Blair Hinkle Wins Inaugural Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship

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Battling through a monstrous field and a quality final table, Blair Hinkle was able to vanquish Justin Bonomo heads up to take down the inaugural championship of the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open late last night.

Going into the final table yesterday afternoon at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL, Hinkle and Bonomo held down the top two slots on the six handed final table. With over 41 million chips between the two (Hinkle held slightly more than a four million chip lead over Bonomo), they represented almost two-thirds of the chips in play. Ray Qartomy (13.05 million), Mukul Pahuja (10.2 million), Samuel Guilabert (4.675 million) and Greg Lehn (2.2 million) would have their work cut out for them if they were going to challenge either Hinkle or Bonomo for supremacy.

With $1.745 million on the line for first place (and hefty six-figure paydays for the rest of the table), you might have thought the players would take their time and feel each other out. Only twelve hands into the action, however, Lehn attempted to work his short stack against Bonomo with a disastrous outcome. With his K-J dwarfed by Bonomo’s A-Q, Lehn could only watch helplessly as the board came down six high to eliminate him from the tournament in sixth place.

In winning that hand, Bonomo – who half-jokingly commented earlier in the tournament about needing to finish higher than 62nd place to make back the multiple entries he had taken in the event – took over the chip lead from Hinkle. Bonomo continued to abuse his opponents as, only four hands after knocking off Lehn, Bonomo would do the same to Guilabert. After a raise from Pahuja, Guilabert three bet the action only to see Bonomo come over him with a four bet for 2.225 million. After Pahuja folded, Guilabert called off the remainder of his stack and saw the bad news.

Guilabert’s pocket deuces were crushed by Bonomo’s pocket Queens, although the board did provide some interesting moments. The 9-5-3-A flop and turn provided Guilabert with additional outs (the fours in the deck would give him a straight, along with the possibility of still hitting one of the two deuces in the deck), but a trey on the river wasn’t what he was looking for. As his chips were shipped to Bonomo, Guilabert picked up the fifth place payday of $494,490.

Bonomo attempted to keep up the pressure on the table, but it would result in him losing the lead back to Hinkle. After Bonomo raised pre-flop from the small blind, Hinkle defended his big blind with a million chip bet. Bonomo made the call to see a J-J-10 flop, which saw both players hit the brakes and check. Another Jack on the turn brought a check from Bonomo, but Hinkle fired away with a smallish 700K bet that Bonomo called. A ten on the river put a boat on the board and another check from Bonomo, but Hinkle popped the pot for 3.5 million and Bonomo instantly called. Bonomo would instantly muck, however, when Hinkle turned up pocket Queens for Jacks full of Queens to take down the pot.

Hinkle and Bonomo would dominate the action for the next hour as Qartomy and Pahuja frantically worked to stay relevant in the tournament. On Hand 52, Qartomy found a spot to get his chips into play, moving all in from under the gun and getting only Hinkle (in the big blind) to make a call. Qartomy led pre-flop with his pocket sevens over Hinkle’s K-Q, but a Queen on the flop reversed the lead. Another Queen on the turn solidified Hinkle’s lead and, once the six came on the river, Hinkle knocked Qartomy out of the tournament in fourth place.

Six hands later, Pahuja would find his way to the exit of the Seminole Hard Rock. After getting three bet by Bonomo, Pahuja moved his last 7.5 million chips to the center and, after Bonomo called, saw he was in bad shape with his K-10 versus Bonomo’s A-10. When the board ran out Queen high, Pahuja was eliminated in third place to set the showdown between Bonomo and Hinkle.

Nearly even in chips at the start of heads up action, Hinkle and Bonomo settled in for what would turn out to be a lengthy fight. Over forty hands after Pahuja’s elimination, Hinkle would pull out to a lead, only to be reeled back in by Bonomo. On Hand 96, Bonomo would take down a huge pot when his K-9 made a bigger straight than Hinkle’s 5-4 on an 8-7-6-5-8 board and, by the 100th hand of the final table, had increased his lead to over 3:1 on Hinkle and was looking to put him away.

Hinkle would lay as low as possible for the next fifty hands, looking to maintain enough chips to make an impact if her were able to double up. That happened on Hand 151, when Hinkle forced Bonomo off a monstrous pot on a Q-4-4-5 flop and turn to pull within six million chips. Bonomo, however, quickly pushed Hinkle back down over the next fifteen hands to hold a thirty million chip lead as the joust continued.

On Hand 186, Hinkle would double up through Bonomo when his pocket Aces held against Bonomo’s Q-9, but he was still 15 million chips behind at this point. Three hands later, Hinkle retook the lead on an A-4-3-5-6 board after he bet seven million chips and Bonomo couldn’t find a call. Undaunted, Bonomo once again fought back and, over the next six hands, had reestablished a 54 million to 17 million lead over Hinkle.

Now it was Hinkle’s turn to battle back and he did, closing the gap to nine million chips as the level came to an end with Hand 200. Over the next five hands, Hinkle would eventually reverse the chip counts to where he held the nine million chip lead, but it would still take another 18 hands before the penultimate showdown.

On Hand 223, Hinkle pushed out a min-raise and Bonomo called from the big blind. The Q-9-5 rainbow flop brought a check-call from Bonomo after Hinkle bet 800K, and a Jack appeared on the turn to set off the fireworks. After another Bonomo check, Hinkle bet 2.1 million. Bonomo this time check-raised all in but was met with an immediate call from Hinkle. When the cards were turned up, it was easy to see why; Hinkle had nailed a King high straight on the turn with his K-10, while Bonomo had flopped top pair with his Q-8 but was now drawing dead even with his potential gut shot Queen high straight. As the unnecessary river card fell, Hinkle raised his arms in victory after a 165 hand heads-up fight against Bonomo.

1. Blair Hinkle, $1,745,245
2. Justin Bonomo, $1,163,500
3. Mukul Pahuja, $872,625
4. Ray Qartomy, $639,925
5. Samuel Guilabert, $494,490
6. Greg Lehn, #378,138

The victory by Hinkle nearly doubles his career earnings, pushing him to more than $3.4 million lifetime. Bonomo $1.1 million take is a nice consolation prize (pushing his career tournament poker winnings to over $7 million) and an excellent reward for such an entertaining battle against Hinkle.

The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, after blasting past its $10 million guarantee, is a complete success with its completion. If officials of the Seminole Hard Rock look to continue the tournament in the future, there could very well be another “staple” tournament after the completion of the World Series of Poker come 2014.

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