Poker chips and playing cards
Poker chips and playing cards

A new poker champion was crowned at Talking Stick Resort on Tuesday, Aug. 19 during the 10th annual Arizona State Poker Championship. A showdown full of surprise plays and twists ensued for nearly seven hours until just one man was left standing. When the dust settled, Phoenix native Robert Tanita was named the 2014 Arizona State Poker Champion, securing the victory with pocket 8’s.

“It all feels pretty surreal because this is my local casino,” said Tanita, who is 30-years old, said. “I’ve been playing here for 10 years so it feels good to bring a win home, especially a win from Talking Stick Resort.”

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the 2014 tournament surpassed the previous year with 160 more players. In total, more than1,400 participants battled it out over the course of the five-day tournament which kicked off on Aug. 15. Each was looking to win their share of the $1.1 million prize pool.

The semi-finals of the tournament began on Aug. 18, with 181 contenders vying for the final 10 spots in the competition. The final table commenced the following day, with 13-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth serving as emcee. His colorful commentary kept spectators laughing and engaged as the six-hour showdown ensued.

In addition to bragging rights, Tanita won $257,690, a trophy and bracelet designed by prominent Scottsdale jeweler, Scott Gauthier of Jewelry by Gauthier. Hand crafted with 14-carat white gold, the bracelet features a customized 2014 closure and touts more than two and a half carats of rubies and black diamonds.

Second place and third place winners, Jerry “Wolf” Sanchez and Brayden Quackenbush, were also applauded for their wins, receiving trophies and payouts of $175,200 and $131,400 respectively.

“We had a nice turn out for our 10th anniversary of 1,460 players,” said Tom Young, director of poker at The ARENA Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort. “We had multiple poker pros participate this year, but the game’s outcome shows that poker is truly anyone’s game. No matter their skill level or background, any player can win.”

Several poker household names competed in the 2014 tournament including Tiffany Michelle, Joe Cada, Dennis Phillips, Dan Hiemiller, Thomas Keller, Chip and Karina Jett and the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion Ryan Riess. Pros Matt Affleck, Kenna James and one-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner David Williams made it to the event’s final table, all placing in the top 10.