Classic combo cash grab

Coronavirus might have done its best to slow the event’s momentum, but there was no stopping the 2022 Johnnie Walker Poker Classic which was bigger and better than ever.

For the first time in three years the four-day poker competition came to the Blue Lake city and it was worth the wait, with the Mount Gambier RSL engulfed with a sea of people.

All up, a record total of 748 entries were recorded across all games which accumulated a combined prize pool of $123,878.30.

It could not have been a more successful way to bring the Johnnie Walker Classic back to life and tournament director Dale Fox said it was hard not to get caught up in amidst the atmosphere as all expectations were slashed.

“From a director’s point of view I did get really emotional at one point because I had never seen anything quite like it,” he said.

“It eclipses the one we had two years ago, so it was obviously the biggest poker tournament we have ever had in Mount Gambier and everyone was there to enjoy themselves.

“It was a huge cash injection for the entire town, so it was a huge success on so many levels.

“We have certainly put Mount Gambier on the poker map nationally, while there were some who were watching internationally.”

A total of 63 hours of poker was played across the four days with six titles up for grabs.

But all eyes were on the main event which is a battle of patience being played across all four days and decides the Johnnie Walker Classic champion.

A total of 62 players kicked off proceedings on the opening day before the number grew to 159 within 20 minutes of the game opening on the Saturday.

After hours and hours of top-quality competition, one man emerged on top with “Matty” holding his nerve to claim the $20,000 prize purse.

Fox said it was incredible to see two rooms of players completely full with all competitors ‘playing their hearts out’.

“When we got to the final table there were nine players left and each one had a great shot at winning the $20,000 first prize and book themselves a seat at the champion of champions tournament in Adelaide,” he said.

“So there was a big carrot for any poker player and Matty, who is with the Southern Poker group, played brilliantly.

“He said to me he had never competed in a tournament like it and was rapt with his gameplay.

“There was only nine players left and they all had a good chance to win, but Matty played out a hand and basically had 80% of the chips, so he was destined to win the game and just played like an absolute superstar.”

Despite the great efforts of victor “Matty”, some of the biggest cheers were left for a player who did not even feature on the podium.

The unexpected hero of the classic was Naracoorte’s Allen Brodey.

Brodey had a long interest in poker, playing it regularly on his phone, but never had the chance of playing live at a table.

But after hearing about the Johnnie Walker Classic on the radio, he told his wife he had to go and play.

Brodey showed no fear in the hot seat and put his inexperience to the side to throw a cat amongst the pigeons in the race for the overall honours.

The rookie could have been chip leader during the closing stages, but a bad beat ended his dream run.

Despite the disappointing finish, Brodey still managed to take home $3365 for fourth place.

There was also big interest in the other events with the High Roller attracting over 100 players.

Bahri Ozbiricik emerged victorious, but that was only after the top three had finished up with equal chip stacks and a gentleman’s agreement between the trio meant over $1000 was generously donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Playing numbers were also strong in the Terminator and Turbo competitions which were won by Steve Murnane and Jack Church respectively.

There was plenty of rivalries established in the team’s event, but none could compete with winners Daniel O’Conner and Nathan Campbell, while the event opener went to Vinnie Goodger.

Controlling all the poker madness was Fox and Gambier Poker and RSL team members and he admitted it was one exhausting weekend.

“We knew it was going to be bigger than the year before, we still underestimated how many players that were going to be there,” he said.

“After the first event on the Thursday night attracted 91 players and 108 entries, we knew we were going to be in for huge weekend.

“I have to say a huge thanks to the RSL staff and Gambier Poker committee, because everyone worked tirelessly for 16 hours a day just to accommodate the weekend.

“Myself and Martin Pink ran it pretty much with our three staff, so we just hugged it out at the end realising we pulled off an absolute miracle and the drinks were flowing on Sunday night when everything had finished.”

Fortunately, the long and exhausting days for the Gambier Poker team were worth it.

According to Fox, the hundreds of players all left the tournament with a smile on their dial, which means the classic’s future looks bright.

“Everyone was there just to enjoy themselves and they all said they will be back and bring even more with them,” he said.

“The series will be huge again next year and we will have some action plans to make it even better.

“We now have reputation as a town that can hold amazing tournaments for poker players all over Australia.

“So we have certainly put Mount Gambier on the poker map nationally and plan to keep building from strength to strength.”

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