A $5k buy-in tournament is sure to thin the crowd out dramatically, yet 195 players shelled out their cash to play for the top prize of $365,995. The room was filled with top talent, with the toughest table including Juha Helppi, David Williams, Joe Bartholdi, Chris Ferguson, David Pham, Juan Carlos Mortensen, and Kenna James. Mortensen was the hot player early at this table as he was the first player to pass 100k in chips along with James Van Alstyne. These two were seated at the same table, and they suddenly got all their chips into the middle of the table as a buzz spread through the Fontana Lounge. Mortensen flipped over A-K, but Van Alstyne showed his pocket aces. Mortensen didn't improve, and as he left Van Alstyne's stack was over 220k as no one else had reached 100k.
Eighteen players cashed, and as play advanced through the evening, Van Alstyne held steady while others won pots and became a threat. By midnight, Steve Sung had the chip lead (216k) with Van Alstyne second (210k). Clonie Gowen (128k) was a distant third. Three top pros made their exit late on Day 1. Joe Tehan became the bubble boy out in 19th place while John Gale (17th, $9,205) and Nam Le (16th, $9,205) were knocked out after fourteen hours of play. Fifteen players survived Day 1, with David Peat (246k) and Steve Sung (241k) the chip leaders.
Four players left in the first twenty minutes of Day 2 including James Van Alstyne (12th, $11,045). Van Alstyne has won over $550k in tournament winnings this year, including a 4th WPT Bay 101 event, a 1st at a LA Poker Classic event, and a 2nd at a Borgata event.
Clonie Gowen busted out 11th ($11,045) and the players moved to a final table. Gowen is a bit of an enigma in poker. A regular at major tournaments with the backing of FullTilt, her only sizable cashes have been at FullTilt sponsored special events. She won $42k at the WPT Doyle Brunson event in December and $25k at the November WPT Foxwoods event, but major tournament success has eluded her.
Jason Lester was the first to go at the Final Table (10th, $11,045). The last time he cashed in a $5k buy-in event was at the World Series when he took home a bracelet and over $500k in the $5k PLHE event. Seven of the last nine players were from California, and this Final Table could have just easily have been found at a weekly tournament at the Bike or Commerce.
Tim West caught quad kings to knock out David Singer (9th, $14,725), then Michael Simhai proved once again why the old poker adage "Never get busted in an unraised pot" is so true. Simhai limped under the gun, and Mike Hauptman called from the small blind. The flop came , and the blinds checked around to Simhai. He moved all-in and Hauptman instantly called. Simhai showed two black tens, but Hauptman flipped over The Hammer (7-2). Simhai didn't improve and was out in 8th ($18,405).
Michael Woo was next to go (7th, $23,005). Woo's first cash was in the 1989 World Series, and his best showing was a $571k 3rd place finish in the 2006 LA Poker Classic. LA's Steve Sung left in 6th ($32,210) after being crippled when his pocket tens ran into Bryan Rast's pocket queens. Rast took the chip lead when he knocked out Tim West (5th, $41,410). Rast had 747k in chips, with Mike Hauptman in second with 622k. Kevin Song (313k) and David Peat (215k) rounded out the foursome.
The two short stacks tangled when Peat came over the top of Song's 50k pre-flop raise. Song called with A-10, way behind Peat's A-Q. Peat's hand held up, then Song moved in a few hands later with A5o. Rast called with and flopped a queen, eliminating Kevin Song (4th, $55,190).
Rast had the chip lead, but it was short lived. Rast limped from the button, and Hauptman called while Peat checked. With blinds at 10k/20k with a 4k ante, the pot was 72k. The dealer laid on the felt, and Hauptman was first to act. He looked at his cards again, then moved all-in for 627k. Peat mucked quickly, then Rast called with . He was up against Hauptman's for the 1.3mil pot. The turn sent the pot to Hauptman and crippled Rast in the process. Hauptman busted Rast on the next hand for 3rd place ($101,230).
The heads-up battle ended soon after, with the David Peat's runner-up finish good for $202,455. Mike Hauptman's win was good for $365,995, and the best cash any of the final three players had earned previously was a $20k finish for Hauptman in the 2005 LA Poker Classic. All three players were all smiles, with the biggest belonging to Hauptman. He'll need to stay sharp as he also now has a seat in the $25k WPT Championship, where even greater riches await.