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 7 Championship

Submitted by on March 31, 2007 – 4:22 PMNo Comment

Season 7 Champion Goes To The World Series Of Poker

by Michael Stone

Standing around the registration area, waiting for the Red Hot Poker Tour’s Season 7 Tournament of Champions to start, I ran into John Dafesh, the fifth place finisher from last season’s Tournament of Champions.

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  Red Hot Poker Tour – Season 7
Tournament of Champions winner

James Reinhart
Saturday, March 31, 2007 – Montana Restaurant and Bar
  Tournament of Champions 7 photos

“We were listening to some tunes on the way over here,” he told me, obviously filled to the brim with excitement.

“Oh yeah? So what tunes do you use to get pumped up for a day like this?” I asked him.

“‘Rocky’, man,” he said, “‘Eye of the Tiger’.”

I just nodded in agreement, having used that very same mantra to help myself get focused throughout the season. Looking around Montana Restaurant and Bar, the upscale downtown location for this TOC, I couldn’t help but notice that a number of other players had similar ideas, as Tiger Eyes were everywhere. Everyone seemed to understand the magnitude of the task ahead of them. The winner today would receive a $10,000 seat in the Granddaddy of poker tournaments, the World Series of Poker Main Event.

As we shuffled into the back room of the restaurant – “The M Lounge” — most were in awe at the reality of their surroundings. Chandeliers and crystal hangings and mirrors as far as the eye could see gave this Tournament of Champions locale a touch of “Monte Carlo”, befitting the importance of the event.

Dean MacNeil’s opening announcements kicked off the day with the highly anticipated announcement that the Season 8 Champion receives a $10,000 seat in the World Poker Tour North American Poker Championship at the Fallsview Casino. Even before one season had ended, the buzz about the next one had begun.

Players from outside of Ontario were once again on hand. Joining the four British Columbia entrants was Nick Connolly, the first player from New Brunswick invited to the TOC. Alongside the out-of-towners were a packed house of players from Ottawa (including defending champ Richard Hebert), Kitchener, Windsor (in red “Team Windsor” shirts), Toronto and the GTA, Hamilton, Burlington, London, and representatives from the online Red Club room.

This season’s outstanding achievers were then introduced, as once again Red Hot players crushed every record in the book. Ladies Champ Shelley Reinhart, a perennial contender for that title, received a spa certificate for breaking the single season points record. Thad Whited won the Hardcore Award, having played 117 times over the course of the season. But, most impressively, was the season put in by Fred “Banjo” Tierney. Banjo came achingly close to breaking the seasonal points record. But he did manage to crush the old record for wins, amassing 11 tournament victories, and receiving a buy-in to a Canadian Poker Tour event as a reward for his marvelous season.

We were also introduced to the first inductees into the exclusive “50K Club”, honouring Bill Bawden and Lyndon Harris as the first two members to have accumulated 50,000 points in their Red Hot careers. Later on, at the dinner break, Bill was almost embarrassed as the lists for all-time points, tournaments played, final tables, and wins flashed across one giant wall. His lead in most categories was so enormous that it knocked the big man back on his heels for a minute. “Oh my!” was just about all he could muster, surprised by his own lofty accomplishments.

And with that, players took their seats, and the cards were in the air.

It didn’t take long for a dramatic hand to send shockwaves throughout the room. Season 3 Champions Adam Domenchini and another player got all the chips in the middle preflop, both showing pocket aces! But three spades on the flop and a spade on the river gave Adam the nut flush. Other moments of the early going were big, but none rivaled this dramatic knockout.

As players battled against each other, some favourites were knocked out early, and some underdogs built up big stacks. The number of tables shrunk from seven to six and finally to five, as we stopped for a mid-tourney dinner break. Coming back from the break, the two biggest stacks in the room belonged to Amir Hadziosmanovic and Mark Serezo. Each had over 35,000 chips, and, coincidentally, they were seated side-by-side at the same table! Defending champ Richard Hebert was healthy with about 20,000 chips; Adam, after that aces-vs.-aces hand, built his stack up to about 21,000 in chips; and Wendy Louks was also nursing a big stack, with about 21,000 chips of her own.

When play got down to the final two tables, one table featured three Windsor players, all with huge stacks. John Gonzalez and Aamer Hussain were not afraid to put their chips in the middle, and were rewarded with large returns on their investments. But it was the stack of Kevin Larocque that garnered the most attention: it was so big that it spread out in messy, indiscriminate piles across one whole end of the table. Arranged with neither rhyme nor reason, it reminded me of a map of Europe (“I see Paris, I see France…”).

Also of note as we neared the endgame was the fact that not one but two players had a chance to make it to a second Championship final table, a feat unparalleled in Red Hot history. Joining Adam on this quest was James Reinhart, the runner-up from Season 4. Both players used aggressively play, and timely calls, to help achieve their goal. And when Mark Serezo’s gutshot straight draw could not beat John Gonzalez’ turned two pair, their goal, and the goal of seven other lucky contestants, had been achieved: the bubble had burst and the final table was set to begin.

As fans filtered into the back room, we caught our first glimpse of the refelted ‘Big Red’, Red Hot’s flagship final table. Only now it was covered in black felt, and adorned with a giant sprawling fiery Red Hot logo. Sitting in the middle of the room, underneath an enormous chandelier and surrounded by a gallery of seats, it promised an epic and dramatic matchup.

As dealer Marcus Stephenson prepared for the action to come, announcer Michael Bennett Leroux introduced the final 9 players:

Rank Name Chip Count Region
1 John Gonzalez 150,000 Windsor
2 Aamer Hussain 90,000 Windsor
3 James Reinhart 82,000 Ottawa
4 Kevin LaRocque 78,000 Windsor
5 Nick Connelly 67,000 New Brunswick
6 Adam Domenchini 56,000 GTA
7 Bob Clemmer 38,000 KWC
8 Simon Smith 31,000 London
9 Ian McNaughton 15,000 KWC

With blinds at 3000/6000/1000 ante, and friends, family, and fans crowded into their seats, we were finally ready to find out just who would represent Red Hot at the World Series of Poker.

