Event 18: Randall Fernandez Outlasts a Record-Breaking Field to Win the Jeff Conine Charity Poker Classic!

2018 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open 
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino 
Hollywood, Florida
Event #18
Jeff Conine Charity Poker Classic / Charity Series of Poker
Entries: 382
Prize Pool: $30,000 in cash and prizes
August 9, 2018

Event 18 Champion Randall Fernandez poses with Jeff Conine, Matt Stout, Tony Burns, and Matt Savage.
Event 18 Champion Randall Fernandez poses with Jeff Conine, Matt Stout, Tony Burns, and Matt Savage.

The seventh annual Jeff Conine Charity Poker Classic broke records before it even got started, as the 312 players who were in their seats for shuffle up and deal already surpassed last year’s record field of 307 — and there were still two hours of registration and rebuys.

When registration finally closed after the first break, the total field had reached 382 entries, good for $106,960 going to the Conine Clubhouse at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. (More on the charity in a minute.) But that’s just the start of the charitable donations.

A record-breaking field for the seventh annual Jeff Conine Charity Poker Classic
A record-breaking field for the seventh annual Jeff Conine Charity Poker Classic

A couple of local businesses made $10,000 donations, which were presented in the form of giant checks shortly before play began. There was also a silent auction that began during the pre-tournament cocktail party and continued during the tournament itself, as well as a live auction during the first break that raised an additional $9,300. We don’t have the official number yet, but the total amount raised this year for the Conine Clubhouse should easily surpass last year’s total, which was around $130K.

As for the charity itself, the best description of the Conine Clubhouse comes from their own website:

Conine Clubhouse, named in honor of World Series champion Jeff Conine and his family, opened in May 1997 to serve as a “home away from home” for families of children receiving medical care at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Families can stay free of charge (based on availability) in a comfortable and nurturing environment.

Before we get to the action on the felt, check out this short video with a look at the cocktail party and a preview of the tournament as Maria Ho interviews Charity Series of Poker (CSOP) founder Matt Stout, and charity headliner Jeff Conine:

The field was a good mix of poker pros, recreational players, sports celebrities, and amateurs just looking to have a good time and donate to charity.

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo was in the field, and survived to the final six tables, while retired Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mark “Super” Duper went even deeper than that. Charity headliner Jeff Conine was in the field, of course, as a two-time MLB All-Star and two-time World Series champion. (That’s the original World Series. You know, baseball.)

Jessica Dawley and NHL Player Roberto Luongo
Reigning WSOP Ladies Event Champion Jessica Dawley (left) and Florida Panthers Goalie Roberto Luongo (right)

Speaking of the World Series, the last two WSOP Main Event champions were in the field — Scott Blumstein and John Cynn, along with this year’s runner-up, Tony Miles. There were plenty of other poker pros in the field, including Sheddy Siddiqui, Joseph Cheong, Jeff Fielder, and reigning WSOP Ladies Event champion Jessica Dawley.

There were a few fun bonus prizes awarded at the first break, with $1,000 going to the first-break chipleader, and another $1,000 going to the player with the most entries in this re-entry event. The dubious honor of most entries was split between poker pros Mike Leah and Chance Kornuth, who both bought in four times each, and they each received $500 to reduce their investment a bit.

Maria Ho and Chance Kornuth high-five each other after winning different prizes during the first break.
Maria Ho and Chance Kornuth high-five each other after winning different prizes during the first break.

Poker pro Tim Reilly was briefly announced as the first-break chipleader with 83,500, but then poker pro Maria Ho spoke up to pull the rug out from under Reilly — Ho had 85,000 in her stack, which was good enough to be the overall chipleader. (Though Reilly was unintentionally slow-rolled a bit here, he’d get his redemption by making it to the final table.)

Class act that she is, Ho immediately donated the $1,000 chipleader bonus back to the Conine Clubhouse charity.

At the first break, there were about 160 players remaining, but charity events are known for two things — the play is fun, and the play is fast. By the second break (after four hours of poker), the field was already down to the final 25 players. There would not be a third break.

