By Christopher Cosenza
So many storylines vied for top billing at the second annual Chad Brown No Limit Texas Hold’em Championship at Orange Park Kennel Club, but in the end there could be just one.
Corey Burbick, known mostly as comandr_cool in the online poker world, finally made a name for himself in the live arena when he took down the historic televised final table on Feb. 1, pocketing $101,070, a custom-made bracelet and a $7,500 North American Poker Tour package.
“It makes me think I can get it done live,” the Davie, Fla., resident said when asked how important this victory was to his career. “In the past I’ve played about 30 or so tournaments live, which isn’t a lot. Going into this year I (said) I’m gonna try to play live every weekend and I already hit one.”
But it was easy for the reserved Burbick to get lost among the buzz surrounding the event. The field for this $5,000 buy-in tournament, which had a prize pool of nearly $325,000, sported some of the biggest names in poker, including the hottest no-limit tournament player on the planet, Tyler Smith. Team PokerStars Pros Jason Mercier and Victor Ramdin and online sensation Shaun Deeb also were in attendance. Plus there was the first televised Florida cash game that featured a $50K minimum buy-in (see story below).
But the story that got everyone talking at Orange Park was tournament host Chad Brown nearly winning his own event. The PokerStars Team Pro did his best, but ultimately finished second.
“If I won my own event there would probably be people saying it had to be fixed,” he said with a chuckle. “But I really tried to win. I think coming in second may not be far behind coming in first for the (popularity of the event). I played my best and Corey played great; there was just that cold-deck hand on the end. It would have been a big hill for me to overcome because he was playing very well.”
The big hand he spoke of came when Burbick, with a 3-to-1 chip lead, made the nut flush and Brown had a worse flush.
“I was really happy with the way I played,” said Brown, who won $64,820. “I check-raised on the river and if he has two pair I know I’m gonna get paid. And then when he raised me I was pot-committed. I got to hope that either he’s raising for value with a set or under a nine-high flush.”
But it was the nuts, and Burbick couldn’t have been happier to see Brown pushing in more chips on the end.
“When he check-raised I was just thrilled because I was pretty sure he was never bluffing and never folding the river,” said Burbick, who stands atop the standings after one event of the 2011 Ante Up Poker Tour in a race for player of the year. “It’s nice to finally have some legit real money and not just all of my money online.”
The final table also featured Deeb, an online pro who, like Burbick, has really been itching to prove his worth in a live environment.
“This is my third (live) final table of the year so I’m really excited about that,” said Deeb, the former PokerStars SCOOP champ who finished fifth for $22,690. “I’ve only played like five events so that’s really a sick run. I’m just going to keep it up and get a little bit more comfortable. I got a little bit out of my zone early on; I had a really bad seat with really aggressive opponents on my left. I let them dictate the action. I should have four-bet one or two of them to say, ‘This is my final table,’ but I just didn’t and I let them run me over a little too much.”
With nearly 900 big blinds in play when the final table began there was talk of the event not ending by the state-imposed 4 a.m. closing time. But thanks to some big hands the tournament ended by 10:30 p.m., and with that many chips in play it was easy to see why so many pros made it to the end.
“There were some tough players at the final table,” Brown said. “My strategy was to try to not get involved in any big pots with some of the better players and try to take advantage of some of the weaker players. I was very happy with how I played.
“All good poker players feel if they are the better player at the table then having more big blinds there’s going to be less luck and more skill. I didn’t get any cards, but because the structure was good it allowed me to be more patient and not panic at any point.”
This is what happens when a state is allowed to offer real poker with real buy-ins: The best in the world come out to play, and the cardroom can give them a structure they can enjoy.
“I was really surprised,” Burbick said when asked about the big names in the field. “The reason I came here was I really thought no one would know about it, kind of underground. But I get here and the first (people) I see are Jason Mercier, Tyler Smith and Shaun Deeb.”
He also said he was thrilled with the new laws in the state.
“I still haven’t had a chance to play live cash that much, which is something I’m going to do in the future. But the tournament buy-ins fit my bankroll really well, the $2Ks and the $5Ks, and I don’t have to travel very far.”
And neither did Brown, who has a home in Margate, Fla.
“The locals here were very excited about seeing a lot of poker players they are fans of that came to their homecourt to play poker,” Brown said. “I think the locals will be talking about this for a while.”
$5K Main Event
Players: 70 • Prize pool: $324,100
1. Corey Burbick, Davie, FL, $101,070*
2. Chad Brown, Margate, FL, $64,820
3. James Slattery, Glen St. Mary, FL, $42,135
4. Dermot Blain, Ireland, $29,170
5. Shaun Deeb, Troy, NY, $22,690
6. John O’Shea, Ireland, $17,830
7. Dennis Bergeron, St. Augustine, FL, $14,585
8. Sean Winter, Jacksonville, FL, $12,960
9. Robbin Ulrey, Jacksonville Beach, FL, $11,340
* Burbick also received a $7,500 NAPT package
Jax $50K cash game, TV lure big names
Some big cash games have broken out around the state of Florida, thanks to limits being removed in July, but none as big as what fans witnessed at Orange Park Kennel Club near Jacksonville on Jan. 31. In conjunction with the second annual Chad Brown No Limit Texas Hold’em Championship, the folks at Orange Park, led by new director of poker operations Deb Giardina, arranged for the Jax $50K, Florida’s first televised high-stakes cash game.
“We had some real high-profile players who came here for the high-stakes cash game,” said host Chad Brown, who likely would have sat in had he not had to play at his own tournament’s final table early the next day.
Players included World Series of Poker runner-up John Racener, WSOP bracelet-winner Jason Mercier, Bayou Challenge champ Tyler Smith, online star Andrew “good2cu” Robl and millionaire amateur Rick Raheem, who many got to know last season on PokerStars’ The Big Game on Fox. Each had to buy in for the minimum $50,000, though some bought in for more. Play lasted in front of the cameras for about six hours before the game needed to be moved out to the main floor, where fans got to rail them until the wee hours.
There’s talk of making this cash game a monthly event. Airtimes for the initial event have yet to be set, but will be posted on anteupmagazine.com when confirmed.
— Christopher Cosenza