By Christopher Cosenza
All for one and one for all … it’s not just for musketeers; it’s the backbone of the Ante Up Poker Tour’s Team Championship. And in the case of Team Fatty’s, that “one” almost wasn’t.
Neil Lawson, perhaps the most successful Ante Up Poker Cruise tournament player in history, thought he was set to be a member of another team as Ante Up’s cruise to Bermuda left Cape Liberty in late October. But when it came to signing up for the event, he found out he wasn’t invited to be on that team.
In a fortuitous turn of events, Team Fatty’s needed a fourth for its second team, and Lawson, being friends with those players from a past cruise, gladly accepted, and promptly marched through the field and a series of heads-up matches to claim the title and cover of Ante Up.
“All week long I thought I was on another team,” said Lawson, who also chopped Ante Up’s Survivor tournament later in the week and has won another AUPT on a past cruise. “And then it turned out I wasn’t on the team, so that’s cool. … and then I just kind of fell into this team.”
Lawson’s three teammates were Chris DeBiase, Philip Carson and Bill Wachter, a 92-year-old World War II veteran who was a fixture in the Ante Up poker room all week.
“Coming on these cruises really is the highlight of my year,” Lawson said. “I’m not used to playing much heads-up, but I love playing heads-up. … It turned out to be great.”
Fatty’s is a poker club in the New York City area that brought a bunch of players on the cruise, increasing its odds of landing on the cover of the nationally distributed magazine.
“It’s a private membership club, two days a week,” said Mike “The Nose” Castaldo, who owns Fatty’s Poker Club. “We play regularly and we run events and points tournaments for the World Series of Poker and Borgata. It’s a regular poker club, but we’re doing a reality show based on Fatty’s, and the characters there are (featured in the show).”
This was the first AUPT Team Championship, which had the unique format of making each team member vie in their own tournaments to advance to the heads-up finals. This format guaranteed no collusion and ensured a quick event.
Lawson chopped the final prize pool with Nick Rodriguez from Team Virginia, but they played one heads-up match to determine who won the title.
“He was great,” Lawson said of Rodriguez. “He was real enthusiastic and really wanted to get the win. … good player.”
But Lawson, on this day, was best.