Event 18: CSOP Final 10 Players
Event 18: CSOP Final 10 Players

It took less than half an hour to drop from 25 players to the final 10, and they were in the money as they combined to a single table to play down to a winner. These were the approximate chip counts as the final table began:

Seat 1.  Julio Marines  –  125,000  (3 bb)
Seat 2.  Wilson Dondo  –  140,000  (4 bb)
Seat 3.  Lexy Gavin  –  175,000  (4 bb)
Seat 4.  Tim Reilly  –  453,000  (11 bb)
Seat 5.  Marlo McCloskey  –  640,000  (16 bb)
Seat 6.  Brittney Barnes  –  524,000  (13 bb)
Seat 7.  Randall Fernandez  –  782,000  (20 bb)
Seat 8.  Peter Shapiro  –  250,000  (6 bb)
Seat 9.  Johnny Pham  –  470,000  (12 bb)
Seat 10.  Lisa Costello  –  230,000  (6 bb)

Even at the final table, the atmosphere stayed fun and friendly between the players, taking their chances without any particular regard for which prize packages went to which finishing spots — except for first prize, of course.

Marlo McCloskey and Brittney Barnes
Marlo McCloskey (left) and Brittney Barnes were two of the four women at the final table.

When Marlo McCloskey busted in 3rd place, it began the heads-up battle between Randall Fernandez and Johnny Pham. They cautiously battled each other preflop for 10 hands before they got it all in on Hand #11, with [Ks][9c] for Fernandez and [Jd][10h] for Pham.

The board came [Qc][5c][3c][3d][Jc]. Pham paired his jack on the river, but the same card gave Fernandez a club flush — and the victory.

Randall Fernandez (left) and Johnny Pham in the final hand. Pham recorded video of the final moments on his phone.
Randall Fernandez (left) and Johnny Pham in the final hand. Pham recorded video of the final moments on his phone.

Fernandez began the final table as chipleader, and it gave him more room to strategize than the shorter stacks. Fernandez said, “I knew it was going to be an all-in game there toward the end. I kind of laid back and let a few people knock themselves out, while I was just trying to pick my spots with the best hand, and it worked out.”

Fernandez was born and raised right here in the Hollywood area, and got to see the South Florida poker boom first hand. He saw the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino being built, and he really enjoys playing here.

“It’s awesome. Everything, the whole setup, their structures. Everything is great here,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez is self-employed, and though he plays poker seriously, he still considers himself a recreational player.

“I came here to have fun and support the charity, but I still tried to play good poker.”

Event 18 Champion Randall Fernandez
Event 18 Champion Randall Fernandez

As part of his first prize package, Fernandez received a $5,250 seat in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship, which begins tomorrow (Friday) at 12:00 noon. Fernandez hasn’t decided whether he’ll play on Day 1A or 1B, but we’ll keep an eye out for him to see if he can parlay this victory in the charity event into a deep run in the SHRPO Championship.

Of course the real winner in this event was the charity, the Conine Clubhouse, and the families that it helps in their most desperate times. Thanks to everyone who participated in the event, as well as all the companies that donated money, resources, and prizes.

Conine Clubhouse Trophy
The Conine Clubhouse Trophy is inscribed with the names of each year’s champion, and the trophy itself is kept on display at Conine Clubhouse as a reminder of the charitable funds raised. (Don’t worry, the winner receives a SHRPO trophy that they get to keep.)

Final Table Results:

1st:  Randall Fernandez  –  $5,000 plus $5,250 SHRPO Championship seat
2nd:  Johnny Pham  –  $2,000 plus Hard Rock Atlantic City Vacation Package
3rd:  Marlo McCloskey  –  $1,500 plus Party Like a Rock Star Package
4th:  Peter Shapiro  –  $1,150 plus WSOP Circuit Coco Main Event Seat
5th:  Brittney Barnes  –  $950 plus $1,100 SHRPO Big 4 seat
6th:  Tim Reilly  –  $850 plus Party Like a Rock Star Package
7th:  Lisa Costello  –  $750 plus Stay Like a Rock Star Vacation Package
8th:  Lexy Gavin  –  $700 plus Stay Like a Rock Star Vacation Package
9th:  Julio Marines  –  $650 plus Rock Spa Package
10th:  Wilson Dondo  –  $600 plus Rock Spa Package

Note:  To see the final hand for each of the final 10 players, click on their name in the results above.