Season Finale - Chicago's Largest Poker Tournament

Main Event Charity Games and Windy City Poker Championship teamed up to throw the biggest poker party in Chicago history. On Friday and Saturday, December 18 & 19, 2009, 180 tournament players, and a host of cash game players, spectators, and sponsors made history at the Irish American Heritage Center, raising funds for two worthy charities in the process.

The tournament kicked off at about 8pm on Friday, after tournament organizers scrambled to accommodate their largest field to date. The play went until 1AM, when the 140 remaining players bagged their chips, and headed home for the night. Play resumed at noon on Saturday.

The publishers of Ante Up, Florida's Poker Magazine, Chris Cosenza and Scott Long were on hand to kick off the event and handle emcee duties. They could be seen throughout the event representing their business, and playing plenty of Chinese Poker and mixed cash games.

The television crew at Windy City Poker Championship, of which this author is affiliated, did an incredible job of converting the lounge area of the facility into a TV set, home to the "featured table", and when the field was down to 8, the Final Table.

At the start of day 2, there was a buzz of discontent in the crowd as the tournament organizers announced a change in the tournament structure. This author had estimated that we were about an hour short of the time required to complete the tournament - as the State of Illinois does not permit charity games to be played after 2am. The tournament organizers, concerned that we would run out of time for the conclusion of the tournament, particularly given the overhead of the televised final table, announced that levels would be temporarily shortened from 30 minutes to 20, and that 3 levels would be removed from the structure over the course of the day.

When the next few levels brought a host of bust-outs, the organizers returned the structure back to normal, having made up the one hour via 10-minutes off of three levels, and the removal of one, single 30-minute level. The event was back on course.

The event feature a number of notable attendees, including Chicago's own Richard Roeper, 2008 WSOP Main Event Final Tablist Dennis Phillips, host of ESPN Inside Deal Bernard Lee, and author of Eat Professional Poker Players Alive Frank Wiese.

I had the good fortune of playing between Roeper and Lee at the featured table on Day One (at left).

Day Two saw the field shrink from 140 remaining players down to 20 when the tournament went "hand-for-hand". Some players tightened up, trying to eek their way into the payouts which were awarded to the top 18 finishers. About five hands in to hand-for-hand the field narrowed to 19, and the then three hands later, the field celebrated making it into the money.

The event played with two balanced tables until this author (yeah, me!) found Ah Qc at our five-handed table. With a reputation for being a loose, aggressive player, and only 9 big blinds remaining, I happily shoved all of my chips to the middle. The player immediately to my left, on the button promptly called, and when the blinds folded, showed me two Kings. My hand did not improve, and the remaining players combined to a single table.

Once the field eliminated two players, the remaining eight, including the Windy City Poker Championship Executive Producer David McDermott, moved to the televised final table.

After a battery of player interviews, television preparation, and several introductory takes and re-takes featuring WCPC hosts Kirk Fallah and this column's author, the televised final table was under way. The players competed for over two hours, until an eventual champion was crowned.

Leroy Carver was crowned the season finale Windy City Poker Champion, followed by Marty Masar in second, and Ken Felten in third place.

[Featured at left, Windy City Poker Championship's Creator and co-host Kirk Fallah, Chicago Poker Club author and WCPC co-host Jason Finn, and previous WCPC co-host Michael Lapidus.]

The event will be televised on Chicago's Comcast Sports Net and Florida's Bright House Network in late February/early March 2010.
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