28-year-old Aisling Collins, a television producer in the UK scooped $50 000 and the title at the PartyPoker Women’s World Open III in London this week. Collins, whose aggressive game impressed despite the strongest table in the tournament's history.
The Women’s World Open III was a Matchroom Sport organised tournament that saw 36 players from around the world battle it out for a $108 000 prize pool in the $3 000 buy-in event. The line-up was formidable and included PartyPoker.com Premier League III star and inaugural WSOP Europe winner Annette Obrestad, EPT Dortmund winner Sandra Naujoks, Germany’s Christine Klecz and WSOP bracelet holder Jennifer Tilly. Others who failed to make the later stages included UK Women’s Poker Tour Champion Lynne Beaumont, Veronique Gordon, European Ladies champion Liv Boeree, France’s Lise ‘The Pink Lady’ Vigezzi, Ireland’s Colette Murphy, Eliza Burnett, Stephanie Bergener and Polish boxing champion Agnieska Rylik.
The tournament featured six six-seater heats with one six seat runner-up heat. The final table featured seven players.
“I was so, so nervous going into this tournament but after a while I found it easy to relax and play my natural game,” said Collins. “To win this tournament means absolutely everything to me. My previous biggest poker win was in the region of $8 000 so this is amazing. I’m in shock, it is fantastic to win $50 000 – I just don’t know what I am going to do with it yet!”
Collins, who has produced educational programming for Sky Poker alongside the likes of leading professional players Roland De Wolfe, Neil Channing and Marty Smyth, is also a talented online player with the potential to progress in the game, either side of the camera. She had a large fan base sweating her in the green room, on the tv show and on the online forums.
She is a prominent member of the Blonde Poker Community and a member of ‘Shrewdies on Tour,’ a stable of Blonde online players led by UK pro James ‘Flushy’ Dempsey. Collins credits UK figurehead Tony ‘Tikay’ Kendall with introducing her to the game and, naturally, all the Blonde members were delighted.
Aisling triumphed after a tense heads-up battle with Japan’s Kim Wooka that produced a number of swings either way before Collins came out on top. It always seemed as though Aisling was going to emerge victorious, however. When heads-up play started Collins held a 450 000/250 000 chip advantage but Wooka soon clawed her way back. The decisive hand came when the blinds were 10 000/20 000. Aisling raised to 70 000 with Jd 5d and was called by Kim with Qh 10d. The flop came down Jc Kd 9d and Kim checked. Collins raised another 70 000 and Wooka went all-in. Collins calls and the 6d on the turn gave her the flush and victory!
28-year-old Wooka is a professional poker player from Osaka in Japan and was playing in her first major tournament in Europe. She was Japanese Ladies Champion in 2007 and cashed at the WSOP last year. She was invited to the tournament by the organizers after the Asian Poker Tour Manila back in January. “I wanted to win but I have to give credit to Aisling – she certainly wasn’t afraid to move all-in,” said Wooka. “This has been a great experience for me and fantastic exposure. Poker is just beginning in Asia – it is so important at this early stage to advertise a good image and emphasise the skill in the game.”
To reach the final table, Aisling finished second in her heat and only won her way through to the final through the last gasp runner’s up table. In that heat she was so dominant in taking out last year’s champion Soraya Homam that many regarded her as favourite at the start of the seven seat final table. Collins had two good friends on the final table in the form of Jen Mason and Maria Demetriou, both of whom have reached the final table in this event in previous years.
The final table was the strongest in the event’s history. Jen Mason reached the final table of this tournament in its inaugural running in 2007, finishing second to Beverley Pace but, surprisingly, was first to exit even though she was one of those fancied to triumph. Out in sixth was Cat O’Neill from Belfast, who was put forward for the tournament by WSOP bracelet holder, Poker Million and PartyPoker.com World Open winner Marty Smyth. Fifth place belonged to the popular Maria ‘Chili’ Demetriou, who was gunning for a top three finish to give her a Vegas bankroll but she fell victim to her buddy Collins on a tear-up. Next to go was Cecilia Nordenstam, who has for a long time been one of the most glamorous figures on the Swedish circuit but also a deadly player as she showed in her heat. Cecilia cashed in her first five WPT events and put on a great show.
As the table went three handed Collins had 306,000, Shana Casaletto had 254,000 and Wooka 140,000. Brighton’s Casaletto, however, was the next to go. She was expected to run deep in this tournament after recently winning back-to-back GUKPT side events but fell victim to lady of the moment Collins. This left Collins and Wooka to fight it out.