Today's champion, Chad Batista, came to this event with an impressive online resume but not much in the way of live poker experience. Despite this, he quickly established himself as a force on the real felt, drawing on all his online experience as well as disarming his opponents with his youthful appearance and cordial manner.
He and runner-up Hoyt Lance had been developing somewhat of a rivalry throughout the day and it came to a head when they got down to one-on-one play. Earlier today, Batista had commented that he hoped it would be the two of them who would be able to battle it out heads-up, and as it turns out, he got his wish.
It looked grim for Batista though when heads-up play began as Lance had such a dominating chip lead that most thought the match was all but over. However, No-Limit Hold'em is a game of swings and that's exactly what we saw here tonight.
It took Batista about fifteen minutes to battle back from the brink to pull even with Lance, and even that equilibrium didn't last too long. In a hand that both players checked pre-flop, Lance bet out while holding bottom pair and was immediately raised by Batista. Without taking any time to decide, Lance pushed all-in and was insta-called by Batista who was holding top pair. Batista's hand held up, and with that pot, he completely turned the tables on the older and more experienced player.
It was almost certainly the table image that Batista had been developing since this event began that was the cause for Lance's hasty decision. Batista was constantly raising and re-raising with extremely mediocre hands and coming over the top on such a regular basis that he was considered by everyone to be a maniac. Even being the aggressor with bad hands wasn't enough for Batista tonight as he actually called an all-in bet made by Ed Corrado with a suited 5-7. Although he lost the hand and relinquished the chip lead at that time, he proved to everyone at the table that he wasn't afraid to give action and that was probably the reason he got so much for himself as the match went on.
After Lance lost that decisive pot, it was only a few more hands before Batista put the final nail in his coffin and took the first place finish for himself. With no shortage of bling; a diamond grill, watch and pendant, Chad surprised everyone with his affable personality, wishing all his fellow players well every step of the way. What was most interesting about Chad though was his style of play which can only be described as fearless.
Batista seemed to operate on different principles than most while involved in a hand. Instead of restricting himself to making moves when he sensed weakness in his opponents, although he certainly did this as well, he seemed to be motivated to push by his opponents showing strength. He came over the top so many times it was like a broken record. With no hesitation whatsoever, when another player announced a bet in front of him it was an instant all-in.
Batista was also frequently the one to initiate the action, leading out with bets and stealing more than his share of blinds and antes. Most of the time he showed good discipline and was able to release losing hands even with substantial money invested in the pot.
Chad put on quite a show tonight and the competition was a welcome change from the kind of play we saw yesterday with little to no action and players showing pretty much every hand, whether it went to a showdown or not. Hopefully this experience will prompt Batista to play in more live events as he is a character, and a contender, on the felt.