State of Origin Feature Event - South Australia Victorious!

Posted at 19:45 2008-08-09
The title of Australia’s best poker state has been a topic of hot debate for years, and finally players from around Australia were last night given the chance to represent their state in the State of Origin feature event. The 6 handed shootout format was sure to offer plenty of fireworks, and bragging rights for whichever state could get the job done at the Final Table.
Some of the biggest names in Australian poker were out to ensure it would be their state celebrating victory. Hachem, Assadourian, Lackovic, Pickering, Ravesi and Mamacas were all set to lead their state into battle, and anyone who didn’t think the states weren’t taking things seriously only had to witness the pre-tournament meetings to realise the competition would be fierce.
NSW were the first to lose a runner after Billy “The Croc” Argyros landed two blows to knock out Grant Levy. In his final hand Levy lost the race with {As}{Qh} against the {Td}{Ts} on a board of {7d}{7c}{2c}{3s}{5d}. However it was the Queenslanders who would struggle early, losing half their team before we saw any eliminations from the Big V or the Tasmanians.
“The Croc” continued on his merry way on table 1, but it was Tassie captain George “Tasmaniac” Mamacus who emerged from the pack to reach heads-up action in the quest for a final table seat. Unfortunately for Devils fans, his {Ah}{Qh} failed to hold against the {Ac}{4c} of Argyros, who made trips on a board of {4h}{2c}{3s}{4s}{7d} and snagged the first spot at the final table and $1,000 for his own pocket.
Two females made appearances for their state, and while most would have expected Sarah Bilney to be the longest-lasting female in the event, it was Tasmanian Fflur Higgs who went deeper. However Emad Tahtouh’s {7d}{4d} denied any chance of a female final table appearance against Higgs’ {Qd}{2d} when the board ran out {2c}{8c}{3d}{8s}{7s}. Tahtouh was mixed up in some controversy of his own as the action heated up accusing Croweater Paul Ravesi of a ‘slow roll’ as the final table loomed.
The Queenslanders may have lost a few players early but they booked a seat in the final when Karsten Kobbing spiked an ace holding {Ah}{3d} to overcome WA’s Michael Pedley who held {Tc}{Td} when the board fell {As}{9h}{Ad}{6d}{Kc} in heads up action.
Sam Khouiss chalked up one for the New South Wales boys when he was able to sew up Table 3, holding {Ad}{8h} he spiked trips on a board of {3c}{Tc}{4h}{8s}{8d} to end the run of South Australia’s Fred Chaptioni who held {As}{Qd}.
Tahtouh may have won the battle over Ravesi, but his run was ended by Jarod Shaw, when his {Kc}{7h} flopped a pair of kings on a {8s}{4h}{Kh} flop and held up against Tahtouh’s {8c}{5h}. The turn was the {2h} and river the {Qd} and Shaw stitched up the fourth final table seat, keeping Western Australia’s hopes alive in the quest for the title.
NSW then secured their second final table seat, with Joe Meissner ending the run of Tassie’s Andrew “Bugsy” McDermott when Meissner’s {Ah}{Qh} held against McDermott’s {As}{7s} on a board of {Js}{8c}{5d}{2h}{8h}.
Over on Table 5, Eric Assodourian and Van “Sirens” Marcus were upstaged by South Aussie Mark Salkanovic and Tasmania’s Heath “TassieDevil” Chick who were trying to avoid the possibility of being the only state without representation at the final table. In a close battle, Salkanovic was able to take the chip lead and when his {As}{7c} outdrew Chick’s {Ac}{Jh} on a board of {Td}{7d}{Qc}{6h}{9c}, the final table was set.
The points board was interestingly topped by the Tasmanians leading into the final table thanks to their consistent finishes in the first round, but it was likely to come down to a battle between Victoria, SA and WA for the title. While NSW had 2 final table representatives, they would require both to finish top 4 to have any chance of winning.
The South Aussie Salkanovic landed the first blow when his {Ks}{Kh} proved too strong for WA’s Jarod Shaw who held {Ac}{9d} on a {9c}{Jh}{Tc} flop. Salkanovic led out and Shaw moved all in with Salkanovic making the call. The turn was the {3d} and river the {7s} to end the Sandgropers chances for overall honours.
Sammy Khouiss had been extremely active at the final table, building an early lead, but a poorly timed bluff knocked him back under his starting stack. He was our 5th place finisher when his {Ac}{8c} couldn’t hold off the giant killing Croweater Salkanovic’s {Kc}{Jc} when the board landed {Js}{4s}{8h}{5h}{4d}.
With four players left, the excitement was continuing to build, especially from the New South Wales team, but they couldn’t get their last remaining member Joe Meissner across the line. Meissner was short stacked for much of the final table, and finally made a stand with {Ac}{7d}. However, Billy “The Croc” held {Qc}{Qs} which was enough to end the NSW hopes and bring us to three-handed action.
Soon after, the Queensland hopes fell with the elimination of Karsten Kobbing in 3rd place. Kobbing moved all in with {Kd}{Qs}, but “The Croc” was catching cards at the right time to call with {Ac}{Kh}, and the {Ad} on the river sealed Kobbing’s fate. Kobbing took home $1,000 for his efforts.
The scene was set – the Victorian Billy “The Croc” Argyros, versus South Australian Mark “Champagne” Salkanovic, with “The Croc” holding a 43k to 17k chip lead. As luck would have it, the winner of this heads-up battle would also win overall glory for their state.
First hand from the break, and Salkanovic was all-in from the small blind with {Ad}{8h}, but once again “The Croc” woke up with a hand, and tabled {Qc}{Qd}. However, the first card out was the {Ah}, and Salkanovic stayed alive, with the chip stacks now evened up.
The chip lead chopped and changed between the two players, but slowly Argyros took control, and again had the chance to finish the Croweater off. However, Salkanovic rivered a nut straight holding {8s}{9d} against Argyros’ {Jc}{9s} on a {4d}{Tc}{Jd}{2s} board. The {7h} on the river was enough to keep Salkanovic alive, and catapult him to the chip lead.
Finally, the prolonged heads-up battle came to a close when Salkanovic moved all-in with {Kd}{Qh}, and “The Croc” tanked and finally called with a dominated {Qs}{Ts}. The board of {Ah}{3d}{6d}{5d}{Js} brought no love for “The Croc” and the Victorians, but the South Australians were in raptures as Salkanovic captured the title for South Australia! 
Salkanovic took home $5,000 for his efforts, as well as his happy teammates taking home $1,000 each.
South Australia got up to nose out the Victorians by 10 points, with Tasmania and NSW tied for 3rd 30 points in arrears.
The final points tally for the State of Origin Challenge was as follows:
South Australia - 280
Victoria - 270
Tasmania - 240
New South Wales - 240
Western Australia - 210
Queensland – 180
Congratulations to everyone involved in the organization of this concept and it proved to be a huge hit for players and poker fans alike! We look forward to seeing a rematch next year as South Australia look to defend their title!


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