Many poker players and fans know Brad Owen as the king of poker vlogs. He has been bringing poker content to an ever-expanding audience for years, documenting his rise as a $2/$5 NLH cash game pro in Las Vegas. We’ve seen him move up into some bigger games, travel the world hosting meetup games, become a part owner of The Lodge Poker Club, and recently become a WPT Ambassador.
On Sunday, August 28th, Owen hosted a freeroll tournament on ClubWPT.com for an opportunity to win a $12,000 WPT World Championship Series passport, including entry into the record-breaking $15 Million Guaranteed WPT World Championship tournament at Wynn Las Vegas in December. Another $2,500 passport to the WPT Prime Championship was to be awarded to the player who knocked Owen out of the tournament. A whopping 2,154 players entered the field, so while Brad entered the tournament eager to defend his bounty passport and hopefully run deep, he had a big target on his back and a massive field to navigate through.
Then, the improbable happened.
As many are, this tournament was a roller coaster for the WPT ambassador. That ride saw Brad with a top-10 chip stack a few times early on, then he was down to 4.5 big blinds, and back up to the top with fewer than 100 players remaining. Owen made his way to the final table and found himself last in chips with five players remaining. A double-up with AA then a triple-up with 44 gave him the chip lead. A double knockout with Brad’s AA holding against QQ and K5 left three players.
Brad quickly ended the tournament, winning a race with QT against third-place finisher Don Butler’s (donbutler) A4. Finally, Brad won an unlikely all-in with KJ against runner-up William Haines’ AJ. When the dust settled, Brad had all the chips. Nobody knocked him out to claim the $2,500 WPT Prime Championship passport, and he emerged victorious to win a $12,000 WPT World Championship passport.
In the days following the tournament, Brad, Don, William, and WPT agreed on what to do with the passport prizes: The top prize $12,000 WPT World Championship passport went to runner-up William Haines, and the $2,500 WPT Prime Championship passport bounty on Owen’s head went to third-place finisher Don Butler.
Here’s what Brad had to say about his impressive tournament win:
“It was such a large field and I had the bounty on me, so I didn’t start thinking I had a realistic shot at winning until it got down to about the final two tables. Even at that point, it’s very difficult to close out a tournament like that with a target on you. I had to battle through some bad beats at the final table and went from being chip leader to having the shortest stack in two hands. Luckily, I ran well after that point to recover and take it down. Having it all on stream and being able to share the entire journey with viewers was something that was special for me. I’m also just so happy to be able to give multiple people opportunities to win life-changing money.
— Brad Owen (@TheBradOwen) August 29, 2022
The main incentive for me to win the event was so we could give out two $12k passports instead of just one. I’m excited to give one of those to the 2nd place finisher, who played great. I still need to figure out a fun way to give the second $12k passport out 🤔 open to ideas https://t.co/QyH3tEZIL1
— Brad Owen (@TheBradOwen) August 31, 2022
ClubWPT Members Get the Chance to Shine
While “the headline story” is Brad’s win, there’s another big story to explore here, too; namely that of Don and William. Turning $0 into $2,500 and $12,000 WPT passports, respectively, is quite an accomplishment worthy of celebration.
William is a semi-retired airline pilot who recently married his wife Gabriella. He now flies smaller aircraft after having spent 20 years as a 747 Captain. William used to be a PLO8 regular in the mid-2000s, although he hasn’t played much poker in the past decade. He came across Brad Owen’s vlogs and found an ad and promo code for ClubWPT there, where he now plays frequently.
Don is a retired senior manager and university professor, happily married to his wife Linda of 52 years, with whom he has fathered two sons and now enjoys two grandchildren. Don has been playing poker for 60 years, adding Texas Hold’em to his repertoire roughly 10 years ago. He is a longtime ClubWPT member who puts in 15-20 hours per week playing NLH tournaments on the site.
Both Don and William were already ClubWPT members and they found out about the freeroll by logging on or receiving an email. Neither player was planning on heading to the WPT World Championship without the passport, so the end-of-year series has gained two eager participants. We had the chance to speak with them, and here is what they had to say about the experience:
William: It was a grind for the first few hours. Late stages were exciting, especially tracking Brad as we both went deep, and following his delayed livestream. For my wife, too, she really knew nothing of my poker background, so she got to see a different/past side of my life.
Don: The tournament was great; 2,154 players. There were the rollercoaster ups and downs with good luck, bad luck, and the associated beats. I really enjoyed it.
Can you recall any significant hands or moments where you were down to just a few big blinds?
William: Yes, I’m not sure how low, maybe 10 bigs, where I really had to open my range to shove. Got super lucky once, survived a three-way all-in vs. QQ and JJ with K high, I think I held K-10 off. Also chopped a pot against better ace and another with AKo against AKs.
