The tournament was straight forward enough; 100 runners, regular blinds, 3,000 starting chips and a 15 minute clock. But the field and prize were something altogether less ordinary. An exclusive list of the top 100 players on the PokerStars tournament leader board had been assembled, competing for a prize that was the ultimate one for any player itching not just to play live tournament poker but in some of the biggest tournaments on the planet.
The PokerStars Passport, the first of its kind, was won today by Dustin Mele, once known online as DoobMan420, and right now the man from New York should be leafing happily through brochures of Europe, the Pacific and of course Las Vegas. Ten big buy-in tournaments are his for choosing, in a multitude of destinations to satisfy anyone’s taste, a truly awesome prospect for anyone.
The question was no doubt on everyone’s minds prior to the start - which tournaments would you choose? The only obligation facing the winner would be a trip to the EPT Dortmund in just over two weeks and to the PCA next January to mark the end of an incredible year.
So would it be the Riviera? To the first EPT in San Remo before a short hop over the Italian border to the Monte Carlo Grand Final? Perhaps you’d take a more easterly route, with stops on the Asia-Pacific Poker Tour in Sydney, Seoul or Manilla? And of course, what poker player could miss a trip to Vegas in the spring for a shot at the World Series main event?
All that would be answered soon enough.
Starting chip counts:
Seat 1 -- Icallseat3 – 25,158
Seat 2 -- Cajundaddy1 – 29,876
Seat 3 -- Stammdogg – 43,225
Seat 4 -- VOLCANO360 – 45,237
Seat 5 -- Pokerfun4321 – 47,660
Seat 6 -- Aryamehr – 21,033
Seat 7 - Inheritance – 17,160
Seat 8 -- DoobMan420 – 26,649
Seat 9 -- prosimon – 41,603
After two and a half hours of play, seeing off 91 players, the it didn’t take long for the final table to spark into life.
Minutes in it was inheritance calling the raise of pokerfun4321 from teh small blind which also Mele called. Inheritance then led the betting on the flop, moving all-in on the turn, but seemed unable to shake off the others who went on without him as inheritance waited for his fate to be decided. His final table experience would be a short one. Mele would show a full house, sixes over tens after a perfect flop for him of T-6-T. Pokerfun4321 had taken a hit, mucking his hand, but inheritance suffered most, settling for ninth place.
At the short end of the stack counts now was Aryamehr. A minute after inheritance’s demise it looked like Aryamehr’s would join him on the rail when his remaining 15k went into the middle. But his fortune shone brightly. He pushed all-in pre-flop and found Stammdogg moving in behind him. 9d-Kc-4c-Qd -3s on the board; A-K for Aryamehr, bettering Stammdogg’s A-Q to keep him alive.
Not good for Stammdogg though. Or pokerfun4321 for that matter, both of whom felt the force of an erupting VOLCANO360 within minutes. They went to the rail in eighth and seventh position respectively in a hand that seemed to make VOLCANO360 the shoe-in for a passport to a year on the road.
With Stammdogg all-in for just over 13k, he was called by VOLCANO360 before pokerfun4321 moved all-in himself, a chip or two shy of 40k. Undeterred VOLCANO360 called, a move that would boost his stack to nearly 100k when he showed his pocket Kings. Jacks for Stammdogg and just tens for pokerfun4321. Two out in one hand and all of a sudden just six remained.
Three minutes later it was down to five.
With blinds still at 1,000/2,000 with a 200 ante, icallseat3, who had been quiet up to now, raised to 5,250 before cajundaddy1 re-raised all-in, a total of 23,875. That chased everyone else away except for icallseat3. When the board delivered Jc-6c-2c-7c-4d, icallseat3 showed the ace of clubs for the flush, too good for cajundaddy1’s pair of jacks.
The front two were beginning to pull away...
Volcano360 – 103,638
icallseat3 – 84,691
prosimon – 49,993
Mele – 37,612
Aryamehr – 17,866
Six minutes later Aryamehr found a hand to move in with. His last 13,600 rested on K-8. The only problem came from prosimon calling with aces, and Aryamehr's hopes of a year of high-stakes tournament poker faded away in fifth place.
VOLCANO 360 had lead the way for much of the afternoon but one of those seismic hands was about to take place, shifting the tournament onto an entirely different course.
icallseat3 – 82,991
VOLCANO360 – 104,538
DoobMan420 – 52,512
prosimon – 59,959
Icallseat3 raised pre-flop to 6,500 which VOLCANO360 called, as did prosimon, seeing a flop of Jh-Kh-7s. When prosimon checked icallseat3 made it 18,500 to play which VOLCANO360 called. It was just the two of them now and the turn card Th brought flush possibilities into play – as well as hands even more lethal. On tiptoes now icallseat3 checked, no doubt happy to see VOLCANO360 bet 60k – putting icallseat3 all in if he called. And, like a memory re-lived in slow motion, icallseat3 did just that, showing A-Q of hearts for the royal flush. Never had a river card been so unnecessary.
174,582 suddenly moved to a different end of the table, and the once dominant VOLCANO360 would now become the unsurprising fourth place finisher. From the heady heights of the chip lead to the rail in just minutes, and we thought royal flush’s only ever appeared in Hollywood movies. VOLCANO360 lasted just two minutes more, out to a more humane hand, A-4 against the A-J of Mele.
icallseat3 – 166,000
prosimon – 51,000
Mele – 77,000
Three-handed both prosimon and Mele were playing in the large shadow cast by chip leader icallseat3. And it was the shorter stack of prosimon who would succumb first.
A pre-flop Mele raise called by prosimon. A check from Mele on the 6-8-K diamond flop and this time prosimon moved all-in, with Mele calling. 3s and 9h completed the board, going well with the T-9 of diamonds in Mele’s hand. Just kings for prosimon and a trip to the rail in third.
Incredibly, after just half an hour the PokerStars Passport final was heads-up, and icallseaty3 had the advantage – 174,382 to 119,018
Whilst icallseat3 had found himself on the up-side of a massive pot earlier with the royal flush, hands often tend to even out in the long run. Icallseat3 might have wondered if this wasn’t a little too quick for things to balance out when he saw the chip lead surge away from him. A story of two kings on the board to match the one in Mele’s hand. Icallseat3 called the flop, turn and river but was always behind. A hand to take Mele to over 184k and a clear run to the finish.
Icallseat3 hung on as best he could but couldn’t compete with a newly aggressive Mele able to use the big stick well, forcing his opponents into making the decisions.
The reality was that both players would walk away with a prize to be envied – a package to the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo worth in excess of €10,000 would be in the hands of the runner-up; not bad for a freeroll. But this was all about the passport - too big a prize to give up on.
The fact that Mele now has that to his name came from an impressive performance that will bode well for when he gets his hands on the baize. He kept out of harm’s way at the right times to outlast a field laden with tournament masters. With no let up the last hand would be decided by a narrow margin – A-K for Mele, A-J for icallseat3. Not much between the two on a blank board, but it’s Mele about to embark on his own personal poker tour.
For icallseat3, well he’ll be on his way to the EPT Grand Final. But all eyes will now look to Mele who takes the best wishes of the other finalists with him on what should be one incredibly ride. It starts in Dortmund later this month. The rest is up to him.
PokerStars Passport - final result:
1st – Dustin Mele – PokerStars Passport
2nd – icallseat3 – EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final package
3rd – prosimon – $10,000
4th – VOLCANO360 – $5,000
5th – Aryamehr – $3,000
6th – cajundaddy1 -- $2,500
7th – pokerfun4321 – $2,000
8th – Stammdogg – $1,500
9th – inheritance – $1,000