22-Year-Old Pro John Racener Who’s ‘Never Worked’ Is New Circuit Champ
He Came in Third in this Event Last Year on his 21st Birthday
Atlantic City, NJ - John “J Money” Racener, a a 22-year-old poker player from Tampa Florida who’s been a pro all his adult life, overcame a 2-1 heads-up chip disadvantage to win the championship event of the WSOP Circuit championship event at Harrah’s Atlantic City. Victory brought him $379,392, a $10,000 seat into next year’s championship WSOP event, and a handsome gold trophy ring.
“I needed the money because I don’t work,” he exulted after his win. Racener started off his pro career spectacularly, celebrating his 21st birthday by finishing third and collecting $103,527 in the championship event here last year. He then went on a tear with 10 more cashes, including $166,161 for finishing eighth in the Borgata Winter Open/WPT event. Racener, who taught himself poker four years ago, also enjoys sports and night life.
He won his seat via a one-table satellite and said he felt very confident because the tournament structure gave him lots of play.
This final table was covered by Bluff Media, which after a one-hour tape delay was streamed on swww.worldseriesofpoker.com.television. It started at 5:00 p.m. EST and was available for free viewership.
Action started at level 19 with blinds of 20,000-40,000 with 5,000 antes, playing two-hour levels. In the lead with 870,000 chips was Eric Buchman. Players started with 20,000 chips, so there were 4,880,000 in play.
Here were the starting chip counts
1. Adrian Velez 755,000
2. Eric Buchman 870,000
3. David Fox 535,000
4. Thomas Fee 255,000
5. John Racener 780,000
6. Joseph Brooks 450,000
7. James "Mike" Nelson 470,000
8. Feming Chan 690,000
9. Sam Skolnik 80,000
Sam Skolnik, arrriving by far the lowest chipped with 80,000, moved in on the second hand for 70,000 with Kh-3c and got two callers. He jumped well ahead against Bachman’s 9-8 when the flop came K-8-7. But then a 6 turned and a 5 rivered to give Bachman a straight as Skolnik departed in ninth place, winning $23,712.
Skolnik, 41, is a Las Vegas journalist covering Federal courts for the Post-Intelligencer. He’s also played poker seriously for seven years. Last month he cashed in both the Friday and Saturday Bellagio $1,000 events during the same weekend. He learned poker in home games, and his hobbies are movies, photography and tennis.
Twelve hands later, James “Mike” Nelson raised and Joseph Brooks moved in. Nelson called with slightly fewer chips. Nelson was in the lead with A-K against Brooks’ A-9 until the flop of A-9-3 gave him two pair to leave Nelson in eighth place, worth $35,568.
Nelson is a 25-year-old electrician from Rock Tavern, New York, who has been playing four years, learning by practice. He won his seat here via satellite, and his other hobby is music.
One hour into the level, on hand 12, first Adrian Velez moved in, and then Bachman came over the top, also moving in. Bachman had Velez dominated with A-Q versus A-10, and Velez, unable to catch up when the board came 9-8-6-Q-K, cashed seventh for $47,424.
Velez, 23, is an expeditor from Queens, New York. This is his first Circuit event, and his other hobby is sports.
On the 33rd hand, after Brooks raised, David “Dr. Fox” Fox moved in for 250,000 more. Fox had A-Q to Brooks’ K-Q, doubling up and leaving Brooks short-chipped when the board came 8-8-7-4-6.
But a few hands later Dr. Fox suffered a chipectomy and busted out when he had his two red aces cracked. He quickly called from the big blind after Buchman moved in with only Q-J, only to see Buchman flop a straight when the cards showed 10-9-8. Fox, cashing sixth, took home $89,380.
Fox, 31, from Coram, New York, is a professional who previously was in film/TV production. He’s only been playing three years, learning from his father, but has had a fantastic 2007, making six Circuit final tables including a third in the New Orleans championship event, along with wins at the Venetian Deep Stack and at Foxwoods. He’s entered 26 Circuits total. His other hobbies are sports, movies, traveling and fine dining.
Level 20 started with 30,000-60,000 blinds and 5,000 antes and a one-hour dinner break scheduled half-way through. However, the event would end a few minutes before dinner, about 8 p.m.
At this point Buchman held a big lead of 2.15 million, followed by Feming Chan with about 1.5 million. Trailing were Brooks,725,000; John “JMoney” Racener, 500,000; and Thomas Patrick “Bernie” Fee, 300,000.
Right after the level started, Fee moved in from the button for 410,000 with Ad-9h. Racener then moved in with Jh-Qh. The flop of Ah-8c-2h gave Fee top pair and Racener a flush draw. After a Qs turned, a Jh on the river completed Racener’s flush, leaving Fee in fifth place, which paid $71,136.
Fee is a sales engineer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He learned poker from a friend 17 years ago and won his seat here in a single-table satellite. His cashes include a first in the $500 UPC event at the Plaza in Las Vegas and a 6th-place finish at the Borgata.
On hand 65, Brooks went out in fourth place. On a flop of 10h-6s-3h, Racener bet 85,000, Brooks came over the top for 140,000 more, Racener three-bet it and Brooks moved all in. Brooks, with 10-5, had top pair, but Racener held pocket aces. A queen and 8 made no difference, and Brooks settled for $82,992.
Brooks, a pro player, is from Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. He’s married with three children and taught himself poker four years ago.
With three players left, they were all fairly close in chips. Then Feming took a big hit on hand 69. After Buchman raised 150,000 with pocket jacks, Feming moved in from the big blind for more than a million chips with A-10. The board came K-7-3-5-4, and suddenly Feming was down to 80,000 chips. He lost them on the next hand. He had two callers who checked the pot down, and Racener won with K-9 after the board came A-10-9-4-8.
Chan is 27, comes from West Windsor, New Jersey, listed his occupation as “none,” possibly meaning he is a pro, and has been playing seven years. His biggest cash came last year when he collected $80,521 for finishing fourth in this championship event.
Heads-up, Buchman enjoyed about a 2-1 lead. Racener began playing catch-up, and then pulled into a big lead when his K-6 beat Buchman’s J-6 after a flop of K-J-8 gave him top pair against Buchman’s second pair.
Two hands later, all the money was in before the flop. Racener had A-K to A-9 for Buchman. The board came A-K-7-Q-9, and this event was over.
Buchman, 28, is from Valley Stream, New York. His poker highlight was a win in the 2004 New England Classic main event that paid $275,000. —Max Shapiro