MORE than 150 players and spectators attended the finals night of the fifth season of the Harrogate Poker League at Starbeck WMC on Saturday.
Generally accepted as the best quality field in the history of the Harrogate Poker League the 100 qualifiers sat down for the main event at 7pm with an unprecedented 15 percent of the field being lady players.
On offer was the coveted HPL bracelet along with over £1700 of cash prizes provided by sponsors ESN Ltd.
Early action was tentative, however after half an hour of play, Tree landlord Ian Webster fell victim to Gerald Purcell and took the long walk accompanied by the traditional ‘Cheerio’ song.
As always the first player down tends to release the pressure a little and four more players were busted out before the first break at the hour’s play mark.
In the next session 30 or so players would hit the rail as the blind levels increased and pressured the shorter stacks, John Gilmour, Evan Challis and league winners Colin Hanson and John Hoyle were just a few of the notable casualties around this time. However amongst the exceptions were Wayne Maillard, Rich Elliot and Rich Hunter all of whom were staking their claim for the title.
When the field broke after the second hour, the talk was all of chip leaders, bad beats and good luck stories with the climax of the tournament fast approaching
After over £400 of raffle prizes had been drawn a charity auction was held for a pair of Steak Night tickets to the excellent Joiners Arms in Hampthswaite. This auction raised £120 and took the total collected for the Down’s Syndrome North Yorkshire Support Group to almost £1400 for the season, a truly remarkable feat.
As poker resumed for the third session, the middle order fell away one by one, including some of the pre-tournament favourites. The tension mounted tangibly with the final table now clearly in sight. Hand for hand play was introduced with under 20 players left and by this time Tracey Smith had not only claimed the accolade of being the last remaining lady player in the contest, she had now established a clear chip lead over the remaining protagonists.
The quality had certainly risen to the top for the occasion as the eventual final table of ten provided us with two previous bracelet winners, a multiple roadshow winner and five individual league champions.
Tracey Smith had arrived at the final table with almost a quarter of the chips in play and was in no mood to let her lead slip.
After a few early exchanges she soon took control and despite being one of only three players at the table with no previous silverware, completely dominated the proceedings for there on in and after an hour and a quarter of further play prevailed over reigning champion Ken Vanzo.
For her sterling performance, Tracey received the coveted HPL bracelet along with £800 first place prize money, but most importantly the title of Harrogate Poker Champion, and the ability to strike fear into any player male or female!
The new season of the Harrogate Poker League (HPL VI) starts on June 26.