Poker gives full-time player Brent Roberts a chance to satisfy his love of traveling the world. He's played tournaments in places like Macau, Barcelona, the Bahamas and Aruba. But it was right here that the 23-year-old from nearby Staten Island, New York made his biggest score as he won the $5,150 championship event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City. Victory brought him $280,040, a $10,000 buy-in to the 2009 WSOP main event, and the coveted gold-and-diamond trophy ring. He won by beating a strong table that contained several other pros.
Roberts learned poker four years ago playing with friends. His prior major cashes include $151,570 for fifth in a WSOP $1,500 no-limit event, and $111,282 for winning a Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza tournament.
Roberts said his style of play depends on his opponents. At the final table tonight he was able to engage his preferred strategy, which is aggression, when he sensed that his opponents were playing on the passive side, folding and trying to move up the payout ladder. He tends to play cash games more than tournaments, preferring no-limit from $10-$20 up to $50-$10 and pot-limit Omaha. But his tournament schedule also includes plans to play 10-15 major $10,000 events. (Around the world, of course.)
Early in this three-day event he got lucky, sucking out with A-Q against A-K, was in average shape on day two, then began chipping up, arriving at the final table with the chip lead and never falling far behind after that. His final opponent, Phillip Reed, is also 23.
This three-day main event drew 179 players who created a prize pool of $867,100 plus the 10K seat. Yesterday's starting chip-leader was Bill Gazes, but he failed to make the money when he went out soon after losing most of his stacks to a set of 8s. Another notable player missing the final table was Chris Reslock, winner of the Circuit championships here in 2005, along with a WSOP bracelet in seven-card-stud. He finished 15th. There was rapid action yesterday and by 7 p.m. they redrew for the final table of 10 after the last remaining woman, Joanne Monteavaro, went out. Her resume includes a $50,000 cash at the World Poker Finals. Things slowed down considerably after that and it took 45 minutes to lose one more player and get to the official nine after Roberts' nut flush eliminated Michael Walls. Chip leader was now Roberts with just over a million. Way at the bottom, with less than two big blinds, was Rafael "Alex" Camejo. Action commenced with blinds of 8,000-16,000 and 2,000 antes and a full 90-minute round.
Here were the final-table chip counts:
Seat 1. Allen Bari 816,000
Seat 2. Rafael Camejo 27,000
Seat 3. Tim Kelly 379,000
Seat 4. Phillip Reed 340,000
Seat 5. Robert McLaughlin 123,000
Seat 6. Kyle Bowker 375,000
Seat 7. Dwyte Pilgrim 265,000
Seat 8. Brent Roberts 1,011,000
Seat 9. Scott Zakheim 85,000
The first two hands we had two all-ins, two calls and two double-ups, first by Scott Zakheim and then Robert McLaughlin. Two hands later, McLaughlin moved in with A-K and Camejo, holding A-Q, called with his last few chips. Camejo was drawing dead to an inside straight when the board showed 3-2-10-K. He missed with a river 9 and was first out, taking $17,341 for ninth. Camejo, 51, is an independent contractor from Haverhill, Massachusetts who started playing two years ago. He has two big cashes: $79,451 in a Foxwoods Megastacks event, and $110,000 in a Mohegan Sun tournament. He also won a chess championship at the University of Lowell in Lowell, Massachusetts. He likes to play sports and, of course, chess.
Action then cooled. There wasn't another all-in for the next 40 minutes until Dwyte "The Shark Slayer" Pilgrim pushed in twice in a row with no takers. Later all in for a third time with K-3 against K-7 he escaped with a chop when he and his opponent made the same straight. Finally, late in the level, Zakheim moved in from the small blind with Q-J. With plenty of chips, Roberts called from the button with 7-4, won with a pair when the board came 6-3-4-3-K, and two were gone. Zakheim, 50, an attorney from Davie, Florida, collected $26,013 for eighth. Zakheim has been playing three years. He is married with two children and this is his second Circuit. He's had four WSOP cashes, but his largest win was $43,580 for a fourth at a $2,000 Mirage Poker Showdown event.
