Canadian Club Straight-Up

The seventh of ten World Series of Poker Circuit tournaments on the 2008-2009 season schedule has just ended.  The $5,000 buy-in championship event at Caesars Atlantic City was won by Samuel Chartier.  He is a 23-year-old professional poker player from Montreal, Quebec (Canada).  As a reward for his first major tournament victory ever, Chartier collected $322,944 in prize money.

The tournament attracted 208 entrants.  The total prize pool amounted to $1,009,200.  The top 27 finishers collected prize money.  All of the action took place inside the Palladium Ballroom, steps away from the famous Atlantic City boardwalk.

The tournament began with honorary emcee Dennis Phillips announcing “Shuffle Up and Deal.”  Phillips, from St. Louis, is best-known as the third-place finisher in last year’s WSOP Main Event.  Other poker notables who played in the championship event included 2008 Ladies World Poker Champion Svetlana Gromenkova.  Other former WSOP gold bracelet winners included Jason Young, Chris Reslock, and Cliff “Johnny Bax” Josephy.  The defending Caesars champion was Eric “Sheets” Haber, who also participated.  But only Jason Young survived past the first day, who ended up making it all the way to the final table.

Day two played from 52 players down to the final nine.  The final table was played on Saturday, March 14th in front of a packed ballroom full of spectators.  The battle lasted eight hours.  In addition to the mix of poker locals mostly from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, the finale included two Canadians.  In fact, four Canadians took the top 11 payout spots.  No one could have guessed that Canadians would also end up finishing first and second, and taking what amounted to nearly half of the total prize pool. 

When action resumed on day three, Alex “Diesel” Bolotin had a sizable chip lead over his opponents, with Frank Vizza in second place.  No player was severely short-stacked, which meant the WSOP Circuit championship and gold ring was within the grasp of every player at the table.  Sitting quietly among several prior tournament winners in seat nine was Samuel Chartier.  He started ranked eighth in chips.  The top nine finishers were:

9th Place – About 65 minutes into play, David Zeitlin (Brooklyn, NY) moved all-in with pocket sixes.  Frank Vizza woke up in the blind with pocket aces and instantly called.  Vizza’s big pair ended up making aces full on the hand, which meant Zeitlin became the final table’s first casualty.  The former attorney-turned-poker player from Brooklyn, NY received a cash settlement totaling $20,184.  Zeitlin now has nearly $750,000 in career tournament winnings – including previous wins at the Borgata, Taj Mahal, and Foxwoods.  He won his way into this event via a satellite tournament.

8th Place – A few hands later, Chris Klodnicki (Voorhees, NJ) was eliminated when he was dealt pocket jacks.  This time, Frank Vizza had pocket kings and called the all-in raise holding the best hand.  Vizzo big pocket pair held up again, knocking out Klodnicki.  While Vizza was busy stacking another 300,000 in chips and taking over the chip lead from Alex Bolotin, Klodnicki was forced to settle for an eighth place finish, which paid $30,276.  At age 23, Klodnicki’s biggest claim to fame so far is his 12th-place finish in the 2008 WSOP Main Event, which paid nearly $600,000.

7th Place – About 70 hands into the finale, Jason Young (Suffern, NY) tried to steal a pot with a bluff, which failed miserably.  Down to less than 200,000 in his stack, he moved all-win with two overcards but no pair (K-Q) to a flop which showed 8-4-3.  Samuel Chartier made an easy call and tabled pocket jacks.  Young failed to improve and ended up going out in seventh place, good for $40,368.  Young was the winner of a WSOP gold bracelet in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout last year.

6th Place – Vizza lost the chip lead temporarily when Alex Bolotin doubled up to nearly 1,000,000 in his stack.  But he regained the chip lead when his pocket kings crushed Matt Brady’s pocket tens.  That left Brady as the smallest stack.  He was eliminated a few hands later on a brutal beat.  Brady had pocket eights.  Samuel Chartier had pocket threes.  Four spades came on board and Chartier had the only spade, which made a flush – and thus Brady was gone.  Sixth place paid $50,460.  Matt Brady (Havertown, PA) now has 51 cashes, 25 final table appearances and over $2 million in career tournament winnings – all since 2006.

