It's not everyday a poker player turned a $25,000 investment into a $7.525 million payday, but on the Fourth of July, that's just what poker pro Brian Rast did in the inaugural $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl at ARIA Resort & Casino.
Well, actually, Rast qualified for the tournament via a $25,000 satellite a couple weeks back, but this past weekend he parlayed it into the biggest score of his career by topping a field of 43 of the world's best players. It was no easy feat as it was fraught with big hands, one that ultimately influenced the course of the tournament.
"That pot would have ended the tournament," Rast said after the tournament. "Obviously it was pretty brutal losing that huge pot for most of the chips in play. I just said to myself, 'You know what, it's not over, move on to the next hand.' I still had 3-4 million in chips. It's a tournament, anything can happen. You never give up; you keep fighting, that's just how you have to play the game. Shit happens on a regular basis, there's nothing you can do about it but move on to the next hand. You control yourself and your attitude, and I just wasn't going to let it get me down."
The hand Rast was referring to happened during three-handed play on Hand #142 of the final table. It was Level 22 (60,000/120,000/20,000) when Rast limped from the small blind and Scott Seiver raised to 420,000 from the big. Rast reraised to 1.13 million, Seiver moved all in for 7.195 million, and Rast snap-called.
It was a huge pot, and Rast was primed to hold the vast majority of chips in play. That's when disaster struck as the flop came down to give Seiver a set of eights. Neither the turn nor river helped Rast, and just like that he fell to the short stack.
"Poker is stagnated a little bit the last couple years I think in the sense that TV went away, a lot of the promotional dollars from online sites went away, and there wasn't anything new." - Brian Rast
As he said, Rast kept his composure and four hands later eliminated Connor Drinan. Interestingly, it happened when his pocket eights cracked Drinan's queens. That allowed Rast to enter heads-up play against Seiver, albeit at a 2-1 chip disadvantage, but things went his way. He scored an early double to seize the lead, and then closed it out when his was able to overcome the of Seiver.
"We're playing for a lot of money there at the end," said Rast. "It's amazing to be able to run good and win that flip. I feel like I've played really well this tournament, I'm very happy with my play overall. I was pretty patient, picked my spots, and things worked out."
Immediately after the win Rast spoke with the media:
"It's a little surreal right now. It just hasn't sunk in yet. The process of staying focused, it's so consuming that right after it happened this time I wasn't ready to process that I won. I'm getting ready to go get some drinks in me right now, I'll tell you what. That was an amazing tournament. What a rollercoaster ride at the end."
It was a ride Rast didn't take alone; in fact, numerous friends and family gave up their holiday plans to sweat their man to victory including his dad, wife, and good friends Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, and Jennifer Tilly.
"I'm so humbled by the turnout of my friends," said Rast. "There really are a lot of people who came out for this. I fell like I probably had the biggest rail. I'm just so happy all these people came out to support me. I'm very grateful to them. To my dad who drove all the way here, to my wife who made all the t-shirts; I'm glad I was able to put on a show."
Rast certainly put on a show, and the excitement of his win was infectious.
"I've never been more genuinely happy for someone that is a good friend of mine," Esfandiari told PokerNews. "I know what it feels like to win something where there's so much at stake. He's done it before, but this takes Brian Rast to a whole new level. This really separates him from being a well-known pro to being someone that is potentially one of the best in the world. This is such a big victory; the fact that it's going to be on NBC Sports and airing on Poker Central is very exciting. To watch the future Brian Rast is something I'm looking forward to, especially since tonight was a monumental moment for his future."
The win marked the biggest score of Rast's career by a large margin. It also marked his fourth seven-figure score. His first came in 2011 when he won the World Series of Poker $50,000 Poker Players' Championship for $1,720,328, and then a year later he took sixth in the inaugural Big One for ONE DROP for $1,621,333. More recently, he took home $1,083,500 for winning the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic High Roller in December 2013. Rast, who was recently the subject of a PokerNews feature article, now sits 11th on the all-time money list.
$500,000 Super High Roller Bowl Final Table Results
"Cary Katz, what he's doing for poker is awesome," Rast said of the Super High Roller Bowl Series. "Poker is stagnated a little bit the last couple years I think in the sense that TV went away, a lot of the promotional dollars from online sites went away, and there wasn't anything new. This is the new thing, and Cary keeps building. He's a good businessman."
The general consensus is that the Super High Roller Bowl was a success, and for the next year Rast, who is now undeniably among poker's elite, will serve as its celebrated ambassador.