and casino-quality poker chips, players were eager to splash around and “get all the money in”.

Shortly before the start of the tournament, players were greeted by a familiar face. Red Hot Poker Tour partner, and recent winner of $755,525 in the WSOP Tunica Tournament, Daniel Negreanu arrived at the event with many kind words. Not only is Negreanu one of the greatest poker players of all time, but he is truly a fan of the game, and had nothing but good things to say about the Red Hot Poker Tour players. Daniel got everyone excited about the tournament, and reminded everyone just what was at stake. Not only would the winner of the Tournament of Champions be crowned Season 4 Champion and become a member of Team Canada Poker, but they would also win the coveted 10th seat at the Daniel Negreanu Protégé Table – a truly priceless prize!

Action got underway as the clock struck 1:00 pm. By the end of the first blind level, several players were already betting aggressively, challenging every raise, and some dropped quickly, and 10 players left in the first half-hour.

Throughout the tournament, players won, lost, doubled-through, and were sent to the rail, leaving many wondering just why the deck couldn’t seem to help them out. Others couldn’t seem to go wrong, and were excited about their rushes. By 5:10pm the players were given a 1-hour dinner break, and everyone in attendance was treated to a premier buffet-style dinner courtesy of the Elephant & Castle. All the food was fantastic, and hat’s off to the cook who made up the chicken curry. Fantastic! During the break, players were able to speak with one another, discuss bad beats, lucky suck outs, and of course, who the big stacks were. It was also great to see that so many players who were already out of the tournament had stayed to cheer on their friends. The players truly are what make the Red Hot Poker Tour so fantastic.

Play continued after the dinner break, and the final 50 players were given a bit more time to relax when Red Hot Poker Tour dealers were brought into the mix. This added to the excitement of the tournament, as many players began to realize how far they had actually come; outplaying and outlasting nearly 100 competitors.

Before long the 5 remaining tables were condensed to 4, and then 3, with a familiar face still in the hunt, Adam Domenchini, Season 3′s champion, who survived the Red Hot’s biggest field to finish 15th, knocked out by eventual champion Herrera with a flush to Adam’s straight. An impressive feat in such a tough group of players.

The competitors were down to 2 tables, until finally, players were “on the bubble”. They were mere hands away from taking a seat at Big Red, the Red Hot Poker Tour’s legendary Final Table.

After a series of double-ups, all-ins, and suck outs, the bubble player was eliminated. At the same time, however, Anne-Marie Howarth was sent to the rail, and finished in 10th place. Congratulations goes out to Anne-Marie who did, in fact, make it into the final 10 finishers, but was eliminated just one hand before being able to sit at Big Red.

As the Tournament Staff announced “Final Table!” cheers began emanating from the remaining players. This, however, may have been drowned out by the sighs of relief at having finally made it!

Once chip counts had been tabulated and confirmed, players moved to Big Red where they were greeted by staff, friends, family … and our special guest final table announcer! Daniel Negreanu arrived to watch the action unfold at the final table. The eight players who made it to the final table were then joined by the winner of the Meal Ticket contest, Shawn Scerri of the GTA, who was awarded the average chip count of the remaining 25 players. The nine finalists fighting for the title of were:

Derick Hirasawa HBO 214,000
Dan Refuse KW 62,000
George Metaxakis GTA 60,500
Shelley Reinhart HBO 55,500
Jimmy Herrera GTA 49,000
Dan O’Neill HBO 45,000
Lucas Flett HBO 41,000
James Reinhart Ottawa 28,000
Shawn Scerri GTA 23,000

Upon finally arriving at the final table, it quickly became apparent that there was one monstrous force to be reckoned with. Frederick “Derick” Hirasawa of Ancaster sat down at the Big Red with the largest chip lead in the history of the Tournament of Champions. With nearly four times the amount of chips as the second place chip-stack, and almost 10 times that of the 9th place chip-stack, Derick was extremely dangerous.

Players and staff began to huddle around the table, while others chose to sit at the bar and watch the action on the close circuit “final table cam” which broadcast all the action onto the TV screens all over the Elephant & Castle. After a few words from Daniel and player intros by Mike Bennet-Leroux, action was underway. It was clear from the beginning that these players were indeed ready to play, and many of them did not hesitate to splash around. Action was fast and furious, and for much of the final table, it seemed as though Derick was unstoppable. Adopting a truly aggressive style of play, Derick raised and re-raised nearly every pot of the night, leaving many players in his wake. Lucas Flett of HBO was unable to hold up when forced all in by Derick, and finished in 9th place. Shortly thereafter, Shawn Scerri of the GTA decided that it was time to make a move. Unfortunately for Shawn, his short stack was not enough to scare off Derick, and he claimed his second victim. Shawn finished in 8th place.

