Parties and a pub crawl were on the agenda, but poker was uppermost in the minds of 450 players who traveled from around the country to compete in the World Tavern Poker Open Championship in November.
WTP is an entertainment company that runs free pub poker leagues in 27 states with about 145,000 registered players. Twice yearly, qualified league players compete in the WTP’s tournament of champions and national championship in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. This year’s fall contests were held at Binion’s.
Beside the two championships, where players faced off for World Series of Poker Circuit packages, other tournaments included a women’s championship, Omaha/8, tag team and a superhero smackdown with players in full comic-book regalia. Imagine staring down Superman with squadoosh.
The TOC kicked off as a shootout with 338 hopefuls. The top two from each table went on to compete in the main event, with Alec Minnis of Charlotte, N.C., taking the title.
“I was in the zone, focusing on every hand, for the entire tournament,” he said. “Binion’s could have launched grenades in the next room, and I would not have noticed.”
Minnis won with pocket kings against an A-Q all-in. He continued the winning streak after he got knocked out early from Tuesday morning’s Bloody Mary event.
“I still wanted to play, so I crossed Fremont Street to the Golden Nugget, and took first place in a tournament there,” he said.
The national championship had 181 players, and after seven hours it came down to aptly named LaRetta Wager of Hubert, N.C., against Roma Rowe, who finished second in the women’s event. Rowe went all-in with J-10 and Wager called with K-3, which held up.
“There were several times in the tournament I thought I was finished,” Wager said. “Then I hit a string of good hands that put me right back in it. The river, it makes or breaks you.”
Before heading to Vegas, her husband gave her some poker books to help improve her game.
“I play three or four times a week thanks to WTP’s pub poker,” Wager said. “There is really no gambling where I live; I’d have to travel far to play poker in a casino.”
It seems somewhat anti-climatic that the final hand was won with a high card.
“I asked Roma why she shoved with J-10 off, and she wondered how I could call with K-3. Well, I play heads-up like a whole different game. And my cards were suited!” said Wager, who finished in the money in several other events.
After the national event, players enjoyed a banquet at Binion’s, where hypnotist Kelli Karl mesmerized several final-table members, one totally convinced he’d just won the WSOP main event, and others transformed into Chippendale dancers.
It was five days of fun best summed up by WTP’s slogan: “Great parties, great poker, great people.”
— Kay Fitzpatrick is Ante Up’s Northeast Ambassador. She’s a freelance journalist who recently wrote a series of strategy blogs for Everest Poker and is an avid player at New England’s poker rooms. Email her at email@example.com.