“The last three days, everything has gone perfect.”
– Lance Howard, after winning the CPC Main Event
Lance Howard (pictured) just spent three days in a row drinking Copa Di Vino, playing cards, and stacking chips. The three-day adventure culminated with him winning the $2,000 buyin Chicago Poker Classic Main Event for a payday of $231,237 and locking up a seat for the $10,000 WSOP Main Event.
This year’s CPC Main Event drew 651 total entries across two starting flights for a total prize pool of $1,156,176. Howard entered Day 2 as the overwhelming chip leader and spent the rest of the tournament adding to that lead until he closed it out today around 6 p.m.
This software consultant from Detroit plays mostly PLO cash because he likes a lot of action. He joked that once you’re used to getting four cards, “then it’s hard to play two, and then when you get two, you’re playing every single hand, and next thing you know, you run good and you come into the final table with 8 million.” And that pretty much sums it up.
On his second bullet on Day 1B, Howard had an above-average stack at the Dinner Break with 80,000, up from 25,000 starting chips. In the levels after dinner, he got up to over 150,000, and then rivered a set of queens against two pair to get up to about 300,000. He said that was the hand that got the run started, and he just kept chipping up from there. As the big stack, he kept the pressure on his opponents for the rest of the day, finishing with around double the next biggest stack.
His Day 2 was not too different. Howard slowly increased his stack at the beginning of the day, and then he got a huge double through then-chip leader Mohammed Ayyash. Howard had pocket aces on a board of A-8-5-3. Ayyash check-shoved the turn, and Howard says he is embarrassed about how nervous he was during that hand. He tanked before calling with top set because of how huge the pot was. Ayyash had A-J and Howard seemingly became untouchable after that double up. He steadily and rapidly accumulated chips for the rest of the day with Copa Di Vino in hand, finishing with more than one-third of the chips in play going into the final table of ten.
The chip average was skewed for most of Day 2 and the final table because of Howard’s monstrous stack. It was an interesting dynamic at the final table with Howard coming in with 120 big blinds, while the second place stack of Brek Schutten was 70 big blinds. The remaining eight players came into the final table rather short-stacked with between 12 and 26 big blinds.
Short stacks kept doubling up, and chips moved around quite a bit, but Howard never really lost a significant chunk of his stack, despite losing the first three hands that he had someone all in. He was simply picking up enough pots in between the all-ins to maintain his huge chip lead. He finally started winning some of those all-ins, and then he clashed with second-place stack Matt Lushin with six players left. Howard raised in the cutoff with kings and Lushin shoved around 4,000,000 chips on the button with A-K. Howard called and his kings held up, eliminating Lushin in 5th place for $56,537. That pot put Howard’s stack pretty much out of reach.
He sailed from there, and when he got heads up with Artem Zverkhovskyy, he had a more than 4:1 chip lead. Zverkhovskyy battled hard, but couldn’t overcome Howard’s dominant stack. He eventually shoved with A-6 into Howard’s A-T, and couldn’t catch up. For someone who just started playing live tournaments in the fall, Zverkhovskyy did quite well in this one. He explained that he only played the event because he won a $240 satellite, and was just happy to be there. “This is like a dream come true,” Zverkhovskyy said after getting his 6-figure payout of $142,325 plus a $10,000 Main Event seat.
Howard has had some success in tournament poker, but this is by far his biggest score, and his first big win. His other two significant cashes came in May of 2015 (10th in a $565 event at Planet Hollywood for $13,857) and June of 2016 (2nd in a $600 event at Planet Hollywood for $70,160). This win might allow him to get a new home, and he says he “might reinvest it in some of the local games… take my shot in a big MGM game.”
When asked about the Copa Di Vino, which he had in front of him since Day 1 Dinner Break, he explained: “I wasn’t drinking on Day 1. Then after dinner, I get one of these, win that hand [the set of queens on the river], and ever since then I’m thinking, ‘every time I get one of these I add 20-30 percent to my chip stack’… Since Level 11, I’ve been telling everyone at my table, ‘You gotta get this. If you get this, you start winning.’ And they ignored me, and I just kept winning.”
Howard’s loose, relaxed, chatty style of play worked out well for him in this one, and even if it wasn’t his lucky charm, the Copa Di Vino didn’t hurt. Lance Howard, the Copa King, made the win look easy, essentially going wire-to-wire in his first big tournament win.
Final Table Payouts
1st place: Lance Howard – $231,237 (plus a $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat)
2nd place: Artem Zverkhovskyy – $142,325 (plus a $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat)
3rd place: Michael Partipilo – $99,535 (plus a $10,000 WSOP Main Event seat)
4th place: Brek Schutten – $72,377
5th place: Matt Lushin – $56,537
6th place: Chris Dow – $44,975
7th place: Geremi Wicinski – $35,379
8th place: Adam Greenberg – $27,748
9th place: Aaron Massey – $21,620
10th place: Straton Wilhelm – $16,880