When the best players in the game today are discussed, his is a name you seldom hear mentioned. You’ll hear about the best Germans – Fedor Holz, Dominik Nitsche, Rainer Kempe, among others – or about Justin Bonomo or Michael Mizrachi here in the U. S. With his victory in the 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, David ‘Chino’ Rheem has put his name up there with the best active players in the game.
Always Helps to Start at the Top…
Rheem was on the pole position at the start of the final table on Wednesday, holding a massive stack of 7.55 million. Close behind him was one of the “feel good” stories of the 2019 PCA (more on this in a moment) in 67-year old Scott Wellenbach, holding an imposing stack of 6.015 million chips himself. Brian Altman was looking to get into the running for the title with his 4.995 million chips, while Vicent Bosca (2.875 million), Daniel Strelitz (2.355 million) and Pave Veksler (2.035 million) realistically were looking at leveling up for some more cash rather than the title.
The players were a bit tentative in the early action, with the shorter stack defending themselves admirably as Rheem and Wellenbach looked to lengthen their advantage. Very little changed through the first 98 hands of the final table, save for Veksler digging himself out of the basement into the third-place position. On Hand 99, however, everyone in the Atlantis tournament arena woke up with the first elimination of the final table.
Altman had slowly let chips slip through his fingers, watching his stack get down to about 3.2 million. When he found an A♦ 3♦ under the gun, Altman took a stab with a min-raise. Rheem, defending his big blind, woke up with pocket Queens and immediately put out a three bet. Altman, unfortunately, didn’t believe Rheem and moved his stack to the center, which Rheem insta-called. The ten-high board runout with no diamonds didn’t help Altman any as he exited the stage with a sixth-place finish.
After Altman’s departure (and Rheem stacking fresh chips in front of him), the table loosened up and the chips began to fly. Rheem gave out some of those chips, doubling up Bosca when he four-bet shoved Big Slick against Rheem’s A-Q and saw it stand. Rheem, however, stayed around the 10 million chip mark while this flurry was going on as the players behind him tried to catch up.
First was Bosca, who had the best pre-flop with his A-J against Rheem’s 5-3 until the Q-10-3-10-5 board flipped fortunes to ‘Chino’ and eliminated Bosca in fifth place. Then it was Veksler’s turn, with Rheem’s pocket sixes standing over Veksler’s Big Chick (A-Q) to send the Ukrainian out in fourth. Once Wellenbach – who stated before the start of the final table that he was donating all his winnings from this tournament to charity as a part of his Buddhist faith – was eliminated by Rheem, his K-Q catching on the flop but Rheem’s A-10 running him down on the river for a straight, only Strelitz was left to try to derail ‘Chino.’
An Insurmountable Task
Strelitz, facing nearly a 5:1 deficit, fought the good fight but it was eventually too much to overcome. It only took seven hands for Rheem to bring about the end, but it still had some drama to it when it came. On the final hand, Strelitz shoved and Rheem immediately called, his pocket fives ahead of Strelitz’s A♠ 2♠. The K-J-10 flop was about as good as Strelitz could have asked for (short of catching an Ace) as it added the Queens and a double paired board to potential winning outs for Strelitz. The double paired board disappeared on the turn with a trey and, once the river came with a second ten, Strelitz was out in second and Rheem was the champion of the 2019 PCA Main Event.
1. David ‘Chino’ Rheem, $1,567,100
2. Daniel Strelitz, $951,480
3. Scott Wellenbach, $671,240
4. Pavel Veksler, $503,440
5. Vicent Bosca, $396,880
6. Brian Altman, $297,020
This isn’t the first million-dollar tournament on Rheem’s resume. He is a highly decorated three-time champion on the World Poker Tour, was the champion of the first tournament held on the highly controversial Epic Poker League and has 100 tournament cashes on his record. While he hasn’t yet picked up a World Series of Poker bracelet, Rheem has over $10.5 million in tournament poker earnings and is in the Top 50 in all-time tournament poker earnings.
Thus, the 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure has ended. It is only the first salvo in what will be a year-long fight in the tournament poker world, however. Just as soon as the PCA wrapped, action kicked off “Down Under” in Australia for the Aussie Millions. And, while he might be enjoying his PCA title right now, you can be sure that David ‘Chino’ Rheem will be back on the felt very soon, if not in Australia than back in the U. S.