For a local cash game player, it could be intimidating to go up against the line-up in the Horseshoe Bossier City Main Event today. It was a final table that featured two ring winners, a player with a WSOP final table to his credit, and, if that weren't enough, it even had a WSOP Main Event final tablist, 2012's eighth place finisher, Rob Salaburu.
To watch Thom Creel at today's final table though, no one would describe his demeanor as intimidated. This recreational player from Monroe, Louisiana not only held his own against a table stacked with pros, he outlasted all of them to claim the Bossier City Main Event title, the Circuit ring, the National Championship, and a tidy payday of $144,537.
Creel balked at the suggestion he had any sort of homefield advantage playing in Bossier City. When asked if he felt like it helped his chances, he didn't think it did.
"Not really. I didn't really know anybody I was playing with," Creel said with a laugh.
The retail grocery manager came into the final table as the chip leader, but his big stack was overshadowed by the big names like Salaburu and five-time Circuit Main Event final tablist Daniel Lowery. During the early goings of play, Creel sat back, letting the big names do the heavy lifting. Ring winner Cord Garcia dispatched with Salaburu in eighth place early in final table action. As the field started getting down to short-handed play though, Creel put his foot on the gas and started gathering more chips.
The exit of the experienced Lowery in sixth place opened up more opportunities for Creel to get involved at the final table. The pivotal moment for Creel came during four-handed play, when Creel busted James Phelps in fourth place when Phelps shoved all-in with pocket sixes only to run into Creel's pocket queens. The ladies held to give Creel the massive pot, plus around half the chips in play with three players remaining.
Garcia put up a fight three-handed, despite Creel and Sean Small, coincidentally also Garcia's good friend, had the vast majority of the chips. Garcia hung in there a while, but ended up exiting in third place, setting up what would end up being a pretty epic heads-up battle.
Creel and Small battled for over three hours. Twice, it appeared as though the hometown hero was going to finish off Small, but twice Small rallied, not only doubling up, but also fighting back to bring things back to even.
"Sean was a great player," Creel said. "He's a good guy, and you can tell he is a skilled player, but I play a lot of poker too," he added with a smile.
In the end though, Creel finished the Bossier City series much the way local pro Keith Lehr started it--with a win for the home team. The third all-in proved to be the charm for Creel, who picked up pocket tens to Small's pocket deuces to end the match and the tournament.
This is far and away Creel's biggest tournament score to date. He previously had only $36,000 in career tournament earnings. As he tells it, he only plays at the casino a few times a month, alternating between poker and cash games. He might want to put in a little more time at the Bossier City tables the next few months though, as he has a trip to Atlantic City for the National Championship to prepare for in May.
This year's Main Event generated 438 entries and a prize pool of $657,000. The top 45 finishers in the tournament made the money. Several notables collected paydays in Lousiana, including bracelet Jordan Smith (39th), last year's Horseshoe Bossier City Main Event winner Jeff Gibralet (35th), ring winner Abraham Araya (31st), three-time ring winner Jessie Bryant (16th), and three-time ring winner La Sengphet (11th).
Here are the final table results from the Horseshoe Bossier City Main Event:
1st: Thom Creel - $144,537
2nd: Sean Small - $89,319
3rd: Cord Garcia - $65,266
4th: James Phelps - $48,460
5th: Jason Lang - $36,542
6th: Daniel Lowery - $27,968
7th: Jeff Niedelman - $21,270
8th: Rob Salaburu - $17,108
9th: Susan Kattamuri - $13,666