Pilgrim's luck ran out when he went all in for the fifth time, for 109,000 now with pocket 7s. Allen Bari re-raised all in from the small blind, well ahead with 8-8. A board of 2-A-10-9-J didn't help Pilgrim exited seventh, paying $34,684. Pilgrim, 21, originally from Guyana, now lives in Brooklyn and is a loan officer. He finished seventh in Event eight, $2,000 no-limit. He's been playing 13 years and this is his seventh Circuit. He has a prior 50th-place cash in a Borgata tournament.
Immediately after, as the level wound down, Kyle Bowker made a small raise with pocket jacks, then called when Tim "T.K." Kelly moved in for about 120,000 with A-8. The board came 2-10-8-Q-5 to put Kelly out in sixth place, paying $43,355. Kelly, 33, is from Ontario, Canada. He's married with one child and his occupation is "being a parent." He's been playing 15 years and won his way into this event, his second Circuit, via satellite. He also likes golf and baseball. He's had a small cash at a Borgata event.
The level ended with Roberts still leading, now with 1,251,000. Players returned from break to blinds of 10,000-20,000 and 3.000 antes. Ten minutes into the level a big pot came down when Roberts raised under the gun with pocket 10s, McLaughlin re-raised with pocket 9s, and then, after long thought called when Roberts moved in. McLaughlin made a set on the turn, took down a huge pot and now had just under a million chips and in a rough tie with Bowker for the lead.
Down to 34,000, Bari next called all in with pocket 4s after Roberts opened for 90,000 with Ah-Kh. Roberts won going away when a king flopped and an ace rivered, and Bari went away, $52,026 richer for his fifth-place finish. Bari is a poker player from Hoboken, New Jersey formerly in the finance business. He learned poker eight years ago playing with friends and has entered numerous Circuits. He is on his way to the million dollar mark, most of which came from a victory in a $5,000 Borgata Summer Open event that paid $500,250.
As action continued, Roberts took down a sizeable pot from McLaughlin by hitting a queen to his Qd-Jd to climb back past the million mark and re-take the lead.
With three minutes left in the level, this event got down to three players. The board showed 10d-6d-4s-9d-Qd. Holding Jc-Jd for a number three flush, McLaughlin bet 120,000 and Bowker, with Ad-5s for the nut flush, promptly moved him in. Reluctantly, McLaughlin called and went out fourth, which paid $69,368. McLaughlin was making his second final table in this series after finishing sixth in the $1,000 event. He is from Washington, D.C. and was with the Capitol Police before turning pro. He's been playing two years, learning by reading Dan Harrington. This is his fifth Circuit and last summer he won a $250,000 Guarantee Borgata event.
The level ended with all three players in good shape. Bowker now led with about 1.4 million while Roberts and Reed each had a bit over 1 million. Blinds now were now 15,000-30,000 with 4,000 antes. In early action, Roberts, with 9-7, made two pair to win a pot from Bowker and retake the lead again.
A half hour into the level we got heads-up when the flop showed 4c-10c-7c. Holding Jh-10s, Bowker moved in and was called by Reed, holding 5c-3c for a flush. An 8h and a Kh were meaningless, and Bowker checked out third, which paid $86,710. Bowker, 25 from Walton, New York, is a full-time player. His biggest cash by far was $247,399 when he finished 37th in the 2006 WSOP main event
Reed now led with about 2 million to around 1.6 million for Roberts. Then Roberts pulled into the lead with about 2.2 million when he made a runner-runner flush holding 10d-3d.
The final hand came not long after. The flop showed 9c-8d-Ks. Reed bet 120,000, Roberts came over the top for 340,000, Reed moved in, and without hesitation Roberts called. He held 9d-8s for two pair against Reed's Qd-Js. Reed was now an 81-19 dog to hitting an inside straight or catching two spades or runner-runner trips. He caught a 2s on the turn, but a river 5d ended the evening for him.
For second, Reed took home $147,707. Reed, 23, is from Washington, D.C. He's had a number of tournament payouts, the two biggest being for a second and third at Mashantucket that paid $82,787 and $52,480 respectively. Bowker, 25 from Walton, New York, is a full-time player. His biggest cash by far was $247,399 when he finished 37th in the 2006 WSOP main event.