The center of the poker universe has returned to its standing home, The Bellagio, for the spring tournaments culminating with the WPT Championship. Much of the United States is suffering from a late cold spell, but the action at the Event #1 $1.5k NLHE tournament was heated for two days. 589 players from around the world built a prize pool of over $850k, and when the dust settled a new veteran captured the top prize of $274,950.
Day 1 began with all tables packed at the Bellagio, as well as alternates lining the walls waiting for their turn at the felt. Chips flew furiously with new players taking the chip lead only to be busted within the hour. Joe Sebok jumped to a quick start but didn't last until the dinner break, his pocket queens losing a race to A-K. Others making an early exit included Amarillo Slim, Allen Cunningham, Mark Seif, and John Phan. Cecilia Reyes lost the most brutal of hands when her pocket jacks caught a set with a flop of . Her opponent moved in and flipped over , and Reyes caught quads on the turn when the case jack hit the board. The meant her quads were second best to the royal flush, and the buzz in the room gave her no solace for the brutal beat.
By the dinner break, JC Tran had busted after his queens lost to A-K, and Danny Wong stood as the chip leader of the 59 players remaining. It took ninety minutes to burst the cash bubble with the top fifty being paid. Wong surged into a strong chip lead, doubling his stack from 120k to 250k over two hours. His pocket three's went up against , but a trey on the flop and turn gave him quads and sent another opponent to the rail. Down to four tables, Mike Matusow doubled up Eric Mizrachi then ended in 30th ($4,990). As play ended for the night, Wong ended a wild day with an intense final hand. The small blind raised to 12k, and Wong made it 34k to go from the big blind. The small blind again raised to 70k, and Wong then moved all-in. After several minutes, his opponent mucked his cards to call it a night. Wong showed 7-2, the Hammer, and stacked his chips for the night. Wong had the chip lead at 247k, followed by Allen Baker (213k), Motoyuki Mabuchi (185k), Champie Douglas (173k), and David Sklansky (143k).
Fourteen players started Day 2, and Eric Mizrachi was the first to bust out. His pocket queens fell to A-Q when an ace spiked on the board, and Mizrachi was gone in 14th ($8,315). Incredibly in the first twenty minutes, Danny Wong lost back to back hands to Tad Jurgens and Bob Cole to go from the chip lead to the rail (11th, $8,315). The Final Table of ten players showed no signs of calming down. Motoyuki Mabuchi doubled through Cole on the first hand of the Final Table, taking the chip lead when his 10-9 held up on a flop of to Cole's 10-6. Raymond Davis tripled up through Champie Douglas and David Sklansky , but his pocket three's were called pre-flop by Mabuchi with pocket eights. Davis left the Fontana Lounge, out in 10th ($9,980). Within fifteen minutes, Larry Merritt (9th, $11,640) and Tad Jurgens (8th, $13,305) were out.
Bob Cole didn't sit around for top cards, and a tough hand ended the day for him. After chip leader Mabuchi raised to 34k, Cole re-raised to 84k from the button. Mabuchi went in the tank, eventually having the clock called on him. Before his time was up, Mabuchi moved all-in and Cole called, flipping over a mediocre . Mabuchi couldn't have known how good he was, but his was in dominant position. He flopped a queen that held up, and Bob Cole was out (7th, $16,630). David Sklansky's tens ran into Douglas' jacks, and Sklansky left in 6th ($23,280).
Fifteen minutes later, Sam Lewis had his pocket nines chased down by Allen Baker's . Lewis fell in 5th ($33,260). Baker tried to do the same thing to Douglas, but this time Baker's baby ace couldn't chase down Douglas' pocket nines. The double up would prove very valuable to Douglas. Sitting on his chips, Douglas watched Baker knock out Randy McKay (4th, $45,765) then he watched Baker give all of those chips to Mabuchi in a brutal hand. Mabuchi raised to 33k pre-flop, and both Douglas and Baker called. The flop came , and they checked to Mabuchi who bet 70k. Baker moved all-in, and Douglas folded. Mabuchi called and showed , while Baker showed for top pair. The turn brought , giving top pair to Mabuchi and a straight flush draw to Baker along with his second pair. The ended the afternoon for Allen Baker (3rd, $78,990). It was his first cash in over a decade, but the WSOP bracelet winner wanted more on this day.
Champie Douglas finished in 2nd ($149,670). The heads-up battle lasted less than thirty minutes, and Douglas was happy to have his biggest cash of his career. On a 9-high board, his 9-7 was no match for Mabuchi's A-9. Motoyuki Mabuchi had cashed twice in the 2006 WSOP and once in the 2005 event, all in $2k-1k buy-in tourneys. The Osaka, Japan native rose from a tough field of 589 players, taking home $274,950 and a seat in the WPT $25k Champion event at the end of April. Residing in Las Vegas now, Mabuchi can stay as long as he likes.