Omar Zazay outlasted his final table opponents and survived a heads-up duel that lasted over 100 hands in order to take home the 2015 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship title.
Zazay took home a prize of $1 million after emerging victorious from a final table that included notable professionals including Paul Volpe and Dan Colman.
“It’s an amazing feeling. This is very huge for me,” Zazay said after his victory. “It been a lot of hard work. I played a lot of poker and came up short lots of times and feel like I can do better, so it’s good to accomplish a big title under my belt.”
While Zazay ultimately came out on top, there was nearly an amazing repeat performance by Colman, who won this tournament last year.
Colman, who has won more than $24 million in live tournament play, once again reached the final table and made a run all the way to three-handed play before finally being eliminated.
Colman earned $310,000 for his third-place finish. For Zazay, having to play against the 2014 Big One for One Drop champion was both a thrill and a challenge.
“Getting down three-handed with Dan Colman was definitely a sticky situation,” Zazay said. “I had him on my right so I had a little edge on him. I was trying to do the best I could against him and not give him chips so he could use them against me. I picked my spots well.”
After Colman was eliminated, Zazay had to play heads-up against Brian Phillis. While Phillis had a significant chip lead at one point, it was Zazay who won the match after more than 100 hands of play, sending Phillis home in second place with a $575,000 consolation prize.
“I just took it one hand at a time and slowly edged my way to the win,” Zazay said of the heads-up session.
While the reduced $5 million guarantee was designed to prevent a repeat of last year, when the Seminole Hard Rock had to contribute $2.5 million in overlay to reach their $10 million guarantee, there was once again a shortfall this year. Just 907 players put up the $5,250 buy-in, which meant there was still an overlay of about $250,000 in added value for players.
The Championship event was one of four Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open (SHRPO) events that played their final tables concurrently, part of a made-for-television spectacle that added a charged atmosphere to the proceedings.
Among the other winners crowned on the night was Jason Mercier. The highly-regarded professional poker player took down the $25,400 buy-in SHRPO High Roller event, a tournament that drew 83 entries and more than doubled its $1 million guaranteed prize pool.
Mercier defeated Ian O’Hara in heads-up play in order to win the tournament and the $652,800 top prize. For Mercier, it was not only a thrill to win the tournament, but to do it in front of his family.
“It’s pretty awesome because for as many tournaments as I’ve won, I’ve never actually had my family here,” Mercier said. “My dad got here for the start, took off some work, and it was cool to have both of my parents here and my sister here to watch me win.”