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Gavin Smith Is King of the Poker Mansion

He Wins $500,000 at the World Pro-Am Challenge Freeroll


Gavin Smith is having a great year. On July 3, Smith came to the Tropicana to try to win the World Pro-Am Challenge, a $1 million six-player freeroll in which three of the players were professionals and the other three amateurs. The tournament was aired in a four-hour show on FSN last night (July 12).

Smith beat out fellow professionals Todd Brunson and John Gale, as well as's amateur qualifiers Joe Isaacson, Andrew Stoll, and Scott Gardner, to take home the $500,000 prize. Smith and Gale got into the freeroll by placing in the top two at a single-table invitation-only qualifier on Brunson got into the freeroll by winning an invitational-only multi-table tournament with more than 30 players.

The qualifying table was loaded with power, and Gale and Smith had to survive against Tony G, Marcel Luske, Scott Fischman, Kenna James, Harry Demetriou, Mike Gracz, and Kirk Morrison to advance. Like the money match, Smith won it.

Isaacson, Stoll, and Gardner qualified for the tournament at through a series of feeders. The package included a free week in Las Vegas, dinner at some of the finest restaurants the city has to offer, as well as intensive poker coaching by James, Tony G, and Gracz.

The coaching went beyond the three days the pros spent with the amateurs before the event. The coaches - James for Isaacson, Gracz for Gardner, and Tony G for Stoll - were present at the match and available for a one-time only coaching session during the actual tournament. If their boys placed, they would also receive a small chunk of their winnings ($50,000 if their boy finished first, $30,000 for second and $20,000 for third).

So Gracz received $30,000 because his boy Gardner finished second, ahead of both Brunson and Gale. Brunson was knocked out against the cash bubble and Gale finished third.

Gardner is a 29-year-old sales consultant from Spalding, Lincolnshire, England. He put his money finish squarely on the shoulders of Gracz.

"Mike Gracz has taught me a lot during poker school that will always stay with me and the fact that I made it to heads-up with Gavin Smith amongst three of the world's best players surely has to go down to him," Gardner said.