The Asia Pacific Poker Tour's Grand Final tourney ended in victory for 34-year-old Sydney insurance worker Martin Rowe this weekend, giving his bank account a Australian $1 million (about US$643 000) boost for surviving a 477 player entry list that included WSOP champs Peter Eastgate and Chris Moneymaker, and winning the popular event after a nine hour final table.
Rowe, who only two months ago started a business building financial models for life insurance companies, said he may now consider life as a professional poker player. "I think I might take a break from work,'' he said.
The final table, which included seven Aussies in all, assembled Sunday at the Star City Casino in Sydney after a week of poker as the 477 entry field was whittled down to Antonio Fazzolari holding the final table chip lead, Tom Rafferty, Hai Bo Chu, Daniel Kowalski, Frank Saffioti, Jason Gray, Martin Rowe, Timothy English and Tony Basile.
Fazzolari looked set to dominate the final as he used his big stack to good effect and eliminbated several players, but he was overtaken by the steady and disciplined Rowe and eliminated in fourth place, earning A$182 000.
Rowe went on to eliminate other players until he faced professional player Jason Gray in the heads up with an almost 7 to 1 chip lead. The match might have ended quickly with such a disparity, but Gray delivered a spirited performance of skill and determination, drawing out the heads up to around two hours of gruelling play. It was not enough to stop the tenascious Rowe, however, and Gray was finally eliminated in second place, taking home A$476 000.
It was Rowe's first major tournament title, for which he collected the A$1 million top prize, a sponsored seat in the APPT Tournament of Champions and an impressive trophy.
Rowe has come a long way since he started playing in pub poker tourneys three years ago, and said he was both thrilled with the win, but a little bewildered by it.
"It feels great; but it hasn't really sunk in,'' he said. "I haven't really made any decisions at all about how it's changed my life or what I'm going to do with it.''
After building his experience in pub tournaments, Rowe started playing the Star City tournaments six months ago, where he honed his poker skills