On the weekend of Sept 8th, 9th and 10th ladies from all over the southwest took over the ARENA Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort for the return of the Arizona State Ladies Poker Championship. The competition brought together 297 women of all different skill levels with hopes of winning share of the nearly $60,000 prize pool. “Hundreds of women are rising in the ranks as professional poker players and making a name for
themselves in this industry,” said Kent Odekirk, director of poker at Talking Stick Resort. “Player turnout at the Ladies Championship grows each year which proves poker isn’t just a guys game anymore. Hosting the tournament is our way supporting the rising trend and recognizing some of our great female players.”
The No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament began on Sat, Sept 8 at 10am with about half of the 297 entrants – Day 2 on Sunday featured the other half of the entries. The prize pool of $59,400 ensured the top ten players would walk away with a minimum of over $1,160. And even 30th place paid over $400.
To enter the tournament, ladies could choose; a $200 buy-in plus a $25 entry fee, or they could “win a seat” by participating in Talking Stick Resort’s daily satellite tournaments. Each player started with $9000 in chips. The 2 days of qualifying determined the 51 players who returned on Monday for the finals – with the hope to make the top 30 and cash in this prestigious tournament. And what a diverse group it was, ranging in age from young ladies just over 21 to women who are getting a retirement check!
The competition was fast and furious the first three hours as the field was cut nearly in half. But after the magic number was 30, and they were in the money – the play started slowing down as these ladies began positioning themselves toward the final table.
For the next hour or so, the short stacks started firing hoping to double-up – some did, some were kicked to the curb. And just like that, we were at the final table and all the ladies were given a short break. After the break Robin Foss went all-in and was out in 10th place, Next Carol Bellemare went out in 9th, followed by Anna Nemecek in 8th and Deepa Shah in 7th place. Now we were down to the top six players in this event and it really slowed the pace.
Now the blinds were up to 20,000 / 40,000, so some players had to act. That’s when Sandra Sirull went all-in with about 117,000 – Laura Freeman called and caught a club flush, to knock out Sandra who placed 6th and took home over $3,000.
Next it was the #1 seat Jody Phillipo who went all-in with nearly a quarter million in chips, Angela Allison in the #2 seat called with pocket 8s and caught trips to send Jody home with over $3,500 and a 5th place finish.
Now something really strange happened back to back on all-in calls. First it was Raena James who went all-in with less than 200,000, and pocket deuces – one of the 2 Big Stacks, Laura Freeman called…nothing on the flop but runner-runner Raena caught 2,2 for Quads to take down a huge pot and keep her alive.
Next just minutes later, Angela Allison went all-in with over 800,000 and pocket Queens – Susan Soto called with about an equal amount and Ace/9 – here we go again…Angela catches Quad Queens! to nearly knock out Susan. The next hand Susan had to go all-in with just her blind, Angela called and caught a club flush (the second club flush to knock out a final table player – keep that in mind) Susan received over $4,400 and left feeling pretty great for her 4th place finish.
Now we were down to the Final 3 – Laura Freeman, Angela Allison and Raena James. Now the blinds were up to 30,000 / 60,000 when Laura went all in with A/Q against Angela’s K/Q – Jacks hit the board and Laura took down a huge 750,000 pot. The battle was on! Angela goes all-in against Laura who had raised the bet – Laura called with Pocket Fives against Angela’s Pocket Aces! What drama – the flop is Queen, Ace, 5 – Trips for both, zip on the turn or river, so Angela takes down a pot of over a million.
Next it was Laura who went all-in with 590,000 and a A/9 off suit (no club) Raena called with Q/3 off suit (no club) the flop was 4,9,10 of clubs, then 2c – another club and they chop – no luck as an 8 of hearts sends Reana to the short stack. Raena then goes all-in with over 500,000 and an Ace / 9 off suit – Angela calls with K/Q off suit, Angela catches a K and Q for 2 pair to knock Raena out in 3rd place and pocket over $5,900 that she will take back to Tucson along with a beautiful trophy she will treasure!
Now the battle ensued between the two young players, Laura and Angela…back and forth…playing very few hands when, here it comes…The BIG HAND – Angela caught A/7 off suit and went all-in with a bit more chips than Laura – Laura calls with A/2 off suit, The Flop is Q,10,2 to give Laura deuces, next it’s another 10 and then a 4 to give the crippling pot to Laura. After that Angela did win a few all-in bets but finally Angela called Laura’s all-in bet with a Kh against Laura’s A7 of clubs (those lucky clubs again?) the flop was Kc, 8c, Ad – give Laura the big lead and a possible club flush. The turn and river was 6d and Qh to give Laura Freeman the Arizona State Ladies Poker Championship. Angela Finished in 2nd Place with a beautiful trophy and over $8,700 in cash. The winner who was excited and hugged the other players still around left with over $14,000 in cash and a magnificent trophy and gorgeous State Championship bracelet.
One thing is for sure – I have gained a lot of respect for women poker players!
The Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort is looking forward to an even bigger turnout next year – So ladies, work on you game – because you could be the next state champion.