Last weekend, the 2012 Chad Brown Challenge $2,000 Main Event kicked off at the Choctaw Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. The tournament drew 258 players including Chad Brown, Dennis Phillips, Layne Flack, Gavin Smith and Robert Williamson. After four days of intense play, 22-year-old A.P. Phahurat captured the $116,449 first-place prize.
Phahurat is no stranger to poker, a game he has been playing for four years. In fact, he’s spent the last year traveling the World Series of Poker Circuit attempting to secure a seat in this summer’s National Championship. Along the way, he has notched nine cashes for $68,942, including three final-table appearances and two runner-up finishes.
At the Chad Brown Challenge, Phahurat put in an impressive performance and was rewarded by making the final table; however, there was some stiff competition standing between him and the trophy. For instance, there was WSOP Circuit champ Seneca Easley, as well as veterans Andy Philachack and Jared Jaffe, who boast career earnings of $1.2 million and $674,000 respectively. Nonetheless, Phahurat picked his spots carefully and emerged the victor.
2012 Chad Brown Poker Challenge Final Table Results
|$1,900 + $100||258||$475,494|
|1||A.P. Phahurat||Rogers, AR||$116,449|
|2||Seneca Easley||Fort Worth, TX||$71,980|
|3||Nghia Truong||Plano, TX||$52,005|
|4||Andy Philachack||Garland, TX||$38,273|
|5||Jared Jaffee||Brooklyn, NY||$28,672|
|6||Bahman Jahanguiri||Plano, TX||$21,849|
|7||Mark Dunavin||Grand Prairie, TX||$16,928|
|8||Val Wood||Durant, OK||$13,328|
|9||Jeffrey Watterworth||Temple, TX||$10,661|
PokerNews caught up with Phahurat shortly after his win to get his thoughts on his first major victory.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Thailand. I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the United States when I was ten. I graduated from Jenks High School, which is actually the same high school as Ben Lamb — sick brag, I know. I studied at Oklahoma State University for three years, majoring in finance then marketing but dropped out to pursue poker full time. I lived in Tulsa for 10 years but my parents recently moved to Rogers, Arkansas, and that’s where I have been staying, but I have been on the road the past nine months following most of the WSOP Circuit stops.
How did you learn to play poker? When and why did you decide to take it more seriously?
When I turned 18, it was beginning of my senior year in high school, and my cousin took me to a casino that was a mile away called Creek Nation Casino, though now it’s renamed Riverspirit Casino. That first night we played $3/$6 limit and I just became hooked instantly. After that, I started playing $1/$2 no-limit regularly and built my bankroll from nothing. I remember I had like $300 in my bank account and sat down in my first $1/$2 NL game ever with $100 and won like $2,000 that night and never looked back.
You recently took down the 2012 Chad Brown Challenge for $116,449. What was it like to get your first major victory, especially after having a couple runner-up finishes in WSOP Circuit events?
It feels absolutely amazing. I've been working so hard the past couple years and I've put in a lot of volume in live tournaments. I have already played over 55 tournaments this year with decent results, but never a won outright until now. Most of my friends have titles, and I'm always known as that guy who finish second or, as Kyle Cartwright's roommate in St. Louis [laughs]. Finally got my own title!
The Chad Brown Challenge final table was quite tough. Who do you think gave you the most trouble?
The final table was pretty tough, there was a lot of aggression on my left, therefore I had to change my game and wait for really good spots rather playing my own super aggro style. Coming in, I definitely thought that Jared Jaffee was my biggest threat because he has a lot of experience and the highest résumé, and I actually saw him on TV playing on a World Poker Tour final table back in the day when I was in school. Also, he had a lot of chips on my left so I knew he was a force to be reckoned with.
Were there any memorable hands you can recall that helped you on your way to victory, be it at the final table or during other stages of the tournament?
