Garry Merrinette of Illinois outlasted Joel Smith of Minnesota and the rest of the championship field of 117 to "take the throne" in the Game of Cards national championship tournament held at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. For his accomplishment, Garry won the grand prize, a coveted $10,000 main event seat and a chance to win millions. Garry earned his spot in the championship by winning the Tournament of Champions at Muggs 'N Manor in Addison, IL, a league which draws about 35 players every Wednesday night.
It was feast or famine for Garry during the regular season, he won 3 tourneys during the Game of Cards promotion, but only qualified for the playoffs in one month and came up short in the regional tourney. However, winning the Mugs N Manor Tournament of Champions catapulted Garry directly to the national final plus a travel voucher since Mugs N Manor is an Elite Sponsor (Super-TOC location).
Garry took the chip lead in the tournament with about 25 players left to go, and never relinquished. Joel Smith made a strong bid (again!) to become the first ever 2-time national champ, coming up just short as runner-up. Joel is no stranger to FPN Championship events, this being his ELEVENTH (11th) appearance. Joel previously won the "Vegas Vacation" national championship and went on to cash $15,000 in the World Series of Poker with the seat he won and was also national runner-up another time.
The entire final table earned a seat in the World Series of Poker Colossus Event with a chance to go after the $1 Million first place prize:
Joel Smith, former National Champ, Playtime Perham, Mn
Debbi Edwards, Champions, Plainfield , IL
Lee Kathol, Happy Hourz, Yankton, SD
Mark Bone, Lee’z, Sandwich, IL
Tim Klocke, Woodys, Fargo Nd
Ryan Weinzierl, Jcs Corral, Dilworth MN
Andy Lagarde, Route 47, Fridley, Mn
Dan Blodgett, Log Cabin, Corning NY
Bob Collopy, Jaks Place, Chicago Ridge,IL
Three players took a cash option on their prize and the remaining players went for it. Joel Smith ended up finishing 90th place in flight C, cashing $1513. Pete Bushey also cashed in the same event.
Besides the championship tournament, there was plenty of poker action and good times. A private party was held in a spa suite on Friday night (about 80 people attended) while the "Last Chance" tourney played out in the poker room, ending in a 6-way chop between Joel Smith $1000, Bill Allivato, Jordan Meinke, Jake Stringfellow, Kenny Maertens, Al Buhr, $850 each. Bill Allivato won the championship seat (bonus chips).
In the $150 buy-in "First Chance" Andrew Roberson from Yankton got 3rd and cashed $3000 and seat in the upcoming "Cash King" national final.
The next championship will be even more exciting as first place will take $25,000 cash.