Bolek rocks way to $480K, RNR title at Hard Rock

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It was serious business in the ballrooms of the Seminole Hard Rock Resort & Casino as Day 2 of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Open’s $2 million guarantee main event got under way. Meanwhile, on the other side of the complex, TV equipment was being set up to record the fun and frivolity of the celebrity cash games to air on Poker Night in America. But first, let’s recap the RNR finale.

Local South Florida pro Chris Bolek of Boca Raton was rarely high on the leaderboard early in the event, but like his second-place finish a month earlier at the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble in Jacksonville, he used patience and perseverance to grind his short stack to the final table.

Shortly after Jeff Chang went out in fourth, Bolek found his 3 million chips trailing badly to chipleader Andy Andrejecic (8M) and Sean Winter (7M). Andrejevic took a big hit after running into Winter’s pocket aces, then Bolek finished him off with pocket 10s. Despite relatively close stacks (9.87M to 8.08M) entering heads-up action, Bolek got it done quickly by winning nearly every big pot until his stack had climbed to 15M-plus. Once again pocket 10s served Bolek well as they held up vs. Winter’s A-5 to capture the title.

Still exhilarated by his $284K payoff in early November, Bolek eclipsed that by defeating 600 entries to collect $480,200 at the facility that’s less than 30 miles from his home.

“I’m a South Florida player and I play here a lot,” Bolek said. “The structures are great here, competitive with anything else in the country.”

So while the main event was concluding, Poker Night in America continued to record interesting material in the Paradise Live venue. The two days of cash games featured Shaun Deeb, Gavin Smith, Jean-Robert Bellande and Ken Aldrich among others. Whether it was from overabundant partying on South Beach or too much tryptophan over the Thanksgiving holiday, the men seemed sluggish and several of the contestants seemed uninvolved. So leave it to the women to save the day. Top female player Vanessa Selbst led the table in star power, while Danielle Moon-Andersen joined the action along with 2011 WSOP ladies champion Marsha Wolak and South Florida’s Ebony Kenney, Lily Kiletto and Jessica Dawley. The table interaction was exciting as the women drank shots, told stories and played some competitive poker.

“This is without a doubt the greatest thing we have ever done,” show producer Todd Anderson told me during the production. “We’ve wanted to try a ladies-only game for a while, but weren’t sure how it would work. In fact, I ran the idea past Vanessa and she said she would participate, but wasn’t sure if it would draw enough players. But when I put the word out there, the response was incredible. Everybody wanted to play.”

When play was completed, it appeared Selbst had accumulated the biggest windfall, helped along by the final hand, which the women agreed would be a blind Omaha hand with no betting. As you might surmise, it was Selbst who raked in the substantial final pot by showing quads. Social media was buzzing with reaction to the live stream and Wolak told me she received several comments from women were so intrigued by the game that they wanted to definitely start to play more, including a few that had never taken the time to learn.

For fans of poker television, it’s refreshing to see a little different look at the game, something that consultant Nolan Dalla is proud to work on.

“There’s an adjustment period required for the viewer of this show. It’s raw; there’s nothing rehearsed about it and it’s like what you would feel and hear if you were sitting down at one of these high-stakes cash games,” said Dalla, who moonlights during his time away from his regular position as World Series media director. “Our challenge is to make this show better, make it more interesting and go outside the realm of what we’ve shown in the first season.”

The episodes will air in late March and early April during the program’s second season on the CBS Sports Network. If your cable system doesn’t carryCBSSN, you can view previous episodes on YouTube.

ISLE CLASSIC: The Isle Poker Room at Pompano Park gets the year started with its Isle Classic series featuring 11 major events, beginning with a $350 no-limit hold’em event with a $300K guarantee and eight opening sessions spread over four days. The tourney runs Jan. 7-11. The main event, which is Jan. 22-26, will have a $1,200 buy-in and a $500K guarantee. For more info, go to theislepompanopark.com.

— Email Dave at bigdave@pokeractionline.com.