The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open (SHRPO) had a bit of a snafu last year, as their Championship tournament game up around $2.5 million short of its $10 million guarantee, creating a massive overlay for players and an even bigger headache for organizers.
That meant a new format for 2015, one with a smaller guarantee but perhaps even more excitement for players and viewers alike.
This year’s SHRPO Championship ditched the re-entry format used the last two years in favor of a $5,250 entry fee, a single entry per player, and a $5 million guarantee.
It also made the finale of the Championship coincide with three other final tables, creating a “Big Four” event that would feature commentary from Phil Hellmuth and taped for future broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
All told, the Big Four promised $7.5 million in guaranteed prize money to players. While there was an overlay for players in the Championship event, the other events easily exceeded their guarantees, making Tuesday’s spectacle a success for organizers.
Zazay Wins Championship Event
In the Championship event, it was Omar Zazay who emerged victorious out of a field of 907 players.
That total left the tournament just short of its $5 million guarantee, but it was hardly the disastrous shortfall that the Seminole Hard Rock had to deal with last year.
Zazay took home $1 million for first place. He had a tough final table to contend with, one that included defending champion Daniel Colman, who finished in third place for a $310,000 score.
“Getting down three-handed with Dan Colman was definitely a sticky situation,” Zazay said. “I was trying to do the best I could against him and not give him chips so he could use them against me.”
Mercier Triumphs in High Roller
Other than the Championship, the highest-profile event among the Big Four was probably the SHRPO High Roller. The $25,400 buy-in tournament had a $1 million guarantee, but drew 83 entries, enough to swell the prize pool to over $2 million.
Not surprisingly, some notable names were among those who reached the final table, including Phil Laak and David Sands. But it was three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Jason Mercier who walked away with the title and a $652,800 payday.
“Anytime you can win a poker tournament it feels good, and I’m just glad I won this one,” Mercier said. “It was awesome that they were able to put a guarantee on a high roller event, which is a very rare thing.”
Gonzalez, Eldridge Also Score Wins
The third event finishing up Tuesday night was a $2,650 No Limit Hold’em event that drew 502 players, more than reaching its $1 million guarantee.
The victory went to Spain’s Fabrizio Gonzales, who beat Daniel Fuhs in heads-up play to win $236,400.
“He was a tough player, but I think I picked up some good cards,” Gonzales said after his win. “I thing I played very good heads up. I was grinding him down and kept the pressure on, and everything worked out.”
The last of the four events was a $1,100 No Limit Hold’em re-entry tournament that attracted 794 entrees, easily surpassing the $500,000 guaranteed prize pool. David Eldridge held the chip lead for most of the final table, then held on to win the tournament and take home $146,100.