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Michael Canning, 4th

Milo Alejo, 2nd Robb Rabito, 1st Rogelio Lopez, Jr., 3rd  


Jeb Ory, 6th         Joe Fitzgerald, 5th

  Merri Furlong, 9th (tie) Kostas Tsonis, 7th

Howard Moore, 8th

Fabian Ramos, 9th (tie)



During the '07-08 season, hundreds of players competed in the regular-schedule and playoff events leading to the 2007 and 2008 No-Limit Poker Grand Championships. On Jan. 4, 2009, 80 of the city's best competed in a double-elimination format for the 2008 Chicago No-Limit Texas Holdem Championship. The final table was a mixture of ages, styles, and experience. As a measure of how challenging this event was, the Final Table featured both of the top-two ranked players of 2007. The "class of 2008" will make a tremendous contribution to the competiton level at the 2010 Chicago Player of the Decade Tournament.

  ROBB RABITO, Champion. Talking with Robb you know he's a cerebral player, always looking for an advantage. "I play position first, then the player then the cards" he says. "I prefer to act last so I know where the table is at".

Tournament Manager "Chicago Mike" Bishop noted that Rabito's strategy is tailored to fit him. "Not everyone see's position the way Robb does, some look at it just the opposite... the important thing is that he's thinking on many more levels than just the cards in front of him and he's fashioned a style that suits his individual personality, that's critical if you're going to play professionally".

Rabito plays both single-table and tournament poker and figures (correctly) that his game will improve by taking on the best competition he can find. "I enjoy the game and I know pressure comes with good competition", he says. "The key is to know your opponent's style and what they're likely to do given their chip count".

Bishop first met Rabito when he was an accomplished amateur several years ago: "...Robb was always one of the hard-working guys at the tournament, he wanted to learn and play the best competition he could find. I never saw him get dejected over a loss, he just bounced back better at the next event... He's the classic example of what you can accomplish at poker when you work at it." Robito will have a chance to match wits with the city's greatest players at the Chicago Player of the Decade Tournament set for 2010.

  MILO ALEJO, 1st Runner Up. This years 2nd place finisher has been playing regularly for two years, mostly in public tournaments and casual home games. Looking back on his play at this event, Alejo reflected and said: "... tonite patience was key for me... It paid off to wait for the time time, then having the guts to push it...". He watched his opponents carefully: "... I played the person when I sensed weakness..."

Tournament Manager Mike Bishop was surprised to learn Alejo was relatively new to the game: "... he sure packed alot of poker into those 2 years", Bishop said. "I started watching Milo about an hour into the tournament. He was building a stack from the get-go and seemed to increase it at every table he played. He had alot of confidence tonite and that helped given the great players he was facing... Some players look for soft games, and some thrive in pressure, perhaps he's in that latter category..."

  ROGELIO "ROGER" LOPEZ, JR., 3rd Place. Interviewed after the tournament, Lopez revealed that this was "...my first major tournament... I've played online alot and watched Poker After Dark, that's about it...".

"Chicago Mike" Bishop watched him play throughout the tournament. "I was real impressed by his poise" Bishop said. "I'd never have suspected this was Rogelio's first brick and mortar event, no way.... he's real patient and calculating and you can't teach that..."

Asked what might be next for Lopez, Bishop answered: "...All those new players out there can use Rog as an example. What he has to do now is play more poker AND different kinds of poker... play stud, omaha, lowball... tournaments and ring games. Take your hard knocks and develop your own personal style that fits you best... That's how you go from lucky amateur to seasoned pro...".

Noticing the parallels in the careers of the top 3 finishers Bishop said "... it's amazing how similar Robb, Milo and Rogelio are in style, you don't often find that at a tournament... Robb's just got a few years on them and they'd be real smart to take a page out of his playbook... take on all the competition they can..."

  MICHAEL CANNING, 4th Place. The veteran at this years tournament, Mike Canning has been playing poker for nearly 30 years. Slowly over that time No Limit Holdem has become his favorite game. "I'm a patient player and patience got me to the final table", Canning says, "...I'll wait for the right situation to get aggressive..."

