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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Scotty Nguyen World Poker Open Champion

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Three hundred and seventy-one eager players signed up to play this year’s Gold Strike WPT World Poker Open Main Event at the lovely Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. Perhaps none were more eager than the determined Michael Mizrachi, nicknamed “The Grinder,” and the colorful and entertaining Scotty Nguyen, who finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in this same event last year.

Here are the opening chip counts for the final table.

1. Scotty Nguyen - $2,144,000
2. Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi - $1,271,000
3. Raul Paez - $862,000
4. An "The Boss" Tran - $845,000
5. Gavin Smith - $774,000
6. Bau Le - $645,000

The first casualty at the final table was Bau Le. Le, who finished fourth in the WPO’s event #2 here, and previously won an event at the United States Poker Championship in Atlantic City in 2004, came to this final table as the short stack. He raised to $140,000 from the button on hand number 21. Paez made it $300,000 to go, and Le moved all-in. Le held pocket 10s to Paez’s Ah-Jh. The flop came J-8-3, all diamonds, giving Le, with the Ten of diamonds, a backdoor flush draw. But the flush never materialized, nor did a Ten, so Le was sent packing in sixth place. He took $88,099 home to Atlantic City.

The next player to go was An Tran. With only $150,000 in chips, he moved all-in from the small blind and was called by Paez, in the big blind for $40,000, and Mizrachi, who had limped on the button. The board came Js-8s-5d-3c-3d, no help to Tran, who held Kc-Tc. Mizrachi, with 8-7, took down the pot with a pair of Eights on the flop. Tran received $125,856 for his sixth place finish, but this seasoned tournament pro is likely to be heard from again, perhaps in one of the upcoming Las Vegas events - his home turf - this spring.

In the past year, Gavin Smith has been tough to beat, winning the Mirage WPT championship event in March and finishing third at the WPT’s Doyle Brunson North American Championship at Bellagio in October, along with several final table appearances at the World Series of Poker. The popular Smith, originally from Canada but now living in Las Vegas, raised to $350,000 on the button in hand number 74 and met with an all-in reraise from Mizrachi. Smith called and turned over pocket Sevens; Mizrachi showed him pocket Queens. The board came Jd-5s-4d-4h-5d. Smith’s Sevens bit the dust, but he received $173,052 for fourth place.

Raul Paez hails from Barcelona, Spain. He is no stranger to final tables, however, having won an event during the 2005 WPO in Tunica, and another at the L.A. Poker Classic. On hand number 79, Paez found himself with Qc-Tc in the small blind and approximately $800,000 in chips. He moved all-in and was called by Nguyen, holding Ac-Qh. The board of 6s-2s-2d-2c-4h helped neither player, so Nguyen took down the pot with the high card Ace. Paez received $298,908 for his third place finish.

In just over four hours of play, the action was heads-up. Nguyen and Mizrachi played exactly one hand. With their chip stacks at just about even, at over $3 million apiece, Nguyen raised to $300,000. Mizrachi reraised to $1.2 million. Scotty pondered for a bit and then, without further ado, said, “I’m all-in, baby.” Mizrachi called, but his Ah-Jc was no match for Nguyen’s As-Qs. On a board of Kh-9d-2s-10s-8s, he won the tournament and $969,421 with a flush. Mizrachi graciously settled for second place and a prize of $566,352. Mizrachi is no stranger to tournament success, having won the WPT Championship event at the LA Poker Classic in 2005, which netted him nearly $2 million.

Scotty Nguyen made history as the first player in this popular Tunica series to make two consecutive championship event final tables. Nguyen also has four WSOP gold bracelets to his credit, and won the WSOP Championship in 1998. For his effort at the WPO, he received a $25,500 entry to the WPT Championship event to be held at Bellagio in April in addition to the nearly $1 million cash prize.

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