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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Lee Markholt Claims First WPT Title in Reno

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The World Poker Tour (WPT) has been visiting the biggest little city in the world – Reno – since its first season, but the current stop there will be its last. Per the new WPT schedule that was released earlier this year, as reported here, Reno is one of the tournaments missing from Season VII.

For the 2008 World Poker Challenge main event, the powers-that-be decided to raise the buy-in from the traditional $5,000 amount to $7,500. Whether that was a wise choice or not was reflected in the number of players who registered. Only 261 bought in this year versus the 425 who played in 2007, which was a drastic decrease. The prize pool suffered as well, with the first prize for the winner not even reaching the $500,000 mark; it came to $493,815 to be exact.

Nevertheless, the tournament played on with numerous well-known professional poker players in the field. Regardless of the prize money involved, a WPT title was on the line as something that all pros want on their fireplace mantle.

With a tournament structure set to play the entire tournament out in only four days, the days were long for players despite the small field. And Day 1 saw that field diminish to only 75, with pros like Mike Matusow, Barry Greenstein, Joe Sebok, Jonathan Little, Lee Watkinson, Jerry Yang, and Gavin Smith hitting the rail. When all was said and done, Phil Ivey led the way among the remaining players with nearly 180,000 in chips, with Eli Elezra close behind.

Day 2 was a fight to the money, as the tournament director wanted to play down to the final 27 players, who were coincidentally the only ones to be paid. Many notables didn’t make it through the day, such as Tom Schneider, Brandon Cantu, Bill Edler, Huck Seed, Steve Sung, and Hasan Habib. Finally, it was Robert Goldfarb who had no choice but to play his short stack, and he bubbled in 28th place to end the action for the day. Chip leaders included Jason Potter, Jordan Rich, Ron Linden, Zach Hyman, Phil Ivey, and Michael Mizrachi. Rounding out the top ten were Chris Back, David Pham, Lee Markholt, and Bryan Devonshire.

Playing down to the final six who would appear at the TV table was the goal of Day 3, and though it started quickly, it would be well into the late night hours before the task was done. Some of the more well-known players to leave with a little extra cash in their pockets were Erik Seidel, Jordan Rich, and Tim West.

Phil Ivey busted in 10th place, though each of the other eight times he cashed in a WPT tournament, he made the final table, so the streak was broken. Pat Poels went home in 9th, and Chau Giang was eliminated in 8th place. Finally, it was Michael Mizrachi who bubbled the TV table and took a 7th place finish for his efforts.

The Final Table – Friday, March 28th

The seating arrangement and chip counts for the final six were as follows:

Seat 1: Zach Hyman 285,000
Seat 2: Jeff DeWitt 249,000
Seat 3: David Pham 406,000
Seat 4: Jason Potter 1,156,000
Seat 5: Bryan Devonshire 674,000
Seat 6: Lee Markholt 1,137,000

It should be noted that David “The Dragon” Pham made it to the final table at the World Poker Challenge in Reno just one year ago. He was in Seat 3 – same as this year – and finished in third place. Out of the final table line-up, Pham certainly has the most experience at making the most of his WPT tournaments, with the only exception being Lee Markholt, who has six cashes in Season VI of the WPT and 15 cashes throughout the show’s history. The other four players were set to compete against the poker skills and successes of two seasoned pros.

With a 2,000 ante and blinds at 8,000/16,000, the final table action began. And it wasn’t long before the shortest stack felt the urge to make a move. On the eighth hand of the night, play began with Markholt raising to 40k and Jeff DeWitt calling. The flop of K-7-5 with two diamonds prompted Markholt to lead out with a bet and DeWitt to move all-in for 169,000. Markholt called with pocket Q’s, and DeWitt turned over J-10 of diamonds for the flush draw. The remaining cards were a 2 and 4, neither of which were diamonds.

Jeff DeWitt was eliminated in sixth place with $84,297 in prize money.

Markholt took the chip lead with that hand and kept it for some time. He took a sizable pot of more than 400k from Bryan Devonshire a few hands later to widen the chip space between him and Jason Potter. But just as Markholt might have gotten comfortable, he was faced with an all-in call from Zach Hyman. Markholt had A-J and needed to hit something against Hyman’s pocket 4’s but didn’t, so Hyman doubled through Markholt to sit – still short – with a little over 500k.

Markholt then took another hit when Devonshire found himself with very few chips. He hadn’t yet found an opportunity to make a big move, but with 148,000 in the small blind and J-5 offsuit, he took a chance. Markholt called from the big blind with A-8. The flop of 5-4-3 gave Devonshire the pair he hoped for, and the rest of the board was 9-4 to allow him to double up.

Pham battled with his short stack as valiantly as anyone could have. At one point, his chips were low enough that he moved all-in after a flop against several other players for his last 115k, and even though no one called, he chipped up to 470,000 to stay alive. Soon after, however, he tried again. After a flop of A-Q-7, Markholt checked, Pham bet, Markholt came over the top all-in with A-10, and Pham called with A-2. The turn card was a 10 to help Markholt, and the 2 on the river was not good enough to save Pham.

David Pham was sent to the cashier cage in fifth place with $93,664.

Three hands later, a key hand took place between Jason Potter and Devonshire. Though it was Hyman who made the initial pre-flop raise, Potter came over to raise it to 679k, and Devonshire called for his last 391k. Hyman considered jumping in but eventually folded. Potter showed pocket 3’s, and Devonshire showed A-Q. The board produced 8-8-6-10-A, and the Ace on the river doubled up Devonshire.

Potter was then down to 288,000 and wouldn’t be able to wait long to play again. Only a few hands went by before he pushed all-in from the small blind with A-3, and Hyman called with A-5. The flop brought Q-8-4, all of spades. Of the two players, Hyman was the only one with a spade. The turn was the 8 of hearts, but the river was the 7 of spades, and Hyman made his flush.

Jason Potter was let go in fourth place for $103,030.

The chip counts then showed Markholt with over 1.9 million in chips, while Hyman had a bit more than 1 million and Devonshire had 945k.

Hyman and Markholt tangled in a hand won by Markholt for a pot worth over 850k. The loss of those chips hurt Hyman, and on the next hand, the short stack moved all-in with his last 385k. Devonshire called with pocket 9’s, and Hyman showed K-J. The cards were dealt as Q-Q-7-4-10, and Devonshire won with his two pair.

Zach Hyman was sent home in third place with $149,862.

Heads-up action was then set to begin with two remaining players and their chip counts as follows:

Lee Markholt 2,380,000
Bryan Devonshire 1,525,000

The first hand of the heads-up competition consisted of a fold from Devonshire on the button.

The second hand started with Markholt limping on the button and Devonshire checking his big blind. After the flop came 4-3-2, Devonshire bet, and Markholt simply called. The turn card brought a J, and Devonshire bet out 150k. Markholt raised to 600k, and Devonshire called for the rest of his chips with 8-4 for top pair. Markholt turned up the J-4 for the two pair he caught on the turn. Though it didn’t matter, the river was a 3.

Bryan Devonshire was forced to accept his second place finish and a payday of $271,625.

Lee Markholt won the WPT World Poker Challenge – his first ever WPT title. He was awarded the first place prize of $493,815 and a shot at the $25k buy-in WPT World Championship in April. After fifteen finishes in the money at WPT tournaments, he finally claimed a title for years of effort. Congratulations, Lee!

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