It didn’t take long for us to lose our first player. A shortstacked Ian went all-in, and was called by two others. Aamer’s flush was good enough to beat Ian’s ace high, and our 9th place finisher took his spot on the rail.

Overlooking the final table was a large flatscreen TV, dubbed the “Flop Cam”. It didn’t get used much in the early going, as preflop raises and reraises were enough to win pots. But on hand #8, Bob checked his option in the big blind, after asking the crowd, “Who wants to see a flop?” Unluckily for him, the flop gave him a pair and a straight draw, which forced him to call John’s all-in bet on the turn. John only had a spade flush draw… but it got there on the river, all but crippling Bob. But this jovial player from Kitchener was not ready to bust out yet.

Instead it was Simon who finished in 8th place, when his all-in bet was called by Aamer, whose AK held over Simon’s A5. On the very next hand, with a shortstack Bob all-in for barely the big blind, Adam pushed all-in over top to isolate. But big stack John called behind him. Adam’s A6 was in good shape versus John’s KQ, but a queen on the river knocked our last former champion out of the tournament in 7th place. Bob, by the way, paired both the two and the three in his hand, to stay alive for at least one more hand.

Two hands later, his luck was holding strong, as an all-in showdown with Kevin had him in bad shape, his AJ dominated by Kevin’s AK. But when the board double-paired, the two players chopped the pot. Bob’s magical run of luck ended on the very next hand, though, when he couldn’t beat John’s aces and eights. The Dead Man’s Hand buried Bob’s TOC chances, as he was out in 6th place.

The past two Tournament of Champions’ featured long, drawn-out, and very intense battles once play got to five-handed. This season’s might have followed that trend, if it weren’t for the fact that John, having increased his already huge lead, picked this time to go on a ridiculous run of cards. After doubling Kevin up, he picked up pocket kings, pocket aces, and pocket aces again… all in the span of four hands! The first pair of aces turned out to be Nick’s undoing, as they were more than good enough to crack his pocket jacks (even though both players were fortunate enough to hit their sets on the flop). Our lone New Brunswick representative, who got a lot of chips early when he had quad aces in the first hour of the tournament, went back east with tales of his impressive fifth place finish.

Four-handed play began with blinds at 5000/10000, and a 1000 ante. Team Windsor, adorned in their matching red shirts, seemed to have a stranglehold on the event, having 75% of the seats left. Their fans were wild with anticipation. But not nearly as wild as the contingent in from Ottawa, rooting on their man James. “Six-one-three! Six-one-three!” was their rallying cry, every time James raked in pot, large or small. The 416, and even some parts of the 905, shook from the force of their cheers.

On hand #26 one of the Windsor boys fell. A shortstacked Kevin called John’s big bet, and his A7 was the favourite versus John’s KQ. But that hand was proving lucky for John, especially when up against Ace-rag, as he hit his queen yet again, knocking Kevin out in fourth.

King-Queen was helping everyone out, as it doubled James up when he hit a king on the flop to outcoinflip John and his pocket threes. But John was not deterred. He seemed to dictate action throughout the final table, using aggressiveness to score pot after pot. In one hand, seemingly tired of counting out his raises, he just grabbed a huge handful of chips, plopped them down in the centre of the table, and announced, “[I bet] whatever this is!” Whatever it was, it scared Aamer off. John flipped over 72, a “big blind special” good enough for two pair.

The length of the final table, and the day in general, was starting to take its toll on the players. Aamer, utilizing the throng of Windsor fans behind, got a series of backrubs from a number of different people, hoping to keep relaxed and focused as the big prize was close at hand. On hand #36 he pushed all-in, after a call by John and a raise by James. John folded, and James agonized over his decision. Aamer, looking relaxed and sure of himself, just smiled and stared at James. Finally James made the call, and Aamer’s formerly calm visage crumbled. He had been caught making a move with A6, which was in bad shape versus James’ AJ. A 6 hit the flop first… but it was followed immediately by a jack. Crippled, Aamer was forced all-in on the very next hand. He couldn’t get the lucky double-up he needed, and had to settle for a hard-fought third place finish.

Heads-up play began slowly, as preflop raises were oftentimes enough to take down the pot. As the players took a break before the 6000/12000/2000 level, James had 325,000 chips, and John was close behind with 282,000. But after the break John grabbed his former chiplead back, taking 8 of the next 11 pots. James hung strong, though, waiting for his spot. He found it when, after reraising John preflop, he moved all-in on the five-high board. John called, and shocked the crowed when all he had was ace-high! James’ pocket threes held, and he once again found himself with the chiplead.

The two players battled back and forth, taking turns taking down pots with large preflop and flop bets. On the first hand of the 8000/16000/3000 level, the 65th hand of the final table, James moved all-in preflop, and John after a short contemplation, responded “alright, I call you”. James flipped over the now notorious KQ, which had John’s QJ dominated. Both players hit their queen on the flop, but John couldn’t spike his jack, making James Reinhart the Season 7 Tournament of Champions winner!

The final table ended just after midnight, as March 31st turned into April 1st. Which means that James won the Tournament of Champions 7 exactly a year to the day after finishing second to Jimmy Herrera in Season 4. Even spookier, word spread around the room that the first player eliminated from this TOC was none other than James’ own fiancee! It would seem that the stars were aligned perfectly for our second consecutive Ottawa-based champion. Congratulations, James, and good luck in the Main Event of the 2007 World Series of Poker!

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