Next, Steve Hudak was eliminated in seventh place, when his pocket Queens failed to hold up against Joe Hachem’s A-8, on a flop of A-9-2, all spades. Holding the queen of spades, Hudak had outs, but the Turn and River failed to help him. He received $62,980.
John Smith was out when he went all-in on a short stack with A-6 and found himself up against Pham’s A-K. Smith was awarded $75,576 for his sixth place finish.
Joe Hachem, the reigning WSOP champion, proved here that his win in that event was no flash in the pan. Shortly before his elimination, he was involved in the most exciting hand of the tournament. This is a hand that is sure to be discussed in the weeks and months to come. It has already been noted by WSOP reporters, including Nolan Dalla, who called it, “…the hand of the year.” In hand #43 of the final table, Hachem held K-K in the small blind. When J.C. Tran raised to $18,000, Pham reraised to $50,000, and Hachem came over the top with $150,000. Tran folded, and Pham, unbelievably, went all-in with J-10 off suit. Hachem called and was faced with disaster when the Flop came J-J-2. The Turn and River failed to bring Hachem one of the two Kings he needed to win the hand. The result decimated Hachem’s stack, leaving him with only $40,000 in chips.
According to Dalla, Pham later admitted that he “…played the hand very badly...I had already committed half of my chips, so I tried to steal the pot.”Hachem fought hard and subsequently made a comeback, doubling up to almost $100,000. But in the end, he moved all-in with K-8 in the small blind, attempting to steal the blinds and antes, and was caught by Lee Watkinson, who called with pocket nines in the big blind. Watkinson flopped a set, ending Hachem’s quest for the win. Hachem received $88,172 for fifth place, and solidified his position at the top of the game with this strong finish.
With the field narrowed to the final four, Pham had a dominant position with about 650,000 chips, more than twice as many as any of his opponents. Nguyen, short-stacked, eventually went all-in with A-J off suit and was quickly called by Pham, whose pocket Kings, in the big blind, cost Nguyen the tournament when the board brought no help for the latter. Nguyen took home $100,768 for fourth place.
Pham’s next victim was Watkinson, who raised with K-Q and was called by Pham holding J-9 of clubs. Watkinson went all-in on a flop of K-K-5 with two clubs. In another upset, Pham made a flush on the turn to take the pot and Watkinson’s hopes for victory. Watkinson earned $138,556 for his third place finish.
Heads up play between Pham and Tran was something of an anti-climax, lasting only 20 minutes and ending when Pham, who had Tran outchipped by 2-1 from the outset, took the final pot of the night with A-8 to Tran’s K-Q when the flop came A-K-6. With a Jack on both the Turn and the River, Pham won with Aces up. Tran collected $251,920 for second place.
Pham came to the final table of this event as a serious poker player with two money finishes in major tournaments this year. His win represents the culmination of a journey that started in his native Vietnam, from which he fled as a young child with his family in a wooden boat.
With this first place finish, he took $453,456 home to his wife and two small children. After the win, Pham told Dalla, “I caught a lot of cards today. I think after what I have been through (in my life), I deserve to get a break."