Nov. 18, 2010
In the most heated battle at a final table since Oaklawn’s poker room was created, Jill Henson of Little Rock outplayed Gerald Irvin of Hot Springs to become the Spa City Poker Open Champion and the first female to win a high-stakes poker tournament at Oaklawn.
“I wasn’t even going to come to the tournament,” Henson said. “My boyfriend had to make me.”
The top two players at the Spa City Poker Open actually met when the poker room opened last year.
“We’ve been playing together since this place opened,” Irvin said. “And we’ve been friends since. We like to root for each other so that was pretty cool to be the final two.”
The night began at 6 p.m. as 40 players started and were knocked out one by one. At 9:45, only 10 remained rounding out the final table for the event.
Early on during the final table, Irvin became the small stack after a hand he played heads up with Henson.
“I had Ace-10 suited,” Irvin said, “and Jill had Ducks [pocket 2’s]. She went all in and I called and her Ducks held up.”
Soon afterward – after doubling his chip twice – Irvin was back in the mix.
“It was definitely one of the most exciting final tables I’ve seen here,” Poker Host Brad Hall said. “Almost every hand was intense.”
After almost six hours of poker, Henson and Irvin were the only ones remaining.
After trading the lead several times, Henson began to pull away.
“She’s tough to play against,” Irvin said. “She’s no lightweight player.”
“I definitely don’t play small chip poker,” she said. “I guess you could call me ‘tight-aggressive.’”
Irvin added almost instantly, “…to the extreme!”
After the final hand was dealt and Henson became the Spa City Poker Open champion, the two exchanged hugs and the winner covered her face with her hands.
“I had no idea how to even play poker when I first came here,” she said. “I got good cards the first time and then just kept coming.”
Now, Henson has her place among the champions of Oaklawn’s poker room.
“I played against some great competition tonight,” she said holding the $10,000. “I’m glad my boyfriend talked me in to playing.”