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James Calderaro wins WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open

It was finally his time! After years of grinding the live tournaments and after several frustrating eliminations including a second place finish in the 2012 World Poker Tour (WPT) Jacksonville Main Event, James Calderaro got his wish and won the first major event of his career. He also topped his girlfriend’s performance from last year: Lily Kiletto was runner-up in the 2013 WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, falling short of making history and becoming the first woman to win a WPT Main Event.

This year, however, Calderaro was prepared to become a member of the WPT Champions Club and didn’t let anybody stand in his way. He survived four days of battling among a field of 415 poker pros and amateurs that was eventually reduced to only six.

As final table play began, Calderaro was third in chips after Dimas Martinez Jr. and Shannon Shorr.

Evan Dollinger started the elimination frenzy. He finished sixth for $54,355 although he was a big 80% favorite when all the chips got in the middle. He shoved his 20+ big-blind stack with pocket tens and was called by Martinez, who had pocket sevens. The poker gods favored the big stack and put a seven on the flop for the winning set.

The next to go was Tim Kegel. He moved all-in from the button with Ace-King suited after an under the gun open-raise. The initial raise, Shorr called with pocket deuces and managed to survive three streets in the head-to-head race. Kegel flopped the king but Shorr caught a flush on the river. Kegel left the table $67,842 richer.

Although he was the chip leader to start the final day of the event, Martinez hit the rail after 78 hands. He looked at his Ace-King and decided to four-bet all-in for 40 big blinds with lots of action left behind him. The initial raiser, Keven Stammen, folded but the three-bettor Calderaro called with pocket tens. Martinez received no help post-flop and finished fourth winning $90,366.

Calderaro continued his run and eliminated Stammen. Again the shorter stack was dominating the big stack but the community cards changed the final outcome. Holding Ace-King suited, Stammen was looking in great shape before the river against his opponent’s Ace-Nine. He had to only dodge a nine but to no avail. With this performance, Stammen turned his $3,500 buy-in into a nice $122,197 payday.

The heads-up up play started with almost even stacks and neither player wanted to give up the opportunity to win a WPT Main Event. The winner emerged after over 100 hands of heads-up action. The first blow was all about cracking Aces. Shorr didn’t want to let Calderaro see a cheap flop and raised his bullets. His opponent called twice pre-flop and raised on a 10-7-4 flop. Shorr re-raised all-in to see his Aces being dominated by 10-7 and the flopped two pair. The turn and river brought nothing new to the table and left Shorr with only four big blinds.

Shorr doubled up the next hand but couldn’t do the same afterwards. Calderaro open-raised all-in with Nine-Eight suited and the shortstacker called with Ace-Jack. The river delivered the final blow as it completed a flush for Calderaro, who became the new WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open champion, winning $271,103. Shorr’s second place finish was worth $190,039.

Congratulations to the winner and his ice-breaking performance.

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Florian Gheorghe