Professional poker player Toby Mathews has become the champion of the Hollywood Poker Open (HPO) Tunica Regional event.

Mathews began Day 2 holding the third biggest stack of chips, and even when the game boiled down to three players, he was short stacked. The right blend of persistence and luck, however, helped him win the HPO Tunica Regional Championship.

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When the game reached the heads-up level, Mathews was playing against Jonathan Taylor, winner of a World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2013 bracelet. However, Mathews doubled and flopped a straight against his opponent’s middle set, which equalized their chip stacks.

When the final hand was being played, Mathews got pocket kings, with which he five bet. Taylor who had pocket fives responded with a call. Ultimately, Mathews hand triumphed over Taylor’s and he became the champion of the event.

While the casino was getting ready for a photo session, an excited Mathews said: “I’ve got to call my wife. This is so cool.” Mathews got to take home a first-place prize of $15,040 plus a seat worth $2,500 to the HPO Championship, which is scheduled to be held at M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas in June 2014. Interestingly, his wife will be celebrating her birthday close to this date. Speaking at an interview, Mathews said, “We were thinking about going to Vegas anyway.”

Chris Moneymaker, HPO ambassador and member of Team PokerStars Pro, was the chip leader of the tournament earlier in the day. He eliminated Lee Childs on the bubble. Although Moneymaker was very successful during the four-handed play, he had to literally struggle when the game reached three players. Speaking later, Moneymaker said, “I didn’t win a pot.”

Moneymaker, the legendary poker player who made his fortune by winning the WSOP Main Event of 2003, quickly lost all the chips in his stack and tried to beat Mathews off the table. When the flop showed a Nine of Hearts, an Eight of Diamonds, a Two of Hearts, he check-raised on his Three of Clubs and Two of Clubs. Mathews responded by calling with a Queen of Diamonds and a Queen of Spades. While Mathews pocket queens helped him survive the game, Moneymaker was forced to bust.

Mathews says that he could win because of the lucky tiger given to him by Nicholas, his nephew, as well as the tournament’s deep structure. He also said that he is excited to take part in the HPO.

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