You can find Andy Pham at Thunder Valley Casino Resort almost every day.
And if you looked for him on Nov. 29, you’d find him at the top of an eight-way chip-count chop that gave him the Ante Up NorCal Classic Main Event title, and $30,347 of the prize pool that far exceeded the $150,000 guarantee on the last Ante Up Poker Tour series of 2015.
“I don’t mind playing it out; I had the chips,” Pham said of the deal that was made. “But I wanted to see what how the numbers came out. If it wasn’t at least $30,000, then I wasn’t going to take it. So when they came back, I thought it made sense. It was a very nice, friendly final table.”
While the deal may have resulted in an anticlimatic end to Day 2, which started with 42 players last just five and hour hours, Pham’s path to the top spot was anything but.
He came into Day 2 with 156,000 in units, 18th most in the field, and was patient.
“I learned long ago that you don’t have to risk your stack,” said Pham, of Elk Grove, who also won a seat in the 2016 Ante Up World Championship Main Event at Thunder Valley and a personalized champion’s jacket, and also was part of a deal to end Event #6. “I play a lot of small ball poker.”
Pham would later use that image to double through Mario Sequeria with a stack of about 800,000 when play was short-handed at the final two tables.
“He opened, and I called with pocket 7s in small blind,” Pham said. The flop came A-7-3 with two diamonds. I checked, and he bet 40K. I raised real big, and he called. When he called, I knew I was all over. The king of clubs came on turn, and I moved all in and he snap-called with ace-Jack. I think because of my erratic play earlier, he thought I was trying to make a play on him and he didn’t give me credit for much. He’s very sold. He was the guy I had to look out for, and I was happy I knocked him out.”
What does he plan to do with the cash he won this series?
“Play more,” he said with a laugh.
The $1,100 buy-in Main Event was a star-studded event, with former world champion Jerry Yang and World Series bracelet winner Andrew Barber, who made it Day 2, as did both of the previous Ante Up world champions – Cy William ansd Justo Avalos, who cashed. Joe Fernandez, who owns Turlock Poker Room, finished 10th, and Michael Postle was ninth, and was part of an interesting subplot during the Main Event.
Postle cashed in the three of the first five events, rocketing him to second place in the Ante Up Poker Tour Player of the Year rankings. Going into Day 2, he needed to finish at least 27th to move ahead of Christian Francia of Bayonne, N.J. Pending the addition of any more Ante Up Poker Tour events before Dec. 31, Postle will be the Player of the Year and will win five nights in a Thunder Valley suite for the Ante Up World Championship and a $250 food credit.
This was the fourth Ante Up NorCal Classic, and featuring 12 events, including a couple of interesting twists on no-limit hold’em, including an escalator event where the blind levels increase each level; a countdown event that started eight-handed, went to six-handed and finished four-handed; and a marathon event that started players with 20,000 units and 40-minute levels – but no breaks.
“It was a great week,” said Ben Erwin, director of poker operations for Thunder Valley. “The adjustments we made to the main to make it a unique $1K, the players definitely noticed. They appreciated the extra chips and the extra play. I definitely think we found a recipe for the Main event that we’ll use for the NorCal next year.”
ANTE UP NORCAL CLASSIC – ANTE UP POKER TOUR
Thunder Valley Casino Resort – Lincoln, Calif.
Main Event – No-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $231,000
1 Andy Pham Elk Grove, CA $30,347
2 Dinh Le Suisun City, CA $26,321
3 Jimmy Zeledon San Jose, CA $24,089
4 Jose Cervantes San Jose, CA $23,798
5 Joshua Shaw Sacramento, CA $23,728
6 Gregory Pincombe Redwood City, CA $18,052
7 Francisco Santana San Jose, CA $16,416
8 Anton Dimagiba Sacramento, CA $13,054
9 Michael Postle Rancho Cordova, CA $5,429
10 Joe Fernandez Turlock, CA $3,973
11 Lance Donnell Reno, NV $3,973
12 Steven Tada Santa Clara, CA $3,973
13 Mario Sequeira Hanford, CA $3,257
14 Calixto Magaoay Vallejo, CA $3,257
15 Phaly Nou San Jose, CA $3,257
16 William Wendling San Jose, CA $2,772
17 Barry Birdwell Marysville, CA $2,772
18 Murugiah Dhanushkumar Livermore, CA $2,772
19 Barry Kay Incline Village, NV $2,426
20 Justo Avalos Elk Grove, CA $2,426
21 Dorothea Timmons Lathrop, CA $2,426
22 Michael Harvey San Francisco, CA $2,171
23 Kristofferson Nunez Lincoln, CA $2,171
24 Petru Tantos Fair Oaks, CA $2,171
25 Asa Martinez Sacramento, CA $1,917
26 Alan Skriel Roseville, CA $1,917
27 Surinder Singh Hercules, CA $1,917