Folk will do many things to help bring them good luck. For Victorino Torres that meant shaving off his moustache for the first time in years just before sitting down at the final table. The removal of facial hair worked a treat – he came from second last in chips when the nine players sat down to storm the event and take his first ever poker title. You won’t find many people happier than the PokerStars qualifier from the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.
“Of course I am elated to win,” he said, still unable to stop smiling. “But more than that I am just very thankful. Thankful to my family and to PokerStars for putting on such a wonderful tournament here this week. Now I think I might just try my luck in Las Vegas at the World Series of Poker.”
He’ll certainly have the bankroll for that – $3,246,200 HKD (around $416,000) will now find its way to his bank account. First up, though, a celebration here in Macau with his girlfriend Brenda and friends.
Torres’ journey to PokerStars Macau season 4 champion was a long and difficult one. He was one of 342 players who registered and began play over three day one flights. Some 140 of them came back for a combined day 2, of which 44 made it through to day 3 before we made our final table of nine today.
Only Keith Hawkins, a tour veteran from the UK, had fewer chips at the start of play – 174,000 to 396,000 for Torres. They were both a mile behind chip leader Cole Swannack on 1,262,000. But while Torres began to up his gears and gain chips, Hawkins was the first to go, falling early at the hands of Torres himself. Torres had raised pre-flop, Hawkins pushed all in and Torres called with pocket sevens, which stayed ahead of the Brit’s A♣3♣.
Albert Kim was next to fall, the latest of many victims this week for Chong Cheong from Hong Kong, the local crowd favorite. Kim had just lost a big pot to Jeppe Drivsholm and moved in on the next hand with A♣9♣ but ran into Cheong’s pocket eights.
The final was being played on a magnificent set in the middle of the upper casino area of the Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino, and as the day played out the rail was becoming deep with locals eager to get their taste of the high-stakes poker action. The early pace did not disappoint as Torres began his climb upwards, taking a big pot off Drivsholm to move within a whisker of 1million chips.
Drivsholm, from Denmark, got some of that back straight away when he busted fellow Nordic player Kai Paulsen from Norway. Paulsen, a force for two days here, had begun to fade away and when he three-bet all-in pre-flop with K♠7♠ he did not want a call, but that’s what he got from Drivsholm with A♥K♥. He busted.
That left six players and it was Cheong who held the chip lead, although Drivsholm threatened to take it after busting Brian Green, a PokerStars qualifier from Costa Rica in sixth place. On a 2♦5♥8♥ flop, Green pushed with 8♦9♠ but was fatally behind Drivsholm’s A♣8♠.
With five players left, Torres was the short stack after Cheong had beaten up on him just before Green’s exit. But he improved a little and then won a big pot against Kenny Nielsen, one that eliminated the Dane in fifth as well as nearly doubling up Torres. Neilsen had open-shoved with A-8 and Torres called in a flash with A-9. The window card was an 8 to propel Nielsen into the lead – but only for a second as the rest of the flop came out 9 and J to put Torres back in control. That coup sent him to second in chips behind Cheong.
The next phase was all about Drivsholm, who despite being second in chips for most of the day was being taken apart, piece by piece, by Cheong. He got low, managed to double up once, but fell in the end to that man Torres. Torres had raised with A♦7♠, Drivsholm moved all in with K♥5♥, Torres called, and that was that.
Just three were left, and Cole Swannock from New Zealand was soon out in third, walking his pocket twos straight into the pocket aces of Cheong.
Down to two, and by now Torres had a five-to-one chip lead over Cheong. He wasted no time in trying to get it over with, moving all in three times in quick succession. Cheong managed one double up, his K-Q not just overtaking Torres’ A-J but making a full house. But that is as far as Cheong got. Soon after he was out and a new champion was crowned.
Cheong opened for 125,000 and Torres called. The flop was 10♥9♠J♠, Torres checked, Cheong moved all in and Torres called instantly:
Torres: 7♣8♣ for the made straight
Cheong: 6♣Q♦ for the straight draw
Cheong was on the verge of elimination, and Torres knew it – beaming with excitement – but the dealer teased out every second of drama before putting out the A♥ turn and the river 7♦ river. And that was that.
Torres yelled with delight but was humble enough to go straight over to Cheong to shake his hand. A worthy winner, then, of an excellent week here in Macau.
My thanks go to the APPT staff and to those at the Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino for their hospitality. Thanks, too, to Tim Duckworth for his writing assistance before he had to depart to Las Vegas yesterday, and to Joe Giron for his peerless photography throughout the week.
From Macau, it’s goodnight.