A four-day tournament with one day devoted to six-max play and another devoted to a two-round heads-up bracket. If that sounds like a format that suits online-bred players used to short-handed play and able to grind out long, draining hours, that's probably because it is.
However, it was a player from the old school emerging to top the field in Event #34: $1,500 Split Format No-Limit Hold'em at the 2015 World Series of Poker. Quebec's Andre Boyer, 72, defeated a field of 873 to take down his second gold bracelet and $250,483 in prize money.
The split-format mechanic meant Day 1 was comprised of full-table play, Day 2 was six-max, and Day 3 was heads up, with each player who emerged from two matches making up a final table of eight.
While some might think his age a weakness, Boyer said it can also be a strength. He likened it to the experience of women at a poker table, explaining that many men underestimate their female opponents.
“I think it can give you an advantage,” he said. “A lot of them take me for a tourist.”
“That's why I never wear my bracelet,” he added with a laugh.
Indeed, Boyer is no inexperienced tourist. Back in 2005, he beat noted pro Matt Glantz heads up in a $3,000 no-limit hold'em event, winning $682,810 in prize money. That atmosphere, Boyer said, was a far cry from what he got this time around.
“That was the last tournament before the Main Event, and ESPN decided to take a break,” he said. “There was no coverage and nearly nobody in the room besides my wife and me and we finished at 3 a.m.”
Boyer's first taste of big time tournament success predates even 2005, though. Back in 1996, he advanced to the final table of the Main Event. There, he finished sixth for $97,500 in the tournament eventually won by Huck Seed.
Boyer still ranks his first bracelet win as the most special moment of his poker career, but this one was special for a different reason, as both Boyer and his heads-up opponent, Frenchman Erwann Pecheux, enjoyed the support of a raucous francophone crowd.
The moment very nearly never came for Boyer, though, as he was down to his last card and in need of major help against Pecheux. At a severe chip deficit, Boyer shoved his last few big blinds in with on a flop and got called by Pecheux and his . The gave Boyer hope of a chop, but he got one better in the river. Just six hands later, it was all over and the septuagenarian had his second bracelet.
After his first win in 2005, Boyer said he devoted a lot of time to growing the game back home in Quebec. At that time, poker was popular in the area, but hold'em had yet to take over. Most of the games spread there were of the seven-card stud variety, and Boyer helped his friend run a poker league and spent some time serving as an analyst for a local poker show.
Now, the fruits of the labor put in by Boyer and countless others have borne fruit not just in a pure numbers sense, but an educational sense. Boyer has observed big differences in the game as it has evolved.
“You can spot right away I'm from the old school because I raise three-times the blind,” he said with a laugh. “Today, with the internet and books on the market, 75 percent of the players in an event know everything. You won't show them anything they don't know.”
Whereas some older players might look wistfully to the old days, Boyer looks at change as inevitable and something he must accept and adapt to.
“Poker is no different than any other trade,” he observed. “A plumber doesn't do plumbing today like he did 15 years ago. The players who can adapt to the changes in poker can make it.”
Final Table Results
|1||Andre Boyer||Quebec, Canada||$250,483|
|4||Chris Bolek||Boca Raton, FL||$76,605|
|5||Gavin O'Rourke||Portloaise, Ireland||$55,981|
|6||Jonas Christensen||Holback, Denmark||$41,249|
|7||Idan Raviv||Holon, Israel||$30,053|
|8||Isaac Kawa||Brussels, Belgium||$21,096|