Chao wins Sweet 16 Main Event, $71K at Thunder Valley



The Sweet 16 Main Event at Thunder Valley Casino Resort is in the books as the three-day main event was the culmination of a series that included 15 events throughout March and April. The main drew 270 players who each put up the $1K buy-in.

In the end, William Chao of San Pablo, Calif., defeated Sam Rotar of Australia to take the title and $71,550. Rotar, who was chipleader for most of the final table, took home $43K.

“It always feels great to win a live tournament,” Chao said. “I play all over the Bay Area and I’m really excited to win this event.” Chao, who was the leader of Day 1A, has been successful in numerous events, having accumulated more than $60K in tournament earnings, including cashes in the World Series of Poker, Bay 101 Open and Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza.

Rotar, traveling the world while playing tournaments, also has quite the poker resumé. He has more than $1 million in online tournament winnings in Australia, where online poker is regulated. With this being his first live tournament in the United States, it’s clear he’s a poker force.

On the final hand of the tournament, Chao flipped the {9-Clubs}{8-Spades} after being called down on a board of 10S-{10-Spades}{7-Hearts}{2-Spades}{6-Spades}{10-Hearts}. Rotar held just a third 10. Chao’s excited entourage stormed the table as friends, family and fans all over the world were watching the live stream on Thunder Valley’s website.

The rest of the seven-handed final table included Californians Michael Toller of Sacramento (third, $27K), Mariano Alaniz of Novato (fourth, $21K), Thanh Che of Elk Grove (fifth, $16K), Mimi Luu of San Bruno (sixth, $13K) and Steve Strickland of Rocklin (seventh, $11K).

Thunder Valley poker director Ben Erwin and his staff ran a fantastic series.

“The only thing that I can take credit for is listening to the players,” he said. “It’s all about them.”

That quote sums up how serious Thunder Valley is about the satisfaction of their players and customers.

Whether it’s the red-carpet treatment and mouth-watering food at High Steaks Steakhouse or Up the Ante Poker Room’s high-stakes cash games, it’s no wonder people from all over the world are coming to catch the experience of Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

— Email Garrett Roth at

Sweet 16 at Thunder Valley Casino Resort

Event 1 • $100 NLHE
Entries: 88 • Pool: $7,040
Levi Hull, $1,539
Event 2 • $100 NLHE
Entries: 79 • Pool: $6,320
Joel Huppe, $1,000
Event 3 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 196 • Pool: $23,520
Berkeley Bodine, $4,363
Event 4 • $350 NLHE
Entries: 237 • Pool: $72,996
Andrew Barber, $18,689
Event 5 • $125 NLHE
Entries: 97 • Pool: $9,700
Kyle Bunn, $1,500
Event 6 • $125 Bounty
Entries: 166 • Pool: $13,280
Seven Doung, $3,054
Event 8 • $100 NLHE
Entries: 126 • Pool: $10,080
David Kahl, $1,578
Event 9 • $100 O/8
Entries: 75 • Pool: $6K
Jon Johnson, $1,400
Event 10 • $100 NLHE
Entries: 146 • Pool: $11,680
Darryl Pham, $2,200
Event 11 • $450 NLHE
Entries: 439 • Pool: $175,600
Michael Engell, $29,204
Event 12 • $150 Bounty
Entries: 183 • Pool: $14,640
Phong Van, $2,453
Event 13 • $100 HORSE
Entries: 56 • Pool: $4,480
Ron Talmage, $1,008
Event 14 • $100 NLHE
Entries: 87 • Pool: $6,960
John Grisler, $1,567
Event 15 • $200 NLHE
Entries: 169 • Pool: $16,900
Tim Johnston, $2,213
$1,100 Main Event
Entries: 270 • Pool: $270K
William Chao, $71,550

Ante Up Magazine

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