Ti leaf lucky for Nakamura on St. Patrick’s Day

Some people got their luck from shamrocks, but Jon Nakamura of Anahola relied on ti leaves Saturday.

Garbed in a ti-leaf-dyed “lucky ti-shirt” bought for him by his sister Lisa, Jon was the overall winner of the Big Save Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament finals held in the parking lot of the Lihu‘e Big Save store.

“It’s his shirt, and my hat,” said Domi Alayvilla, one of the spectators supporting Nakamura’s bid in the tournament.

Alayvilla was one of the early arrivals who signed up hoping to get one of the seven slots available in the open table.

But the shamrock on his cap didn’t work, and he had to settle for watching the action from the sidelines as Cheryl Oyama, the winner of the first Texas Hold ‘Em tournament, secured a berth after barely making the registration cutoff time.

“I was too busy talking,” Oyama said after Charles Kawakami, president of Big Save, pulled her name second.

That set Oyama up against the defending champion Cyndi Desamparado on the Wild Card Table No. 7.

As the action went through the seven rounds, on Table No. 7, the deciding hand was between Desamparado and Oyama with Oyama advancing to the finals with just a bit more chips than the 2006 champion.

Registrants for the third annual tournament came from all around the island with winners being drawn at stores from Hanalei to Waimea.

“In reviewing the names, we noticed that some of you had names in all of our stores,” Kawakami said. “We thank you for that support.”

Nakamura, the eventual winner, heard about the tournament from his aunt, and with his family’s help, was one of the registrants who had application forms submitted in stores island-wide.

As the players worked their way through the rounds, it was obvious this was the most serious tournament to date.

“You’re all so quiet,” said Joanne Koerte of the Big Save marketing office.

Following the initial rounds, action centered around the final table where winners from each of the table met for the big prize of a $1,200 travel certificate from Mokihana Travel coupled with a $500 cash prize.

Players were able to refresh themselves with drinks provided by Red Bull, dispensed from a counter manned by Jason Apilado and Travis Luis.

Randall Medeiros, Nakamura, Anthony Texeira, Ahren Kaneshiro, a veteran from previous tournaments, Logan Ripley, Lisa Oatis and Oyama were guided to the central table.

“He’s going to start slow,” Alayvilla predicted. “He’s going to wait until the third or fourth game.”

Texeira fell on a pair of deuces, Medeiros followed, a victim of a pair of Jacks.

Nakamura made his move, ousting both Oyama and Oatis in the next round with a pair of eights.

By that time it was obvious this year’s winner was not going to be a lady.

Wesley Park dealt the hand and Nakamura reacted with glee as his pair of aces was added to on the flip, the Anahola boy advancing on three aces.

Action shifted to Kaneshiro and Ripley in the sixth round as Kaneshiro advanced on pairs, sending Ripley to the sidelines.

But in the seventh round, it was over as Kaneshiro folded, giving the match, and prize, to Nakamura.

“He won it in the sixth round,” Kawakami said. “He already had more chips.”

All of the finalists received Big Save gift certificates for making it to the final round.

“I’m just so happy to be going to Vegas,” said Nakamura, who works in the landscaping department of the Princeville Resort. “This is my lucky ti-shirt. I knew I just had to wait.”

Kawakami joked they were going to have a showgirl present the prize, but everyone had to settle for Gary Furugen.

“This is our third annual event,” Kawakami said. “Thank you for supporting Big Save for the past 79 years. We know you like this event so it’ll happen again next March.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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