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Team Cincinnati Wins the Inaugural U.S. PokerBowl

Vinny Napolitano Takes the Title, Scotty Nguyen Finishes Third

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Poker is known as an individual game, and teamwork is discouraged, if not illegal. This was not the case at the finale of the first-ever U.S. PokerBowl, where teamwork led the self-proclaimed amateurs from Cincinnati to victory.

The final day started at 10 a.m. PT with four of the five conference-winners ready to battle for spots at the championship table. Teams Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Hollywood were in the building eagerly awaiting the outcome of the delayed Northern Conference final table. The chip counts for the Northern Conference were as follows:

Shannon Shorr, Chicago - $45,100
Eric Lynch, New Jersey - $38,800Eric Lynch
Scott Pendergrast, New Jersey - $36,000
Cody Slaubaugh, Minnesota - $35,500
Scott Clements, Minnesota - $35,100
Keith Bartlett, Seattle - $32,400
Shannon Pendergrast, New Jersey - $31,600
Justin Bonomo, Cleveland - $26,100
Jonathon Little, Chicago - $19,400

Due to the fast structure, players described the tournament as a "super turbo shootout." It lived up to its name as numerous runners fell early, and after just two hours, play was threehanded. Team New Jersey had two players, Eric "Rizen" Lynch and Shannon Pendergrast, against Chicago's Shannon Shorr. The threesome tangled for only a few hands before Shorr was eliminated. On his final hand, Shorr pushed all in for his remaining $52,400 with 8 3 and was called by Pendergrast with K 3. The board bricked, eliminating Shorr and allowing all of team New Jersey to advance.
Kenna James sings the National Anthem
The "playoff" portion began with Kenna James of Team Detroit singing the National Anthem before play started, and the ballad clearly hyped the crowd. After play began, a charged team-atmosphere emerged. Anytime a player was all in, he was immediately surrounded by his rowdy teammates. Teams Detroit and Cincinnati were the loudest, often disrupting the production crew with their jubilation. After four levels, the final table of nine was set, with the top spot taking $600,000.

Seat No. 1 - Rick Fuller, Detroit - $63,500
Seat No. 2 - John Kim, St. Louis - $23,000
Seat No. 3 - Joe Hill, New Jersey - $42,500
Seat No. 4 - Steve Kingsley, Cincinnati - $33,400
Seat No. 5 - Brandon Adams, Hollywood - $55,300
Seat No. 6 - Allen Kessler, St. Louis - $23,700
Seat No. 7 - Scotty Nguyen, Detroit - $11,300
Seat No. 8 - Jon Friedberg, New Jersey - $34,200
Seat No. 9 - Vinny Napolitano, Cincinnati - $18,500

Card Player's own Jon Friedberg was the first to go, and he was followed shortly thereafter by Steve Kingsley, the second to last representative of team Cincinnati. With seven players remaining, Joe Hill took off on his own personal roller coaster. It looked like he was to be sent home in seventh after losing a massive all in with pocket tens against Vinny Napolitano's ace-king. However, Hill battled with just $1,800, doubling on the next hand and carrying momentum into the break. On the first hand after the break, Hill tripled through Scotty Nguyen and Rick Fuller of team Detroit. This grew his stack to more than $32,000. Hill finally picked up a monster hand, but it turned out to be the one that sealed his fate. Hill got all in with K K against Fullers' A 10, but Fuller made trip aces, crippling Hill. He was eliminated a short time later, ending the hopes for Team New Jersey and making play six handed.

Team Hollywood's Brandon Adams was the the sixth place finisher, and he fell at the hands of the "Prince of Poker," Scotty Nguyen. Adams shoved all in with Q 9 and was called by Nguyen, who was holding K 10. The board ran 8 6 4 J 4, which failed to improve Adams, and sent team Hollywood to the rail. Dallas and St. Louis' ability to use teamwork provided them with a distinct advantage over Napolitano, team Cincinnati's Scotty Nguyen lone player.

Team Detroit did not have an opportunity to exploit its advantage, however Nguyen was forced to eliminate his short-stacked teammate, Fuller, bringing play down to fourhanded. At this point, St. Louis' Allen Kessler and John Kim were winning the numbers game. However, they weren't able to take advantage, as Napolitano knocked out Kim, making it every man for himself.

Things got a little wacky during threehanded play. In one hand, Napolitano moved all in preflop, and Nguyen was sure he had the best hand. Nguyen offered Napolitano a $500 bet that he was winning, and Napolitano quickly accepted. Nguyen folded pocket twos face up, and Napolitano started laughing. He flipped over an ace and then removed a roll of hundreds from his pocket to pay Nguyen.

Nguyen didn't need cash, he needed chips, and soon pushed his short stack all in with 6 3. Napolitano was ready to gamble with Nguyen again, though, this time with A 7. The board bricked, NapolitanVinny Napolitanoo's hand held, and he eliminated Nguyen, along with Team Detroit's hopes.

Play was down to heads up and the chip counts were:

Vinny Napolitano, Cincinnati - $225,000
Allan Kessler, St. Louis - $85,000

The two wasted no time, as Napolitano open-shoved with A K. Allen Kessler looked at K J and said, "I have to call." He shoved his chips in, and the Cincinnati team exploded in celebration. The board ran out A A 8 J 8, shipping Napolitano the pot, the tournament, and $600,000 for his team. This was a nice monetary bump over the $100,000 the four other teams received for winning their preliminary conferences, but the real value of this title lay squarely in the national bragging rights that Cincy can claim until the next PokerBowl.