There were two major hands that helped me on my way to the victory. The first hand was in the middle of Day 1a where I picked up a tell on this kid that he did not like his hand. I went with my read, five-bet shoved offsuit preflop into his . He opened for 750 at 150/300, I three-bet out of the small blind to 2,025, he four-bet to 4,500, and I five-bet to 18,000 total. The board ran out , giving me a full double to 40,000, real comfortable at 150/300/25, but If I did bust, I would have reentered Day 1b.
The second major hand is when I opened for 32,000 with at 8,000/16,000/2,000 at the final table with seven left. I started the hand with a little over 425,000. Jared Jaffee in the small blind three-bet to 100,000 with , and I four-bet shoved over the top. He tank called and I won the race to give me a full double to almost 900,000, making me the chip leader.
You beat Seneca Easley, who you know quite well from the circuit, in heads-up play. What was it like squaring off against a friend?
I met Seneca through traveling the WSOP Circuit. He is a really nice guy and we became good friends even though he likes to hashtag #FuqAPsHat on Twitter quite often and then it started to trend. It was an honor getting to play Seneca heads-up because all of our friends were rooting for us to go first and second like Kyle [Cartwright] and I did in $1,090 WSOP Circuit St. Louis the week before. I started the heads-up match with 3.4-to-1 chip lead so I had a lot of edge and my best game is no-limit heads-up so I didn't like his chances. [Laughs]
Did you have all of your action or were you backed?
I did have most of my action. I never sell my action or have been backed. The only time I sold my action was last year for my first WSOP summer series where I made a package. However, I did swap five percent with my good friend Huy Nyguen, who finished 19th, and two percent to my other two friends.
What was the reaction from your family and friends after your big win? It was streamed live, so did you have a lot of people watching?
Yeah, I had a lot of friends and family watching the stream live. My phone was literally going off every five seconds. My Twitter was blowing up. I picked up hundreds of followers and got like 200 mentions, my Facebook was blowing up with a million notifications, and so many texts that I didn't even have time to reply. It was insane, definitely felt the love! One of the best memories of my life!
Do you have any plans for the $116,000 prize? Will you be splurging and making any big purchases?
No future purchases yet. Just gonna be added to the old bankroll.
You have quite a few friends on the tournament circuit. Were any of them friends before the poker circuit? Have any of them helped you improve your game? If so, who and how?
I have met many awesome people and friends through traveling the circuit, and many were friends before the poker circuit. My good friend, mentor and coach is Justin Gardenhire who was previously backed and coached by Ben Lamb. I met Justin when I was like 18 or 19, we became really good friends and he has been helping me out with everything ever since. He is the first guy I go to discuss tough spots in poker and life. The second person I go to is Huy Nguyen. He became one of my really good friends who thinks at a really high level and did really well last year.
You say that you’re a cash-game specialist. What sort of games and stakes do you play?
I have played cash games all my life. I have put in a lot of volume, more than anybody I know in live cash. I have moved up to playing $10/$25 NL and $25/$50 NL. I used to play a lot of $25/$50 and $50/$100 PLO in Oklahoma but I recently tired of PLO and began to focus on NL tournaments and cash because PLO variance is just sick.
With all your tournament success, do you see yourself playing more tournaments and less cash?
This year I definitely have been playing less cash and more tournaments because I have been chasing a $1 million National Freeroll seat, which I recently locked up in St. Louis finishing second to Kyle Cartwright. I'll probably be playing both tournaments and cash equally, whatever is more profitable.
What’s your favorite casino on the tournament circuit and why?
By far, my favorite casino on the tournament circuit stop is Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma, because it’s gorgeous and it’s the closet one around here!
What are your plans for this summer? Will you be playing the WSOP? If so, what events do you plan to play?
I'll be in Vegas for the whole summer and at the Series. I got a house with Kyle Cartwright, Huy Nguyen, and three other friends. I will be playing in the WSOP. I played about 30 tournaments last year and I'm probably going to be playing even more this year.