It has become a US Poker Open tradition to watch the eventual champions hid the skids on the final table only to rebound back into contention. High stakes legend Ben Tollerene followed the script today, coming back from fewer than five big blinds to emerge victorious in the Event #5: $10,000 No Limit Hold'em. Tollerene outlasted a 67-entry field on his way to the $187,600 first-place prize.
Tollerene, 30, has been widely acknowledged as one of the best online cash game grinders the virtual realm has ever seen. He's no stranger to live tournaments either but he only picks the tournaments with the large chunks of money at stake.
"I wouldn't come if the buy-ins weren't big," Tollerene said in his post-win interview.
US Poker Open - Event 5: $10,000 No Limit Hold'em results:
|1st||Ben Tollerene||Unites States||$187,600|
|2nd||Jake Schindler||Unites States||$134,000|
|3rd||Ryan Riess||Unites States||$87,100|
|4th||Cary Katz||Unites States||$67,000|
|5th||Kristina Holst||Unites States||$53,600|
|6th||Rodger Johnson||Unites States||$40,200|
|7th||Ben Yu||Unites States||$33,500|
|8th||Brent Hanks||Unites States||$26,800|
|9th||Keith Tilston||Unites States||$20,100|
|10th||David Peters||Unites States||$20,100|
Tollerene had a rough start to the tournament, using the maximum of three allowed bullets. His third attempt worked out fine and he found his way to the final table with the third biggest stack.
The six-handed finale included two players whose faces were perhaps not so familiar to the high roller fans; Rodger Johnson and Kristina Holst. Unfortunately for them, they were also the first two contenders to bow out. Johnson couldn't do much with his short stack, especially after Cary Katz, who came in fourth place, more than doubled his belongings in the two opening orbits.
Katz continued squeezing the most from his momentum and eliminated Johnson in sixth place. Johnson three-bet shoved for his last eight bigs out of the small blind only to run with ace-four into ace-queen of Katz.
Holst followed Johnson to the rail three hands later when she reshoved for 20 big blinds with pocket threes over Tollerene's button-raise. Tollerene called off with ace-king and won the race thanks to an ace on the turn.
Holst was the only female player to take to the felt, calling her run a great learning experience: "These guys are some of the best in the world. They play a lot more tournaments than I do," said Holst, who specializes in software engineering. "It's fun to come out and play against them." She collected $53,600 for her fifth-place finish, her largest poker reward so far.
The four remaining players all possessed over 50 big blinds, and while there were no eliminations for quite some time, the action carried on at a decent tempo. Jake Schindler hit a few boards to solidify his lead but he soon switched positions with Ryan Riess just before the first break of the day. They met in a preflop raising war in a button-against-small blind contest. Schindler was in position with king-nine and four-bet-folded to Riess' five-bet jam with tens.
Tollerene's stack then hit the wrong direction and a couple of losses saw him drop all the way down to fewer than five big blinds. He doubled with king-five against Katz' ace-seven and then bluffed Katz off a two pair hand with a river shove after missing a double gutshot. Tollerene worked his way back to contention and got the best of Katz shortly afterwards.
Katz busted when he rivered a runner-runner flush on a paired board, lead-shoving. Tollerene, however, also made the flush - a much higher one - and knocked the Poker Central founder out in fourth.
Riess was the shortest stack among the final three players and he slipped to a re-stealing stack of just under 20 big blinds. Then he open-shoved from the small blind with jack-seven suited, running into Tollerene's ace-nine. The flop gave Riess a gutshot for some extra outs to his live cards but the rest of the board bricked to send him packing.
That paved way for a heads-up match between Tollerene and Schindler with both players guarding well over 40 big blinds. Tollerene entered the battle with a slight chip lead but it seemed to be Schindler getting all the value. He was hitting nearly every board while Tollerene struggled, airballing with the most of his hands. Schindler quickly took over the chip lead and stretched it to more than a 2-1 chip-advantage.
Tollerene magnetized some momentum with a double up when he rivered top two pair on a board that included a smaller pair and filled a spade flush draw from the flop. Schindler bluff-shoved for about the size of the pot and Tollerene picked him off.
Schindler, however, kept connecting to the majority of the boards and Tollerene had no easy ride towards the first place. But in the crucial hand, it was Tollerene who found himself in a dream spot as both players flopped trip sevens. Tollerene held a stronger kicker and made a huge river-bet, leaving himself with only four big blinds. Schindler moved all-in and maybe hoped for a call when he saw Tollerene thinking for about 20 seconds. Tollerene eventually called, showing the winning had, much to Schindler's disappointment.
"I didn't think you'd shove if your kicker didn't play by a couple pits," Tollerene explained why he took some time for the decision which seemed to be a snap-call for Schindler.
"It's probably a good play then," smiled Schindler, taking the accidental slowroll with class. "Well, I didn't fold, but yeah," replied Tollerene, adding: "Sorry that I didn't stick it in right away."
That trips-over-trips double allowed Tollerene to seize a huge lead and he finished Schindler only two hands later, peeling pocket aces. Schindler flopped the top pair on a queen-high board and couldn't escape the lethal strike.