With the Main Event already done and other events still ongoing — including today’s “Run It Up” events hosted by Team PokerStars Pro Jason Somerville — the PokerStars Festival New Jersey High Roller played down to a winner today,
Two locals made it to heads-up in this one — Jack Duong from right here in New Jersey and Jennifer Shahade of nearby Philly. And in the end the man from South Plainfield took the trophy following a brief but gamely-fought heads-up duel.
A field of 16 had assembled early afternoon on Friday, and a full day’s worth of poker concluded with Chris Moneymaker’s bustout in fifth place. With play stopped for the night, they were just one shy of the cash as the top three spots paid.
It was a fearsome foursome that remained, with all having enjoyed significant tournament successes before.
Besides being a two-time Women’s Chess Champion, PokerStars Mindsports Ambassador Jennifer Shahade has an Open-Face Chinese Pineapple event title under her belt (for which she coincidentally won an impressively-sized belt) among other poker scores, including a deep run to just outside the top 200 in this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event.
Speaking of the WSOP — and looking at the other returners — Duong won a bracelet in a NL bounty event in 2015 worth about $333K. Randy “nanonoko” Lew of Team PokerStars Pro Online won the APPT5 Macau Main Event in 2011 for a cash worth nearly half a milly USD. And David Vamplew won the EPT7 London Main Event in 2010 for a cash worth almost $1.4M.
Both Lew and Vamplew also cashed yesterday in the PokerStars Festival New Jersey Main Event won late last night by Jason Acosta. Alas for Vamplew, he wouldn’t be adding a second festival cash in this one after being knocked out by Shahade on the money bubble.
While Duong started today with the big stack and Lew and Shahade were both above the average, Vamplew started as the short one with just over 20 big blinds. He would shove a couple of times early over Lew opens, with Lew stepping aside both times. Then an open-push with ace-four got called by Duong who had ace-eight, and the board brought two pair and a chopped pot to enable Vamplew to keep his seat.
Finally Vamplew got his short stack in again with 8♣8♦ and was called by Shahade who’d picked up A♣K♠. The eights held through the turn, but an ace on the river sent Vamplew railward, giving Shahade the chip lead as they moved into the day’s second hour.
Then a double-up by Lew through Shahade evened things out again with all three players practically neck-and-neck-and-neck going into the day’s third level.
From there Shahade and Lew edged upward while Duong slipped back, then it was Duong surging ahead again while Lew became short. By the day’s second break both Shahade and Duong were hovering around 200,000 chips while Lew was down to 70,000, and as it happened the first hand back he’d be putting all of those chips at risk.
Lew open-raised all in from the small blind with K♣5♠, Duong called from the big with A♣5♣, and an uncooperative set of community cards ended Lew’s run in third.
That gave Duong a slight edge to start heads-up play, though Shahade managed to even things between the pair in short order. It wasn’t much longer, though, before Duong had edged out in front again.
Then… suddenly… a conclusion arrived.
Shahade opened with a button raise with K♥J♥ and after looking down at 3♠3♣ Duong decided to challenge her with an all-in push. Shahade accepted the challenge by making the call, but the 9♠8♠8♣Q♥6♥ board was no help to her.
That makes two runner-ups for Shahade this week after her second-place finish in the 3rd Annual Chad Brown Memorial Tournament two days ago. But while the trophy was the goal, Shahade was plenty satisfied afterwards.
“It’s normally higher stakes when you play against such good players,” she observed, “so it was really great practice. And it was still a lot of pressure, playing short-handed.”
Regarding Duong, Shahade was full of praise. “He’s good, I learned a lot,” she said, noting as well an earlier event this week in which she’d tangled with him and he’d gotten the better of their exchange.
“When I was Ms. Pac Man on Halloween, he made a good call against me,” she explained. “I was hoping to get my revenge!” she added with a grin.
The event to which Shahade was referring — a $1K NL Turbo — Duong won as well, making it two titles for him in just a few days. It has been a satisfying week for him, punctuated by having outlasted a tough final group today.
“Three-handed was really tough,” he said, “but I’ve been playing good, and had some momentum.”
Both Shahade and Duong spoke of the confidence boost that comes with making multiple deep runs, even in short fields. And for Duong there was another meaningful bonus to claiming the first prize.
“I am really excited about the trophy,” smiling in a way he couldn’t quite muster during his winner’s photo up above. Nor when sporting his poker face at the table.
It is a nice trophy. And a nice finish as well to the first PokerStars Festival New Jersey High Roller.
PokerStars Festival NJ High Roller – 8 Handed
Dates: November 4-5
Buy-in: $2,000 + $200
Prize pool: $31,040
1. Jack Duong (US) — $15,520
2. PokerStars Mindsports Ambassador Jennifer Shahade (US) — $9,312
3. Team PokerStars Pro Online Randy Lew (Canada) — $6,208
Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.