You need big hands to win big tournaments, and Doug Brabson sure did get his big hands at the right times to win the Four Corners Championship, an Ante Up Poker Tour series at Sandia Resort & Casino.
“I feel wonderful. It was a very fun tournament,” Brabson said of the $600 buy-in event that attracted 122 entries over two flights. “The best player at the table didn’t win. He was much better than I was. But I played well.”
“He” was Gary Dinh of Santa Fe, N.M., who came into the final day of the series at the Albuquerque, N.M., casino as the commanding chipleader. But just as Brabson’s big hands came up big for him when he needed them to, Dinh’s big hands seemed to never go his way.
Dinh was in command of the final table, as he was for much of the tournament, until he was holding pocket aces and got Bill Carrell all-in with pocket 10s. Carrell spiked a 10 on the turn to cripple Dinh. Brabson, meanwhile, remained patient as play at the final table stalled. His first big hand was soon to come.
Five-handed, Brabson watched as short-stack Dennis Hill shoved all-in, and Carrell, who remained second in chips, did the same. Brabson, with pocket kings, quickly called and Hill turned over 4-4 and Carrell J-J. Not that he needed it, but Brabson spiked a king on the river to vanquish two rivals and become a dominant chipleader three-handed.
“We couldn’t break six(-handed),” said Brabson, who owns a printing company in Alamogordo, N.M. “We were just rotating money. That drag from 8th-6th place was terrible. 6th-4th was worse.”
Dinh, who was left with less than 10 big blinds not too much earlier, now felt he had a second chance to win the tournament. But Brabson sensed an opportunity, and put pressure on Dinh and the remaining player, Aaron Shark.
“I decided to play really fast,” said Brabson, an avid listener of the Ante Up Pokercast, where he learned about the tournament. “I was folding the button and didn’t care. I just wanted the blinds to eat everyone else up. I was winning big pots without having good hands. I think I played the situation pretty well. I recognized what I needed to do and I did it.”
Brabson soon eliminated Shark, and found himself with a 6-to-1 chip lead over Dinh. A few hands later, Dinh shoved and Brabson found the last big hand he needed to win the tournament – A-A. The hand held.
“He did really well getting back up to second place. He’s a very good player and he knows when to push his cards,” Brabson said of Dinh, who earned $11,462 for second place. “Gary was good enough that had he doubled up, we would have played a lot longer, I’m afraid.”
In addition to $17,815 in prize money, Brabson won an entry into the $1,650 Ante Up World Championship Main Event at Thunder Valley Casino Resort next August, a custom bracelet from Sandia, a personalized Ante Up Poker Tour champion’s jacket and appears on the cover of Ante Up Magazine.
The series was unique in that rather than having several successive events in one week, the first four events were held on preceding weekends. Jacob Brenden, Christopher Schlarb, Charlie Burgoon and Collin Grubuagh were winners, each getting a seat in the Main Event in addition to the prize pool money. Brenden parlayed that win into a final table appearance in the Main Event.
“This is our first time putting together a such a big event – from the qualifiers, to the series and then the final championship,” said Clarence Hilton, director of poker operations at Sandia. “We reached about 50 percent of my expectations, and am very optimistic with what we can do with this in the years to come. We’ve gone from a single-day event to a multi-day, multiple-event series for the first time.”
During the Main Event weekend, the enclosed poker room at Sandia was bustling, with every table going during most tournament hours with cash games up to $10-$20 Omaha/8. And leading up the event, players had multiple opportunities to satellite into the Main Event for just $65.
“We’ve exceeded revenue from last year every single day with our live games,” Hilton said. “We are a small room, with 15 tables, and I think we managed it very well. The event has increased play from our out-of-town guests and our locals because of the event. A perfect example was as we were playing out the finals. Because we did a one-day event before, no one knew what was going on at 4 a.m. when the final table began. This year, it brought some real life into the room.”
Sandia made sure all players came away from the tournament with something, as all entrants got a souvenir Sandia card cover. The final 20 players also all got Sandia T-shirts and golf umbrellas, and in the lead-up to the event, 750 players with significant cash game play each got a Sandia Ante Up Poker Tour T-shirt.
