Michael Chu overcame the big chip lead of cigar-chomping Amir Vahidi then knocked out infomercial star Tommy Vu to win the $1k NLH w/ Re-Buy.
Amateurs, even the maniacs, complain that the NLH Re-Buy event isn't exactly fair, and they have a point. Pros, with their big bankrolls, don't mind dumping $1,000 over and over and over in order to get as many chips as they can before the re-buy period ends. It's the correct strategy, but it's also a tough one for amateurs to follow. PokerStars isn't going to include 20 free re-buys, for example, even if it did offer satellites to the event.
So while pros such as Daniel Negreanu, who re-loaded 46 times just two years ago, bludgeon their table with all-ins on any pair, any sooted connectors or, if the odds are right, 8-3o, amateurs are left with a budget on their rebuys. Or they can do what 27-year-old stockbroker Michael Chu did. Chu of Los Angeles won the bracelet and $585,774 limited only to the original chips he was given and all that he dragged from the felt.
Chu instead caught some big cards, got lucky when he needed to, and kept doubling his starting stack of 2,000 chips without reaching into his wallet. Chu wasn't among the leaders by the end of Day One but started to build a tower of chips after taking out two players in two hands. Chu eliminated Mark Herm and then took out newly crowned Steve Billirakis (1st $5k Mixed NLH/LH World Championship). Billirakis shoved on a flop of K-Q-3 holding K-J and Chu called with a set of 3s, bringing Chu up to 260k in chips after these two hands in Day 2.
Later Chu called with after Marc Naalden moved all-in with . Chu flopped the nut flush, and he took over the chip lead from Jason "strassa2" Strasser. By the end of Day 2, Amir Vahidi was the chip leader by a wide margin. Vahedi's mantra was "stay disciplined, stay disciplined," and the aggressive pro stuck with it while amassing the huge stack.
Here was the final table and chip counts:
Amir Vahedi (1.3m)
Michael Gracz (880k)
Tommy Vu (663k)
Michael Chu (605k)
Barry Cales (551k)
Dolph Arnold (499k)
Robert Aron (310k)
Shane Schleger (299k)
Jan Von Halle (225k)
Chu drew first blood at the final table, eliminating Von Halle, who moved in with - from the cutoff seat for about 148K in chips. Chu called with - and got an A on the flop. Von Halle picked up a gutshot on the turn but did not hit and won $34,196 in 9th place. Chu later took a huge chunk from Vahedi on Hand 20 when he won a pot with on a board of . Chu won a pot worth more than 1.1m.
Robert Aron (8th $46,862) was eliminated by Vu after he moved all-in from the small blind for 154k after Vu raised to 70k. Vu had , Aron . The flop came . The turn card was the , and Vu picked up the open-ended straight draw. Vu hit the on the river and took out Aron with the suckout.
Vahedi was crippled down to 10k when Arnold moved all-in on a flop of and Vahedi called with . Arnold showed for a club flush draw and the gut-shot straight draw. The turn brought a , giving Vahedi a set but improving Arnold's chances for a straight. Sure enough, the river brought an . Amir Vahedi was eliminated two hands later on a hand (7th $63,327) that also doubled up Schleger through Chu.
Michael Gracz was booted in 6th ($84,858) when he moved in with against Vu's - . The flop gave Gracz a flush draw but he did not hit. Chu eliminated Shane Schleger (5th $111,455) with against Schleger's after flopping a pair of 10s.
Late the in evening, the chip counts stood:
Tommy Vu (2.15m)
Dolph Arnold (1.185m)
Michael Chu (1.13m)
Barry Cales (860k)
The blinds were 30k/60k with a 5k ante. Re-buys obviously were no longer an option. Arnold took three big hits in quick succession to watch his large stack dissolve before his eyes. First, Cales doubled through him to take a nice chunk away. Arnold flopped an open-ended straight draw but couldn't connect. After Arnold won the blinds and antes, he lost almost all of his chips by calling a raise from Vu then had to call Cales' re-raise. He mucked the flop and was down to 75k. Dolph Arnold (4th $157,050) was eliminated when he pushed his meager stack of 75k with and loses to Vu's .
Vu held the chip lead (3m), but Chu (1.25m) and Cales (1m) were still alive. Cales was eliminated when he limped from the small blind for 80k then pushed for 790k after Chu raised from the big blind to 330k. Chu gladly called with and Cales showed . Chu's queens held up and he was heads up with Vu as Barry Cales finished 3rd ($235,575).
The Chu-Vu battled started with Vu's 2.9m against Chu's 2.4m. Chu doubled up when he called with an open-ended straight draw and two overcards with against Vu's middle pair of 8s. Chu hit the on the river to stay alive.
The final hand went down when Vu, with the button, moved all-in with . Chu called with . Chu had about a 4:1 chip advantage at the time. The flop came , and Chu paired his 3 but would have to sweat Vu's 15 outs twice.
The board paired with a . The river card was a , and Michael Chu was the champ ($585,774).
Here were the final payouts:
Michael Chu ($585,744)
Tommy Vu ($364,761)
Barry Cales ($235,575)
Dolph Arnold ($157,050)
Shane Schleger ($111,455)
Michael Gracz ($84,858)
Amir Vahedi ($63,327)
Robert Aron ($46,862)
Jan Von Halle ($34,196)
Chu's played poker for 10 years, but this was only his second World Series of Poker event. Chu picked a pretty good payout for his first cash. He told Norm Chad in his ESPN interview that he wanted to be patient early and let the big stacks pound each other. That's an amateur's strategy, one who doesn't want to blow a lot on re-buys, and this time, it worked beautifully.
Chu said he planned to enter a few more tournaments but was not going to quit his day job as a stockbroker. He obviously shouldn't. Chu, unlike a few of the pros, seemed to understand how to get the best return on his $1,000 re-buy event investment.