Atlanta is a sprawling metropolis and my life here for nearly two decades has been fantastic, but a poker mecca it is not. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in North Carolina is probably the closest venue for a decent poker room and it’s a three to four hour drive from my house. I may give it a visit some day, as it has been a while since I have played real poker in a real poker room. I can tell you what, though: I will most definitely not play in a tournament there at the same time as Jacob Bazeley.
This week, Bazeley won the World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event at Harrah’s Cherokee, the second time he has accomplished the feat at the North Carolina casino. The first time came in 2014 when he outlasted a field of nearly 800 to win $239,096.
This time, the field was 1,127 entrants strong and his prize was $311,616. It was the second gold ring of his career, so doing the math, that means both were at Harrah’s Cherokee.
“This I was more prepared for. That last time was my first huge win,” Bazeley told WSOP.com after the tournament. “I was comfortable today, coming in… been here before.”
He had a fairly easy time of it, finishing as one of the biggest stacks after his opening flight. It was a competitive final table on Day 3, though, as players took turns doubling up. If someone looked like they were down and out, they would inevitably hit the big hand to get back in the game.
It can be stressful going through a final table like that. While it wasn’t anywhere close to what Bazeley was doing, the one time I made the final table of something more than a home game, it felt like every hand that went past the flop had people all-in, including me. When the chip standings change every other hand, it is tough to stay focused and stick to the game plan, as you tend to think about what cards you will need to shove.
But Bazeley kept his head, saying he tried “To just not lose your cool and just keep playing because everyone is getting stressed out in that moment, trying to get the pay jumps.”
Bazeley ended up heads-up against Kyle Cartwright, who was the owner of seven gold rings, four of which were Circuit Main event wins, plus one WSOP bracelet. Bazeley had a massive chip lead to start, but has things often work out, Cartwright doubled to make a game of it for a little while. It wasn’t enough, though, as Bazeley finally ended it with pocket Tens against A-Q.
Though this was a serious score for Bazeley, this wasn’t the largest cash of his live tournament career. Almost exactly three years ago, he won the Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for $568,687. He now has almost $4.4 million in live tournament earnings.