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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

WPT Championship Arrives at Hansen-Controlled Final Table

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It is the ultimate poker tournament of every World Poker Tour season. As one of the most-anticipated events of each poker year for poker players, the $25,000 WPT World Championship is always well-attended by pros from around the globe. The 2008 event turned out to be no different, despite its slow start on the first of two Day 1’s, and the final tournament of the WPT’s sixth season got underway in the Fontana Room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas with much excitement in the air.

Day 1A: Saturday, April 19th

The starting field for the first Day 1 of the WPT World Championship had the WPT staff feeling a bit underwhelmed. Though turnout had been low at many of the WPT tournaments throughout the tour’s sixth season, they hoped it would rebound for the main event. With the 2007 WPT Championship having been its best to date with 639 players, the fact that only 210 registered for the first day of play was a bit disappointing.

Even so, the notable poker pros were out in force, as evidenced by the crowds of fans hovering around the entrance to the tournament areas – the Fontana Room and the poker room. With names like Doyle Brunson, Andy Black, Hoyt Corkins, Mike Sexton, Barry Greenstein, and Phil Hellmuth in the house, only to name a few, there would be no lack of action.

Play began slowly due to the 90-minute levels and starting stacks of 50,000. Guy Laliberte, founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, was one of the first eliminations, followed by Scott Clements, Lyle Berman, David Williams, Eric Froehlich, Ted Lawson, Hasan Habib, and Jonathan Little.

By the end of the day, Billy Baxter sat atop the leader board after having a stellar run in the Bellagio Five Star preliminary events. With 167,150, Baxter was followed by Darrell Dicken, Steve Billirakis, Scott Epstain, and Brandon Cantu. Dario Minieri and Jim Bechtel were also in the top ten at the conclusion of the first day.

Day 1B: Sunday, April 20th

The second flight of starting players turned out to be a number that sent a collective sigh of relief through the WPT staff. There were 335 players filling the Fontana Room and poker room to let everyone know that the WPT Championship would still be one of the premier events of the year. The total field was 535 players – still 104 less than the prior year, but a strong field nonetheless.

Tom Dwan, internet pro turned young live phenom, began the day as the center of attention. Not only did he take an early chip lead by eliminating two pros – Beth Shak and Justin Bonomo – but he was wearing an interesting hat. As a result of being on the losing side of a prop bet with Alan Sass, he was forced to wear a hat of Sass’ choosing. Day 1’s selection was a head wrap with several pieces of faux fruit adorning it.

The other story of the day was what some are claiming to be one of the worst folds in poker history. The hand involved Jordan Morgan and Joe Hachem. On a board of A-7-4-6, Morgan bet, Hachem raised, and Morgan reraised. Hachem reraised again, and Morgan pushed all-in for 27,000 more. Hachem folded and showed 5-3 for the straight, and Morgan showed pocket Aces for a set.

Seeing their way to the door throughout the day were numerous players, including Gavin Griffin, Allen Cunningham, Lee Watkinson, Andy Bloch, and Phil Laak. Little-known poker pro Jeff King was the chip leader from the day, accompanied in the top ten by Kenny Tran, Robert Mizrachi, 2007 champion Carlos Mortensen, Jordan Morgan, and David Benyamine.

Day 2: Monday, April 21st

A total of 421 players returned to play in the second full day of action. The field was an impressive lineup and mixture of poker pros and relative newcomers, though the pros definitely dominated the tables.

Names included in the list of bustouts for the day were Ted Forrest, Paul Wasicka, Allen Kessler, Layne Flack, Haralabos Voulgaris, Shannon Shorr, Erick Lindgren, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Ferguson, Erica Schoenberg, Howard Lederer, Jennifer Harman, Joe Hachem, Jerry Yang, David Pham, Michael Binger, Freddy Deeb, Michael Mizrachi, and Phil Hellmuth.

The end of the day saw pros like Carlos Mortensen, Cory Carroll, Tom Dwan, Andrew Robl, and Robert Mizrachi all sitting with strong stacks. Considering the long haul of the massive tournament and the days to come before even making the money, many players were biding their time and playing careful poker.

Day 3: Tuesday, April 22nd

The field had dwindled to 188 from 421 the day before, and with that drastic narrowing of the field, the third day would see the burst of the money bubble by the end of the third level of day’s play.

Tournament Director Jack McClelland made the news of the day by announcing to the players at the beginning of the day that he would rescind his famous “show one, show both” rule. Daniel Negreanu, who had been one of the most outspoken opponents to the rule, took the stage with McClelland for the announcement, which was actually preceded by a vote from the tournament players. When they overwhelmingly applauded the notion to overturn the rule, it was done.

