The path to winning any poker tournament is paved with twists and turns. And sometimes, those twists and turns come before you’re even dealt your first card.
For Schuyler Thornton, the road to winning the Pearl River Poker Open Main Event started with his girlfriend making plans for the weekend.
“My girlfriend had a girls’ weekend with her friends this weekend, so I decided to drive up to Vicksburg to check out the action,” said Thornton, a 26-year-old who grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, and now calls Houston home. “Once I got there, I heard about this event and headed over.”
Thornton arrived to Pearl River Resort in Choctaw, Miss., in time for the final flight, ran well and came into Day 2 as the chipleader and never looked back, eventually besting Thuy Djedjos heads-up for the Ante Up Poker Tour title, $24,588 in cash, a seat in the $1,650 2016 Ante Up World Championship Main Event, a personalized Tour champion’s jacket and his photo on the cover of Ante Up Magazine.
“I ran really good. In the third level, I had pocket 7s against pocket kings and flopped a 7,” Thornton said. “To win tournaments, you have to run good. I could have had a monster stack at one point, when I had kings vs. ace-queen and an ace flopped. That was the only run bad I had the entire tournament.”
When play got down to three-handed, Thornton, Djedjos and Kelechi Amadi of Jackson, Miss., had almost identical stacks. On the first hand back from break, Thornton flopped a straight and rivered a flush and eliminated Amadi. Djedjos doubled through Thornton a few hands later, but on the final hand, Djedjos shoved with pocket black kings on a 10-high, all-hearts board and Thornton snapped called with the jack of hearts and a 10 kicker and rivered a jack to win it all.
“She was tough,” Thornton said of Djedjos of Meridian, Miss., a regular on the Mississippi tournament circuit. “I couldn’t get a read on her. She would overbet the pot a lot and made it tough for me.”
Thornton’s biggest cash was $77,404 for winning an event at The River at WinStar World two months ago. He primarily plays big cash games in Texas, after initially building up his bankroll teaching calculus to students while at the University of Texas.
The $555 buy-in Main Event featured three starting flights, and players could enter all three as long as they hadn’t advanced chips. Hold’em Radio was on hand for live reporting and chip updates.
“Thank you to all the players who have played with me for a long time who came down,” said tournament director Eric Comer, who runs several major events in Mississippi every year. “And we got to meet some new folks, which is always good.”
The 14-event Pearl River Poker Open was the property’s first chance to show off its recently completed $70 million in renovations to poker players from all over The South, and the property didn’t disappoint. With room rates that started at $49, players were treated to luxurious accommodations at a pauper’s price to rest up in between each event, and a sparkling new Golden Moon Casino, featuring a new 14-table poker room, in which to play and eat in as well.
The series was held in a former nightclub, that afforded players the comfort of playing in a nearly closed environment, largely devoid of the dings of slot machines, but ceiling-to-floor windows to make sure they still felt like part of the action. Five big-screen TVs kept players up to date on college and pro football and Major League Baseball playoff games, and a selection of complimentary sandwiches, snacks, sodas and coffee kept them refreshed.
“This is one of the best layouts I’ve ever had for a tournament,” Comer said. “We had everything we needed here. This setup is ideal.”
Side events had buy-ins that ranged from $110 to $260, and featured a limit Omaha/8, no-limit hold’em six-handed and seniors’ events in addition to the normal no-limit fare. Multiple cashers included BJ McBrayer, James, Davis Jr., Herman Shumaker, Byrne Wilson, Josh Long, Terry Simpson, Philip Walsh, Randy Garber, Mitchell Hearn, Stanley Avery, James Dixon, Joseph Knight Jr. and Sukhranjan Multani.
Pearl River plans to build on the momentum from the series with monthly events with $25,000 guarantees. Check the resort’s website for details.
Pearl River Poker Open – Ante Up Poker Tour
Pearl River Resort – Choctaw, Miss.
Prize pool: $100,000
1. Schuyler Thornton, Corpus Christi, TX, $24,588
2. Thuy Djedjos, Jackson, MS, $13,277
3. Kelechi Amadi, Jackson, MS, $8,852
4. BJ McBrayer, Tuscaloosa, AL, $7,868
5. Donna Reid, Meridian, MS, $6,885
6. Brandon Wallace, Birmingham, AL, $5,901
7. Aphideth Nakhoneinh, Cordova, TN, $4,918
8. Bruce Taylor, Tchula, MS, $3,934
9. Randy Carden, Birmingham, AL, $2,951
10. Tina Carter, Pleasant Grove, AL, $2,360
11. James Davis Jr., Jackson, MS $2,360
12. Lonzie Nichols, Utah, AL, $2,360
13. Herman Shumaker, Brandon, MS, $2,065
14. Kenneth Jones, Birmingham, AL, $2,065
15. Roger Bice, Tuscaloosa, AL, $2,065
16. Ernest Moore, Braxton, MS, $1,967
17. Bryne Wilson, Tuscaloosa, AL, $1,967
18. Jason Grimes, Almo, KY $1,967