Rapinder Cheema wins UKIPT5 London Main Event and £78,825
Season 5's London UKIPT has just been played to a winner and Rapinder Cheema is the man who felled all rival contenders to claim the title here at The Hippodrome Casino London.
After defeating Fernando Marin heads-up and collecting the £78,825 first place prize money(after a deal was struck heads-up), the inexperienced Cheema was happy if a little exhausted following the experience.
"It's a good feeling" he said with a weary smile. "I'm a bit drained. I need to work on my stamina!"
Cheema then went on to make the astonishing revelation that "I've never won a poker tournament before!"
The final stage of the London UKIPT had started with just 26 hopeful runners remaining from the colossal 742-strong field that burst through The Hippodrome Casino's doors five days previously.
The day held great promise - the field replete with established and potential superstars. Two of the men remaining who have already built themselves watertight poker reputations were Ireland's second highest tournament cash winner Andy Black and celebrated Hendon Mobster Ross Boatman.
Fans aplenty were willing on deep runs for these talented vets, but the poker gods were deaf to such entreaties today, both players falling during the early stages. Boatman's day was as brief as they come, a first hand dismissal at the hands of Brett Angell leaving him wondering whether he should just have enjoyed a lie-in this morning.
Angell was one of the players gunning for a place in the UKIPT history books. Having won the previous London UKIPT, Angell had the potential to be the first man to defend his UKIPT crown at the same event. The early stages were kind to him - his stack rising during an imperious run which saw him through to the final table.
Meanwhile previous UKIPT Isle of Man finalist Jamie O'Connor was looking to convert his stack and skills into a win. It wasn't to be however, O'Connor falling victim to the loquacious Lawrence Bayley before the day was out. Bayley proved a lively presence throughout - his convivial banter and conspicuous array of poker skills illuminating his run to the final table.
Eventually the returning 26 were whittled down to just 8 players - overnight chip leader Andrew Mytton the man to be eliminated on the final table bubble.
Thus the final table was set!
Here's how the remaining eight lined up to take their shot at the title, the blinds standing at 25,000/50,000/5,000.
Seat 1: Paul Simmons, United Kingdom, 1,840,000
Seat 2: Christopher Yong, United Kingdom, 3,510,000
Seat 3: Lawrence Bayley, United Kingdom, 1,930,000
Seat 4: Martin Hanham, United Kingdom, 1,805,000
Seat 5: Brett Angell, United Kingdom, 910,000
Seat 6: Rapinder Cheema, United Kingdom, 3,590,000
Seat 7: Fernando Marin, United Kingdom, 4,055,000
Seat 8: Joakim Sorensen, Sweden, 715,000
Once they got started the lone Swede at the table, Joakim Sorensen, didn't take long to get involved, unloosing the full clip of his stack with ace-jack in late position, only to run into Paul Simmons holding a dominant ace-king. He Sorensen proved unable to spike himself out of trouble, finishing 8th for £9,138.
Angell's fairytale run ended agonisingly close to that historic second title but fell short - Rapinder Cheema picking the Middlesborough native's desperate blind steal off before flopping a full house to shoot down his pursuit of back to back titles.
Angell can still be proud of the incredible feat of back to back final tables at the same event and the £13,300 he claimed for 7th will be some consolation when he reflects on what has been an accomplished week's poker
Six-handed now, there was a hiatus in eliminations, some good quality poker seeing every remaining player fight for a higher payout position.
Something had to give eventually and it was Paul Simmons who blinked first, the cab driver's meter switched off by Bayley, when his A♥7♣ failed to get there against Lawrence Bayley's sixes.
6th place for Simmons then - a well-merited £18,600 awaited him at the cash desk.
Christopher Yong had come into the final as one of the big stacks, but his successes in the latter stages were largely outnumbered by his setbacks. He owed much of this misfortune to poor luck from the dealer, although one moment where Bayley showed a streak of flair to outplay him with a 5-bet airball would have done little to increase his confidence.
Despite the hardships he suffered card-wise, the positive young player remained upbeat and smiling throughout - a friendly presence right up to the moment Rapinder Cheema dusted his ace-nine off with pocket kings to consign him to 5th place (£24,600.)
Lawrence Bayley had played out a confident and virtually flawless final table until the latter stages - no surprise perhaps given his Supernova Elite status on PokerStars.
A few big set backs however rocked both his mindset and his chip stack and when his pocket three re-steal ran into the rampaging Cheema's pair of tens, there was to be no redemption for the popular player - handshakes and good wishes the prelude to a trip to the cash desk to collect his 4th placed prize money - £31,000.
Martin Hanham came into the final relatively shortstacked but the professional Tube driver picked his spots with judicious care to navigate his way to third spot.
Ultimately though his last stop was to be 3rd place, the big-stacked Marin one barrier too many as a key coinflip derailed his bid for the title.
Considering his outlay for the tournament was a mere £5 token however, the impressive £41,000 he parlayed this minimal outlay into can be considered a massive success - a real inspirational story for all aspiring poker players.
Hanham's elimination left UK-based Spaniard Fernando Marin battling Rapinder Cheema heads up - Marin with the 3-1 stack chip lead. The pair did a deal to flatten the pay structure and were left playing on for £15,000, the trophy and the title.
On the face of it Cheema appeared to have everything working against him - fewer chips, very little experience of live tournaments and up against a confident opponent in Marin who had been crushing the final table.
What Cheema did have going for him was fearless optimism, tenacity, and a dash of fortune. In the final analysis, this combination served him well.
A blistering series of showdown wins saw Cheema ride the waves of fortune to turn the tables on Marin and snatch the title and first prize money £78,825 from the Spaniard's hands. Marin won't be too disappointed - his high class performance netting him an impressive £74,275 in prize money.
Here are the full results from the final:
1st. Rapinder Cheema, United Kingdom, £78,825*
2nd. Fernando Marin, Spain, PokerStars Qualifier, £74,275*
3rd. Martin Hanham United Kingdom PokerStars Qualifier £41,000
4th. Lawrence Bayley United Kingdom £31,000
5th. Christopher Yong United Kingdom PokerStars Qualifier £24,600
6th. Paul Simmons, United Kingdom, PokerStars Qualifier, £18,600
7th. Brett Angell, United Kingdom, £13,300
8th. Joakim Sorensen, Sweden, £9,138
*Deal agreed heads-up
Congratulations to Rapinder Cheema for a great result here in London. Delighted but exhausted, family man Cheema is eschewing drinks at the bar to rush home and see his five year old child and family.
"I do it all for them anyway." What a champ.
Well that brings an end to our coverage of the London UKIPT.
To read full updates from the day, click here for the levels leading up to the final table.
The inaugural tournament on the UKIPT season 5 schedule has been full of excitement and memorable moments. It bodes well for the rest of the season, the next stop of which is Nottingham which will have a mouth-watering £1,000,000 guarantee.
Clear the dates April 13-20, 2015 from your diary as this will be one event at Nottingham's Dusk till Dawn you won't want to miss. Information regarding the event can be found here. Satellites start Tuesday 27th January.
We'll see you there but for now thanks for following.
All photographs are copyright of Mickey May.