Poker Room News

A Look Back At Our Grand Opening 50K Poker Tournament

By: John Reynolds

When leadership at Players Poker Club was deciding what kind of tournament to put together for our Grand Opening tournament several factors were considered. The biggest is what would speak best to the Houston Poker community about what Players Poker Club could offer now and in the future. Quite simply they wanted the best poker tournament in Houston! But what makes a tournament “the best”?

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  • Poker Tournament Action

    A Guaranteed Prize Pool at a fair price point. A $50,000 guaranteed prize pool for a $340 entry fee was an exceptional value for the player.  While some other tournaments around the Houston area can take as much as 33% of the total entry fee for the house, $300 went directly into the prize pool!

  • A fair structure that allows for play. It doesn’t matter what the opening starting stack for the player is if the structure is “pushy”. The starting stack of 25,000 in tournament chips, the half hour blind levels, and the big blind ante not starting until level five allowed players to play their own game, not worry about that tournament turning into a shove fest! The opening flights started with just a 25/50 blind level and the final level of the opening day (level 15) was just 2000/4000 with a 4000 big blind ante.
  • A well-run tournament. Under the lead of experienced tournament director Chris Hall, the tournament was assured a smooth flow. And what would a tournament be without rules the players could view at any time? Players could pull up the Players Poker Club Houston website and view the poker tournament rules in their entirety. With the tournament being a re-entry tournament, players could view how many players had entered and how many of those entries were remaining each flight on Players Poker Club’s Poker Atlas tournament clocks visible through out the room. Transparency! A hallmark of a well-run poker tournament is the ability of the players being able to see the remaining field and the average chip count.
  • A friendly staff. Houston poker players have many options of late. A knowledgeable and friendly staff is what make people feel comfortable in a room. The floor supervisors, dealers, cage staff and servers at Players Poker Club all strive to give the best customer service experience possible.

 The Opening Flights

The opening flights of Players Poker Club Grand Opening Tournament were broken into four flights over three days.  This was done to give players every opportunity to participate in the tournament and generate the largest prize pool possible. If a player was unfortunate enough to bust out of one flight, they could play a subsequent flight. What’s more even if a player bagged in an earlier flight, they could still play in a later flight with a best bag forward format.

Flight 1-A

Flight 1-A started at 2 p.m. on Thursday April 4th with a bit of uncertainty. How would people respond to Players Poker Club’s Grand Opening Tournament? What would the turnout be like? The advertising efforts of the entire staff came into sharp focus quickly as the day one turnout exceeded most people’s expectations. 49 entries on a Thursday afternoon at $340 price point was to say the least outstanding!

Solid and consistent play allowed Ritchie Walmsey to establish the first flight lead. Through the 15 levels of the opening flight the action was a bit more wide open, as players knew they had subsequent flights if matters on the table turned against them. By the end of the eight hours and 15 minutes of play Ritchie held onto the chip lead bagging 212,000 in chips. Pete Rios meanwhile made a late run at the chip lead and was able to bag 202,000.

Of the 49 that started the flight, 11 bagged, or over 20% of the field! The first flight chip average was roughly 135,000. While not giving a bonus for multiple bagging, the Grand Opening Tournament did allow for “best bag forward” and players could play again in subsequent flights without having to surrender their previous bagged chips.

Flight 1-B

Is it better to play in the biggest opening flight to try and get a greater amount of chips for the restart or is it better to play a smaller flight and have to fend off less competition? Mike Le would probably say the latter of those two options. More on Mike in a bit!

Flight 1-B was the smallest of the four flights of the Grand Opening Tournament. The 2 p.m. start time on Friday April 5th only brought in 38 contestants. And while flight 1-A saw a pretty even distribution of chips, flight 1-B certainly did not! Johnny Ha was on a mission to accumulate as many chips as he could and when the smoke cleared at the end of 15 levels, he sat with the overall chip lead of 314,500 chips. Even the second biggest bag of the flight, Mickey Pineda’s 229,500, was more than the biggest count of flight 1-A. Only six players advanced out of flight 1-B! The lower percent (16%) meant a higher average for those that made it through. The chip average from the flight was roughly 190,000.

Back to Mike Le! Mike was third in chip count for the flight at 183,500. Of the 87 players in the first two flights only Mike made it to the final nine. He survived a rather brutal smaller field and was able to advance. Getting through an opening flight after all is only half the battle if you want the big prize!

Flight 1-C

Saturday April 6th featured two opening flights with the earlier of the two, Flight 1-C, starting at 11 a.m. By now the word had gotten out loud and clear that Players Poker Club’s Grand Opening Tournament was one no player in Houston should miss! Almost as many people played in flight 1-C(81) as had in the previous two flights(87).

