It never hurts to win a poker tournament when you have a baby on the way.
Chris Agustin of Sacramento expects to celebrate his son’s birth in just a few weeks, but for now, he and his girlfriend are celebrating his victory in the first Ante Up Poker Tour event of 2014 – the Cordova Casino Ante Up Championship at Rancho Cordova, Calif.
After a grueling Day 2 that lasted nearly 11 hours, and didn’t really ease up even after a five-way chop deal was reached, Agustin topped John Eaton heads-up for the title. Agustin earned $3,209 in the chop, plus a $1,650 seat in the Ante Up World Championship Main Event Aug. 9 at Thunder Valley Casino Resort and a personalized Ante Up Poker Tour champion’s jacket. Eaton, a Cordova Casino dealer, earned $3,033 in the chop. Marcus Lee, who technically finished fourth, earned the most money, $5,524, by virtue of being chipleader when the chip-count deal was reached in the middle of Level 17. The final five played out the rest of the tournament for the World Championship seat entry and the title.
“The blinds were killing us,” Agustin said of the motivation to reach a deal. “I didn’t start playing aggressively until the chop, and then I started playing a lot more aggressively when there were three of us. Pretty much, the pace went from lax to aggressive.”
Agustin, in his first time playing at Cordova Casino, was in the top 5 as play entered Day 2, which he said was markedly more competitive than Day 1.
“The guys at the final table were strong,” he said. “They proved to be worthy of the final table. It was a different caliber than Day 1.”
Agustin, an investment fund manager, recently got back into playing poker more seriously after leaving his 13-hours-a-day corporate world job and moving to Sacramento from Orange County, Calif.
“Before when I used to play, there weren’t many tournaments,” said Agustin, a regular at Thunder Valley Casino Resort where he plans to play in the World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder event in March. “Now, there is a wide variety of buy-ins conveniently located close to where we live. I pretty much play everyday.”
The Cordova Casino Ante Up Championship was by far the most unique stop in Ante Up Poker Tour history – a single, $220 buy-in tournament to reintroduce the cardroom to the Northern California poker community by landing the champion on the cover of Ante Up Magazine. Cordova Restaurant Casino sold out both of the event’s starting flights, and was able to accommodate nearly two dozen alternates to create a 136-player field and a $26,800 prize pool.
“I think we delivered on what we intended to do – provide a player-friendly tournament that had great bang for the buck,” said Rob Ketchum, poker room manager, who is looking to re-establish the stylish cardroom as a place where players will find great action instead of unsustainable promotions. “Players appreciated the price. I think it was a good field for our property to see where we can go from here. We definitely had some good feedback.”
To stoke the action in its cash games, Cordova allows players in all games to buy in for up to the biggest stack at the table, and allows straddles for up to 10 times the big blind. Current promotions include a bonus $20 when buying in for $40 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily and when buying in for $80 between 4-7 p.m. daily.
Cordova general manager Peter Nairn and casino manager Jerad Horstman created a comfortable environment for players, providing a breakfast buffet for Flight 1 players, a dinner buffet for Flight 2 players and a sandwich buffet for players returning for Day 2.
Before and after the event, players were able to enjoy a varied food menu and a deep craft beer selection in the Lodge restaurant, as well as a variety of California card games in addition to no-limit hold’em in the poker room. The casino is located in an upscale office park setting, with several hotels within easy walking distance.
Cordova Restaurant Casino has already begun discussions on its next big tournament. In the meantime, its sister property, The 101 Casino in Petaluma, Calif., just north of San Francisco, will host an Ante Up Poker Tour championship event April 7-13.
Cordova Casino Ante Up Championship
Cordova Casino, Rancho Cordova, Calif.
Top five agreed to chip-count chop before continuing play
1. Chris Agustin, $3,209*
2. John Eaton, $3,033
3. John Duckworth, $4,964
4. Marcus Lee, $5,524
5. Jeffry William Townshend, $4,707
6. Connie Xabandith, $1,608
7. Mike Postle, $1,340
8. Rob Geach, $804
9. Kenny Tran, $536
10. Adam Housh, $536
11. Tom Kilcollins, $268
12. Carla Edwards, $268
*Plus $1,650 seat in the Ante Up World Championship Main Event on Aug. 9.