“Our marketing department is making the effort to make us a top-notch, first-class resort, and making this event first class is part of that,” Hilton said. “The small things make a difference toward that goal. I wanted to show our players some appreciation, so they could take something away from the event.”
The Four Corners Championship played out at the AAA Four Diamond resort, which features luxurious hotel rooms overlooking the majestic Sandia Mountains, a full casino, fine dining, a pool, a world-class spa, a Scott Miller-designed championship golf course and an indoor event center and outdoor amphitheatre that book big-name acts.
Next up at Sandia is a Thanksgiving Black Friday Bounty tournament with $50 bounties on all players. Sandia is adding two $500 mystery bounties and eight $100 bounties. The winner of the $135 buy-in event also gets a 50-inch TV. And then the Saturday before Christmas will be the $265 buy-in Santa’s Deep Stack event.
The next Ante Up Poker Tour event will be Oct. 28-Nov. 9 at Pearl River Resort in Choctaw, Miss.
FOUR CORNERS CHAMPIONSHIP – Ante Up Poker Tour
Sandia Resort & Casino – Albquerque, N.M.
Main Event – No-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $63,620
1. Doug Brabson, Alamogordo, $17,815
2. Gary Dinh, Santa Fe, N.M., $11,452
3. Aaron Shark, Albuquerque, N.M., $8,271
4. Bill Carrell, Moriarty, N.M. $6,362
5. Dennis Hill, Hart, Texas, $4,453
6. Larry McGowan, Albuquerque, N.M., $3,817
7. Martin Noland, Albuquerque, N.M. $2,545
8. Brian Robbins, Corrales, N.M., $1,909
9. Jake Brenden, Albuquerque, N.M., $1,272
10. Mario Signeros, Albuquerque, N.M., $1,272
11. Anthony Martinez, Santa Fe, N.M., $1,272
12. Peter Walsh, Albuquerque, N.M., $1,272
13. Michael Arbitell, Placitas, N.M., $636
14. Daniel Huynh, Albuquerque, N.M., $636
15.Ian Rolko, Albuquerque, N.M., $636
Event #1 – No-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $5,400
1. Jacob Brenden, Albuquerque, N.M., $1,554
2. Wayne Gibson, Albuquerque, N.M., $924
3. Gary Dinh, Santa Fe, N.M., $462
4. Bradley Groves, Albuquerque, N.M., $378
5. William Davis, Albuquerque, N.M., $336
6. Jorge Ramirez, Santa Fe, N.M., $294
7. Stephen Freeman, Albuquerque, N.M., $252
Event #2 – No-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $4,650
1. Christopher Schlarb, Albuquerque, N.M, $1,310 and Main Event seat
2. Craig LeCompte, Albuquerque, N.M., $794 and Main Event seat
3. Ronald Ardiosa, $414
4. Daniel Armstrong, Albuquerque, N.M., $345
5. Ricardo Abeyta, Albuquerque, N.M., $311
6. Sang Giang, Albuquerque, N.M., $276
Event #3 – No-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $5,622
1. Charles Burgoon, Rio Rancho, NM, $1,680 and $600 Main Event seat
2. Cornelius Hardwick, Albuquerque, NM, $957 and $600 Main Event seat
3. Bartz A. Johnson, Magnolia, TX, $479
4. Kevin McBride, Santa Fe, NM, $392
5. Richard Brull, Albuquerque, NM, $348
6. Steve Ray, Albuquerque, NM, $305
7. Michael Madden, Colorado Springs, CO, $261
Event #4 – No-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $6,300
1. Collin Grubaugh, Santa Fe, NM, $1,887 and $600 Main Event seat
2. James Barber, Albuquerque, NM, $1,122 and $600 Main Event seat
3. Steve Ray, Colvis, NM, $561
4. Gail Wirt, Santa Fe, NM, $408
5. Craig Vancil, Albuquerque, NM, $357
6. Andrea Scott, Albuquerque, NM, $306
7. Craig Lecompte, Albuquerque, NM, $255
8. Arley Dial, Corona, NM, $204