The odds have seemed stacked against 45-year-old Nick Slade in recent years – but the professional from Lancashire in the UK took down the biggest title of his career when he scooped $200,000 and the PartyPoker.com European Open IV title last week.
In 2006, Slade was regarded as one of the rising stars on the European circuit but serious illness to his wife, Jane, 43 and a water-skiing accident that shattered his neck in May last year meant he quit the game and almost gave up hope of clawing back the prestigious status he once had.
He had never played a televised short-handed event before and was regarded as a 100/1 outsider by PartyBets.com in a top quality 72-runner field, making his title even more remarkable.
“This is my biggest cash by quite some way, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Slade.
“The money will come in very handy and I intend to take my three kids to Florida on a holiday and get back on the circuit. My wife is over the worst, I just hope this is the start of a new chapter in our lives.”
Slade was heads-up with 45-year-old Worcester internet sports trader Craig Burgess and both were regarded as outsiders on a final table that also included WSOP Europe winner Annette Obrestad, Premier League winner Juha Helppi, former European Open champion Ian Frazer and Josh Tyler.
The players carried their chips through from the semi-finals and Slade was fourth at that stage with 124,000. Frazer was the chip leader with 469,000, Tyler had 351,000, Obrestad 235,000, Helppi 114,000 and Burgess 107,000. The balance of power swung dramatically throughout with Tyler, Obrestad and Frazer all appearing to be in the box seat at a point.
The defining hand that gave Slade the title saw Burgess go all-in with a pair of queens. Slade held king-three off suit and paired the king on the flop which held up.
“I did a lot of work studying Annette before the tournament because I thought that if I was to get anywhere she would be there or thereabouts. I basically knew that if she got a lot of chips she would continually try and re-raise me with a bag of rubbish and it proved to be right. I knew that Frazer would try and be the table captain, Helppi would be seriously solid and Tyler was a good player after encounters in cash games.”
Slade now has his eye on the PartyPoker European Challenge in Vienna in March and a variety of tournaments. He started his comeback recently and was buoyed by winning a tournament in Luton the week before.
His heads-up opponent Burgess was absolutely delighted to finish second. “I was the short stack going into the final so finishing second was the best I could have asked for, especially considering the quality players that made the final table.”
First eliminated in the final was Helppi, whose A-K suited failed to overcome Obrestad’s pocket nines. Next to go was Tyler, whose pocket queens were busted by Slade’s A-8 suited when the eventual champion hit an ace on the turn. Perhaps the major turning point was when Obrestad made a move with J-7 offsuit and ran into Slade with A-K. A king on the flop was great for Slade and Obrestad was out.
Frazer went out third after his K-Q offsuit was beaten by Slade’s 9-10 offsuit when a nine came on the flop. Slade had some good fortune but showed strength throughout and went into the heads-up with Burgess with well over 90% of the chips on the table.
The Matchroom Sport-organised event will be broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK later this year and distributed internationally.
The buy-in was $7,000, creating a $504,000 prize fund. The winner of each of the 12 six-seater heats progressed to a semi-final stage, and, for the first time in the event’s history, the runners-up battled it out for the remaining two semi-final spots in “last chance” turbo heats.
Bookies’ favourite Phil Hellmuth, Juha Helppi, UK Open Champion Andrew Feldman, recent PartyPoker.com Irish Poker Championship runner-up Michael McCool, Roland de Wolfe, Andy Black, Marty Smith, Roy Brindley, Ian Frazer, Ian Cox, Neil Channing, Surinder Sunar, Austin Healey and star of UK soap Coronation Street, Michael Le Vell, were amongst those who took to the felt.
Defending champion Liam Flood was eliminated in his heat while Hellmuth was knocked out in the turbo heat after earlier scrapping with his Premier League foe Helppi. The ‘Poker Brat’ joined Jesse May in the commentary box.
A PartyPoker.com spokesman said: “There is little doubt that Nick Slade was amongst the outsiders at the start of the tournament and at the start of the final table. We congratulate him on his win and after all he has been through we hope this is a new dawn for him and his family.”
Eddie Hearn, Director of Online Gaming at Matchroom Sport said: “It’s a huge achievement for both Nick and Craig to overcome such a strong field. We saw some of the world’s biggest names fall in the race for the title and it was a thrilling final in which Nick thoroughly deserved his victory.”
PARTYPOKER.COM EUROPEAN OPEN IV – 3 Mills, London 1st-8th February 2008
1st Nick Slade, $200,000
2nd Craig Burgess, $100,000
3rd Ian Frazer, $50,000
4th Annette Obrestad, $30,000
5th Josh Tyler, $25,000
6th Juha Helppi, $20,000