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$3 Million-Guaranteed World Poker Crown

by Ross Jarvis |  Published: Jul 01, 2008


After outgunning more than 2,000 players recently online, Jack Hinchey finished the job in some style at the $3 million-guaranteed World Poker Crown. In the amazing historical locale of Peralada Castle, Spain, Hinchey moved away from the computer to defeat seven other finalists and take down the $1 million top prize. With a picture of his granddaughter by his chips and a romantic backstory of hustling pool halls in Canada for more than 30 years, Hinchey was a popular and sentimental favourite.

He came in with a big chip lead, yet it was anything but smooth sailing for him in a field of talented, young poker players. When play started, the chip counts and seat positions were as follows:

Seat 1: Jack Hinchey, Canada -- 349,000
Seat 2: Bjorn van Bavel, Netherlands -- 41,000
Seat 3: Mark Castonguay, Canada -- 52,000
Seat 4: Piotr Stanislaw, Poland -- 102,000
Seat 5: Bart Wetsteijn, Netherlands -- 139,000
Seat 6: Michael Lawson, Canada -- 207,000
Seat 7: Bert van Doesburg, Netherlands -- 38,000
Seat 8: Mark Rossler, Germany -- 58,000

With a drastic jump in prizes, the beginning hour of play was very tight, with barely a flop being seen and a single raise taking down most pots. had rolled back the blinds for the event, which meant that even the short stacks had plenty of room to play some proper poker and not just reduce the final table to an all-in festival from the start.

Hinch Mob
Inevitably, though, there was soon a clash, and it involved the small blind, Bjorn van Bavel, and the big blind, Mark Castonguay. The action was folded around to van Bavel, who flat-called with the 10 4. Castonguay checked his option with the K J, and both players saw a flop of K 10 4; top pair for Castonguay, but bottom two pair for van Bavel. Van Bavel set the trap on the flop by check-raising the short-stacked Castonguay all in. After taking an age to decide, and fully aware that he was probably in big trouble, Castonguay decided he was priced in and made the call. The turn and river failed to bring any help, and Mark Castonguay was eliminated early on for a prize of $30,000.

With most players content to wait for the shorter stacks to knock themselves out, chip leader Hinchey started to bulldoze his way through. Raising almost every pot that was folded to him, Hinchey picked up all the dead money on the table and increased his chip lead. Hinchey also showed he wasn't afraid to take a few gambles, as Michael Roessler limped into his big blind with J-8.

Holding K-3, Hinchey checked, and the flop came down J-9-2, top pair for the German. Roessler led out at the pot, only to see Hinchey reraise with nothing but air. The look on Jack's face told the story as Roessler announced, "All in." The only problem was that it was only 25,000 more to Jack, who was effectively getting 4-1 on the call. After Hinchey sheepishly made the call, a delighted Roessler prepared to be doubled up. But he forgot that this was Jack's day, with an unlikely queen on the turn and 10 on the river providing a runner-runner straight! Roessler took home $60,000, but couldn't resist a parting shot, as he claimed, "Some people say that's just poker, but I say he (Jack) just made a donkey play." Donkey or not, Jack Hinchey had the rest of the table on a knife-edge after making such a call.

Bert van Doesburg was the next man to fall at the hands of Papa Jack. This time, no miracles were needed, and it was a straight-up coinflip as the desperate van Doesburg pushed with K-9. Hinchey is not one to fold easily, though, and made the call with a pair of fives. A low board later and no help for the Dutchman, van Doesburg finished in sixth place, with a consolation prize of $90,000 to ease his pain.

Canadian Tonic
The final table was turning into The Hinchey Show at this point. Every big hand revolved around the big Canadian. Either he was stealing the blinds, doubling the short stacks up, or eventually knocking them out. On the other side of the table, Bart Wetsteijn was taking a more stolid approach, using position and aggression to get himself into second place on the leader board. With a 15th-place finish at the EPT San Remo recently, he looked like the player most likely to give Jack a run for his money -- until this amazing hand:

As usual, Hinchey raised from the button, this time to 25,000. Wetsteijn, in the big blind, looked down to see two red kings. Surprisingly, he just called, looking to win a big pot. The 5-3-2 flop appeared perfect for him, as Hinchey continued his aggression and bet 30,000. Wetsteijn immediately moved all in, but was shocked when Hinchey quickly called, showing A-4 for the nut straight. A 3 on the turn brought an unlikely full house possibility for Wetsteijn, but a jack on the river sealed his fate. Wetsteijn was the victim of his own trap and fell in fifth place, with $120,000 to his name.

