Kelly Vande Mheen, a 46-year-old small business owner selling licensed sports merchandise, was the winner of the 11th event at Horseshoe Council Bluffs, $300 limit hold'em, in a wire-to-wire victory. He came to the final table with a very big lead and went steadily up after that.
He credited his unusual style of play for his win. He says he likes to raise with small suited connectors in limit hold'em because if he connects, he can't be put on a hand, and if an ace or king comes, players will be afraid that he now has a big hand. This strategy is especially effective when he has a big stack, he added, as happened in this event. The win brought him $6,033 and a nice trophy, but far short of his one major cash-out when he won $96,000 for a fifth in a WSOP 6-handed no-limit event. He also has a final table in a second-chance event at the WSOP, but no other major cashes.
Vande Mheen, who's been playing seriously since 2006, describes his style as selective-aggressive, but says he also depends on getting lucky. He was also playing simultaneously in the event #12, a $500 no-limit ring tournament that started an hour before the limit final table began, and he quickly went back to his game, where he was being blinded off.
Only five players were in the money in this event, and second-day play resumed with blinds of 2,000-4,000 and 4,000-8,000 limits, 16 minutes left. Starting with a very big lead with 125,000 chips more than twice as much anyone else, was Vande Mheen.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1. James Tolbert 54,000
Seat 2. Kelly Vande Mheen 125,000
Seat 3. Michael Schwarcz 26,000
Seat 4. Khanh Nguyen 30,000
Seat 5. Brent Carter 42,000
First out was James Tolbert, all in for his last 4,000 with Q-10. He got called by Khanh Nguyen and then Brent Carter. When the board came 4-7-2-A, Nguyen, holding 5-3, had a wheel, and Tolbert, finishing fifth, was paid $669. Tolbert is a 27-year-old pro from Norman, Oklahoma who before that was a medical equipment/hardware rep for spine surgery. His biggest cash in live tournaments was $30,000 in a $1,000 Venetian Deep Stack event.
Next out was a short-stacked Nguyen, all in with A-2 on a flop of 9-10-3. He had calls from Vande Mheen and Michael Schwarcz. When an 8 tuned it gave Schwarcz, holding 7-6, an inside straight, and Nguyen left with $1,339 for fourth. Nguyen, 46, originally from Vietnam, now lives in Omaha where he is a small business owner. He's been playing 12 years and has a third in a Circuit event two years ago.
Brent, Carter, meanwhile, making his second final table in a row, had been playing short-chipped for a long time and hanging on. He finally went all in for the last time, holding A-Q and three-betting a flop of Q-J-5. He was in bad shape because Vande Mheen had a set of jacks, and then, for good measure, made quads. ("I didn't need it, just showing off," he said.) Third paid $2,008. Carter, 60, formerly a harness race driver, is from Oak Park, Illinois and has been playing professionally for 25 years. He has won over $3 million in tournaments, and his scores of cashes include 48 at the WSOP (with bracelets in Omaha and no-limit hold'em), along with 11 Omaha final tables.. He finished third in the WSOP main event, cashing for $302,750, his biggest payday ever.
Heads-up, Vande Mheen enjoyed a big lead, and the match did not last long. On the final hand, Schwarcz was all in with 10-9 to K-6 for Vande Mheen. The board came 4-4-K-Q-10, and the paired king was more than enough to give Vande Mheen the win.
Schwarcz, who played tonight with lots of patience, is a podiatrist from Chicago. His wife was at the sidelines cheering him on.