Santa Barbara’s John Pearley Huffman commanded the final table and generously opted to split the prize money with his three remaining competitors to conclude the $50,000 Central Coast Poker Championship on Saturday at the Chumash Casino Resort’s Samala Showroom.

Tom West of Los Altos, John Myers of Santa Maria and Freddy Castro of Santa Ynez joined Huffman in outlasting a field of 612 players, who all paid a $180 entry fee (or $160 for pre-registered entrants) to participate in the No-Limit Texas Hold’em event. Huffman walked away with $14,000, and the three others took home $11,500 each.

“I played better today than I’ve ever played before in my life,” Huffman said. “I played my positions well, all of my bluffs worked and it was just one of those days when everything worked.”

With six people remaining, Huffman was caught in a three-way all-in situation before the flop that could have ended his tournament. He held a suited ace-king against a pair of nines and pair of kings. An ace came out on the flop to give him the lead, and his hand held up to give him a commanding advantage at the table.

“It was exhausting,” he said. “The interesting thing is that I didn’t really have a killer instinct. I wanted everyone to be happy. With blinds going up, I figured we may as well try to chop and make everyone as happy has possible.”

In addition to the $50,000 prize pool, the casino added a $10,000 “main event seat” to the event, giving the winner the opportunity to enter the World Series of Poker Main Event this summer in Las Vegas. The top four players chose to chop the remaining prize money, including the “main event seat” bonus. The top 80 players received cash prizes, from $343 for 80th place to $2,742 for fifth. The tournament started at 9 a.m. and concluded with the players’ decision to split the cash at 9:30 p.m.

“It went extremely smoothly and seemed to be well-received, with a lot of positive feedback from the players,” said Ian Adams, poker manager at the Chumash Casino. “This was the most we’ve had at an event in the last five years. The attraction of the added $10,000 generated some extra interest.”

Click here for a schedule of daily tournaments offered in the Chumash Casino Resort poker room.

Located on Highway 246 in Santa Ynez, the Chumash Casino Resort is owned and operated by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. The casino’s gaming floor is open 24/7 and features 2,000 slot machines, dozens of table games, bingo, poker, and daily cash and prize giveaways.

— Mike Traphagen is a public relations specialist for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.