As people throughout various parts of the world began to experience the first chills of the season change, those who chose to play the UltimateBet.com $5,500 Aruba Poker Classic were enjoying the sun-kissed beaches and resort fun of the island of Aruba. While many went as much for a vacation as a poker tournament, the fun on the felt began on Monday, October 5.
Day 1A found 194 players at the tables, including well-known faces like Phil Hellmuth, Adam Levy, Dave Stann, Matt Graham, Scott Ian, Brock Parker, and Jason Gray. But when the day came to a close and only 111 were left, it was Jon Favaloro in the lead with 88,575 chips. Notably, Hellmuth found himself in tenth place with 49,175.
Day 1B brought another 281 players into the fold, making for a grand total of 475 players in the tournament and a prize pool of $2,303,750. Some of the better known participants on the second day of action were Joe Sebok, Annie Duke, Liv Boeree, Billy Kopp, Jeff Madsen, Layne Flack, Matt Brady, Tiffany Michelle, Brandon Cantu, Michael Binger, Casey Kastle, Lacey Jones, Matt Vengrin, and Erica Schoenberg. Only 152 survived the day.
Day 2 brought the 263 players together at the same time to play down and get ever closer to the money. In the process, many were eliminated, including Bryan Devonshire, Nick Binger, Adam Levy, and Joe Tehan. Only 86 players were able to bag their chips at the end of the day, though, and Robert Mizrachi had the biggest job on his hands as chip leader with 353,200. Jon Favaloro brought up second place with 253,300, and Ty Reiman, Matthew Ross, and James Mordue rounded out the top five.
Day 3 players hoped to see the money bubble burst, but it took most of the day and much heartbreak to get there, as only about half of the remaining players would make it into the money. Among those who didn’t make it were Phil Hellmuth, Scott Ian, Gavin Smith, Johan Storakers, and Casey Kastle. When hand-for-hand play started with 46 players left, Vincent Moscati was the short stack of the group with only 10,200, and he pushed that with . But John Venturini was able to call with pocket aces, and the two men watched the board ran out with . That gave Moscati a 46th place finish and allowed Vassil Kakaradov to become the first to cash, taking home $9,210 for 45th place. Ultimately, the day ended with 36 players still in the running and Robert Mizrachi in the lead again, this time with 743,500.
Day 4 played down to the final table, though it was one player more than organizers planned. Throughout the day, the field of 36 dwindled, starting with the elimination of Zachary Clark in 36th place. Other notable exits as they proceeded were Howard Andrew in 35th place, 2008 champion Matt Brady in 31st, 2007 champion Travis Rice in 16th, and Brent Roberts in 15th. Ultimately after John Clancy was ousted in ninth, the last elimination of the day happened when Ryan Schmidt pushed with against the pocket sixes of Eric Baldwin. The sixes not only held up but turned into a straight when the board came . As Schmidt left in eighth place with $41,470, the other players were discussing whether or not to end the night or strive for one more bust-out.
With the lateness of the hour and the general exhaustion of the players, the final seven decided to retire for the night, willing to come back on Saturday, October 10, to play for the win. That left an unofficial final table but official counts as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Chase Steely ||1,293,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Jose Roberto Santos ||211,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Brandon Hall ||442,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Brock Parker ||1,241,000|
|Seat 5: ||Eric Baldwin ||1,573,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Robert Mizrachi ||1,977,000 |
|Seat 7: || Matt Ross ||301,000 |
The event began late on final table day as rain squashed plans to hold the festivities outdoors. After finding a covered area in which to hold the tournament, play got underway with Tournament Director Matt Savage calling the action.
Not long after play began, Ross had been chipped down from his original short stack and pushed preflop with pocket sevens. Santos called from the big blind with , and the race was on until the flop came . The on the turn changed nothing, and the on the river only gave Santos trips. Matt Ross was the first to go from the table with $41,470 to show for it.
Parker came to the table with an average stack and maintained it but found little opportunity to improve. When he and Baldwin got into a preflop raising war, Parker pushed all-in with , and Baldwin called with pocket queens. The board brought , and Baldwin’s pair held up, relegating Brock Parker to a sixth place finish and the $66,810 that went with it.
Baldwin soared into the chip lead but lost a big pot to short-stacked Hall. In fact, Hall climbed as he took chips from Mizrachi and Baldwin.
But Santos needed more chips as well. He got involved with Steely to see a flop of . More betting brought the turn card, and additional chips went into the pot. The on the river prompted Steely to move all-in, aware that he had Santos covered. Santos called, but when Steely showed for the straight, Jose Roberto Santos merely mucked and left in fifth place with $92,150.
Steely took the chip lead but Hall soon doubled through him with queens over Steely’s tens, and Steely was suddenly the short stack.
The four remaining players decided to pause the action to talk about a possible deal, though nearly an hour later, they announced an impasse, which meant no deal. Upon their return, Mizrachi and Baldwin both climbed the leaderboard, but when Hall doubled through Baldwin in a big hand, the latter found himself as the shortest stack of the bunch.
Baldwin subsequently pushed all-in for his last 680K preflop with , and Mizrachi called with . But the flop was on Mizrachi’s side when it showed . The turn and river cards were blanks, and Eric Baldwin was eliminated in fourth place with $126,710.
Steely was the next to move, and he did so for his last 495K from the small blind with pocket queens. Mizrachi, the original raiser, called with . The board came , and though Steely hit the set, Mizrachi made his straight and knocked Chase Steely out of the tournament in third place with $218,860.
Heads-up action began with the following chip counts:
|Robert Mizrachi ||4,205,000 |
|Brandon Hall ||2,835,000 |
The two players looked to speed up the action by skipping a level right off the bat. They also seemingly discussed a deal whereby each player was guaranteed second place money of $414,680, and everything else (first place money of $753,330) was split by way of chip counts with the exception of $30,000 to be set aside for the winner.
Play then began with Hall taking a big pot and climbing into a slight lead. Then the two got involved to see a flop, at which point, betting and raising led to Mizrachi pushing all-in with for top pair, and Hall calling with for the straight draw. When the appeared on the turn, it gave Hall the advantage, and the gave him the straight, leaving Robert Mizrachi with a second place finish and his share of the prize money.
Brandon Hall claimed the 2009 Aruba Poker Classic champion’s title and trophy, along with his predetermined share of the prize money.