The inaugural WPT Spanish Championship set out to be unique from the beginning. The €7,500 buy-in main event began on Thursday, October 11th with the first of two Day 1's. By the end of registration on Day 1B, the total number of players was 226, all of whom played at Casino Barcelona. But when the final table was set on Sunday, October 14th, a day of travel was necessary to arrive at the final table destination - the elegant Casino Peralada near the border of Spain and France.
Castillo de Peralada is a 14th century castle built beside the Carmelite Convent. In 1923, it was acquired by Miguel Mateu Pla who made it into a home to showcase his sculpture, tapestry, and furniture. The library was extended, and the 15th century wine cellar was preserved. The castle hosts one of the country's premier music festivals each year and is home to Casino Peralada.
The World Poker Tour made a wise choice in adding the two Spanish casinos to its tour. And an international poker tour couldn't ask for a better final table. The six players - Russian, Swedish, Korean, Danish, French, and Austrian - were seated in the following order with chip counts:
Seat 1: Vladimir Poleschchuk 176,000
Seat 2: Christer Johansson 855,000
Seat 3: Steve Sung 670,000
Seat 4: Gus Hansen 962,000
Seat 5: Ludovic Lacay 400,000
Seat 6: Markus Lehmann 329,000
Players came to the Spanish Championship final table wearing suits and feeling the typical excitement of those walking onto a World Poker Tour stage. Prior to the start of play, a representative from Casino Barcelona presented each player with a trophy commemorating their final table achievement as well as a bottle of champagne in a red velvet cloth. European class would clearly set this tournament apart from most others on the WPT circuit.
On the very first hand of the night, Ludovic Lacay made his all-in move with pocket A's, and Christer Johansson called from the big blind with A-Q of spades. The board came 10-8-8-Q-6 rainbow, and Lacay doubled up to get the action off to an exciting and unpredictable start.
Gus Hansen went into battle on the fifth hand when Steve Sung raised to 42,000. Hansen reraised to 164,000, and Sung called after much thought. When the flop came K-10-6 with two spades, Sung checked, Hansen bet 160,000, and Sung folded. Hansen was determined to increase his chip lead.
Several hands later, short-stacked Vladimir Poleschchuk moved all-in on the button with K-9, and Sung called with A-2. The board showed 5-3-2-10-A, and Sung won the pot with two pair. Vladimir "Vampir" Poleschchuk, who has played poker for only five years, this being his first WPT event, left the castle in sixth place for €83,900, which is approximately $118,945.
Sung was on a roll and subsequently took a 366,000 pot from Hansen to retrieve some of his earlier-lost chips. But everyone's roll was stopped when some technical difficulties forced play to pause for nearly two and a half hours with less than 20 hands having been played.
When action resumed, the players were obviously anxious to play some high-powered poker. In only two hands, Sung had taken over the chip lead from Hansen when Markus Lehmann doubled through Hansen, then Christer Johansson doubled through Sung to give Lacay the top spot. The exchange of chips was the preface to the downfall of the day's original chip leader.
Hansen raised from the small blind to make it 74,000, and Lacay called from the big blind. After a flop of Q-6-4 rainbow, Hansen moved all-in with A-10 of spades. Lacay immediately called with his red pocket Aces to show that Hansen was a sever underdog in the hand. The turn was a K, and the river was a 9 to seal the deal. The 36th hand of the day saw Gus Hansen, three-time WPT champion and 2007 Aussie Millions winner, eliminated from his seventh WPT final table. This time he finished in fifth place for €100,600, which is the equivalent of about $142,621.
With Lacay firmly in the chip lead, Sung was not in the mood to sit back and watch someone else run the table. He looked down at pocket black Kings and just limped on the button. Lacay did the same from the small blind, and Lehmann raised from the big blind to 90,000. Sung moved all-in, Lacay folded, and Lehmann called, then showed his red pocket Aces. The flop came , and the turn brought the for Sung's trips. However, the river card was the to give Lacay the flush, and Steve Sung was eliminated from his first WPT final table in fourth place for €117,400 or $166,438.
Johansson was the next to try to take some chips from Lacay. After several all-in moves, Johansson did it again on a rainbow board of 10-8-7-K. Lehmann called with K-5 for top pair, and Johansson showed Q-10 for a lower pair. The river of a 6 was the end of three-handed play, as Christer Johansson, holder of a Season 1 WPT title, was sent away from the table in third place with a consolation prize of €151,000 or $214,073.
Heads-up play began with Ludovic Lacay and his 1,809,000 in chips going up against Markus Lehmann with 1,583,000. After 23 hands of one-on-one action, Lehmann had taken over the chip lead. He raised on the button, Lacay reraised, and Lehmann called. When the flop came 8-5-3, Lacay moved all-in with A-5, and Lehmann called with K-8. The turn and river were 3 and 4 respectively, and Lehmann won the tournament with two pair.
Lucovic Lacay, a 22-year old Frenchman with no live tournament cashes to his name, finished in second place for €295,200, the equivalent of 418,505 in US dollars. And Markus Lehmann, an Austrian businessman with 35 years of casual poker playing under his belt, won the first-ever WPT Spanish Championship, €554,987 or $786,805, a trophy, and a seat into the 2008 WPT World Championship.