Play continued as Derick played the role of chip leader aggressively, striking fear in the hearts of his competitors. Even when others decided to take a stand in efforts to double through Derick, it seemed impossible. When Dan Refuse of KW – the player who came to Big Red with over 60,000 in chips – got all the money in, he too faced the chip leader heads up, and soon became the 3rd player to fall at the hands of Hirasawa. It was beginning to seem as though nothing could stop him. Shortly thereafter, Dan O’Neill of HBO became the 6th place finisher at the final table, and as play became five-handed, but Derick’s hot streak seemed to cool.

Unable to catch cards during her time at the final table, Shelley Reinhart of HBO was slowly blinded away, until she had no choice but to move all in. As they say, it just wasn’t in the cards for Shelley, who finished in 5th place and emerged as the Season 4 top female. When play became four-handed, it seemed as though some of the players were now more willing to go over the top of Derick’s raises.

Arguably one of the biggest and most exciting hands of the night came when Derick re-raised his hand in middle position. When the action came around to Jimmy Herrera of the GTA, with a wave of his hand he declared: ALL IN! Jimmy got up from the table, and put on his coat – a play that the audience had seen several times at the final table. In fact, Jimmy got up from the table and put on his coat each and every time he raised all in. Was he bluffing? Did he have the nuts? In many of his all-ins nobody was able to tell since his cards were never shown. In the event of the “big hand”, however, Derick called Jimmy’s all-in reraise and flipped over pocket 9′s, while Jimmy slowly rolled over Pocket Queens! Jimmy was a huge favorite before and after the flop when three rags were flipped. Then the crowd roared as, miraculously, the turn card made a set of 9′s for Derick! He was now holding three of a kind to Jimmy’s over pair. Jimmy was in a lot of trouble – and his face showed it, as he needed one of only two Queens left in the deck to win. At this point Jimmy was ready to go home; about 5% to win the hand. The river card was then flipped, and it was a Queen! The crowd exploded, and Jimmy cheered as if he had just won the WSOP!

This beat took a lot of chips from Derick, who seemed to be in a downward spiral. Jimmy, on the other hand, could do no wrong, and was continuously raking in chips. After several more hands, Derick Hirasawa finally met his fate, and went out as a gentleman in 4th place. As the battle continued, chips were traded, hands were cracked, and bad beats were administered. After fighting the good fight, having played for eight hours and outlasting 137 players, George Metaxakis of the GTA was eliminated in 3rd place, and heads-up between Jimmy Herrera and James Reinhart of Ottawa was underway.

Heads up was played in quite a different manner than a lot of the tournament, as bother players were inclined to either fold, or push all in. This method of play seemed to have Negreanu stumped, as he announced “I wish I could help you guys right now!” In the true competitive spirit of poker, Daniel was also heard joking to the players that “I would destroy you guys!” James and Jimmy were nearly dead even in chips, and looking like a draw, when seemingly out of nowhere, the intensity sky-rocketed.

When Jimmy was in the big blind, it was up to James to act preflop. Rather than raising all-in, James opted to limp. Jimmy also decided to check and the players saw a flop. The flop was 5 9 Queen – all diamonds. This was a dangerous flop, and based on the way both players were playing, it seemed as though this hand would be checked to the river. Upon Jimmy checking, however, the famous “all in” was exclaimed by James. This time though, Jimmy quickly called, and as James flipped his cards, the crowd gasped and cheered as they saw that James was slow-playing pocket Aces! Jimmy, however, had checked with a small pocket pair, and the flop brought him a set of 5s! The crowd erupted then went very quiet as this would likely spell the end for one of our heads up players. The turn was no help for James, and as the final river card hit, James was eliminated in 2nd place, and our TOC winner was declared. Congratulations to Jimmy Herrera for winning the Red Hot Poker Tour Season 4 Tournament of Champions! Jimmy is now the newest member of Team Canada Poker, and is one giant step closer to winning Daniel Negreanu’s Protégé, a prize which is truly life-altering.

Congratulations to all who played great this season to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, and we wish you big success in Season 5!

A special thank you to the great Daniel Negreanu, who took over the microphone from the beginning and entertained the crowd during the whole final table. He kept everyone shake their heads frequently in amazement as he correctly eye-balled player chip stacks, provided outs, odds, and a lot of laughs. Even players not at the final table, got a special experience of a lifetime.

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