A report by Nolan Dalla
Part-Time Poker Player and Dallas Business owner Delivers a Knockout Punch at Beau Rivage in Biloxi
Biloxi, MS (January 17, 2009) – Poker commonly uses boxing metaphors. All poker players know what it’s like to “step into the ring.” The very best players can “take a punch.” The goal of every tournament player is to “go the distance.” And the sweetest poker victory comes when delivering the “knockout punch.”
On January 17th, Beau Rivage Casino & Resort, perched on the shores of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, hosted two enormously popular sporting events — a World Poker Tour championship and a Don King world title prize fight. Filled to capacity with swarms of poker players and boxing fans alike, the luxury resort destination in Biloxi, MS drew thousands of people to the WPT final table arena and the WBO welterweight championship.
Inside the ring a nationally televised HBO audience witnessed a brutally-tough 12-round brawl. Defending world champ Andre Berto won a close decision over challenger Luis Collazo. On the opposite end of the casino floor on the green felt under the bright lights of WPT television cameras, Allen Carter outlasted a formidable force of five would-be champions and won his first major poker title ever. Yet Carter’s victory – won with his brains instead of fists — took considerably longer than the boxing match and in many ways was an even more impressive demonstration of stamina and perseverance.
Consider the first, that Carter was outchipped by a 2 to 1 margin when final table play began. Second, he the most dangerous and unpredictable player in the tournament sat on his immediate left, who happened to be the chip leader. Furthermore, Carter was short-stacked during much of the 8 hour 15 minute battle. Finally, this experience marked Carter’s first time to ever play poker with the pressure of a live viewing audience and potentially millions more deciphering his every move later on television.
The opening bell had sounded three days earlier. The 2009 Southern Poker Championship Main Event began with 283 entries. The size of this year’s field was up over last year, when 259 players entered the same WPT championship event – which amounts to an 8 percent increase in attendance (so much for the bad economy). A whopping USD 2,662,747 in prize money was up for grabs in the tournament — with the winner’s share a cool one-million dollars. In a surprise announcement made earlier, Beau Rivage casino management decided to supplement the winner’s share with USD 24,219 in additional money, so the top figure would hit the seven-figure milestone.
Tournament participants included several world-class players and poker superstars, including Brandon Cantu, Brent Carter, “Miami John” Cernuto, Scott Clements, T.J. Cloutier, Hoyt Corkins, Bill Edler, Layne Flack, Ted Forrest, Clonie Gowen, Barry Greenstein, Bernie Lee, Erick Lindgren, Men “the Master” Nguyen, David “Dragon” Pham, Mark Seif, Hilbert Shirey, David Singer, Gavin Smith, and others. The defending champion was Brett Faustman, who was eliminated on the first day. A large percentage of the field (108 players) qualified at a discount, by winning tournament seats in on-property satellite qualifiers. Eight more players earned their way in by winning preliminary tournaments which were part of the 15-event schedule which began back on Jan. 3rd.
The field included 17 women, which amounted to six percent of the entire field. At the end of the first day, two ladies held onto the top two spots in the standings with Esther Taylor and Jacquelyn Scott as the chip leaders. Their good fortune did not continue, however since both players busted out on the second day.
Day three began with 27 players who had all made it into the money. Once play became six-handed, the final table was set. Among the notable players who were eliminated but cashed were Vanessa Rousso (finishing on the “television bubble” in seventh place), Tony Cousineau (the prolific tournament casher who came in eighth), Hevad Khan (the expressive pro who finished 14th), Brent Carter (longtime tournament veteran who came in 21st), Bernard Lee (poker pro and media personality who finished 23rd), and Ted Lawson (poker vet and former WSOP event winner who took 25th place).
The WPT final table was played on a busy Saturday night. Hundreds of poker fans filled the tournament ballroom to full capacity, while many more stood in adjacent hallways watching the action on television monitors. Little did they know at the time that this was a battle that would go the entire distance, well past midnight in fact.
Five excruciating hours passed before the first bust-out. During that span, Soheil Shamseddin experienced a number of knockdowns. But each time he got up in time from the count. The final table began with Shamseddin holding a comfortable chip lead. But Shamseddin was not content to sit comfortably on his chips. He played in numerous pots, losing some ridiculously big hands to the point he was actually the shortest stack of the six remaining players. But Shamseddin mixed up his game sufficiently with enough jabs to recover and zigged and zagged his way across the leader board. From the outset, it seemed to be Shamseddin versus the world. And the Iranian-born Texan was certain to be an underdog in that fight.
6th Place– Chuck Kim: A new WPT record was nearly set when the 93rd hand of the final table was dealt out. Just one hand away from tying the longest span in the seven-year history of the WPT for “most hands without elimination,” Chuck Kim moved all-in pre-flop holding A-K suited. Shamseddin called the big raise and showed A-9. Both players caught an ace on the flop, but it was Kim who was in a great position to double up with his higher kicker. After a blank on the turn, the river brought a dream crushing nine to Kim, which gave Shamseddin two pair. Chuck Kim, playing in his first WPT event ever, cashed with USD 105,490 paid out for sixth place. Five players were left in the ring.
5th Place – Tyler Smith: An hour and 23 hands later, Tyler Smith got into a race with A-K suited versus Allen Carter’s Q-Q. It was truly a turning point at the final table, since the winner of the huge pot was destined to become Shamseddin’s main rival. Smith missed catching one of his overcards, which gave the 2,100,000 pot to Carter. Smith, a 22-year-old local poker pro, had to settle for fifth place, which paid USD 134,500. Four were left.
