It just seemed like destiny. Every time Rhynie Campbell got all-in at the final table of the World Poker Tour's Turks & Caicos Islands Poker Classic he'd come out ahead.
The father of poker on this West Indies paradise, Campbell entered the final table of the first ever WPT event in his homeland second-to-last in chips, but by virtue of timely double-up after timely double-up, was able to pull out ahead and absolutely dominate runner-up Erik Cajelais in heads-up play.
On the climactic hand, emblematic of the luck (some would say fate) that followed him throughout a nine-hour final table, Campbell saw his opponent flop two pair against his pocket tens but would turn a gutshot straight draw and river trips to secure the victory, the $411,675 first prize, and the immortality inherent in having one's own exclusive PokerListings.com interview.
Rhynie, you just won the first ever World Poker Tour Turks & Caicos Islands Poker Classic. How does it feel?
Oh, it feels great. It hasn't actually sunk in for me yet. It almost feels like I was just playing a regular poker game someplace.
Did you ever feel like you could be the champion of the first WPT event on your home soil?
No, I have to be honest, no I didn't. At the beginning of the tournament I made a bet with a bunch of my friends and other professional poker players that I'd finish between sixth and third place in the tournament. And everybody was like, "We'll take three-to-one on that," or, "We'll take five-to-one on that," you know, we'll do this in an instant. But I have to be honest; I never considered I would have actually won this tournament.
So you stand to make a lot more than the $411,675 first prize then.
I'm going to make a lot of extra money! (Laughs.)
Can you talk about how you felt the final table played out?
The final table - I mean, I'm still wondering exactly what happened, because you know, I was very terrified of Alan [Sass], because he's such a solid player, and then all of a sudden he started mixing it up with me. I waited for him because I saw him keep mixing it up with Erik for a while, and I knew sooner or later one of them was going to change their focus from each other to me.
So I sat back and I waited my turn and just waited to make my moves.
Before heads-up play with Erik began you mentioned the match would only take five minutes. Was there something you saw in Erik's game that made you decide on such an aggressive strategy?
No, but I knew that I was going to play my game and I was going to bring it to him. I knew sooner or later I was going to wear him down in a hurry; I was not going to give him time to find big hands and pick up chips and get stronger. No, I was just going to go straight after him very aggressively and pick up the chips.
You're reportedly the father of poker on the Turks and Caicos. Can you talk about how you brought poker to the island?
I used to be a policeman, and while I was working I'd often pass by a poker game. I got to like what I saw and a bunch of guys taught me the game and for the last thirteen years I've hosted poker games at my house. We've played every kind of poker known to man.
And two years ago, I basically went to the government of Turks and Caicos Islands and told them, "Hey, look, I want to make poker legal on the islands," and with their help I was able to make the dream come true. So now I own a place called The Players Club and every night we have live poker games.
So what do you think it means to poker on the island that one of the hometown players took down the first WPT event on Turkoise soil?
It's only going to draw more locals in, because if I can win, anybody can win. It's good for the islands.
What did you think of this tournament on the whole?
The WPT on the Turks and Caicos will be the biggest stop for the World Poker Tour, because, for one, you can bring your wife, you can bring your family and at the same time you can work, but also it's almost like going on a vacation. You've got the beach, you've got everything - we've probably got to do something with the mosquitoes and the sand flies a little bit and everybody would be happy.
But the WPT has a great home and future with me here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Finally, how are you going to celebrate tonight?
I think I'm going to go home and sleep due to the fact that I haven't slept for the past 24 hours because my power went out.
Well, I'll let you get caught up on those zees then. Congratulations again.
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Campbell's victory is a special one, marking the culmination of a two-year labor of love that has seen him build a poker industry in this island paradise and attract some of the biggest names on the professional poker circuit to play at his tables.
Throughout the final table Campbell was cheered on by legions of partisan fans and the roar of joy that escaped the spectator area after the final hand seemed to speak volumes to the importance of Campbell's victory, not just for himself and his fledgling poker tournament, but to the Islanders and their tight-knit community as a whole.