Jordan Rich did the courtesy of being the bubble player, though it was only due to his pocket Aces running into the pocket eights of Amir Vahedi who flopped trips to win the hand. Upon that elimination of Rich, the money bubble burst and players left the field quickly.

Everyone eliminated from 100th place to 56th place was awarded the $39,570 prize money. Included in that group was Daniel Negreanu, Kristy Gazes, Mark Seif, Quinn Do, Joe Cassidy, Anna Wroblewski, Eugene Todd, Burt Boutin, Jared Hamby, Billy Baxter, Marcel Luske, Chad Brown, and Padraig Parkinson.

Ending the day with a massive 2.246 million in chips was Gus Hansen, having accumulated much of that stack in a 2.4 million pot with Tim Phan as play neared its end for the day. The only other players in the one million range were Cory Carroll and David Chiu. The rest of the 55 remaining players would have to aim for those three chip leaders the following day.

Day 4: Wednesday, April 23rd

The fourth day of action would see some of the biggest names in the field leave the tournament while others rose to the top, giving poker fans everywhere the hope of seeing a stellar final table. Play would continue for five levels or when there were only 18 players left, and it turned out that the day ended with only 17 remaining.

Eliminations took place as follows:

Players taking home $39,570 were Zvi Shiff, Brian Rast, and Mats Rahmn in 55th through 53rd place respectively.

Three players shared 50th place money as they all busted at the same time to receive $43,969: Tom Schneider, John Kincaid, and Eric Kesselman.

Those sent to the rail in 49th place through 41st place got $52,765, and they were – in order – Tim Phan, Joe Sebok, Matt Vengrin, JC Tran, Jayde Tran, Peter Neff, Jared Okun, Soheil Shamseddin, and Isabelle Mercier.

Players in 40th through 31st place took home $65,955: Keith Gipson, Martin de Knijff, Carlos Mortensen, Noah Schwartz, David Kim, Matt Giannetti, TJ Cloutier, John Hoang, Tom McCormick, and Steve Wong.

The next financial payout was $79,145 for players finishing in 30th through 21st place, and those prizes were awarded to Danny Wong, Abdo Lattouf, Vadim Trincher, John Celii, Men Nguyen, Gary Gibbs, Eric Richards, Steve Billirakis, David Grey, and Jon Kalmar.

To end the day, James Calderaro, Mark Newhouse, and Scott Epstein left in 20th through 18th places respectively for $105,525.

It should also be noted that with Danny Wong’s elimination in 30th place, Jonathan Little clinched the WPT’s sixth season Player of the Year award. He won the first event of the season at the Mirage Poker Showdown, then finished seventh at Biloxi and second at Niagara Falls.

Day 5: Thursday, April 24th

Seventeen players returned on Day 5 to play down to the final table that will be filmed for television. Chip leaders entering the day were Amir Vahedi with nearly 4 million in chips, followed by Gus Hansen, Tom Dwan, and David Tran in the two million range. Short stacks were Jeff Shulman, John Roveto, Andrew Black, and Nick Binger.

And the eliminations took place over the course of many hours and intense play. Money jumps were significant, and the final table was in sight. The bustouts went as follows:

17th: Jeff Shulman - $105,525
16th: Andy Black - $105,525
15th: Nick Binger - $131,910
14th: David Tran - $131,910
13th: Robert Mizrachi - $131,910
12th: Bryan Devonshire - $131,910
11th: Michael Gracz - $131,910
10th: Kenny Tran - $158,290
9th: Tom Dwan - $184,670
8th: Karga Holt - $211,050
7th: Amir Vahedi - $237,435

Gus Hansen dominated play for the majority of the day. Thus, he will enter the final table as the dominating chip leader. With six WPT final tables and three WPT titles under his belt already, his appearance at this WPT Championship event has the potential to set records.

The final six players will take the day off on Friday and return on Saturday, April 26th for the final table action under the lights and cameras of the World Poker Tour production set. All will be playing for the impressive first prize of $3,389,140, though even the second place finisher will receive over $1.7 million. Those six players, along with seating assignments and chip counts, will be as follows:

Seat 1: John Roveto 2,720,000
Seat 2: Gus Hansen 8,570,000
Seat 3: David Chiu 6,050,000
Seat 4: Tommy Le 1,950,000
Seat 5: Cory Carroll 6,670,000
Seat 6: Jeff King 1,305,000

(Special thanks is due to the WPT Live Updates team for daily tournament coverage details.)

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