Paul Kroh can
(finally!) ‘crow’

Mar 1, 2005 6:53 AM

Longtime poker player Paul Kroh finally broke a World Series of Poker "curse" to win the fourth event in the World Series of Poker Circuit last week at Harrah’s Rincon Casino in Southern California.

The $500 buy-in No Limit Hold’em Event drew 117 players and a prize pool of $56,000.

Paul Kroh, more than anyone, has a right to "crow" after finally winning a major poker event.

The 59-year-old East Coast transplant now living in Battle Mountain, Nevada has played dozens of World Series of Poker tourneys over the years. He has often had many chips going into the closing stages, when just two or three tables remained. But each and every time it looked like Kroh would finally break through, he’d be dealt A-K, move "all in" and lose to A-Q or worse. He’d flop a set, and lose to a flush. Seven times, he says, he went out with pocket aces on the bubble.

Although he says he’s not superstitious, Kroh even admits there are now some cardrooms and tournaments where he will not play.

Kroh’s most famous (or infamous) poker moment came when he was playing in the main event at the 1998 World Series of Poker. He was the chip leader after day one. After day two, Kroh was sixth in chips. Then, on day three, he crashed and burned. He took a terrible beat to Scotty Nguyen when he moved all-in on a royal flush draw. Nguyen called instantly and sure enough — the flush came. Trouble was, Nguyen had the ace-high flush to Kroh’s king-high. Nguyen went on to win the tournament that year and became the world poker champion. Kroh finished a disappointing 13th. That’s right, lucky 13!

The brutality of beats led poker insider Phil Gordon to remark, "Paul Kroh is the best poker player never to have won a gold bracelet." High praise, indeed.

Bruised and battle tested, Kroh must have wondered what would go wrong on this day. He came to the final table with the chip lead, but faced the tough challenge of facing eight opponents who were equally determined to win.

When heads-up play began, the chip counts were dead even. Marv Heintschel put up a good fight in the heads-up duel but could not overcome the crush of cards that fell Paul Kroh’s way in the final hour. Kroh held the chip lead the entire way and took Heintschel’s final chips on the last hand of the tournament: Heintschel, J-9, versus Kroh, 6-2 (suited hearts).

The flop came K-K-9 with two hearts. Heintschel was all-in at that point and was disgusted when a third heart fell on the turn.

Heintschel was still drawing to four outs (Ks or 9s to make a full house). But a harmless blank fell on the river and Kroh was the new champion.

Heintschel, a 65-year-old stucco contractor from nearby Escondido, plays most low-limit poker and small buy-in events. He certainly showed he can play with the best in the world in this event. Second place paid $11,349.

Paul Kroh has a number of tournament wins in his illustrious poker career — including three wins at a single tournament in Reno several years ago. He’s also made multiple final tables at the World Series of Poker, World Poker Open, LA Poker Classic and other major events. But for all his success, the one thing that had eluded Kroh was a WSOP title. Those demons were finally laid to rest last week.