Early Friday morning, University of Buffalo students Kevin Mathias and Thomas Hawthorne were debating whether or not to play Friday's Event #1 of the Western New York Poker Challenge.
The two friends decided to make the 40-minute drive to Niagara Falls just before the tournament started. And 13 hours later, they were playing heads-up for the title.
In the end it was Mathias who walked away with the victory, the $6,514 payday and the shiny new trophy. The Watertown, New York native bested a field of 144 entries in the $200 opening event of the 16-tournament series. Hawthorne, originally from nearby Rochester, New York, earned $4,023 for his runner-up finish.
WNY Poker Challenge Event #1 Results
|5||Brett "Roscoe" Short||$1,581|
The top 15 finishers in Event #1 landed in the money, but with 16 players remaining a deal was reached for each of the players to chip in $20 to the eventual bubble player. That turned out to be Dennis Danielski, and he was soon followed out the door by Sarah Khajavi (15th), Brian Rentschler (14th), Mitch Polanski (13th), Arthur Gates (12th), Derek SchlesInger (11th), and a man that goes by the name "Johnny Vegas" (10th).
Seneca Poker Room regular Art Demmerley finished in ninth place, and Dean Metzger was eliminated a short while later in eighth. Joe Ciffa's rocky run ended in seventh when he tangled against Hawthorne in a massive pot. On a board of , the two players got it all in for a pot worth around 630,000. Ciffa showed , but Hawthorne had the superior for a flush. Ciffa couldn't even draw to a straight flush as Hawthorne had it blocked with his . Ciffa hit the rail, and Hawthorne was the new chip leader at the time.
A wild hand saw Shamel Thomas exit in sixth place. Thomas limped from late position, Jason Nablo raised to 35,000 from the small blind, and Hawthorne flatted from the big. Thomas then responded with a raise to 90,000, and Nablo folded. Hawthorne called, and they went to a flop.The action moved quickly from there as Thomas acted out of turn and announced "all in" a split second before Hawthorne did. They were both ruled all in, and Nablo shot out of his seat because he folded sevens preflop, The other two flipped their hands over, and neither had a pair.
Thomas was in front with his ace-high, but Hawthorne took command when the peeled off on the turn. The completed the board, and Thomas was eliminated.
Brett Short (fifth place) and Joe Latona (fourth place) were the next to go, and then one of our WNY Poker Challenge Players to Watch, Jason Nablo, finished third.
That set up the heads-up match between the two friends, and they wasted no time mixing it up. On the third hand of heads-up play the two saw a flop of . Mathias led out with a bet of 40,000, Hawthorne raised to 100,000, and Mathias moved all in for more than 1.2 million, having Hawthorne covered. Hawthorne called, and the cards were tabled.
Mathias flopped a straight and was two cards away from the title, but the on the turn gave both the same nine-high straight. Mathias did pick up a flush draw on the turn, though, and sure enough the arrived on the river to give him the victory and a $6,514 payday.
Congratulations to Kevin Mathias, winner of the Western New York Poker Challenge Event #1. We'll back on the floor bright and early Saturday morning for coverage of Event #2, a $500 no-limit hold'em event. See you at 11 a.m.!