William McGrotty crowned World Bar Poker Champion

WBPC winner

William McGrotty celebrates with his winnings in Las Vegas

Time at the bar for William McGrotty as he wins $5k and the trophy at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas

Eight years ago the World Bar Poker Championship (WBPC) was just an idea waiting to be developed by World Tavern Poker, the largest bar poker league in the country. The concept was to bring other bar poker players from leagues around the United States – and eventually the world – under one roof for one massive, ground-breaking poker tournament.

After years of planning that idea finally came to fruition this November inside the Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas. Nearly 300 players from all corners of the country battled to be crowned the first ever World Bar Poker Champion. $25,000 was on the line, with players competing for the title from four bar poker leagues: World Tavern Poker, the Snowman Poker League in Texas, the West Coast Poker League out of California, and the Missouri Legends Poker Series.

The poker room was buzzing with activity. Music played in the background, videos aired on giant screens, and the casino staff bantered with players, creating a natural extension from the bar poker they were used to. ‘The atmosphere was electric,’ said Thomas Hausheer, who placed fourth in the WBPC. ‘The set and the opportunity to play in The PIT was beyond belief.’

‘This was the best event I have ever attended for bar league poker players,’ added Ron Price, co-owner of The Snowman Poker League.

Success story

WPBC action

The action was competitive but friendly

So what made the WBPC such a huge success? ‘The leagues and the players,’ said Mike Matsinger, founder of World Tavern Poker. ‘What made this so incredible is hundreds of players coming together from bars around the country. It was very competitive, but players were cheering each other on in a positive way. It’s what makes bar poker so wonderful.’

Cards were in the air at noon on Day 1 of the WBPC. The play continued until the field thinned to 30, where the remaining players were guaranteed a cash payout, but not before an impromptu cash collection took place among the final 31 players, insuring the unlucky ‘bubble boy’ didn’t leave the event empty handed. Once the bubble burst the final 30 players advanced to Day 2 to play inside The PIT.

The PIT is a World Tavern Poker staple at their championship events. It’s a specially designed featured area of the poker room with three final tables and elevated seating for friends and family to cheer on the players below. The PIT created so much excitement that Planet Hollywood kept the arrangement for their WSOP Circuit Event held days later.

As players were eliminated on Day 2, play eventually wound down to the final table, where eight players competed for the right to be the first WBPC Champion. The crowds watching them duke it out grew as the field shrank further, until there were only two players remaining.

Jill Levine from the West Coast Poker League was heads up against World Tavern Poker’s William McGrotty. It was California vs. New Jersey; league vs. league. Everyone gathered to watch history as it unfolded. The players soaked it in but still focused on the task at hand. When the dust sttled it was the soft spoken McGrotty who emerged victorious and earned the title of first ever WBPC Champion.

‘The WBPC was a huge success,’ said John and Jeri Turpin from the Missouri Legends Poker Series. ‘We have never had this much fun in Las Vegas.’

The event’s success is just the tip of the iceberg. Red Tooth Poker, the largest bar poker league in the United Kingdom, has already committed its 1,300 venues to the WBPC. Plus, with interest from the largest bar leagues in both Canada and Australia, the event could soon reach players in 2,500 bars, pubs, and taverns across the globe.

‘The goal is to turn this event into a true World Cup of Poker,’ says Matsinger. ‘Eventually, we want to see thousands of players representing their countries in a tournament that will transcend the game of poker itself.’

 Meet the champ

It’s a healthy 2,552 miles from Glen Rock, New Jersey to Las Vegas. William McGrotty’s poker game traveled even farther to become the first ever WBPC champion. He started playing bar poker three years ago as a summer-time diversion from college. Learning the basics from his aunt in penny games such as Follow the Queen and 5-card Stud, McGrotty was first introduced to World Tavern Poker while attending Penn State University.

‘For a while, I was only able to play during the summer because there was no place near State College,’ says McGrotty. ‘When I finished school last January, I started playing on a more consistent basis.’