Throughout the night, Bjorn van Bavel consistently played some great poker. He wasn't afraid to stick his chips over the line at any sign of weakness from his opponents, and was still hanging around despite barely having a playable hand all day.
With the blinds at 6,000 and 12,000, van Bavel made his first misstep and became the latest victim of Hinchey. This time, Hinchey had a genuine monster, pocket queens in the small blind. He made it 36,000, and van Bavel surprisingly just flat-called from the big blind. The 10-8-6 flop provided him with a gutshot-straight draw, but his 9-9 was still way behind Hinchey's Q-Q. Hinchey made a pot-sized bet of 80,000, which van Bavel immediately reraised all in. The call was made, the queens held up, and a massive 414,000 pot was won by Hinchey. The fourth-place finisher, van Bavel, held his head high as he departed with a massive $140,000 cheque.

Van Bavel was full of praise for Hinchey afterward, saying that his big bet on the flop "completely fooled him," but he warned Hinchey that Michael Lawson would be his biggest threat to securing the title. Lawson thus far had been a bit of an enigma at the table. Quite content to let the others do battle in the big pots, he rarely had gotten out of line and had just been chipping away here and there. With his mentor, World Series of Poker Europe Champion Annette Obrestad, looking on from the sidelines, he effectively had his starting stack of 200,000 still in front of him.

Polished Off
The underdog of the final three was 20-year-old Polish student Piotr Stanislaw. At one point, down to only five big blinds, Piotr worked his way back into contention with some bold all ins and a few slices of luck along the way. As each player was eliminated and the prize money went up, the smile on the youngster's face grew larger and larger, prompting commentator Padraig Parkinson to label him a "teddy bear everyone wants to take home."

Unfortunately for Piotr, the fairy tale was not to have a happy ending. No prize for guessing, but it was Hinchey who brought an end to the dream. All in before the flop, Hinchey had the Pole dominated with A-10 versus A-5. A 10 on the flop sealed Stanislaw's fate, and he went out a very happy third, with $210,000 to take back to university with him.

Going into heads-up play, the chip counts looked like this:

Jack Hinchey -- 900,000
Michael Lawson -- 212,000

As a testament to the great structure of the event, both Lawson and Hinchey had plenty of chips, compared to the 6,000-12,000 blinds. There was a difference of more than $600,000 between first and second place.

After playing a tight game all day, Lawson changed gears in the heads-up match and found himself all in early on with A-6 versus Hinchey's Q10. The flop of 8-7-5 put Lawson in the driving seat, with his ace high still ahead, and an open-end straight draw for good measure. A 9 on the turn gave him the straight, and immediately the tie was closer than ever before. Hinchey was still the chip leader, with 696,000, but could not afford to lose another big pot to Lawson, who was lurking in the shadows with 412,000.

The comeback failed to materialise. Every time Lawson attempted to steal the blinds, Hinchey would pick up a real hand and reraise him off the pot. And on that rare occasion that Lawson actually picked up a strong hand, Hinchey would simply fold and not pay him off, frustrating the online pro to no end. Without playing a big pot, Hinchey found himself back in the driving seat with more than 900,000 in chips once again.

Limping from the button with the K Q, it appeared Hinchey was setting a trap. Lawson, with a pair of tens, made a raise to 56,000, which, surprisingly, Hinchey just called. The flop of K J 6 hit the table, giving Hinchey top pair. Neither of the players held a heart. Showing that he wasn't going to hang around and be blinded away, Lawson made the bold move of going all in. Making the call, Hinchey only had to avoid two tens in the deck to become the first World Poker Crown champion. As the dealer turned over a jack on the turn and then a king on the river, Hinchey held his arms up in the air as this year's champion. For his second-place finish, Michael Lawson took home $397,800, while the novelty cheque for a whopping $1 million was made out to Canadian sewage worker Jack Hinchey.

Speaking afterward, Hinchey said that his strategy was "to keep the pressure on everybody" by making constant raises throughout the day. The plan worked to perfection, as Papa Jack ended up eliminating six of the other players to become a worthy and very popular first winner of the World Poker Crown.

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