We were joined by two fat ladies earlier this week as 88 hopefuls invested $5+0.50 into the eighth and final leg of the Black Belt Poker League.
Their ultimate goal was varied: a handful were still in contention for a star prize; some were looking to sneak into the top 10; whilst others were merely playing for the craic, or ensuring they secured the 200 Belt Points in loyalty bonus for competing in all eight legs - whatever the motive, the field was hungrier than a Hasbro hippo, and everyone wanted to garnish their eight-week venture with a win.
In what has become a rare occurrence, the League XIV crown was wide open as we entered the final battle, and when League leader David liquidpoker101 Manders slipped on a banana peel early doors, eyes lit up like Christmas lights with second place Sean "10Royals" Lassman the new favourite to capture gold.
It was all change on the final table with a completely different lineup to the week prior, but one key name shone out like a beacon: Craig "ChipRead77" McKelvie. McKelvie had commenced proceedings in a modest seventh place, but his fourth place finish in the home straight was enough for him to top the table at the death and turn off his monitor as the latest Black Belt Poker League Champion.
First and second prize offered a free seat into the inaugural Samurai, a $250+25 online freezeout with a $10,000 guaranteed prize pool. Whilst ChipRead77 undoubtedly snapped up one spot, the second was somewhat more contentious as 10Royals and Simon ourkidsid Herrick finished on the exact same tally.
In the end, the two runner-ups opted to split the prize points 75/25 and also any potential Samurai winnings, with ourkidsid chosen as the soldier to enter the Samurai battlefield - and as you'll read later this week, it proved to be a lucrative decision.
|1st||ChipRead77||540 points||Samurai Seat & Personalised Hoodie|
|=2nd||ourkidsid||533 points||Samurai Seat|
|=2nd||10Royals||533 points||1,000 Belt Points|
|4th||BoatDrink||526 points||750 Belt Points|
|5th||liquidpoker101||518 points||600 Belt Points|
|6th||PhilDee64||495 points||500 Belt Points|
|7th||gnomeeee||489 points||400 Belt Points|
|8th||myteamouse||488 points||300 Belt Points|
|9th||sandy1611||478 points||200 Belt Points|
|10th||7onyB||476 points||100 Belt Points|
Despite the conclusion of the League, the excitement was far from over as the lineup of esteemed leg winners still had a shot of playing the Samurai via the Second Chance SNG, an eight-handed encounter that including Leg 8 winner Simon "TheSimian" Morris.
Completing what was a fantastic story, he defeated Matthew "The8ofSpades" Cox heads-up to tie up his seat, and prove that even if you've come last in Legs 1-7 (admittedly, a tough feat), you can still taste glory by taking down the final leg.
|1st||TheSimian||Samurai seat ($250+25)|
Of course, the League wasn't your only path into the Samurai as on Wednesday we hosted a $30+3 Super Satellite with four seats guaranteed into the following night's Main Event.
The lucky winners were an eclectic bunch, and included 2008 Irish Open Champion Neil Channing who - along with eixip50 - would be playing Samurai for a mere five bucks after qualifying through one of seven feeders.
|1st||NeilChanning||Samurai seat ($250+25)|
|2nd||deadlydaveLDN||Samurai seat ($250+25)|
|3rd||99Ranny||Samurai seat ($250+25)|
|4th||eixip50||Samurai seat ($250+25)|
In other news, our latest Orange Belt Freeroll was the usual hotly contested affair, with former Blue Belt Gavin "TFMonty007" Hall and Northern PokerStars head honcho Ken "NPStars1" Johnston the feasting on the two sumptuous rewards: a free seat into Sunday's iPOPS Main Event.
|1st||TFMonty007||iPOPS Main Event seat ($125+15)|
|2nd||NPStars1||iPOPS Main Event seat ($125+15)|
And, finally… this week's Mulligan, graced by 25 of Black Belt Poker's finest, and won by Chris "losbert40" Osborne.
|1st||losbert40||$150.00 (50 Belt Points)|
|2nd||JHobbit1||$101.25 (30 Belt Points)|
|3rd||G3OFF||$56.25 (10 Belt Points)|
|4th||nickhem1||$37.50 (5 Belt Points)|
|5th||Ourkid888||$30 (5 Belt Points)|
Our congratulations go out to all of this week's winners, and in particular League XIV Champion Craig "ChipRead77" McKelvie whose last-gasp triumph means he's now joined a very illustrious list indeed.
If you're already feeling those withdrawal symptoms, then don't fear, as League XV is right around the corner with kick-off scheduled for Tuesday, May 22.