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Rhynie Campbell Wins WPT Turks and Caicos Poker Classic

In the Beautiful Carribean a First Time WPT Champion is Crowned to the Delight of the Local Crowd

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Turks and Caicos shorelineThe first 16 hands of action played out quietly at the World Poker Tour Turks and Caicos Poker Classic. The Caribbean sun shined in the background through the remnants of an early morning shower outside. Inside the restaurant, where the final table was being filmed, the action picked up on hand No. 17: Rhynie Campbell raised from middle position to $17,000, and Nam Le called from the big blind. The flop rolled out 10 9 2, Le checked, Campbell moved all in for $60,000, and Le thought for about 30 seconds before he called with 10 4. Campbell flipped over J 8 for an open-end straight draw with one overcard. The turn card was the Q and the locals in the crowd cheered as Campbell clinched the pot with a queen-high straight. The meaningless river card was the K, improving Campbell to an unnecessary flush. Campbell doubled up in chips to survive, while Le was left crippled. The crowd in the adjacent room continued to cheer and talk amongst themselves rapidly as an air of excitement filled the room. Campbell was the only local player from Turks and Caicos left in the event, and he was actually an instrumental part in bringing the WPT to the islands this year. The room had its fan favorite, and now he had some chips to work with.

A few hands later, Alan "The Usher" Sass doubled up to take the chip lead. Sass was all in against Erik Cajelais with pocket kings when an 8 paired the board on the river. This moved Sass ahead of the jacks up Cajelais held in the hand, as well as ahead on the leader board. It was now Sass who held $1 million. Sass would be put on a roller coaster ride for the next five hours, along with the rest of the field. One player would not be joining them, though: On hand No. 37, Sass raised from the cutoff to $27,000, and Le moved all in from the button for $56,000, Campbell moved all in over the top, and Sass folded. Le showed K Q but he was dominated by Campbell's A K. The board hit 7 6 5 K 4 and Campbell won the pot with his ace kicker. Le was eliminated in sixth place, earning $30,000.

Campbell received another large round of applause when he picked up a $505,000 pot when Cajelais mucked to Campbell's river bet. After this hand, the next couple of hours were filled with double-up madness. Chris Smith doubled through Campbell, Campbell through Cajelais, and then Hebert through Campbell. That crazy train was followed up by both Campbell and Hebert doubling up an additional time. Pots were unpredictable during this long stretch, but one thing that was not was the cheers that echoed through the room for Campbell every time he doubled up. This crowd was getting its money's worth. When the dust of this bonanza settled, Cajelais had regained his spot atop the leader board with more than a million in chips. Sass and Smith had north of $650,000, Campbell held $244,000, and Hebert was in trouble with less than $100,000.

On hand No. 126, Hebert had the button and Campbell limped under the gun for $16,000. Smith limped from the cutoff and Hebert moved all in from the button for $96,000. Cajelais reraised from the big blind to $200,000 and Smith and Campbell got out of the way. Cajelais showed A K and he dominated Hebert's K 5. The board brought Q 8 7 J 10 and Cajelais won the pot with a Broadway straight. Hebert was eliminated in fifth place, earning $50,000.

Alan Sass at the final tableAfter the elimination of Hebert, the tide turned and the pace of play quickened. It was fourteen hands later when Cajelais raised to $45,000 from the button. Smith moved all in from the big blind for $434,000 and Cajelais thought for about 30 seconds before he called with A Q. Smith showed down K 6. The flop rolled out J 4 2 3 J and Smith was eliminated in fourth place, taking home $70,000. On the hand following Smith's departure, Cajelais got involved in a face-off with Sass. It was a face-off that Sass won with a pair of tens on a king-high board to pick up a $486,000 pot. Sass also took a slight chip lead after the hand. He now tipped the scales at $1.24 million, while Cajelais held $985,000. Campbell trailed behind with $485,000.

Campbell was able to change this when he doubled up yet again, this time through Cajelais. His ace high held up against the king high of Cajelais and this effectively evened their chip stacks out to place Sass firmly in the lead.

This was when Campbell made a big push to take down the title; over the course of four hands, he changed everything. On hand No. 165, Campbell completed from the small blind for $20,000, and Sass checked his option. The flop came 6 4 3, Campbell bet $50,000 and Sass called. The turn card was the 5 and both players checked. The river card paired the board with the 4, Campbell bet $155,000, and Sass went into the tank for about a minute before he called. Campbell showed Q 2 for a queen-high flush and Sass mucked. Campbell won the pot and took the chip lead with about $1 million. Campbell and Sass clashed once again on hand No. 168. Campbell raised from the small blind to $55,000, and Sass called from the big blind. The flop brought 6 2 2, The Head's-Up Match BeginsCampbell bet $55,000, and Sass called. The turn card was the 4, Campbell bet $200,000, and Sass thought for about 30 seconds before he called. The river card was the 10, Campbell bet $300,000, and Sass thought for more than a minute, stoically staring at Campbell. Sass finally called, and Campbell showed Q 10 for a queen-high flush. Sass mucked and Campbell won the $1.229 million pot. Campbell now had a commanding chip lead with $1.6 million, and Sass was crippled with $200,000.

The end came for Sass a few hands later when he moved all in with pocket fours. Campbell called him with 10 7. The board rolled out A Q J K 3 and Campbell made a Broadway straight on the turn. Sass was eliminated in third place, earning $125,000 for an impressive showing at this event. Action was now down to heads up and the chip stacks were a little uneven:

Rhynie Campbell - $2,041,000
Erik Cajelais - $719,000

The first 15 hands of heads-up play started the same way as many mano a mano matches, with both players feeling each other out in the early going. The gloves came off on the 16th hand, though, when Campbell moved all in and Cajelais quickly called all in for $425,000. Cajelais turned up A 8 and Campbell showed J 10. The flop came A J 5 and there was a mixed reaction from the crowd as it sank in that both players had flopped a pair. Cajelais was in the lead with aces, and the 6 and 4 on the turn and river ensured that they would hold up. Cajelais now had $900,000 to work with, but he still had a long way to go to swing the momentum in his favor. The end came a few hands later, on the 206th hand of the night.

Campbell had the button and he completed to $24,000. Cajelais raised to $124,000, Campbell moved all in, and Cajelais called with Q 9. Campbell showed down pocket tens. The flop rolled out Q 9 3 and Cajelais flopped two pair to take the lead. The crowd reacted with a startled shock, living and dying with Campbell on each card. The turn card was the K and now Campbell needed a jack (for a straight) or a ten to win the tournament. The room was absolutely silent until the river card brought the 10. The crowd went ballistic and erupted into joyous celebration for their "Belonger" champion. Cajelais finished in second place and took home $225,000 after a tournament where, at many times, he dominated, and at others got unlucky.

When the champion was asked about the success of the tournament and his success in it, Campbell replied, "To take this tournament down in the Turks and Caicos islands is a huge accomplishment. It's something I've been dreaming of for a very long time and it has come to fruition."

Campbell won the inaugural WPT Turks and Caicos Poker Classic, earning $436,675, a championship bracelet, and a $25,500 entry into the season VI WPT World Championship in April, 2008.