Kiwi poker player Jon Pye has taken home $107,000 after winning the Main Event of the NZ Poker Championships in Christchurch today.
Pye, the owner of a Christchurch painting business, defeated Scott Hamilton-Hill (second for $66,000) to claim the title following 29 hours of play over three days.
238 poker players put up $1950 to enter Christchurch casino's marquee tournament which generated a prize pool of $428,400.
The self-described 'social player' was the standout star of the week-long poker series, cashing in every event he played and making five final tables.
Pye made $11,600 for a fourth placed finish in the South Island champs, $3000 for 8th in the Canterbury champs, $4,250 for fourth in the Pot Limit Omaha rebuy event, and $1,200 for 10th in the Bounty event.
His standout 2019 also included a fifth in the Auckland WPT main event earlier this year, for $39,960.
Pye credits his extraordinary poker success to 'reading' his opponents and exploiting the information he gets.
"Pay attention," Pye said when asked what the most important trait of a succesful poker player is. "Just be aware of what's going on around you. For me, it's getting so many physical tells from people. Just their mannersims, what they do, how they act, how they look at their cards, there's just so many micro things that I tend to be able to pick up on. I'm good at reading situations.
"Also, having the ability to fold big hands and trusting your instincts. But it's my ability to read a situation which is priceless for me and gets me there, consistently."
Pye also noted patience as a key skill. He said it takes a certain mindset to be able to sit in a chair for 60 hours across five days and keep your mind clear.
"It's not necesarily about the cards, different tables you have to play them differently," Pye said. "If you're at a soft table you can play a bit more aggressively, just open up more. I like playing small-ball poker but then I don't mind putting pressure on as well. If I'm at a table with monsters I will just try keep the pots as small as possible, let them do all the work. But yea, mostly my instincts."
Pye said there were no particuarly remarkable hands he played across the tournament, his rise more of a steady climb.
"I had a really good run. I never really got it in bad across the tournament. When there were four of us left I got crippled in the first hand, I was down to 300k with five million chips in play. But I did what I needed to do. Sometimes you have to play tight, sometimes aggressive. You need the ability to change your game. You can't just have an ABC game, you need DEF as well. And know when to do that."
When heads up with local Scott Hamilton-Hill, Pye knew he had some tricky opposition. Pye had 70% of the chips in play, but Hamilton-Hill was no walkover. Earlier in the week Hamilton-Hill finished 7th in the South Island Champs for $5,100 and in 2018 won $440,710 at the World Series of Poker.
"My plan was to ask him a lot of questions with chips. If he bet, I would raise saying 'are you sure?'. I knew I could handle the pressure better than he could. I've got no problem raising with nothing, just to say 'are you sure?'. And quite often he wasn't sure and folded. I got away with murder. I got him down, kept him down and then the big final hand I flopped a straight with 56 on a 234 board. I let him think he was good when he paired his 9 on the turn, and check raised me. I flatted, then he bet into me on the river and I just shoved. I had most of the chips at that stage and just made it look kind of bluffy. He looked into my soul and called, and was wrong."
Pye started playing poker around the Chris Moneymaker 'boom' in 2003 and final tabled his first major event in 2008 at the Christchurch main event. How does he plan on spending the winnings?
"Gin, family and friends," Pye said. "Might be making a family trip to the Gold Coast for the WPT and jump back on the horse. I'll spend a bit of money around the house and maybe a holiday but mostly will just throw it on the pile."