In perhaps one of the more dominant tournament performances you’ll ever see, Germany’s (and the United Kingdom’s, by residency) Rainer Kempe dominated a stacked final table to take down the championship of Poker Central’s 2016 Super High Roller Bowl at Aria in Las Vegas early this morning.
The final table of seven men had survived the difficult 49 player field, so their minimum payday of $600,000 was well deserved. At the start of the action on Wednesday afternoon, Kempe held a massive chip lead with his 5.545 million chip stack. His countryman Fedor Holz (also the only player younger than Kempe at the final table) was his closest competitor with 2.19 million chips and the remainder of the field was tightly packed behind Holz. The Global Poker League’s New York Rounders manager Bryn Kenney (2.085 million), businessman Dan Shak (1.65 million), Matt Berkey (1.205 million) and Poker Hall of Famers Erik Seidel (1.12 million) and Phil Hellmuth (905,000) rounded out the stellar field.
Hellmuth, who demonstrated a style of play and actions at the tables earlier in the tournament more reminiscent of Mike Matusow, needed a double early and got it. Battling against Shak on an 8-7-6 board, Hellmuth got his chips to the center and Shak made the call. Hellmuth’s pocket Kings were in charge, but Shak had a wealth of outs with his pocket tens (four nines to a straight, two tens). When a four landed on the river, Hellmuth went from the short stack to second in chips and suddenly was a contender for Kempe to keep his eyes on.
The deliberate play – even with the 40-second “shot clock” running – also provided some outstanding play for the “plausibly live” audience watching over the CBS Sports Network (the proceedings were on a one-hour delay). Shak fought for a bit before succumbing to Holz in seventh place, actually rivering a pair with his K-J against Holz’ A-9 but seeing Holz make a straight on the 10-7-3-8-J board. A little more than an hour later, Kenney would become another victim of Holz in sixth place, his pocket sevens getting coolered by Holz’ pocket Jacks.
Even with those knockouts, Holz was still looking up at a confident Kempe. Kempe’s confidence would continue to grow when he won a race against Berkey, Kempe’s pocket sevens flopping a set and rivering a boat, to send him home in fifth place. Down to four players it was, as play-by-play commentator Ali Nejad and color commentator Nick Schulman stated, a battle of the “old guard” versus the “young guns.”
To be honest, it wasn’t much of a battle. The “old guard” – Hellmuth (1.705 million) and Seidel (935K) – didn’t have much ammunition to take to battle against Kempe (9.875 million) and Holz (2.185 million) and it was just a matter of time. Hellmuth was the first to fall to Kempe, his Q-J off suit failing to find anything to top Kempe’s K-J off suit, while Seidel staved off the two Germans for a time before eventually falling to Kempe as well in third place. After starting with the two shortest stacks in the field, however, the two Poker Hall of Famers put on a display of poker prowess that was impressive.
Kempe started with almost a four million chip lead over Holz, but that almost entirely disappeared in the first few moments of heads up play. Holz drew away after that misstep but, just before the end of Level 24, Holz would find a key double to get back within a million chips of Kempe. Holz would actually edge into the lead after about 30 minutes of play in Level 25, but Kempe would regain his advantage by the end of the level.
To speed up the process, the players agreed to skip Level 26 and, with the advanced blinds and antes of Level 27 (80K/160K with a 20K ante), the end would come fairly quickly. Kempe would pick up a big pot once play resumed to move out to a six million chip lead, then would administer the coup de grace moments later. On the final hand, Holz raised the betting and, after a Kempe three-bet, moved all in. Kempe made the call and showed a dominant pocket pair of eights over Holz’ pocket deuces and, once the board rolled out 5-10-9-4-3, the tournament was over and Rainer Kempe was the champion.
1. Rainer Kempe, $5,000,000
2. Fedor Holz, $3,500,000
3. Erik Seidel, $2,400,000
4. Phil Hellmuth, $1,600,000
5. Matt Berkey, $1,100,000
6. Bryn Kenney, $800,000
7. Dan Shak, $600,000