The second event in APAT’s first season of live events took place over the first weekend in December in the sumptuous Aspers casino in Newcastle.
The UK Amateur Poker Championship attracted a sell–out 210 runners paying £75 for entry and competing not only for prize money, with 10% of the total field paid, but also for a 2007 WSOP Main Event package provided by PokerStars.com. In addition, ranking points towards the APAT Player of the Year were also awarded, with the winner of that accolade receiving entry into the PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure World Poker Tour event.
Identical to the first event in September the structure was designed to encourage creative play and each player started with 10,000 chips and the competition was played on a 40 minute clock with a slow blind structure.
Defying the slow structure the competition saw its first exit on the very first hand, when Phill Rogerson took his AK off-suit up against pocket Aces on an all club flop, with Phill holding the King of clubs. All the money ended up in the middle on the flop and when the flush draw missed Phill faced an ignominious but magnanimous departure. In the first level of the competition whilst I scouted various tables I saw several big confrontations. Pocket Aces faced Pocket Aces on one table. On another pocket Aces were cracked by trip Queens and elsewhere Aces, slow-played, were beaten by a flopped two pair with 87 off.
At the first break chip leader was Irishman Gerald FitzSimmons with 33,000. He had been mercilessly bullying his table, on one occasion pushing all in after the river on a board with three paint cards. When his bet was uncalled he nonchalantly flipped over 10 high, no pair, no draw! As day one progressed towards the dinner break other players showing up with significant progress were Gordon MacArthur, Mark Daysh (cracking Dave Potts’ AA with his KK and a flopped King), Matt Milne (third in the first APAT event) and David Groom.
For several hours, MacArthur’s progress remained positive especially when he was paid on a KKx board when holding AK. However one key hand, which at its conclusion had 60,000 chips in the middle, ruined his tournament. Local Aspers player Russ Taylor limped on the button with Kings and Gordon in the small blind completed with Q9 off-suit. Three players saw a K 10 8 flop which was checked around by the trappy Taylor. The turn gave MacArthur the gutshot straight Jack at which point chips began flying into the middle and when the cards were turned over Taylor realised he had trapped himself, only for the board to pair on the river to cripple MacArthur’s stack.
A notable, and extremely pleasing for APAT, feature of this event was the number of players partners who played, in some cases for the first time in a live environment and in several cases did extremely well. Indeed five lady players made the second day led by Edinburgh’s Vicky Glynn (right) and Caroline Burgess both of whom comfortably lasted longer then their other halves!
As the first day reached its conclusion several key hands put several players in dominant positions. 24 players only were to return for Day 2 and of those 24, only 6 had chip stacks in excess of 100,000 with Day 2 blinds beginning at 5,000/10,000. These key hands were as follows:
- Kevin Shutt flopped trip tens and was overjoyed to see Russ Taylor push with a gutshot straight draw on the flop.
- Matt Milne saw his nut flush draw hit on the turn to eliminate Eric Barker holding flopped top pair.
- Kevin Shutt, again, saw his pocket Queens beat Gareth Owers’ suited big slick in a huge six figure pot right at the end of the day
- Ben Passantino (below) re-stole in the big blind with 63 off to a button raiser, who was holding AK. Unsurprisingly his re-raise all in was called, only for Ben to flop two sixes!
The end of Day One chip counts showed local player Ray Norton, an aggressive serial raiser, chip leader with 217,000 followed by Kevin Shutt with 193,000, Cambridge’s Adam Spratt with 176,000 and Max Ward with 146,000. Average chips of 87,000 suggested that progress towards a final table the next day would be swift.
Early departures on Day two included David Hill, victim of the classic Hold Em confrontation when his queens lost to David Groom’s AK and Rick Dacey who had lost a big pot at the end of the previous day in a race and then lost his remaining stack on another race to two over-cards versus his pocket pair. Players making considerable progress included Leon Rossiter who first crippled Paul Stonehouse with kings versus AQ and then Queens against tens to eliminate him and Vicky Glynn who out-flopped Shutt’s AJ with A8 to double up.
