2017 Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
$3,500 No Limit Hold’em (Re-Entry)
Prize Pool: $2,000,000
November 24-29, 2017
After one week of preliminary tournaments, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood rolled out the Championship event with some of the best players in the game. The Championship featured a $2,000,000 prize pool and it was local regular Michael Newman closing it out for the major title and a $374,240 payday.
“It’s probably the best thing that I’ve ever done in poker,” Newman said after his victory. “Money’s great, money’s always great, but (it’s great) to get through the toughest field I’ve ever played against in my life.”
The Championship drew 585 entries over the course of two starting flights and they were all aiming for the huge first place prize at the end. The tournament drew players from around the world including WSOP bracelet winners, WPT Champions Club members, local regulars, and amateurs taking their shot at glory.
Of those 585, there were still 215 around when they joined together for Day 2 with WSOP bracelet winner Michael Wang leading them. Eight Seminole Hard Rock Poker team members made it through their opening flight with Faraz Jaka returning with the third biggest stack of the day.
Joining Jaka for the SHRP team were Mukul Pahuja, Sheddy Siddiqui, Jared Jaffee, Matt Affleck, Michael Laake, Darryll Fish, and Matt Stout along with the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa’s Wally Maddah and Natasha Mercier. Other notables making it through included 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen, Florida poker legend Robert Mizrachi, and Oscar-nominated actress Jennifer Tilly.
Tilly made it deep into the tournament but fell short of making it into the money. With 79 players taking home part of the $2,000,000 prize pool, Day 2 played at a slow pace until they burst the money bubble shortly before the dinner break. Day 2 ended with 34 players moving on and Day 3 proved to be a short afternoon.
Day 3 featured four tables of tough players including former SHRPO Champ Dan Colman, high roller master Tom Marchese, eight-time WSOP Circuit winner Ari Engel, and three SHRP team members with Siddiqui, Fish, and Jaka still in the race. The Championship was scheduled to play down to the last 18 players and it took less than four hours to finish their day.
With the big money in sight, Day 4 would continue until only six players remained for the Poker Night in America live-stream and televised final table. WPT Champions Club member Matas Cimbolas held the chip lead and continued to stay ahead for most of the day.
David Peters, Lily Kiletto, Jean “Prince” Gaspard, and McKeehen were early exits while Shaun Deeb and Engel began chipping up along the way until the Championship was down to the last ten players.
Former WSOP Big One for One Drop champ Colman was one of the toughest players at the last table and the table was relieved when he was eliminated in tenth place. Deeb saw his luck leave him as he went from a big stack to a ninth-place finish.
Brazilian Joao Simao was knocked out in eighth place and took his excitable rail with him. With the elimination of Denis Cyr in seventh place, the feature final table was set to battle it out in front of the cameras.
The final table featured six successful grinders with combined live tournament earnings exceeding $28 million. Engel began the last day with the chip lead but lost it on the first hand when he doubled up Newman. The hand saw Engel make a move on the turn, putting Newman all in, but it went wrong when it was called and Engel was drawing dead.
“The first hand was very pivotal. I had top pair with the nut flush draw on the turn.” Newman said later. “I was like, ‘The first hand I’m going to be out?’ but I had to call, and I was right.”
Short-stacked Marchese was the first eliminated from the final table and he was quickly followed by Engel. Siddiqui’s day came to an end when he ran his top pair into Newman’s aces and Fish followed suit after losing a big pot against the leader.
Newman held a 7-to-1 chip lead over Cimbolas at the start of heads-up play and the match lasted only three hands before Newman won a race to take the title along with the $374,240 first place prize.
“I always like a challenge and I always want to be playing against the best. That was the best of the best. It was absolutely amazing.”
Newman’s stack was the third biggest of the final six and he came back ready to play despite a restless night at home.
“I didn’t sleep, not even one second, last night,” Newman admitted. “I was so excited about today. I played really well and my cards held and I won.”
The 48-year-old New York native used to work on Wall Street and is still in the banking industry now that he lives in Florida. Even though he plays a lot of poker and has the results to show for it, Newman still does not consider himself a professional player.
“I’m glad I’m able to play at this level, but it would take a lot of time to be a pro,” Newman said. “As much as I love the game, I don’t know if I could handle the ups, the downs, and the swings. No matter how good you are, you also need the luck.”
Newman is a familiar face in our tournament fields and he already won owned SHRP trophies before he added this huge fifth title. He plays all levels of tournaments, regardless of the buy-in, and works on his game.
“I love the game,” Newman commented. “That’s why I even play the small events – the $150s – I just love the action.”
“I love to try to better myself and become a better player each time I play,” he continued.
This Championship title is the biggest cash of Newman’s career, topping his previous high from a 12th place finish in this tournament in 2015. He had the biggest cheering section of all players at the final table and it was obvious his friends and family were as excited as he was with the accomplishment.
Congratulations to Michael on the RRPO Championship win and to everyone who cashed in the tournament along the way. It was a great event and he represents the best of what our players have to offer.
Final table results:
1st: Michael Newman – $374,240 + Trophy
2nd: Matas Cimbolas – $262,440
3rd: Darryll Fish – $168,920
4th: Sheddy Siddiqui – $121,920
5th: Ari Engel – $93,560
6th: Tom Marchese – $75,380