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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

First Woman Wins WPT Title at Invitational

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The WPT Invitational began, as it does each year, with a reception that included an open bar, luscious dinner buffet, and much socializing between the invited celebrities and poker pros. By the time everyone had taken their seats to play, the count was 445 players. Fun was in progress.

Amidst the amateur play, drunken festivities, and general good times, people were being eliminated at a near record pace. Within the span of less than six hours, the field had dwindled to 112. Day 2 saw the same type of fast play due to the rapidly escalating blinds and antes, and the final table was set a reasonable time in the evening. The details of the first two days can be found here.

The WPT final table was set, but for the first time in the show’s six seasons, there would only be five players there. Why? On the last hand of Day 2’s action, Billy Baxter eliminated two players in the same hand. The remaining five players with chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1: Billy Baxter 1,250,000
Seat 2: Van Nguyen 760,000
Seat 3: Justin Marchand 815,000
Seat 4: Ethan Ruby 910,000
Seat 5: Elias Madias 710,000

Though the escalating structure indicated that the final table might be an all-in fest with a quick resolution, all of the players began rather slowly. After ten hands, Billy Baxter lost his chip lead and was down to 675k, while Elias Madias took that chip lead through a series of small pots. And nearing the 25th hand of the action, Baxter took his lead back but was being closely chased by Van Nguyen.

One player who sat quietly for about fifteen hands, Justin Marchand, was close to being blinded off when he finally doubled through Billy Baxter. Marchand’s A-4 found two pair on the river, and Baxter’s Q-6 was no good. Marchand doubled up, and several hands later did the same when his pocket Q’s held up (with another Queen on the flop) against Madias’ pocket J’s (with another Jack on the river). Suddenly, Marchand was second on in chips to Baxter.

Madias was looking to do the same with a severely short stack. He moved in on the small blind with 7-4, and Baxter called from the big blind with 6-4. The board came 9-5-4-7-2, and Madias survived. Still low, however, he moved all-in again, this time with A-5. Marchand called with pocket 8’s, which held up when 9-3-2-7-3 hit the felt. Elias Madias, a writer who entered the tournament as a guest of actress Sara Rue, was sent to the rail in fifth place for a $10,000 profit.

The other short stack at the table, Ethan Ruby, decided to take a stand. Within the course of four hands, he played two with Baxter and doubled through him both times. Finally sitting with nearly 500k in chips, some of the pressure was lessened.

After Nguyen seemingly took a break from playing for a few rounds, she finally found a spot with which to move all-in from the button with A-K. Baxter called rather quickly with A-10 of clubs. The board came 10-4-3-9-K, and Nguyen caught her card on the river to double up.

Several hands later, Nguyen raised pre-flop and received a call from Marchand. After seeing the flop of A-8-2 rainbow, Nguyen bet, Marchand raised all-in, and Nguyen called and showed A-8 for two pair. Marchand showed A-10. The turn and river came Q and 9, and Nguyen won to chip up to a monster chip lead with over three million in chips. Justin Marchand, the Chief Media Officer for CardPlayer Magazine who won his seat into this tournament via a win in the LAPC media tournament, cashed out for $15,000.

Baxter soon found himself on a shorter stack than he was comfortable with. He found himself in a hand with Ruby – both seeing a flop cheaply. The flop came K-Q-9, and Baxter moved all-in with K-2, but Ruby immediately called with K-3. The turn card was a 2 to give Baxter two pair, and the river was inconsequential. Baxter doubled up.

Ten hands later, Baxter was short again and moved all-in for 450,000 pre-flop with 9-4. Nguyen called with J-7. The flop came Q-6-2-A-J, and Nguyen’s pair of Jacks took it. Billy Baxter, a long-time pro with 50 years of poker experience including seven World Series of Poker bracelets, was eliminated in third place for $20,000.

The heads-up action began with the following chip counts:

Van Nguyen 3,695,000
Ethan Ruby 750,000

Nguyen maintained her chip lead as play continued for nearly an hour. Ruby did manage to keep her at bay, even doubling through her at one point, but he was only up to about 260,000 after winning the hand. He was able to double through her one more time in the next hand to sit with over 500,000.

However, about four hands later, when Nguyen made an initial raise to 580,000, essentially putting her opponent all-in, Ruby called with Q-J of spades. Nyugen called with K-4 offsuit but was ahead. The cards came A-9-2-3-A, and the match was decided.

Ethan Ruby, a 32-year old former equities trader who was at the event as a representative of the Poker4Life organization to fund spinal cord injury research, finished in second place for $50,000.

Van Nguyen, wife of Men “The Master” Nguyen
who has been playing poker for five years under the tutelage of her husband, won the WPT Celebrity Invitational. She won $100,000, a WPT chip set, and a $25,500 entry into the WPT World Championship in April at Bellagio. Van became the first woman to ever win a co-ed WPT tournament. Congratulations, Van!

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