WSOP crowns ‘reluctant’ Circuit champ

Oct 30, 2006 3:06 AM

Rob "Hutch" Hutcherson, a 36-year-old commercial real estate manager who would rather play craps and horses than poker, was the 280th alternate in the opening event of Harrah’s World Series of Poker Circuit tour at Caesars Indiana. He was ready to ask for his buy-in back, but when he learned he’d have to forfeit his $40 entry fee, he decided to play.

Good decision, because he ended up scoring a lopsided victory to win the $300 no-limit hold’em event and pocket $65,825.

With a crowd of 870, including 288 alternates, this was the fourth-largest opener in the three-years of the WSOP Circuit. When Hutcherson finally sat down, nearly two and a half hours after play began, his $1,500 starting chips were only good for seven blinds. But he started off on fire, getting pocket aces his first hand, kings the second the queens the third, and was quickly in contention.

Later, with about six tables left, he was crippled by Veronica Heath, a 23-year-old pre-dental student who won the ladies championship here last year. She took 100,000 of his 140,000 chips by hitting an inside straight draw.

"She was my nemesis tonight," he said. "She read me like a book." He got well again after showing two bluffs, holding 6-4 and 5-3, then got lots of action after he flopped a set of aces.

Hutcherson came to the final table with a massive chip lead, holding 495,000 of the 1,312,000 checks in play. Playing very loosely and aggressively, he had better than a 6-1 advantage when he got heads-up ”” in just one hour ””with Neal Harding, a 64-year-old former history and English teacher who now owns 50 Hooters restaurants in four states, England and Canada. There was a break, and when they returned, Hutch needed just one hand to knock out the Hooters man and lock up his one-sided win.

This is the second WSOP try for Hutcherson, who is married, lives in Jefferson, Indiana, and manages his family-owned Old Brownsville Crossing shopping center

The Caesars Indiana casino is located aboard "The Glory of Rome" riverboat. With four deck and a length of 450 feet, it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest riverboat casino, though it is now stationary and no longer cruises the Ohio River.

The final table started at 4 p.m. on day two with blinds of 4,000-8,000, antes of 1,000 and 15:55 left. Before the level was finished, so were four players. First to depart, on only the second hand, was John Sanders, a librarian from Champaign Illinois, who’s been playing poker for 33 of his 39 years. One of the shortest-chipped players, he moved in from the small blind with A-8 and was extracted from his seat by the dental student when her pocket 5s held up. Ninth place paid $5,063.

Four hands later, Ronnie Yarbrough pushed in for 32,000 with A-10. Justin Shaw called with pocket 9s, and when the board came 7-5-3-5-7, seven were left. Yarbrough, 57, is a pro player from Memphis, Tennessee who won a $1,000 buy-in Circuit event at Tunica last year, and is ranked 171st in the world by Card Player magazine. Eighth paid $7,595

One hand later, Hutcherson opened for 30,000 with As-8d, and Brad Schooler moved in for 24,000 more, a big favorite with A-Q. The flop contained a queen, but also three spades. A fourth spade on the river gave Hutcherson the nut flush as Schooler, a 29-year-old restaurant owner from Lexington, Kentucky, who was alternate number 284, collected $10,127 for seventh place.

Just before limits went up, Dan Hill, a 31-year-old engineer from Mason, Ohio, risked his last 20,000 by going all in with Ks-5s. Hutcherson had a fairly automatic call with K-10, and his higher kicker did the job when the board came 9-8-8-J-7. Contestants were now playing with blinds of 6,000-12,000 with 2,000 antes. Heath soon took a big hit and was left with about 50,000 when she opened for 30,000, with K-8, called when Harding moved in for 92,000 more with A-J and couldn’t improve.

On hand 16, Justin Shaw got very lucky. He was all in on fourth street when Hutcherson, pushing the table around and playing almost any two cards when he had a chance to knock out a player, made a 9-high straight holding 6-5. But a river 10 gave Shaw the same 10-high straight and they split.

Next it was Heath’s turn to escape on the river when she held Qs-4s to Hutcherson’s Q-7 and hit her spade flush draw. She soon doubled through again against Hutcherson when her A-K easily beat his 10-5.

Two hands later, Shaw did not fare as well against the man with all the chips. He flat called from the big blind with pocket kings when Hutcherson opened for 40,000 with A-6, and waited until the flop to move in. Unfortunately for him, the flop contained an ace, and Shaw finshed fifth, which paid $15,190. Shaw, 31, who listed his occupation simply as "father," has an A.A. degree in accounting and learned poker by watching it on TV.

The biggest pot of the night, about 260,000, now developed on the next deal. On a flop of Qd-Jh-9h, Hutcherson bet 110,000 with pocket 7s and Harding called, chasing a flush draw with 5h-3h. He missed and came away empty-handed after the pot was checked down.

One hand later, Heath also missed a flush, and she was gone. She had 9c-9h and called all in for about 90,000 when Hutcherson raised pre-flop to 110,000 with A-10. A board of 10c-5c-2c gave him top pair and her a flush draw, but blanks hit the turn and river. Heath is from Louisville, and has been playing poker for two years. She earned $17,722 for her fourth-place finish.

Three-handed, the only question seemed to be who would make it to second place. Harding had about 125,000 chips, Billy Jannings, a 27-year-old construction supervisor from Anderson, Indiana, had around 80,000, while Hutcherson held the remaining million-plus.

Jannings survived one time when he called with A-5 after Hutcherson moved in with pocket 8s, and was rescued by an ace on the river (to quote the title of Barry Greenstein’s book).

It was a brief reprieve. Two deals later, Harding took most of Jannings’ chips when he turned a king to his A-K to outrun Jannings’ pocket 4s. On the next hand, only the 32nd, Jannings raised all in for 60,000 with K-10 after Hutcherson opened for 50,000 with pocket deuces. When the board came A-6-4-J-J, Jannings exited third, taking home $20,254.

The players took a break, returning to blinds of 8,000-16,000. On the first hand, Hutcherson opened for 32,000 with A-7 and Harding moved in for just over 200,000 with A-2, losing when the board came A-9-3-4-6. Harding, who placed fifth in the main event last year, earned $34,937 for second.

Hutcherson, meanwhile, scored his first major cash-in, though it still couldn’t match the 160,000 he says he once won at the Breeder’s Cup.