With 19 players left a crucial hand occurred that was to have consequences at the business end of the tournament some hours later. Richard Stevenson pushed his 10 big blinds stack all in UTG with AK suited, and short stacked Geoff Keddy followed suit in second position with pocket nines. Ben Passantino re-raised all in in middle position with Queens and then Steve Lacey (right) went into the tank in the big blind. A tricky decision clearly for a player holding Jacks, semi-short stacked and facing heavy action. With a smile and a shrug Steve decided the value on offer was so great that he would gamble and the four players, including three all-ins, waited for the flop. The flop came 5 10 J to vindicate Lacey’s decision and when the turn and river provided blanks two players were eliminated and Lacey had quadrupled up.
Caroline Burgess then experienced the dramtic highs and lows of tournament poker when she ran pocket deuces into Leon Rossiter’s pocket Aces, all-in pre flop, to flop a set but then, versus the same player be all in pre flop with 88 versus KJ suited, flop KK8. Horribly for her the turn and river gave running sevens to double pair the board and counterfeit her underfull with Kings full of sevens.
Some sixteen hours after the start of the tournament the final table line up was set, as follows:
- Leon Rossiter from Liverpool, 237,000
- Max Ward from Manchester, 135,500
- Tom Hunter from Birkenhead, 141,500
- David Groom from Scarborough, 123,000
- Ben Passantino from Worcester, 310,500
- Steve Lacey from Gosport, 212,000
- Ray Norton from Wallsend, 354,500
- Adam Spratt from Cambridge, 269,000
- Steve Talbot from Blackburn, 169,000
- Vicky Glynn from Edinburgh, 160,000
After cagey “raise and fold” early exchanges Vicky Glynn departed in 10th, crippled first with AK versus David Groom’s Jacks, all in and called on an all rag flop she was out soon after. The most notable feature of the final at this stage was the constant battles between Groom and Norton. Groom was willing to play many pots, often unconventionally until Norton finally won out by flopping bottom set versus Groom’s top pair. Groom then was unlucky when he called Rossiter’s all in (with A4) on a 7 3 6 board with pocket nines only for Rossiter to turn a 5 for the straight.
Meanwhile Passantino had lost several confrontations by having to pass to opponents’ post flop pushes and short stacked was eliminated by Steve Lacey in 9th followed soon thereafter by the active Groom in 8th, pushing with A7 suited and finding Spratt in the big blind with Queens. Leon Rossiter then fell to Steve Lacey. Faced with over two-to-one odds to call a raise in the big blind he did a “stop and go” pushing when he flopped top pair. Lacey called with an up and down straight draw and rivered the straight to go to the chip lead and leave the field six strong.
A few skirmishes later Steve Talbot, playing his first live tournament, saw his gallant effort end at the hands of Tom Hunter (above) and there followed a long passage of play five handed with Lacey (700,000) and Spratt (500,000) ahead of equally stacked Norton, Hunter and the patient Max Ward. At this point Max Ward (below, being presented with the Cup by Aspers General Manager Paul Sculpher and Tony Kendall) visibly changed gears, raising far more frequently and picking up many pots uncontested, trading off his conservative image. Then Steve Laceyeliminated Ray Norton rather fortunately with A10 vs AQ with two tens on the board and the short-stacked Tom Hunter fell to Lacey too in 3rd.
Heads Up began with Lacey having a two to one chip advantage and a lengthy see-saw battle ensued. Both players played monster hands (Kings and Aces) very cutely with marginal success, Max doubled up to chip parity and then lost this again with 99 versus tens all in pre flop. Then he regained the chip lead, Queens against KQ. After an hour the two players raised, re-raised and then pushed the 2,100,000 chips into the centre pre flop. Max showed A3 off and Steve A10 off. The flop was agony and ecstasy for the combatants, 2 3 6 all spades, pushing Max into the lead. The turn gave the 4 of spades for many split pot possibilities but the river was a harmless red Queen.
Max Ward thus became the 2006 UK Amateur Poker Champion, winning £3,750 and a seat in the 2007 WSOP main event for his efforts.