It was a close call. After two quiet starting days, the World Poker Tour National Canadian Spring Championship was close to becoming one of the few WPT events with an actual overlay. The CAD$1,100 buy-in tournament had a guaranteed prize pool of CAD$1,000,000 with Day 1a and Day 1b bringing only 527 entries.
Day 1c, however, surpassed all expectations and 552 more entries were booked, creating a total prize pool of CAD$1,046,630.
Although it was a national WPT event with a rather small buy-in, big names like Antonio Esfandiari, Gavin Smith and Mike Sexton joined the action filled with local amateurs and small-stakes live tournament grinders. But none of them made it through to the final table.
The last six men standing were mostly unknowns to the poker community with small cashes in minor events. Canadian Johnny Mazzaferro was the only one at the final table who could brag about a live win. He won the WPT Canadian Spring Championship last year, cashing CAD$44,000, and was looking for more in 2014, maybe putting his hands on the first six-figure performance of his poker career. Mario Lim was another player who could have stood out after finishing the 2014 WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in 21st place, according to the Hendon Mob Database.
But again, not even those players managed to come away with the win. In fact, it was all about a local favorite who started the final day as a shortstack. Jason Comtois had only 31 big blinds when play resumed but doubled up fairly quickly. After open-raising under the gun with #qc#qs, Comtois check/raised all-in on a #ad#ac#2c flop with two pairs and dodged the outs of Lim, who called with a flush draw.
Lim was eventually the first eliminated after three-betting all-in with #kc#3c. The initial raiser, Mazzaferro, called holding #ah#js to win the hand.
Alexander Wong was next to make a bold all-in move on a #kc#8d#5h flop with just third pair (he had #6d#6c). Daniel Gagne snap-called him with his #ks#8c hand flopping big.
Two hands later, Comtois was in the spotlight once again. He raised and called Mazzaferro’s all-in with #ah#qc while his opponent was a huge underdog with his #qd#jd. The board gave both players a pair but the local hero had the higher kicker, sending the 2013 WPT Canadian Spring Championship winner home in fourth place for CAD$59,762.
The next elimination was spectacular and helped Comtois’ heads-up opponent, John Paul Tabago, win over two-thirds of the chips in play. Tabago three-bet pre-flop and checked on a #qh#9s#3c flop. The #jd turn turned the heat on and after several raises, Gagne was all-in holding a massive straight. Tabago had a flopped set and only 23% to river a boat. Fortunately for him, the river brought another #3s, eliminating Gagne in third place for CAD$80,904.
Heads-up play had two crucial moments that turned the odds in favor of the shortstacked Comtois. In the first one, he called a shove pre-flop with #ad#8s. His opponent also had ace-rag but with a much lower kicker: #as#3c.
The next move was the finish line for Tabago. He moved all-in with #qs#4s only to run into the Big Slick, #ac#kd. The board sealed the deal with Tabago earning CAD$124,758 for his second place performance.
Along with the WPT National Canadian Spring Championship title, Comtois took home the top money prize of CAD$178,114, plus a WPT champion belt and a trophy from the organizers, the Playground Poker Club.