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Déjà vu All Over Again:

Ruben Ybarra Wins First Poker Tournament – Chicago poker player overcomes big chip disadvantage late, tops UK-champ Jac Arama in heads-up play for $138,647 prize

History has a strange way of repeating itself.  The $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event at the 2005 Jack Binion World Poker Open featured yet another stunning comeback victory and a breakthrough win for a new poker champion.  Ruben Ybarra, a 36-year-old mortgage broker from Chicago, IL made his first final table ever after more than 20 tries.  He ended up with first-place prize money of $138,647, the coveted gold and diamond bracelet, and an entry into the $10,000 championship event.  He did it the hard way.

Consider the hand he won early on Day One, way prior to making it to the final table:  With 200 players remaining, Ybarra started with pocket Aces, made a pre-flop raise, and was inexplicably called by a player holding 2-3.  A deuce came on the flop, and Ybarra bet out.  The opponent called.  The turn brought another deuce, and Ybarra made a bet and was check-raised ‘all in.”  He called.  The river brought a beautiful Ace.

“If I wouldn’t have caught that Ace yesterday, I wouldn’t even be here,” Ybarra said.  That turned out to be the biggest hand of Ybarra’s life.

The lifesaver of a card propelled Ybarra all the way to the final table, as he entered Day Two as the chip leader.  The nine finalists took their seats and were eliminated in the following order:

9th Place – Jo Handman was the third woman to make it to a final table at this year’s tournament (Maria Stern and Tracey Phan were the others).  Handman, from London, England was making her first visit to the JBWPO.  She busted out early with A-2 against J.C. Tran’s A-A and collected $8,665 for 9th place.

8th Place – This was Iranian-born Davood Mehrmand’s second trip to the final table this year.  He finished 4th in the $500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event (against 869 entries) – proving that this 38-year-old man knows how to play tournament hold’em.  Mehrmand, who now lives in Frankfurt, Germany lost most of his chips holding pocket 10s when Glyn Banks was ‘all in’ with pocket 5s and spiked a Five.  Mehrmand was eliminated a short time later and received $12,998 in prize money.  

7th Place – Just about everything went wrong for Jeff Burns at this final table.  He arrived second in chips but was never able to generate any momentum in his hour-long stay in the finale.  Burns was torched holding A-K on his final hand, and lost to pocket 5s.  Nevertheless, Burns – who won his way into this event by wining a $220 single-table satellite – took home $17,331 for 7th place, which was a nice return on his investment.

6th Place – Glyn “Ratchet” Banks has enjoyed some success at this tournament.  He’s made two WPO finals tables in the past, and has an impressive record of satellite wins.  “Ratchet” arrived lowest in chips and moved up the prize money ladder until he got hammered on his final hand when J.C. Tran caught a miracle card on the river to make a set of 8s.  Ratchet received $21,664 for 6th place.

5th Place – Thomas Komulainen, a logging contractor from Michigan, ran into a buzz saw on his final hand when he lost to a full house.  Komulainen took 5th place, good for $25,996.

4th Place – J.C. Tran made the biggest move of the day – inching up from 8th place in chips at the start to a 4th-place finish.  Tran was eliminated in one of the key hands of the tournament (see details below).  Tran, a Sacramento poker-pro who made 13 final tables in 2004 on the tournament circuit, received $30,329 for 4th place.

3rd Place – “Judge” Leo Boothe was eliminated on the same hand with Tran (see details below).  The former Louisiana judge, who won the $500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event here in 2003, had his motion to stay at the final table overruled.  He collected $38,994. 

One of the key hands of the tournament took place when J.C Tran was short-stacked and made a raise with K-8, trying to take the blinds.  Judge Leo Boothe called with 8-8.  Jac Arama looked down and saw pocket Aces.  Arama moved ‘all in,’ and Boothe reluctantly called.  In the three-way pot, the final board showed A-Q-5-10-5, giving Arama a full house, Aces full of Fives.  Tran busted out 4th, and Boothe finished 3rd, due to his larger stack size.

When heads-up play began, Ruben Ybarra had a slight 4 to 3 chip lead over the 2003 British Poker Champion Jac Arama.  Then, the real drama began.  In one of the most exciting 20 minutes of any tournament this year, Ybarra lost nearly all of his chips on one hand -- then made a stunning comeback.  What made the event more thrilling was Jac Arama’s rowdy cheering section, comprised mostly of English poker players, and Arama’s own vocal gyrations of Austin Powers’ “Yeah, Baby!” whenever he won a big pot.

Ybarra lost most of his stack with A-J when he got into a pre-flop raising war at the worst possible time.  Arama was ‘all in” with K-K.  Ybarra failed to catch an Ace, and Arama was on the verge of winning his first American title.  “Yeah, Baby!”

