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Chris Savage Cannibalizes Final Table: Online Poker Whiz Runs Wire-to-Wire in First Major ‘Live’ Tournament Win
by Nolan Dalla

 The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.-- Sydney J. Harris

In the not too far distant past, the general mindset of flesh and blood poker players towards online adversaries was one of contempt.  They play too many starting hands.  They have no ‘people reading’ skills.  They can’t beat a real poker game.        

Then, along came an accountant from Tennessee named Chris Moneymaker and the poker world turned upside down.  Moneymaker, true to his name, did the unthinkable – parlaying a $37 online tournament win into the 2003 world championship.  The unlikeliest of winners ignited a fuse on a global powder keg, exploding into a worldwide proliferation of online poker sites, many with hundreds of games going 24/7 and thousands of players around the clock.  Proving that online poker as a training ground for tournament success was no fluke, a Connecticut-based attorney, Greg Raymer, repeated the same feat again in 2004.

Now, another online poker whiz, Chris Savage from Baton Rouge, LA has completed the techno-trifecta.  Savage, who achieved astonishing results online over the past year, won the $1,500 buy-in Limit Hold’em event at the 2005 Jack Binion World Poker Open.  First place paid $78,706 in cash, the coveted gold and diamond bracelet, and a $10,000 entry into the championship event, which starts next week.  Savage’s online tournament record alone would be enough to make him the envy of 99.9 percent of all poker players.  Consider that he won an unprecedented 12 seats to the $10,000 buy-in Aruba event last year, just from his online play.  Savage won eight other major online tournaments in 2004, as well.  Now, he’s broken into new territory – live tournaments.

“When I first started playing poker online, I lost more money than anyone,” Savage said following his victory.  “Then, I decided to take the game seriously.  I started studying.   I talked to friends on the phone for hours about poker strategy, and learned about all the things you need to become a good tournament player….The most important this is – I’m not afraid to (get knocked out).  I don’t play to move up a notch in the prize money, I play to win first place.”

Indeed, Savage never once let up in a relentless pursuit of his first live tournament win.  “I’m able to fire the second shell and the third shell and make people fold the best hand,” Savage explained.  “I’m going to keep firing bullets when I have the chip lead and it’s very difficult for someone to call in their position.”

On Day One, 167 players were eliminated.  Nine of these players, places 18 through 10 received prize money.  Nine finalists returned for Day Two and players were eliminated as follows:

9th Place – Gerard Johnston, from St. Charles, MO came in as the shortest stack.  He didn’t last long.  On the second hand of play, he raised with his remaining chips holding A-7, made a pair of Sevens, and ended up losing to a straight.  Johnston, who is retired, collected $4,918 for 9th place.

8th Place – Next lowest in chips, “Captain” Tom Franklin was down to the felt, and lost to Max Stern’s full house on his final hand.  Franklin’s elimination certainly improved the odds for his opponents, since the Captain has won dozens of major tournaments, including four final tables at the World Series of Poker.  Franklin, from downstate Gulfport, MS received $7,155 in prize money.

7th Place – Frank Kassela is no stranger to playing for big money.  He’s been in the money twice so far this year at the JBWPO and made final tables at majors elsewhere.  But that experience didn’t help him here.  Kassela was never able to establish much momentum during his hour-long stay in the finale.  On his last hand he started with 6-6 but lost to a set of Fours.  Kassela, the President of Mid-America Specialities in Germantown, TN, earned $9,540 for 7th place.

6th Place – This was Dr. Max Stern’s second final table this year (he was 3rd in the $500 buy-in Omaha High-Low event).  The former pediatrician from Costa Rica played A-8 against Chris Savage’s A-9.  Both players caught an Ace on the flop, but Savage made two pair when a Nine gratuitously fell on the river, eliminating Dr. Stern.  The head of the famed ‘Costa Rican Connection’ added $11,925 in winnings to the $16,635 he received last week.  Not bad for a 65-year-old retiree, who is a popular figure on the poker tournament circuit.

