As Saturday began, there were four men who had a chance at winning the inaugural PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown. By the end of the night, only one would be left standing. David ‘Chino’ Rheem, citing his newfound sobriety as a catalyst, added another major championship to his trophy mantle in defeating Darren Elias in the finale on Saturday.

Rheem, Elias Defeat Difficult Opponents

The Final Four featured three known commodities and one player who has exploded on the “High Roller” poker scene in 2022:

‘Chino’ Rheem v. Isaac Kempton
Darren Elias v. Justin Young

First to go in the semifinals, held simultaneously at the PokerGO Studios in Las Vegas, was Young. Down to about half his starting 200K stack, Young decided to make a stand after being three-bet by Elias on their final hand. It was a classic race situation, with Young’s pocket treys trying to fend off Elias’ A-Q off suit to get Young back in the match. A 10-K-10 flop kept Young on top, but a Jack on the turn flipped the situation to Elias with his Broadway straight. Needing a trey or another ten to come on the river to give him a boat, Young instead saw a Queen to keep Elias in the lead and end Young’s tournament run in fourth place.

It took just a bit longer for the Rheem/Kempton battle to conclude. On their final hand, it was also a race situation as Kempton cast his lot with an A♣ 3♣ against Rheem’s pocket Queens. Kempton’s 2022 heater cooled a bit on this Saturday as the board ran out 8-K-2-6-7 to completely miss him and light the win lamp for Rheem’s advance to the Championship Round.

Rapid Final Match Crowns Rheem Champion

It only took 100 minutes for the battle to be decided between Rheem and Elias. Both men, who are multiple-World Poker Tour champions (Rheem has three, Elias has four), nibbled around their opponent’s stack before Rheem took a massive chunk of Elias’ chips. On a 7-5-4 flop with two diamonds, Rheem had the 10 4 to have bottom pair and a shot at a baby flush. Elias, for his part, had the best of it post flop with his 8-7 for top pair. The turn changed it all, however, coming with a pairing ten to give Rheem two pair and take over the lead in the hand. Once the river failed to help Elias with a pairing seven, Rheem took a commanding lead in the match.

Although Elias would double up once, it was not sustainable. Getting his final 52K in chips to the center with Q-5, Elias faced an uphill battle against Rheem’s A-8. The Jack-high board did not touch either man, keeping Rheem in the lead to win the inaugural PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown and the Golden Crown that came with it.

1. David ‘Chino’ Rheem, $400,000
2. Darren Elias, $200,000
3. Justin Young, $100,000
(tie) Isaac Kempton, $100,000

Rheem Credits Sobriety to Newfound Poker Success

“I’m feeling good,” Rheem said after taking down his latest major championship. “It’s a really good feeling. Honestly, it’s just a privilege and an honor to play in these events, especially given where I was at less than a year ago. I’m really grateful. It just feels good to be able to come and play and actually win.”

Pressed a bit further by PokerGO Tour journalist Donnie Peters, Rheem would elaborate on how his change in lifestyle helped him personally and professionally. “It’s no secret in the poker world that I’ve had my ups and downs,” Rheem humbly stated to Peters. “At one point in my life, I was in a really dark place. I’m just really, really grateful to have been shown the light and find God and the people that he’s put in my life to help me sustain a much more healthy, sober life. I owe it all to that, really.”

“I have my support group that helped me with that,” Rheem said to Peters of the changes he has made in his life. “My sponsor and the people that I’m surrounded by right now – Dave and Tina Powers, John Hennigan – these people, they’ve been a tremendous help in my life. They have my best interest at heart. They give me genuine life advice, and they help keep me on the straight and narrow, on the right track.”

A newly committed to poker Rheem is potentially dangerous for the poker world. With three WPT championships (including the 2013 WPT Championship), a victory at the 2022 U. S. Poker Open on the PokerGO Tour, and a win at the 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event (still not his biggest ever cash – that came with his seventh-place finish at the 2008 World Series of Poker Championship Event), it isn’t like Rheem was a slouch in the skills department to begin with. As the 2022 WSOP looms on the horizon, just what kind of havoc can the fully focused ‘Chino’ Rheem wrought on the poker community?

(Photo provided by PokerGO.com)

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