Night of the Hunter - GUKPT Leg 1 Manchester Tournament Report
Lewis Hunter has won the first leg of the 2012 GUKPT, beating two-time Sunday Million winner Kevin Steele heads up and a total field of 171 to win just shy of £50,000 and his first title. The 24 year old from Scotland saw his fortunes rise and fall over three dramatic days of poker and won a series of nail-biting all-ins to capture the trophy.
The Grosvenor UK Poker Tour’s first festival of the new year took place in Manchester between the 27th and 29th of January. The £1,000 Main Event featured 20,000 starting stacks – up from last year’s 15,000 – and with the one-hour clock this made for a truly deep-stacked poker experience, with all the room to manoeuvre that today’s tricky players seem to require.
Some of the best-known poker pros on the UK circuit took their seats at the G Casino, Bury New Road on Friday 27th January as the new, streamlined GUKPT schedule brought the full Main Event field together on one start day. Flexing their raising fingers in the UK’s first major live event of the year were Stuart Fox, Will Fry, John Eames, Julian Gardner, Jake Cody and Matt Perrins as well as Hit Squad members (and previous GUKPT champions) Karl Mahrenholz and Sunny Chattha.
A good proportion of the players crowding the Manchester card room were qualifiers, however, many of whom had gained entry for under £100 either online or at live satellites in advance of the Main Event. One of the biggest success stories of the weekend was that of Allan Doyle, who finished 3rd for £21,800. A local regular player at the G Casino, he’d won his entry to the tournament for just £75 and took home more than he’d ever won in a live poker event – on his birthday, no less!
To get to the money finishing positions (there were 17 places paid), let alone the final table, these qualifiers had to take on tough competition over three full days. Some of the players making a splash in 2011 re-entered the live tournament fray in Manchester, including Rick Trigg, Sam MacdonaldMatt PerrinsLewis Hunter.
Sam GraftonMichael Kane (in front since Level 4) in the final level of the night before. Kane had been enjoying a period of what is known as ‘running hot,’ knocking out almost a full table’s worth of players, including two in back-to-back hands to reach 150,000 when the average stack was just 29,000. He himself was eliminated in eye-watering fashion just outside the money positions (in 23rd place) when his Kings were outdrawn by the pocket eights of Jamie Ellwood – who went on to make the last two tables as chip leader.
The bubble period was more than usually tense in Manchester, ending with two players simultaneously at risk of going home with nothing after a whole weekend battling over the felt. One of them was Lewis Hunter, all in drawing to two outs with Tens vs. Kev Steele’s Aces, the other was Dan Samson, also in need of some help from the deck with A-J against Gary Holden with K-K. The fickle poker gods gave Hunter a reprieve (and a Ten) but sent Samson to the rail as he ended up with a flush beaten by Holden’s full house.
Now guaranteed at least £2,140, the remaining 17 players sped up the action, with Sam GraftonLewis Hunter.
Final Table Seating
Seat One - Chris Kadji - 315,100
Seat Two - Allan Doyle - 308,900
Seat Three - Kev Steele - 252,500
Seat Four - John Hanley - 93,700
Seat Five - Gary Holden - 316,100
Seat Six - Gonzalez Garcia - 492,400
Seat Seven - Lewis Hunter - 409,800
Seat Eight - Sam Grafton - 1,092,500
Seat Nine - Danny Blair - 196,800
Along with Allan Doyle, both John HanleyChris KadjiGary Holden in 9th and 8th spots.
This double bust-out reinvigorated the somewhat cagey players and next out was Gonzalez GarciaSam GraftonAllan DoyleLewis Hunter with Q-J. Hunter was not to be dissuaded from calling with his A-9 and the man who’d once held a third of the chips in play had to content himself with 5th place and £10,260.
Shortly before that huge reversal of fortune, Gary Holden had finished in 6th place (£8,120) after doubling up Danny Blair and finding a blind-on-blind moment to shove his now short stack (without success). Blair too was to have his roller-coaster rise only to fall suddenly – his stack taken in two chunks by Kev Steele – first losing a huge preflop race and then finding a dominated ace. His 4th place prize was £13,250, his best live result so far despite his having made a handful of final tables in the past year.
Half an hour of three-handed play went by, Allan Doyle the short stack. The previous level had seen Kev Steele rise into the chip lead, and it was the internet phenomenon who picked up Aces when Doyle had three-bet all in over Hunter’s initial raise with fours. This excellent slice of timing busted Doyle to cheers of congratulations and commiserations from his supporters on the rail.
“I’m a regular here,” said Doyle in an interview with Phil ‘The Tower’ Heald on the live stream shortly afterwards. “It’s the first Main Event I’ve played, qualified for £75 – it was a bit nerve-wracking but I thoroughly enjoyed it.” Concerning the £21,800 he picked up for his 3rd place finish he said he was, “Ecstatic – absolutely ecstatic!”
It’s no surprise that Kevin Steele had made his way to the live felt from the virtual, or that he’d played with aplomb in Manchester; he’d been an online tournament sensation in 2011, taking down the massive Sunday Million twice in four months. Going into heads up play he looked confident with a 2:1 chip lead, but he was not to repeat his online trophy-gathering this time round.
Steele and Hunter had tangled as far back as the start of Day 2 when they were sat at the same table and Hunter nearly busted Steele with a flopped set of 8s vs. Steele’s KK. Having made a comeback from just 25,000, Steele then survived Hunter outdrawing his Aces with Tens and increased his stack to the point where he had his long-time adversary all in and drawing to just a few outs for his tournament life.
It was a tournament-changing river card that gave Hunter (caught with a huge two-overcard all-in with K-J on a T-9-4 flop by Steele with K-T) a straight and chip leader status. A thunderstruck Steele rallied and came back to draw level, but Hunter turned the pressure back on after about an hour of heads up play, finally getting it all in in his favour with an Ace just one pip higher. The last hand saw a checked Ace-high flop turn into a decider as a K on the turn brought both stacks into the middle, with Hunter’s A- T holding vs. Steele’s A-9. There was no help on the river and the young Scottish player took the £49,600 top prize and the trophy.
Interviewed on the way to collect his 2nd place prize of £34,360, Steele thought of what might have been: “I was one card away from it… never mind. It was good fun – not a bad start to 2012. I’ll play a few more of these, I think – why not?”
Meanwhile a happy Lewis Hunter collected his trophy and his prize money – his own largest live score to date – saying that he felt, “Very good! I lost a lot bluffing too much,” he admitted, “then won a flip and made a huge call vs. Sam [Grafton]. Heads up the double Sunday Million winner seemed to be chipping away at me but I managed to get the best of him at the end now. The trophy is going back to Scotland.”