Pham captures HPT at Daytona Beach Kennel Club

November 22, 2013, Charles Allison  

The Heartland Poker Tour returned to Daytona Beach Kennel Club with a bang, and Cong Pham of Naples claimed the $104K first-place prize in his first HPT event. The poker pro went into the televised final table with the chip lead, though he’d find himself even and heads-up with pro James Calderaro, who’s no stranger to the shine of the final-table spotlight. Play lasted 46 hands before Calderaro’s pocket eights ran into Cong’s pocket aces.

Calderaro’s $64K prize brought his career earnings to a little more than $1.8 million. Other notables at the final table where fifth-place finisher John Holley, who’s racked up plenty of final tables all over Florida, and Keith Romanovitz, who entered the final table second in chips but quickly exited seventh.

A GOOD CAUSE: For people on the outside looking in, poker is often viewed as just another way to gamble. But poker often is a community, a collective of like-minded individuals who carry a passion for the game. I’ve never witnessed the heart of this community shine as brightly as I did recently at bestbet Orange Park. Janet Adams is a bestbet floor manager, but more than that, she’s a wonderful woman with a vivacious spirit, a beautiful smile that never seems to fade and a personality that sticks with you for a long time. Over the past six years she’s become a standard to all who play at bestbet Orange Park.

She has spent the past few months battling cancer, and as a way of showing its support for a woman who’s given so much to them, bestbet held a charity tournament in her honor in September. In an emotional and overwhelming show of admiration and support, 208 players came out to help her fight cancer. She entered the poker room to a thunderous, standing ovation.

Players wore ribbons and bracelets, but more important than any of that, they gave. The $50 no-limit hold’em event with $20 rebuys not only packed the room, but its 208 players also pumped out 464 rebuys over the course of the one-hour registration period, which saw 60 percent go to the prize pool while the rest went to help Janet’s fight, and bestbet added $5K.

Pablo Ortiz and Curtis Rogers chopped the event, taking home $1,700 each. Rockell Barker earned $1K for third and donated all of it to Janet. Afterward, Janet thanked her bestbet family, “I’m so lucky to have all of you as my friends and work family. Thank you again for your generous support and love.”

— Email Charles Allison anteupcharles@gmail.com.