McGrotty now works as a supply chain consultant, determining where companies should locate warehouses and how they should operate. ‘Because my job requires a lot of travel, the amount of poker I can play ranges from once a week to four times a week. I make it a point to play at Bennigan’s in New Jersey and in the WTP Online league (his alias is ‘Guillermoman’) on the weekends.’

Playing bar poker helped calm his temper, he says. Instead of getting upset and voicing his displeasure when suffering a bad beat, he learned to take it in stride. It still irks him, but his control keeps him on an even keel – a vital trait needed to succeed in deeper tournaments.

‘I’m still upset when I lose,’ states McGrotty, ‘but my anger doesn’t dictate my actions anymore. I’m eating, drinking, and playing a game I love with friends at a bar. Why get upset?’

He first heard about the World Bar Poker Championship when he qualified for the National Championship Finals. McGrotty noticed the WBPC would feature players from several bar poker leagues. ‘When I saw that, I knew I had to play in it.’

When he got to Las Vegas and the day came to begin the WBPC, McGrotty had a strategy. But he knew it was important to be flexible, and to stay patient.

‘At the start, I wanted to play conservatively. Being in fewer hands means watching others play, so I studied their tendencies. Then I had a terrible run of cards and became short stacked. I started making positional bets to try to get as many blinds as possible.’

Making the money was his objective, with the focus on keeping five to ten big blinds worth of chips in front of him at all times. As the field hit thirty players, McGrotty smiled as his goal was realized.

McGrotty started Day 2 with only a few big blinds. But knowing others were in the same boat, patience became the name of the game. ‘I knew a lot of people were going to get knocked out quickly, so the conservative approach would get me the highest finishing position.’

Already in the money, he felt validated having made it this far. Though surprised he outlasted so many with so few chips, he kept his patience as the field dwindled to one remaining table. With seven players remaining and despite not thinking himself in contention for the win, lady luck shined on McGrotty, and he moved closer to the chip leader.

‘I went all in with A-T. A shorter stack called me with A-K. The flop came King-Queen-Jack (giving McGrotty a straight), and at that point I started to believe. But I was too focused on the game to really think about a win.’

Jill Levine WBPC 2014

Jill Levine was a worthy runner-up

It wasn’t long before there were only two players left. It was McGrotty, with a sizeable lead in chips at this point, against West Coast Poker League’s Jill Levine. And it wouldn’t be a long, drawn out exchange to determine a champion.

‘We only played two hands heads-up,’ explains McGrotty. ‘With my stack against hers, I didn’t really need a specific strategy in mind.’ The first hand of heads up play saw Levine fold her small blind to McGrotty. The next one would be the final hand of the tournament. ‘She went all in with Q-7 and I called with K-J. She hit her Seven on the flop and I had four hearts to a flush. As I saw a heart hit on the river, my first thought was “did that actually just happen?” It took quite a while for it to sink in.’

The large crowd that had gathered around The PIT clapped as McGrotty stood from the table. ‘Playing in front of people cheering for me and others was really special. I felt like I was representing them.’

He would take several photos with his plaque and his oversized $5,000 first place check. Though not usually accustomed to being the center of attention, McGrotty enjoyed the experience. But the best enjoyment came from knowing he had stuck to his game plan. And now he had the title of WBPC Champion to show for it. ‘It’s a really big achievement,’ says McGrotty, who is already looking forward to the next WBPC in 2015. ‘I’m proud of myself. It’s one of those events in life I will never forget.’

World Bar Poker Championship – final table

6th  ED WALKER, NEW JERSEY – $1,135

The final eight celebrate making the final table

The final eight celebrate making the final table













The World Bar Poker Championships is an exclusive tournament to bar poker league players from around the world. To learn more please visit WorldBarPokerChampionships.com or email MikeM@WorldTavernEntertainment.com

American PokerPlayer magazine is the official magazine partner of the World Bar Poker Championships and you can read it for free here:

American PokerPlayer mag on iTunes or Android or desktops


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