"Mikes an amazing player, he came to the final table very short-stacked but patiently picked his spots and managed to finish 4th overall" Bishop said "... you could pick him out about 30 minutes into the tournament... very confident in himself, patient, experienced... and he was having a good time, that's more important than alot of people realize because the pressure can get to you... veteran players like Mike, Fabian, and Merri.. they guaranteed that this final table would be a challenge!"

  JOSEPH FITZGERALD, 5th Place. Chicago veteran Joe Fitzgerald describes his style as "... I pretty much stick to a conservative style but I'll get aggressive with the right hands in the right situations...".

Looking back on the tournament Joe remembered one particularly fateful hand: "... Early on I had A-3 short stacked and was all-in when an Ace hit the flop... The other player had A-J and I caught a lucky 3 on the river to stay in the game... I guess 3 was my card because I also hit quad 3's tonite ! ..."

Tournament Manager "Chicago Mike" Bishop knows Fitzgerald well, having seen him play many times over the past 3 years: "...Joe has paid his dues and is becoming a truly accomplished player... He's confident, loves poker and the challenges that go with it... like Robb he's been moving up in class year by year... Joe's got all the skills and now he's put in the time to hone his game..." Next stop for Fitzgerald is the 2010 Chicago Player of the Decade Tournament

  JEB ORY, 6th Place. "... I know everyone's trying to put me on a strategy... so I've learned to stay chaotic and mix it up... do what they don't expect..."

"... I know it sounds trite, but luck is still a big part of this game... every night I expect at least one major lucky hand and for me the key is how you play it, and what you do with the payoff..." Asked about memorable hands this evening Ory said "... I limped in the big blind with deuce-seven offsuit and a checked flop let me see the turn... the board was 4-flushed in spades so I called a small bet on the river with my 7 of spades only to find it held up..."

  KOSTAS TSONIS, 7th Place. Reaching the Championship final table capped a great 2007-08 season for Chicago veteran player Kostas Tsonis. Tournament Manager Stew Bishop, who has watched Tsonis' compete for several years said "... Kostas has a complete game, and he's real comfortable with chance and luck... I've never seen his attitude change whichever way the cards fall he just comes back for the next tournament... players like this are real tough, you could say gambling is in his blood...  
  HOWARD MOORE, 8th Place. Interviewed after the tournament, Moore described his strategy, saying "....the key for me tonite was to play solid... I lost to a few suckouts along the way, so what, it didn't throw me off my game... At the end of the day I didn't put my stack at risk until the final table..."

"Howard is a lifelong student of poker", said Tournament Manager Bishop, "every time he plays he incorporates what he's learned and sharpens his game... "

  MERRI FURLONG, 9th Place (tie). In an interesting twist of fate, the 2 highest rated players of 2007 both repeated in 2008, making the final table then busting out in a tie for 9th place. Both are likely to figure prominently in the 2010 Player of the Decade Tournament.

Merri Furlong has a natural gift for poker. Unflappable, she reads people and situations superbly. She's a master of all varieties of the game as proven by victories in both the No-Limit Lowball and No-Limit Omaha 2007 Grand Championships. During the regular 2007 season Merri made 26 Final Tables including 5 Top Three finishes.

Furlong can now add the 2008 Championship Final Table to her resume. With more than enough professional talent now, if Merri continues her rate of improvement she truly has "No Limit".

  FABIAN RAMOS, 9th Place (tie). Not much needs to be added to the record of Fabian Ramos, the 2007 Player of the Year, and one of Chicago's most consistent tournament players.

Fabian's 2006-07 record speaks for itself. In the regular season he made 39 Final Tables, 19 Top Three's, and 6 first place finishes. Even more impressive he made 9 Playoff Final Tables, winning four of them.

Ramos is a true pro-level player in every respect. Patient, calculating, and difficult to put on tilt, he can play a solid game for hours and capitalize on his opponents mistakes. For over a year this Chicago legend has proven himself a consistent winner at every game from Lowball to Stud to Holdem.


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