4th Place – Hilbert Shirey: If experience was the most important determination of winning and losing, Hilbert Shirey would have locked up first prize hours earlier. The three-time World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner has been playing tournaments for three decades, even before some of the players at the final table were born. Shirey did manage to seize the chip lead at one point. But he ultimately busted out when left short on chips, trying to bluff with a J-10 suited against Bobby Suer’s A-8. Shirey picked up a straight draw, but lost to his adversary’s pair of aces. The Floridian received a nice payout totaling USD 184,607. Only three remained.
3rd Place – Soheil Shamseddin: After the tournament was over, the winner called Soheil Shamseddin “a maniac.” It was meant as a term of endearment. “I mean that in a good way,” Allen Carter said only moments after victory. It was difficult to tell if Carter’s description was really a compliment. One thing is for sure. Soheil Shamseddin likes to play a lot of pots and is not afraid to move his chips. For that reason, no one could have been surprised by an outright victory, or a sixth-out-of-six finish. The madman was capable of just about anything.
Shamseddin made the final table fun for everyone – especially those who were watching. Hours of monotony were broken up many times by the colorful tournament regular prancing around the stage, smiling, laughing, and calling out for cards. He was his own best cheerleader and was the featured entertainment in the finale. But comedic appeal could only carry Shamseddin so far. He needed cards, as well. And those favorable cards began to run out as the clock neared midnight. The glass slipper would not fit. Soheil Shamseddin victory party was about to crash and burn. Even Ali got too old to put up a good fight.
On what turned out to be his final hand of the tournament, Shamseddin was dealt J-7. After half of his chips were committed to the pot, he fired his last 600,000 on the river on a pure bluff (jack high). Allen Carter had seen his tricky adversary play enough hands by this point where he made an easy call and won the pot with trip tens. That eliminated Shamseddin, who earned USD 263,725 and a million cheers. That left the two heavyweights.
2nd Place – Bobby Suer: Allen Carter enjoyed a 2 to 1 chip advantage when play went heads up. Hand #154 was a surprise that caught everyone off guard – even the two players battling for their first big win. Carter was dealt A-4 offsuit. Suer was dealt A-K of clubs and was all-in before the flop. Holding the dominant hand, it appeared Suer was about to double up. The flop showed J-5-3 with two clubs, giving Suer a flush draw. But Carter had an inside straight draw. A deuce would give him a straight.
Kaboom! Down went Suer. Down went Suer. Down went Suer. A deuce on the turn gave Carter the straight – ace to the five. Suer still had one punch left, since a club would give him a flush and the pot. But the last uppercut of the night did not land and a new poker champion was crowned. As the runner up, Bobby Suer collected USD 501,028.
1st Place – Allen Carter: “It’s been a long four days. This has been a dream come true,” said Carter moments after his victory. Incredibly, this was Carter’s first recorded cash in a live tournament.
Carter freely admits he only plays poker part-time. When playing, he concentrates solely on tournaments and does not play in cash games. Carter owns a very successful business in Dallas. “I’m very fortunate,” he said. “But the million dollars will not change my life. The validation (of being a poker player) is what’s important to me – to be called a champion.”
“It’s really cool to have bracelets I can keep. Those are the kinds of things you just can’t put a price tag on. So, this is all about the hardware. It’s about the victory. I do this for the competition. I think it’s really cool to beat out 300 people. And to do it at the top level is all you can ask for.”
In addition to the million in cash, Carter received a custom-designed white gold and diamond bracelet. He was also presented with a USD 25,500 buy-in into the annual World Poker Tour championship, to be held at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas in April, 2009.
The 15 combined tournament events at this year’s Southern Poker Championship attracted a total of 4,680 players. The total prize money amounted to USD 5,257,942, making it one of the most successful poker tournaments ever held in the South. Indeed, the entire tournament was a knockout. But there will be a rematch, next year in Biloxi. And ringside seats are going to sell out fast.
Buy-In: USD 10,000
Total Entries: 283
Total Prize Pool: USD 2,662,747
January 14-17, 2009
1. Allen Carter (Carrollton, TX) USD 1,000,000
2. Bobby Suer (Dana Point, CA) USD 501,082
3. Soheil Shamseddin (Houston, TX) USD 263,725
4. Hilbert Shirey (Winter Haven, FL) USD 184,607
5. Tyler Smith (Smithdale, MS) USD 134,500
6. Chuck Kim (Simsonville, SC) USD 105,490
7. Vanessa Rousso (Las Vegas, NV) USD 79,117
8. Tony Cousineau (Daytona Beach, FL) USD 52,745
9. Jeff Coutroulis (Tampa, FL) USD 31,647
10. Gary Reed (Cumming, GA) USD 26,732
11. Jena Delk (Merritt Island, FL) USD 26,732
12. Toby Tatum (Gulfport, MS) USD 26,732
13. Justin Phillips (Glodstone, OR) USD 21,098
14. Hevad Khan (Las Vegas, NV) USD 21,098
15. Mohsin Charania (Des Plaines, IL) USD 21,098
16. Lamberto Flores (Elizabeth, NJ) USD 15,823
17. David „Dell“ Harville, Jr. (Shreveport, LA) USD 15,823
18. Florian Langmann (Dresden, Germany) USD 15,823
19. Yair Alon (Panama City, FL) USD 13,186
20. Ben Fineman (Las Vegas, NV) USD 13,186
21. Brent Carter (Oak Park, IL) USD 13,186
22. Stewart Yancik (Blue Springs, MO) USD 13,186
23. Bernard Lee (Wayland, MA) USD 13,186
24. Gerry „Jitto“ Nadeau (Greenland, NH) USD 13,186
25. Ted Lawson (Las Vegas, NV) USD 13,186
26. Jordan Morgan (Tulsa, OK) USD 13,186
27. Robert Keller (Biloxi, MS) USD 13,186