Steven Holloway on Poker
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'Godfather' of NZ poker wins $50,000

Kiwi poker player Jack Efaraimo has taken home $50,000 after winning the Main Event at the NZ Poker Championships. Photo / Getty Images.
Kiwi poker player Jack Efaraimo has taken home $50,000 after winning the Main Event at the NZ Poker Championships. Photo / Getty Images.

Kiwi poker player Jack Efaraimo has taken home $50,000 after winning the Main Event at the NZ Poker Championships in Christchurch this morning.

Following 27 hours of play over two days, Efaraimo and friend Steve Smith found themselves heads up after Erich Stadler bowed out in third place and the duo decided to cut a deal.

Efaraimo, who held a commanding chiplead over Smith, took home the trophy and the bulk of the combined first and second placed prizemoney, while Smith pocketed $42,500.

The duo outlasted a field of 159 players that all bought into the tournament for $1650, generating a prize pool of $238,500.

Auckland based Smith, who won the NZ Poker Champs Main Event for $44,000 in 2014 and came third in the Canterbury Champs on Thursday for $6,100 said he was happy to hand over the glory to his good mate.

"The way he was running, I never would have beat him anyway," Smith said.

Efaraimo is a big deal in the NZ poker scene. Affectionately known as 'the Godfather', the 64-year-old from Petone has been playing in the NZ poker champs since 1996 and was this year responsible for helping 27 players make the trip from Wellington to Christchurch for the week-long poker series.

"I remember playing this tournament in 1996, when it was a $4700 buy-in and first prize was over $100k," Efaraimo said. "I've basically been back every year since, but this win is definetly the highlight for me."

But Efariamo is no one-hit wonder. He won the South Island Champs in 2013 and 2014 and an APPT event in 2012. Efariamo says his biggest strength is his ability to pick up reads on players and his deceptive table talk.

The final table.
The final table.

"Some of the other guys say 'block your ears when he starts talking'. I talk a lot of players into calling and folding when I want them to."

Efariamo highlighted this ability with a story about a hand on day one where he talked an opponent off a flopped set in a big pot.

"There was an AK4 flop with a flush draw out there and there was a bit of re-raising going on. I just had QT for a straight flush draw but put him all in, then started talking. I told him I haven't got two pair, and that he probably only has two outs, because I don't play this way without a set. He ended up folding the 44."

Efariamo was third in chips at the end of day one, and never really slowed down, dominating the final table with his large stack. He plans to spend his winnings on his grandchildren and family.

"I've retired now, I have an injury from an accident a while back so I can't really do much other than play poker and look after the grandkids so this money will go a long way."

Efariamo is well respected in New Zealand poker circles and is the driving force behind the Wellington poker scene. He also reguarly makes trips to play in the Aussie Millions and Vegas and says the standard of Kiwi poker is very good.

"There are very good players in New Zealand now. Guys like Jackson Zheng and Paul Hockin are very good and the standard of play at these tournaments is getting better and better."

Efariamo said he has a very close relationship with Christchurch casino and helps promote their tournaments any chance he gets with his Wellington crew.

"The guys here at Christchurch casino help our guys a lot. We get free food, free lunch everytime they have an event. Also, the guys I bring down here, they get looked after. Hospitality, food and drink vouchers etc. And they organise taxis and things and put on a great tournament. You don't get that other places.

"My advice to young players is to learn the odds. Know when to fold and how to pick up tells, it's human nature. Watch out for the sharks - there are a lot of them out there now - and always look at opponents chip stacks. Attack at good spots and try to isolate. And most importantly, make players know that they don't mess with me."

It's unlikely anyone will be messing with the Godfather anytime soon.

Final payouts:
Jack Efariamo $50,000
Steve Smith $42,500
Erich Stadler $26,000
George Abdelnour $21,000
Andrew Wilkinson $17,500
Jamie Mulligan $14,500
Hamish Crawshaw $12,500
Daniel Burich $10,500
Dale Delaroze $9,000
Darren Brown $7,500
Michael Fu $6,500
Roger Harris $5,500
Jason Brown $4,500
Peter Field $4,000
Ryan Otto $3,500
Manu Luke $3,500

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