5th Place – After another hours passed, Alex “Diesel” Bolotin (Brooklyn. NY) went out next.  The early chip leader suffered a brutally cold run of cards during his closing stages of the tournament.  On his final hand he was forced to move all-in with K-3 offsuit, which lost to Frank Vizza’s A-Q.  Bolotin, a 28-year-old poker player was once a weightlifting champion, carried away $60,552 in prize money as the fifth-place finisher.

4th Place – Entering the fifth hour of play, Michael Michnik (Voorhees, NJ) got all his chips in with A-J.  He was called by Samuel Chartier, also holding A-J.  Just about everyone expected a split pot, but the board came with four consecutive clubs.  Chartier had a club in his hand – good for a flush -- and scooped up the 700,000 pot.  As he crowd buzzed, all Michnik could do was shake his head in disbelief and he walked away in a cold daze with $70,644 for fourth place.  The student-turned-poker pro is close friends with Chris Klondicki, who also made it to the final table and finished eighth. 

3rd Place – Prior to the dinner break, Samuel Chartier continued to roll as he took down a 1,200,000 pot at Frank Rizza’s expense.  His all-in river bet went uncalled, and Chartier dragged the huge pot seizing the chip lead for the first time.  After returning from the break, Vizza’s misfortune continued.  He finally moved all-in with A-2 and was eliminated by John Nixon’s K-J after a jack fell on the river, good for best pair.  Vizza (Cold Spring Harbor, NY), a commodity trader who won a WSOP Circuit event ring at Harrah’s Atlantic City in 2007, earned $90,828 as the third-place finisher.  With the last American out, the showdown became an all-Canadian matchup.

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Montreal’s Samuel Chartier held a 5 to 3 chip lead over Toronto’s John Nixon.  The rival countrymen battled back and forth for about a dozen hands.  Then, Nixon re-raised all-in with A-10 and Chartier called with A-J.  The flop came A-J-5 and Nixon was left nearly drawing dead.  All he and his supported could do was watch in disappointment as the final board showed A-J-5-5-10.  Both players made two pair, but the aces and jacks gave Chartier the victory. 

“I like playing heads-up,” Nixon stated afterward.  “I liked my chances playing him heads-up, but then I got it in bad – and lost.”  As the runner up, Nixon, a 23-year-old student, received $177,619.

1st Place – Samuel Chartier collected first-place prize money totaling $322,944.  He also received a gold ring, the ultimate token of achievement for WSOP Circuit championship events.  Chartier was also awarded a $10,000 seat into the 2009 WSOP Main Event to be played in Las Vegas in July.

“It’s amazing.  I can’t describe the feeling I have right now,” Chartier said in a post-tournament interview.  “I knew the final table lineup was pretty tough so I hoped to pick up a few good spots to put my money in, and that’s what I managed to do.”

Despite a short resume of tournament cashes, Chartier has enjoyed success in four different countries.  His previous tournament successes came on the European Poker Tour at Barcelona championship (in Spain), the British Columbia Poker Open (in Canada), and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (in Bahamas).  This was his second time to cash on American soil and was his first and only WSOP-related in-the-money finish.

Once again, Caesars Atlantic City hosted one of the most successful turnouts of the year.  More than 5,000 players entered 11 tournaments, generating more than $3 million in total prize money.  This is the third consecutive year Caesars has hosted a WSOP Circuit stop, which has consistently proven to be one of the most popular attractions on the schedule.  Special recognition goes out to Dan Nita (Senior Vice President and General Manager), Fred Niceta (Vice President of Table Games), Paul A. Natello (Director of Table Games), Tom McDonough III (Tournament Director) and Jake Devries (Poker Pit Manager) for another successful series of tournaments at Caesars Atlantic City. 

The World Series of Poker Circuit continues with its next stop at Harrah’s Rincon, near of San Diego, which runs March 18th through April 1st.