The first Caesars Poker Classic was a series of events that attracted some of the biggest names on the poker tournament circuit today. Out of the thirteen events played, the $10,000 buy-in main event attracted 287 participants for a $1 million guaranteed top prize. David Singer fought a long battle and eventually won first place.
From the start of the series, it was obvious that much thought and planning had been put into the Caesars Poker Classic. Though it would not be filmed by the World Poker Tour or any other major production for television, more care seemed to be put into this series than many that are filmed. The tournament room is located just behind the poker room and comfortably accommodated all of the players in each event. The Caesars staff wore suits and conducted themselves with the utmost class and respect for the game. Spectators were welcomed to view the action along the sidelines during the events, even given chairs to be seated and watch their family, friends, or favorite poker pros.
Preliminary events were well-attended, with 499 players in the first $500 no-limit hold'em event and solid fields in each of the other tournaments. Most events were no-limit hold'em, though there was a $300 ladies-only tournament, a $1000 Omaha hi-lo 8-or-better event, and a $500 pot-limit Omaha to mix up the action. Winners for these events were as follows:
|Event ||Entrants||Winner|| Prize |
|$500 no-limit hold'em||499||Larry Merritt||$79,608|
|$1000 no-limit hold'em ||263||Serge Gagnon||$88,443|
|$1500 no-limit hold'em ||127||Ben Santoli||$56,630|
|$500 no-limit hold'em||358||Jeff Suh||$60.718|
|$1000 no-limit hold'em||188||Ben Fineman||$65,845|
|$1000 limit hold'em||68||Jim Shaw||$30,145|
|$500 no-limit hold'em||442||Luke Priour||$71,314|
|$1000 Omaha hi-lo 8/o/b ||74||Randy Holland||$32,241|
|$1500 no-limit hold'em||245||Alan Schein||$120,867|
|$500 pot-limit Omaha||92|| Hassan Kamoei ||$16,063|
|$2000 no-limit hold'em||209||Coskun Ugur||$136,524|
|$300 ladies no-limit hold'em||121||Mary Louise||$11,40|
There were 287 players in the $10,000 buy-in main event, and since Caesars Palace promised a $1 million first prize, the casino added funds to the prize pool to ensure that the winner would receive that impressive number. The tournament began on Monday, October 22, and the following day saw the burst of the money bubble at 27 players. Play continued until approximately 2am to reach the final nine, and they returned on Wednesday, October 24 to complete the tournament.
The final table participants were as follows:
Seat 1: Alex Bolotin 222,000 chips
Seat 2: David Singer 304,000 chips
Seat 3: Justin Bonomo 702,000 chips
Seat 4: Jose Valdes 182,000 chips
Seat 5: Vivek Rajkumar 248,000 chips
Seat 6: George Unich 168,000 chips
Seat 7: Scott Fischman 733,000 chips
Seat 8: Tony Cousineau 816,000 chips
Seat 9: Kido Pham 913,000 chips
Caesars Palace couldn't have asked for a more interesting final table, with several top names in poker, some up-and-coming pros, and a few players who freerolled their way into the $10k event and worked their way through a stellar field to the prestigious final nine.
The final table was set up in such a fashion that any interested party could take a chair on the elevated seating platforms and watch the action. The lighting was sufficient over the final table but not intrusive or distracting to the players. Each player was introduced to the crowd, and information about them was given by the tournament director as various plays occurred during the action. The audience was quietly and intently watching the action, and the players seemed calm and focused in the elegant yet peaceful final table atmosphere.
Several of the shorter stacks were eliminated fairly quickly. Vivek Rajkumar was eliminated in ninth place by Tony Cousineau and received $54,564. George Unich was the next to go, courtesy of Scott Fischman, and took home $81,847. Unich won his seat as part of a Caesars high-hand jackpot promotion and freerolled his way to a nice payday. Jose Valdez took seventh place when he came up against Cousineau; he received $109,129. And only several hands later, Alex Bolotin was eliminated in sixth place at the hands of Justin Bonomo; Alex cashed for $136,411.
While David Singer seemed to be quietly accumulating over a million in chips, Bonomo wasn't able to do the same. "ZeeJustin" was sent to the rail in fifth place when his pocket 3's couldn't hold up to Fischman's pocket J's. Bonomo was awarded $163,693 for his efforts.
Cousineau, a Full Tilt pro, couldn't hold on to his chips despite his early surge and aggressive play. Kido Pham was the one to do the damage when his pocket Q's received another Q on the flop to crack Cousineau's pocket K's. Cousineau took fourth place and $190,976.
Nearly 100 hands into the main event final table, Fischman would be on the losing end of a battle with Singer. Both Full Tilt sponsored players took it all the way to the river before Fischman moved all-in with A-8 of clubs on a board of K-6-5-A-5. He missed his flush but played his top pair, though Singer showed A-6 for two pair to win the hand and eliminate Fischman in third place, which was good for $245,540.
Heads-up play began with Singer (3,250,000 chips) and Pham (1,050,000 chips) looking forward to the battle. Prior to the first deal, Caesar and his guard came to the table to present the $1 million in cash, a beautiful crystal trophy, and a Breitling watch that would all go to the first place player. Caesar wished the players luck, and play ensued.
Play was slow between the two professionals and lasted more than 100 hands in total. Finally, the hand that would decide it all took place on the felt. Pham limped into the pot but Singer raised to 110,000. After much thought, Pham reraised 300,000 more, but Singer moved all-in, and Pham called. Singer had Pham covered. Pham's pocket K's looked good against Singer's A-9 until the board came 10-8-5-7-6 to river a straight for Singer.
Kido Pham took his second place finish and $480,167 with class while congratulating his formidable opponent.
David Singer humbly but happily accepted the win. Best known of late for making the final table of the World Series of Poker $50k H.O.R.S.E. event two years in a row, Singer also has a long resume of prestigious wins and cashes, including two WPT final tables, several WSOP final tables, and the 2006 Mirage Poker Showdown heads-up tournament victory. To add to his accomplishments, he was awarded the $1 million prize, trophy, watch, and title of victor at the first ever Caesars Palace Classic.