One of the funniest railbird comments ever followed.  Brit Gary Jones, who had been in an identical spot four days earlier, was standing amongst the boisterous crowd.  Seeing his fellow-countryman with a huge chip lead, Jones barked out, “Finish him off Jac – only an idiot would lose with a chip lead like that” – an ‘inside’ joke referring to the fact that Jones himself astoundingly lost an 87 to 1 chip advantage in a previous event, effectively earning the booby prize as the biggest choke job in poker history.     

Little did anyone know at the time how prophetic Jones’ words would become.

Ybarra was ‘all in’ on the next hand with his last 39,000, and won.  Next, he won two more big pots, stole the blinds a few times, and was soon back up to 180,000 in chips.  A few minutes later, the final hand was dealt.  It was a stunner.

Before the flop, Arama made a standard triple-the-big-blind raise.  Ybarra tried to make a move at the pot by re-raising ‘all-in’ with A-3.  Arama called instantly, holding 7-7.  The flop came K-J-4, giving Arama the lead.  A Deuce on the turn gave Ybarra extra outs, with an inside straight draw.  Then, a mind-blowing card fell on the river – a Five.  

At first, Arama thought he had won the tournament and shouted out, “Yeah, Baby!”  But Ybarra had caught onto the fact that the Five on the end had completed a runner-runner straight.  While Arama was desperately looking for someone to ‘high-five,’ Ybarra was getting handshakes and pats on the back.  Arama was shocked and stunned and in a state of utter disbelief – after all it was a $62,000 leap in prize money.  For a moment, it was like England had just lost the World Cup finals to the French.  Dead silence.  The English contingent wallowed away, with Gary Jones’ previous comments clearly on their minds.  Jac Arama received $76,256 as the runner up.

When asked about his good fortune on the final hand, Ybarra said:  “There are times when you have to just play.  I sometimes get bogged down by the odds, but to win you really just have to figure out who you are up against, devise a counterstrategy, and play.  At the beginning of a tournament, the odds and the math is more important.  But later on, you have to make moves.”

Yeah, baby.




2005 Jack Binion World Poker Open Event #11 Results

Horseshoe Casino Hotel and

Gold Strike Casino-Resort, Tunica, MS

Daily Report

January 17, 2005

Event #11

No-Limit Texas Hold’em

Buy-In: $1,000

Number of Entries: 314 

Prize Money: $435,200


Official Results:

1.   Ruben Ybarra                   Chicago, IL                   $138,647

2.   Jac Arama                         London, England 76,256

3.   Judge Leo Boothe            Fairriday, LA                38,994

4.   J. C. Tran                          Sacramento, CA           30,329

5.   Thomas Komulainen       Iron River, MI               25,996

6.   Glyn Banks                       Smithville, TN              21,664

7.   Jeff Burns                         Mt. Juliet, TN               17,331

8.   Davood Mehrmand          Frankfurt, Germany      12,998

9.   Jo Handman                     London, England 8,665


* plus a seat in the $10,000 buy-in championship event


10. Hilbert Shirey                  Winterhaven, FL 5,360

11. Tony Cousineau              Daytona Beach, FL       5,360

12. Cleve Haley                     Vornorny, TX               5,360

13. Tim Moneymaker            Lubbock, TX                 4,467

14. Mark Boudewijn             Gouda, Netherlands     4,467

15. Greg Aston                       Ft. Worth, TX               4,467

16. Bruce Van Horn              Ada, OK                        3,573

17. Adrian Swinger                Retford, England 3,573

18. Jack Ward                        Gulfport, MS                3,573

19. Jeff Graves                       Mt. Juliet, TN               2,680

20. Roger Van Driesan          Titusville, NJ                2,680

21. Peter Vilandos                 Houston, TX                 2,680

22. Butch Wade                     Knoxville, TN              2,680

23. Matthew Dunn                 Atlanta, GA                   2,680

24. Don Mullis                      Mooresville, NC          2,680

25. Vince Burgio                   West Hills, CA             2,680

26. Andrew Dakcski              Akron, OH                    2,680

27. Kevin Bott                       Brexburo, ID                2,680

Final Table Started at: 4:00 pm CST

Final Table Ended at: 8:50 pm CST


Report by Nolan Dalla – JBWPO Media Director


Tournament Director – David Eglseder

Co-Tournament Director (Horseshoe) – Ken Lambert, Jr.

Co-Tournament Director (Gold Strike) – Robert McGovern

Events 1- 5

Click for Results for Event #6, #7, #8, #9,#10

Click for Results for Events #11, #12, #13, #14

click for Schedule of Events

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