The $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em tournament made its debut at the beginning of the 2009 World Series of Poker. It has been the kickoff event on every WSOP schedule since. This year, the opening of the WSOP carried a little extra weight after the COVID-19 pandemic shut the series down last year, and because this is the last year the WSOP will be held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. And when it was all said and done, local poker dealer James “Jimmy” Barnett was the victor, taking home $39,013 and his first WSOP gold bracelet.
Jimmy Barnett states on his Instagram page that he is a poker dealer and a poker grinder stationed in Vegas. Before his victory on Friday night, Barnett had only five WSOP cashes to his name. The biggest was a 49th place finish in a 2019 WSOP $600 Deepstack for $7,315. The cash is the biggest of Barnett’s poker career, surpassing his previous highest score of $26,515 for a fifth-place finish in a $250,000 guaranteed event at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in 2018.
The 2021 Casino Employees tournament drew 419 entries to generate a total prize pool of $175,980. The event started at 11am PST on September 30th and played down to 50 players on Day 1 before breaking for the night. Leo Abbe was the tournament’s chip leader at the end of Thursday’s action, with 537,000 chips. Barnett wrapped up Day 1 ninth in chips with a stack of 343,000.
A resilient final four
Day 2 resumed at noon on Friday. It took less than six hours for the field to get down to the unofficial final table of ten players. The final table played down to its final four players about two-and-a-half hours later, including breaks. And then a long standoff began.
It took nearly two hours of four-handed play before a player was finally eliminated. Abbe raised from the button to 400,000 and was faced with an all-in raise form Barnett. The short-stack called off the remainder of his chips with a suited queen-deuce, and had two live cards against Barnett’s ace-king of Barnett. A king-eight-three flop put Barnett way in the lead and a king on the turn sealed the deal to eliminate Abbe in fourth place.
About 25 minutes later, Danny Chang moved all-in for his last 475,000 chips on the button and both Jack Behrens and Barnett called from the small and big blinds respectively. The flop came jack-jack-six and Barnett folded after Behrens led out for 500,000. Behrens revealed the queen-jack and saw that his trips were way ahead of Chang’s suited five-four. An ace on the turn sealed the pot for Behrens, and sent him to heads-up with Barnett for the bracelet.
Barnett started heads-up play with a lead of roughly 5.7 million to 4.7 million, and grinded up a big chip advantage. On the tournament’s final hand, the two players saw a flop of queen-ten-six — all diamonds. Behrens moved all in with his ten-eight and was snap-called by Barnett, who had flopped a flush with the jack-deuce of diamonds. A brick on the turn sent Behrens to the rail and Barnett into celebration mode.
Final Table Payouts
1. James Barnett: $39,013
2. Jack Behrens: $24,112
3. Danny Chang: $16,540
4. Leo Abbe: $11,587
5. Bryan Garrett: $8,294
6. Bobby Schmidt: $6,069
7. Chris Minton: $4,542
8. Rico Cuevas: $3,478
9. Ronald Baltazar: $2,727