Don: When I was down in chips I played more aggressively and it paid off. I was able to increase my stack, but for me the most memorable hand was the last one. We were down to three players and I couldn’t believe I had made it that far. Brad had a significant chip lead so I figured I wouldn’t get the knock-out prize. I was dealt A4 of hearts so I raised. Brad went all in. At that point I remembered a phrase I had read a while ago: “There are two types of players, those who play to win and those who play not to lose.” I figured I had the best hand. I also thought if I won, it would bring me much closer to Brad’s chip count and double what my other opponent had. It would put me in a much better position to win, so I called. Brad turned over QTd, so I was quite happy. The flop came QT6 with one heart. I was not so happy. The turn produced another heart. I was glad to have some hope, however slight, and wasn’t drawing dead. The river was not a heart and I lost. I was out, but I had ridden the rollercoaster, and that’s poker.
What were your thoughts heading into the final table? Did you have a game plan?
William: Ha, yes. Either bust Brad, to make sure I got one entry, and if Brad got hot, stay away from him and survive, in hopes he would give the seat to 2nd. Once I lost the three way pot that Brad took down with a set of 4s, the rest of the players still showed a willingness to get it all in, so I told my wife our goal was just to get heads up with Brad.
Don: I was just thankful to have made it that far and get lots of tournament points.
What was it like busting the tournament? Did you suspect Brad would give away his passport?
William: Yes, he had already mentioned it on the live stream, so that definitely affected my strategy. I essentially played as if two prizes were going to be awarded.
Don: I knew when I went out that Brad was way ahead and would probably win, so I just thought the prizes would probably be lost.
How did you react when you found out you were getting the WPT World Championship/Prime Championship passport?
William: My wife and I were happy, but we would be just as content if we weren’t given the seat. We played for free and finished second; everything after that is gravy.
Don: I was shocked! I thought there may be a remote possibility the first place prize could be awarded to the second place finisher but never thought the knock-out prize would be awarded. I was thrilled and contacted everyone I know.
What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming trip besides the tournament?
William: Always the people. The rare occasions I’ve played in the last 10 years have been regular PLO8 live games and I still keep in contact with some people at those games. A friend I used to share a table with in Amsterdam just reached out to me after years. It was great to reconnect.
Don: I am looking forward to seeing some of the people we see on the televised tournaments in person.
What does the opportunity to play in a live World Poker Tour event mean to you? How will you prepare, if at all?
William: Poker is such an interesting community, with so many different backgrounds and perspectives brought together to share in the competition. I really like the competition as well. Not just against the players, but against yourself. To sharpen mental skills, focus, fight the fatigue and brain fog that comes with the long days of large tournaments. At this point in my life I wouldn’t buy-in directly to a large tournament so winning the opportunity to do so is special.
To prepare, I will play in a couple tournaments per week to get the thought process back. I’ll review hand histories, situational poker, etc. Meditation and prayer as well. Prayer for seeking God’s will. His purposes are so much deeper than ours. He has a plan, it would be nice if that includes a deep run, but if not, His plan is better than that. It may be that I am there for one act of kindness, or one conversation that I may not be aware of even when it happens.
Don: This is a bucket list opportunity. I came in second in a ClubWPT satellite in early 2020 and just missed the passport. I was a significant chip leader going into heads-up play but lost. It has haunted me ever since, so this is fantastic for me. I doubt I would have an opportunity to do this without the passport.
Other than playing online I don’t plan on doing much differently to prepare. I would like to play more in-person tournaments beforehand but I don’t really have that opportunity here. The casinos have all shifted away from tournaments in favor of cash games.
If you were to win, you would be looking at a massive payday. What immediately comes to mind for how to spend a six- or seven-figure score?
William: We will ask God. He has cared so well, as he promises to, for my wife and I. We want for nothing. We believe first in giving for the sake of the Gospel. We don’t really own anything, we are only stewards. Also there are bills to pay on a couple of our rental properties. I quit my job as 747 Captain to spend more time with my wife and hopefully start a family. This would definitely assist in those goals.
Don: It is a lot of money. My 5-year-old granddaughter has Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic neurological and developmental disorder that affects the way the brain develops. Since it is rare, there are not much in the way of resources put into research for a cure or treatment. She is non-verbal, non-ambulatory and has no purposeful use of her hands or legs. She will have a normal life span but lead an increasingly more difficult life as she gets older. My son and daughter-in-law are going to have to do a major renovation in their house to include an elevator, various mechanical lifts and special bath facilities. It will be very expensive so a lot of my winnings would go to that purpose. There are also some facilities where we live that offer respite help for families with special needs children and they can always use financial assistance. With that said, I would still reserve enough to enter next year’s tournaments.
A Final Word from Brad Owen
Brad Owen and ClubWPT have delivered a wonderful freeroll, as both Don and William are ecstatic to play in the WPT World Championship and WPT Prime Championship. Between this freeroll and their many other satellite opportunities, the WPT World Championship series is sure to be a great experience for all players this winter.
We wish Don and William the best of luck as they take their seats in December. Brad Owen also had some encouraging words of advice for these two players:
“They showed that they have the ability to run deep in large field tournaments, which takes a great deal of skill mixed with luck. Without knowing too much about how they play, I’d suggest they continue to follow their instincts. I hope to see them make another deep run in their live events; I’ll certainly be paying attention to their results and I’ll be rooting them on.”
Ed. note: WPT Ambassador Andrew Neeme will be playing in an identical version of the bounty tournament on September 25. Here are the details: https://www.clubwpt.