Alex Borteh took over the $3k LH from the start, ending Days 1 & 2 with the chip lead. He lost the chip lead at the Final Table almost reaching the felt, then surged to the top for his first WSOP bracelet. Phil Hellmuth made the money for a record 61st time in the World Series, and he continues to push the cash mark to a level which may be difficult to beat.
Limit Hold-Em is the Seven Card Stud of the 21st Century. Most tables around the US used to be LH as players ground out pots with standard bets and raises. Now, NLH is king. It's almost impossible to find mid-stakes LH in Las Vegas, with only the Bellagio and the Mirage having multiple tables going. High stakes poker still has a large LH component, usually as part of a mixed game.
The Day 1 leaderboard was filled with top players, including Greg Mueller, J.C. Tran, David Levi, Marco Traniello, Amit Makhija, Phil Hellmuth, and Ted Forrest. They all looked up to Alex Borteh, a 24 year-old from Columbus, Ohio. Day 2 played down to the Final Table, with Greg Mueller (left, 20th $7,761), J.J. Liu (15th $9,395), Max Pescatori (14th $9,395), and Chad Brown (11th $10,212) just missing the money. The Final Table still looked to Borteh for the chip lead.
Final Table Chip Counts
Alex Borteh (389k)
Shawn "Lightning" Keller (260k)
David Pham (254k)
Michael Byrne (231k)
Brandon Wong (216k)
Vivek Rakjumar (170k)
Matthew Kelly (97k)
Petri Pollanen (94k)
Marco Johnson (66k)
Rakjumar had made a big run at the end of Day 2, down to the felt before doubling up. If he took the bracelet, he would be tied with Steve Billirakis as the youngest bracelet winner at 21 years 9 days old. He had a better chance as he busted Petri Pollanen (9th $14,705) then Michael Byrne sent Marco Johnson to the rail (8th $20,424).
Blinds were 5k/10k with 10k/20k bets, so every pot that was played was important. Matthew Kelly won three hands in a row to go from the short stack to a comfortable chip position. A three-way pot pushed the next player to the rail. Byrne, Rakjumar, and Keller each raised in succession, which put Byrne all-in and Rajkumar committed to a big pot. hit the flop, and it hit Keller well with . Rajkumar checked, and Keller bet into the side pot and was called. brought three diamonds on the board plus a straight draw, and again Rajkumar check/called. came on the river, and Keller bet after the check. Rajkumar showed pocket tens and folded, and Keller turned over . Pocket sevens didn't connect, so Michael Byrne was out (7th $27,777).
The brother of WSOP bracelet holder Thomas "Thunder" Keller, Shawn had surged to the chip lead.
Shawn Keller (600k)
Brandon Wong (380k)
Matthew Kelly (285k)
Alex Borteh (135k)
Vivek Rajkumar (135k)
David Pham (120k)
Blinds moved to 8k/15k with 15k/30k bets. Rajkumar quickly doubled through Keller, then Pham returned the favor to Rajkumar. The table tilted on a massive pot between Wong and Borteh.
Wong raised from the small blind with , and Borteh called with . The flop came , and Wong bet his flopped straight. Borteh called, then came on the turn. Wong three-bet after Borteh's raise, and Borteh called. meant Wong had the nuts, but Borteh didn't believe it. He raised again on the river only to see Wong three-bet, and Borteh called with . It brought Borteh into a big hole, down to 165k. He doubled through Pham to get out of the danger zone.
Wong flopped top pair and took out Vivek Rajkumar (6th $36,763), then Borteh doubled up Pham to get down to only a few chips left. He doubled up after flopping a set of queens, but with his chips all-in on the flop his win was minimal. He knocked out fellow short-stack Matthew Kelly (5th $46,567). He was up to 225k near Pham at 250k, but both trailed Wong (820k) and Keller (460k).
Borteh got picked off after he raised with . Keller re-raised with , and the flop of may have been what Borteh was chanting under his breath: "King-seven-seven, king-seven-seven." He got one more bet from Keller before he folded on the river, and Borteh continued to gain ground.
Pham got unlucky at the wrong times. He folded to a four-bet by Borteh, then watched the flop of hit the board. He flopped Broadway but couldn't get paid off. With bets up to 30k/60k, he got outflopped with to Keller's . The nine hit the board, and David Pham had to drag himself from the table in 4th ($62,906).
Wong had the chip lead at 875k with Keller (495k) and Borteh (400k). Any heads-up pot that bet to the river would be for 480k, so this could change in an instant. It did.
Wong raised with and Borteh called with . The flop was massive for Borteh with , and Borteh check-raised Wong. The turn was even better with , and both checked. came on the river, and Borteh bet his two pair. Wong called only to see the pot pushed away from him to the restored chip leader. Borteh solidified his chip lead when he knocked out Shawn Keller (3rd $92,316).
Borteh started heads-up play with 1.2m to Wong's 570k. Wong grabbed an early pot to bring things all square. Big cards unraveled Wong, however. He had a king on an ace-high board but Borteh called him down with pocket jacks. He next hand had a baby ace that didn't get there on a board, with Borteh taking the pot with .
Wong looked at , and he probably should have simply threw it down. The board came , and Borteh got in a bet on the turn and on the river with . He got his last chips in with , but this time he was behind Borteh's . kept Borteh ahead, then gave him the title.
Brandon Wong's runner-up finish ($135,615) was his best of ten cashes in the last three WSOP's. He's a secret fantasy league pick for anyone who needs to cast away dead wood. It's only the second cash for Alex Borteh, but it was a hard earned $225,483. He fought back from the felt to take the title, which makes this win extra special.