GIBRALTAR -- Poker professional Gavin "Birdguts" Smith has emerged as the winner in the MansionPoker.net World Pro-Am Challenge, the most innovative twist on televised Texas Hold'em and
the world's best value online free-roll. After a titanic struggle of 149 hands and four hours of intense MansionPoker.net Speed Poker™ play, Smith was crowned the MansionPoker.net World Pro-Am Champion, pocketing a $500,000 purse, and watched by a prime time national audience across the United States on FSN.
"It was really cool to win in my first experience of Speed Poker. The format was unbelievable and allowed for excellent poker while still able to produce a great television show!" said Smith.
"MansionPoker.net put on a first class event and all three of the amateurs put up a very strong showing. The excellent coaching of Mike Gracz, Kenna James, and Tony G, will have given all three of these players an unbelievable experience and the basis to build a very strong poker game," enthused Smith.
Heads up play saw Smith, a 38 year old tournament veteran from Ontario, Canada, oust U.K. online qualifier Scott Gardner, who walked away with a tidy $270,000 for his surprise second place get.
Smith entered the hand holding more than a 10-1 chip lead over the young amateur Gardner. With the blinds at 3K/6K and Gardner in the big blind, Smith moved All In with the very strong heads up hand of 6s 6h. Gardner called blind, and when his Qc 4c did not improve on the final board of Jd 4h Kc 3d Kh, we had our champion.
While Smith proved too experienced at the crunch, teaching the amateur a few strokes along the way, Gardner's performance was a stand out, having come to the felt as a complete novice to live tournaments.
A sales consultant from Spalding, Lincolnshire, England, Gardner free-rolled his way into the Pro-Am online at MansionPoker.net, but his gutsy challenge up against Smith was inspired. He outlasted pro opponents fellow Brit John Gale and the seasoned tournament player Todd Brunson, but he gives full credit to his professional poker coach Michael Gracz.
"Mike Gracz has taught me a lot during poker school that will always stay with me and the fact that I made it to heads up with Gavin Smith amongst three of the world's best players surely has to go down to him. He is a great guy, and has become an even greater friend," said Gardner.
"I'm 29, now mortgage free and it didn't cost me a penny. The MansionPoker.net World Pro-Am Challenge has been a dream for me. I would love to pick up a sponsorship and turn professional," he added.
Gracz, who serves as the analyst on the MansionPoker.net Poker Dome Challenge, spent the three days prior mentoring Gardner on the intricacies of the popular Speed Poker format that has been used in all MansionPoker.net events on FSN. His successful mission earned him a very nice bonus of $30,000 for tutoring his protégée in the lead up to the Pro-Am Challenge.
Well-known U.K. pro poker player John Gale had to be content with third place and $200,000 for his efforts.
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