After five straight days of poker and 1,396 entries, a winner has finally emerged in the Global Events Center at the WinStar World Casino. Aaron Massey was able to defeat Andy Robinson heads-up to earn the $651,559 first-place prize and the title of champion of the 2012 Winstar World Casino River Poker Series Main Event.
Winstar World Casino River Poker Series Results
Players flocked from all over the country to participate in what is considered by many to be one of the best kept secrets in American tournament poker. With the $2,500,000 guaranteed prize pool and the option to enter three different times over three different starting days, this tournament attracted circuit grinders, top professionals, and the working-man alike. World Series of Poker bracelet winner David "ODB" Baker recently described this event as "probably the best value in the country."
Unfortunately for Baker, he was one of several players to fire three bullets only to come up empty handed on the end of the third day. Vanessa Selbst, Dwyte Pilgrim, Greg Raymer, AJ Jejelowo, Larry Wright, Allen Kessler, Ryan Lenaghan, and 2011 River Poker Series Main Event champion Bronson Tucker were all among the unlucky group to enter this event three times only to come up short of cashing.
Day 2 saw 141 players from the first three starting days combine for their share of the prize pool. Notable names to find their way to the exit on Day 2 after cashing included Corey Burbick (104th), Maria Ho (90th), Chris Moneymaker (86th), Heath Herring (81st), Robert Salaburu (62nd), AP Phahurat (35th), Kurt Jewell (34th), and David "Doc" Sands (20th).
Fifteen players returned for Day 3 and the play kicked off at a lightning pace. By the end of the first level, the final table had been reached and players moved over to the featured table of the Global Events Center.
Unofficial Final Table Seating Draw
Justin Gardenhire became the final table bubble boy when he ran pocket jacks into Andy Robinson's pocket kings before the flop. With Gardenhire's elimination, the official final table was set.
Matt Shepsky became the first player from the final table to hit the rail when he moved his short stack all in before the flop holding two fours. Cord Garcia woke up with pocket queens in the small blind and Shepsky was forced to settle for a short final table experience.
Chris Hooper was eliminated from the tournament shortly after shipping a good amount of chips across the table to last woman standing Patricia Cardner. Hooper opened to 145,000 from middle position only to have Peter Zhmutski three-bet to 445,000 from the button. Hooper called and open-shipped all in when the flop fell . Zhmutski snap called with and Hooper's ace-jack failed to improve on the subsequent streets.
After about 45 minutes of play, Cord Garcia became the next player to exit the Global Events Center. Matt Newcombe opened to 200,000 before the flop and Garcia three-bet all in for 875,000. Newcombe called with and saw that he was ahead of Garcia's . Newcombe's hand held and Garcia settled for seventh place and an $83,640 payday.
A little more than an hour later the next elimination occurred. Matt Newcombe three-bet to 730,000 before the flop and was called by Patricia Cardner. The flop fell and Newcombe instantly put Cardner all in. She called with only to find that Newcombe held a better pocket pair with . Cardner failed to improve and became the sixth-place finisher.
Soon after, Peter Zhmutski busted in fifth place when he moved all in holding on the flop. Aaron Massey snap called with and Zhmutski found no help on fourth or fifth street. Not long after, Matt Newcombe raised to 325,000 preflop and Jay Merchant called. The flop fell and after a series of raises, Merchant was all in for his tournament life holding . Newcombe, however, continued his domination by tabling for trip nines. The turn and river were the and , thus sealing Merchant's fate as the fourth-place finisher.
After a hard fought three-handed battle, Newcombe's domination finally came to an end during a hand with Massey. Newcombe opened to 310,000 from the button and Massey three-bet to 800,000 from the big blind. Newcombe called and the dealer produced a flop of . Massey continued for 500,000 and Newcombe called. The rolled off on the turn and Massey bet 925,000. Newcombe announced all in and Massey snap called with for a set of nines. Newcombe showed and was drawing to eliminate Massey. Fortunately for Massey the river was a blank — the , and Massey was able to double up and take a huge chip lead.
Newcombe busted a few hands later when he moved all in with and was called by Robinson's . Newcombe's hand didn't improve and he was eliminated in third place.
"This is life changing money," Massey said with a huge grin as he played heads-up with Robinson. "It's all going to be okay now."
It was going to be more than okay, as about 20 minutes into heads up the match came to a head. Robinson opened with a raise and Massey three-bet all in. Robinson called and the hands were turned up.
The board fell and Massey's cries of joy echoed throughout the Global Events Center. Massey's friends rushed the table to give him hugs and words of congratulations.
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