5th Place – “Syracuse Chris” Tsiprailidis was another big name poker pro who got cut down to size.  The former restaurateur from Syracuse, NY and winner of gold bracelets at the WSOP and many other tournaments lost his last pot of the night with A-10 against Raja Kattamuri’s A-J.  Both players made a pair, but the Jacks proved to be best.  Syracuse Chris made $14,310 for 5th place.

4th Place – Four-handed play continued for nearly an hour before Raja Kattamuri lost with A-4 against Mike Haney’s A-7.  Neither player made a pair, but the Seven played.  Kattamuri, an electronics engineer from Dallas, TX who won the $1,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em event here in 2000, as well as other limit events elsewhere, took $19,080 for 4th place.

3rd Place – When it became three-handed, Chris Savage’s chip lead was so large that the real question became – who would finish secondMike Haney settled that once and for all when he snapped off Robert Perry’s attempted bluff with a pair of 10s.  Haney held 10-8 on the hand, paired the 10, and called Perry down all the way – who was drawing to overcards.  Perry, a successful cash game player who is widely respected for his game in live action rather than tournaments, earned $23,850 for 3rd place.

When heads-up play began, Chris Savage enjoyed a decisive 10 to 1 chip lead.  As we have seen previously at this year’s JBWPO, no lead is ever safe at a poker table.  Just ask the ill-fated player who was up 87 to 1 last week in heads-up play – and lost.  Add the fact that Mike “the Maniac” Haney had arrived at the final table 7th in chips, and made the biggest leap of the day. 

Trouble for Haney was – it’s hard to be a “Maniac” when you are down by a 10 to 1 chip count.  Haney, a local player who got his nickname from his outlandish and aggressive play, might as well have been pulling a fully loaded 18-wheeler up a steep mountain, completely out of gas.  The truck driver from Arkansas was eliminated just six hands into the duel.  Haney had the best of it on the final hand with K-3 suited, but lost to Savage’s 7-6 when a Six flopped.  Haney collected $43,407 as the runner up.

Meanwhile, Chris Savage was the new champion.  Not once during the four-hour finale did Savage lose the chip lead.  Not once was Savage ever in serious danger of losing the chip lead.  It was almost as though Savage was destined to win from the start.  It was enough to make you think and truly believe – that maybe these online guys can play, after all.  

Final Table Started at: 4:00 pm CST

Final Table Ended at: 8:10 pm CST


2005 Jack Binion World Poker Open Results Event #14

Horseshoe Casino Hotel and

Gold Strike Casino-Resort, Tunica, MS

Daily Report

January 20, 2005

Event #14

Limit Hold’em

Buy-In: $1,500

Number of Entries: 176 

Prize Money: $239,447


Official Results:

1.   Chris Savage                     Baton Rouge, LA         $71,500

2.   Mike Haney                               Marion, AR                   43,407

3.   Robert Perry                     Highland Beach, FL     23,850

4.   Raja Kattamuri                     Dallas, TX                     19,080

5. “Syracuse Chris” Tsiprailidis  
Syracuse, NY                14,310

6.   Dr. Max Stern                      San Jose, Costa, Rica   11,925

7.   Frank Kassela                   Germantown, TN         9,540

8.   “Captain” Tom Franklin Gulfport, MS                7,155

9.   Gerard Johnston                  St. Charles, MO            7,500


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


10. Mohamad Zalikha                Miami, FL                     3,442

11. An Tran                             Las Vegas, NV              3,442

12. Van Nguyen                      Toronto, Canada           3,442

13. Paul Clements                  Wisconsin Dells, WI    2,951

14. Billy Duarte                       Berthoud, CO               2,951

15. Derek Optitz                        Ft. Worth, TX               2,951

16. Joe Whitt                             Hunstville, AL              2,459

17. Ivo Donev                        Bregenz, Austria           2,459

18. Eddy Scharf                        Cologne, Germany       2,459

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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