BRISTOL -- With all the hype about how young the poker players are getting in tournaments these days, one lesson was learned from the first Sunday Qualifier. Age is irrelevant. Experience is key.
On Sunday, Allen Hanley, a 75-year-old Bellevue, Wash., resident, beat out 1473 other players to earn the Sunday Qualifer Grand Prize and a seat in the Final Tournament on May 15.
Winning came as no surprise to Allen, however, as he said he went into this tournament knowing he was going to win.
"Everyone goes into the tournament thinking they were going to win. Honestly I just had that feeling," Allen said.
Allen is no newbie to poker. He played in the 1988 World Series of Poker, getting eliminated when his pocket aces (which tripped up on the flop), were beaten by a flush on the river. Today, he occasionally plays in casinos but limits his time there because sometimes they are too smoky.
Online poker is another option.
"I'm a 75-year-old guy," he said. "The weather is bad, I'm just gonna get online and play."
The final hand in the Sunday Qualifier between Allen and his opponent, zman1977, turned out to be one of best hands of the afternoon.
With the blinds at $7,500 and $15,000, Allen raised to $22,500. He was then re-raised all in by his opponent, which he quickly called. Zman1977 showed the ace of clubs and the queen of diamonds, and Allen showed pocket 6s (clubs and spades). It was a coin flip, with Allen a small favorite. The flop came down: 7 of hearts, 4 of clubs, and the 3 of clubs, keeping Allen ahead. The turn brought the 7 of clubs, leaving his opponent with the ace high flush draw, and Allen with the rare straight flush draw. The river brought an unusual but pleasant result for Allen. The 5 of clubs gave zman1977 an ace high flush but at the same time gave Allen the winning hand with a straight flush.
It was an amazing end to the tournament, but believe it or not, a straight flush is something ordinary to Allen, who once held five royal flushes within the span of one hour at a local casino.
Allen is grateful for the opportunity to possibly go back to this year's World Series of Poker, but knows he must beat out 499 other qualifiers in the Final Tournament. Still, Allen had one piece of advice for those trying to face him.
"Play as if you are having fun and enjoying it," Allen said. "Just enjoy it."
As for Allen, perhaps those winning feelings will return.
"Sometimes I'm loose. Sometimes I'm tight," Allen said. "It depends on who the other players are and how the table is running."
He has the experience to know.
Andrew Feldman is the ESPN.com Poker Club's Tournament Director. To contact Andrew, please email email@example.com