Dawn on the fourth day of play at Club Med Turkoise on the beautiful island of Providenciales broke drizzly and miserable, the product of a night filled with lightning storms and power outages. Generally, when the WPT ventures into the tropics it chooses to play its final tables out of doors, but for today's climactic encounter the tournament staff had earmarked the dining room of the Club Med's La Mer restaurant, a rustic edifice that harkened back to days of sailing ships and pirates in both its interior decoration and its lack of adequate ventilation.
Invited to the WPT soundstage for the final table were six survivors culled from a field of 137, including chip leader Erik Cajelais, Shipitholla Balla and online wizard Alan Sass, previous WPT titleholder Nam Le, poker pro Chris Smith, Vancouver native Trevor Hebert and hometown hero Rhynie Campbell, the father of poker on the Turks and Caicos and the unanimous fan favorite throughout the event.
Indeed, the spectators' viewing gallery was packed with middle-aged women of gradually increasing intoxication, cheering whenever Campbell won a pot and laughing whenever their jovial comrade appeared on the viewing monitors. The task would not be an easy one for Campbell, however: he entered the day fifth in chips and facing a cabal of experienced professionals.
From the beginning, though, it looked like the cards would fall Campbell's way. The founder of The Players Club and the driving force behind the WPT's bringing Mike Sexton & Co. to the island got his chips in early against Nam Le on a T♣ 9♥ 2♠ board with J♥ 8♥ for the open-ended straight draw to Le's T♥ 4♠ for top pair. The Q♥ on the turn would get Campbell his straight and the K♥ on the river would get him a flush for good measure, and from there the game was on.
Le, who entered the day short-stacked after a very tenacious Day 3, would not recover from his donation to the Campbell fund, and after an hour or so of tough play the California pro and WPT Season 4 Shooting Star champ would get all-in with A♦ Q♥ against Campbell's A♥ K♠. The board would run 7♦ 6♥ 5♦ K♦ 4♣ and although he'd pick up a diamond draw on the turn, the curse of Campbell would soup Le's outs and he'd hit the rail in sixth place for $30,000.
Chris Smith would take a chunk out of Campbell after another hour or so of unremarkable play when he doubled through the Turkoise Tarnation, but Campbell would rise again after getting all-in on a Q♦ J♣ 3♠ board against Erik Cajelais with T♦ 9♠ to the French-Canadien's Q♥ J♠. Again Campbell would get in with an open-ended draw and again he'd hit, spiking the 8♥ on the river to double through Cajelais and keep his dreams alive yet again.
Campbell would double repeatedly at the expense of Cajelais, who by this point looked a bit rattled by his lack of good fortune and seemed to be baited into making loose calls. He'd make moves like calling Campbell's all-in with A♦ 3♠ and running into a monster in the form of his opponent's pocket kings, giving Campbell more life and failing again to capitalize on his chip advantage.
The five remaining players played slow poker for a number of hours with all-ins being rewarded with double-ups and pre-flop raises being met by folds all around before the eliminations finally came through in earnest.
First to go was Trevor Hebert, the tattooed Vancouver native who saw his luck run out when he shoved all-in over the top of three limpers with K♥ 5♥ and saw Erik Cajelais lick his lips with A♣ K♦. The board would run out Q♠ 9♥ 8♠ J♥ T♠ and Cajelais would retain his advantage to send Hebert to the rail in fifth place for a $50,000 stipend.
Soon after Hebert's elimination Chris Smith would hit the road, shoving all-in for his last $434,000 over top of a $45,000 Erik Cajelais raise and seeing Le Chip-Leader call with A♦ Q♥ to his own K♥ 6♥. The board would bring plenty of hope for Smith, giving him a heart-flush draw on the J♥ 4♣ 2♥ flop and a straight draw to boot with the 3♦ on the turn. With two live cards and a million and one draws, Smith looked primed for the double but the river card was the J♣ and the boy had missed all of his outs but the one leading to the rail. Smith would bust in fourth place for $75,000.
Alan Sass would find himself relegated to the rail in third place shortly after another Campbell double-up. The young tournament specialist, who by most accounts played the best poker of all the players at the final table, moved all-in with pocket fours to Rhynie Campbell's T♦ 7♥ and after a dangerous flop of A♣ Q♥ J♦ saw Campbell hit his gut-shot draw with the K♠ on the turn. The river was a meaningless 3♦ and The Sassy One was out with a $125,000 windfall to add to the online bankroll.
That left just Cajelais and Campbell, and with the latter holding a more than 2-1 chip advantage it was no surprise that the hometown favorite dictated the tempo of play. He told onlookers the heads-up match would last only five minutes and he wasn't so far off, coming over the top of Cajelais on about 75% of the hands played and eating up most of the French-Canadien's chips very quickly.
Cajelais would double once but would still find himself in a substantial chip deficit, and he'd get all of his chips in the middle with Q♥ 9♣ to try to make up some ground. Campbell would call with T♥ T♦ but the flop would be kind to the underdog, coming Q♣ 9♠ 3♠. The turn card would add some drama, bringing the K♥ and leaving Campbell drawing to a jack or a ten for the win. As the crowd of now substantially intoxicated middle-aged women stood and cheered, the T♠ spiked on the river to give Campbell the game, the set and the match.
For the win, Campbell earns the adoration of the aforementioned ladies, as well as a $411,675 cash prize, a $25,000 seat into the WPT World Championship in April, a gold WPT bracelet, a WPT chip set and, of course, an exclusive interview with PokerListings.com. Cajelais receives none of the baubles but does take home $225,000 for his efforts, as well as the cold consolation that maybe, just maybe, his heads-up opponent was fated to win.
Congratulations to both finalists and we'll see you WPT cats in Barcelona!