The well-known Houston poker couple of April and Sam Wiggins made their presence felt early and often in Flight 1-C. While playing at separate tables, both accumulated chips at a frantic pace. After 15 levels Sam bagged 226,500 chips for a very respectable sixth in the pecking order of the flight. However, that paled in comparison to the bag of his better half, April, who took the over all chip lead with a bag of 325,000 chips!

Of the 81 players that started the flight, 17 bagged chips, or about 21%. And while April Wiggins did pull out in front with the overall chip lead, eight players bagged with under 100,000 chips to keep the average lower than the first two flights.

What stands out to me in this flight are two of those sub 100,000 bags. Blake Barousse(83,000 chips bagged) and Michael Nichols(61,000 chips bagged) both made it to the final nine! Again, sometimes it’s about surviving and advancing. Mo Kasswran would also make the final nine out of this field as he was only out bagged by April with his 289,500 in chips. Houston Poker tournament juggernaut Dara Taherpour bagged 261,000 chips and would ultimately finish just outside the top nine with a respectable tenth place finish in the final standings.

Flight 1-D

The first three flights of Players Poker Club’s Grand Opening Tournament were smashing successes as 168 entrants in those flights hit the guarantee of $50,000 before the first card was pitched for flight 1-D! Remember what I said earlier about a transparent prize pool? Players Poker Club only takes the fees up front allowing $300 from each entrant to go directly into the prize pool. While the 109 players in flight 1-D stretched Chris Hall and his staff, it also allowed the prize pool to go well over the guarantee. In the end the prize pool would reach a mammoth $83,000!!!

Back to the question of is it better to play in a larger flight or a smaller one. Of the 109 players, 22 bagged with seven of those players bagging over 200,000 in chips. Over half of the final nine would come out of this flight. Leading the way in the chip count was Jerome Moon with 357,000 in chips. He was just a 5K chip ahead of Shawna Berger at 352,000 with Austin Bursavich rounding out the 300K plus club at 340,000 in chips.

Just over 20% of the field for Flight 1-D bagged. While the average was still in the 140,000 range, the big bags up top meant there were many small bags on the bottom with five players bagging 60,000 in chips or less. Clearly moves would have to be made be made early and often by many players on day two if they wanted to cash.

Day Two Restart

56 of the 277 entrants made it to the day two restart. At 2 p.m. on Sunday April 7th cards got in the air with $20,000 of the $83,000 prize pool going to first place. As expected, the short stacks had to make their moves early as six restart tables turned into five before the end of the opening day blind level of $3,000 small blind, $6,000 big blind and $6,000 big blind ante.

Mike Nichols started the day with just 61,000 chips. But a few savvy, and perhaps a bit fortunate, plays pushed his stack up to the point of contention. The same could be said of his fellow 1-C player Blake Barousee, who started the restart with just 83,000 chips. Both men would reach the final nine.

After the truly short stacks saw an early exit the tournament ground down and players tightened up as the level of play was at an extremely high level. After a bit of a suck out saw Dara Taherpour exit in tenth the final table was started with the remaining nine players.

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9th to 5th

  • 9th Place Blake Barousse
  • 8th Place Derek Normand
  • 7th Place Desmond Scott
  • 6th Place Austin Bursavich
  • 5th Place Mike Le

After a grueling journey the tournament came down to four players with one of them walking away with $20,000! The final four came down to Amir “AJ” Abtahi, Kris Burchfield, Mo Kasswran and Michael Nichols. After an inspired run from his starting stack of 61,000 on the day Michael Nichols bowed out in fourth place and took home $6,250 for his efforts. Mo Kasswran had more chips to start the day than any other player on the final table but fell in third and took home $7,580 for the tournament.

Kris Burchfield is a well-known Houston area poker pro while his opponent when it reached heads up, AJ Abtachi is better known in the poker community for his dealing rather than his playing. AJ made it clear through out the tournament that his play had reached a higher level than it had before and that going forward he would be more recognized for expert play! In the end, while AJ played a masterful tournament, Kris Burchfield finally put him out with a spike of an ace with his ace three off suit. AJ was still handsomely rewarded for his play with $12,050! Bragging rights and the title…and $20,000 in cash….went to Kris Burchfield.

Post Tournament

Many people chimed in on the club’s Facebook page(Players Poker Club of Houston) about how they enjoyed the tournament and it’s format. People became aware of the club and it’s friendly staff and going forward they knew where the best Poker Tournaments in Houston would be held. But the end of the Grand Opening Tournament is just the beginning for Players Poker Club Houston. Starting May 16th Players Poker Club will have another $50,000 guarantee tournament with the same structure, at the same location with much of the same friendly staff. We’d like to thank all the people who made our Grand Opening Tournament a success and look forward to seeing everyone back at Players Poker Club in the future.

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