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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Rajkumar Leads WPT Borgata Final Table

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Several weeks after the incredible John Phan victory at the WPT Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino, the World Poker Tour traveled to the opposite end of the country for one of its favorite stops - the Borgata in Atlantic City.

Though attendance was down quite significantly for the WPT main event at the Bicycle Casino last month, the tour hoped to pick it up again at the Borgata Poker Open. The 2007 field was 560 strong, which prompted the Borgata to guarantee a $5 million prize pool in 2008. However, when registration was complete, it consisted of 516 players, which was just short of making the guarantee. The Borgata put up the additional $50,000 to reach that number, making the prize pool an even $5 million with a first place payout set at $1,424,500. A total of 54 players would be paid.

With ample space for the tournament field, only one first day was necessary, and players began with 40,000 in starting chips, making it the quintessential deep-stack tournament with blinds starting at only 25-50. The field was the usual mix of tournament pros and amateurs, making for quite a bit of action and excitement.

The first day ended with only 302 players after eight levels of play, more than half the field remaining to play on Day 2. The chip leader was Onofrio Reina, but the familiar faces also in the top spots were Brandon Cantu, Steve Dannenmann, Thayer Rasmussen, Jonathan Little, Joe Sebok, and Tiffany Michelle. Other notables still alive and thriving were Ted Forrest, Kyle Burnside, and Robert Mizrachi.

Moving directly into Day 2, thanks to only one first day, the 302-player field quickly thinned to 180 during the first few hours of play. While many players hit the rail, pros like Michael Binger and Brandon Cantu built impressive chip stacks. Even sports figure Scott Upshall, right wing for the Philadelphia Flyers, was able to navigate the field and finish the day, though at the bottom of the leaderboard. At the other end of it, online pro Thayer Rasmussen soared above the rest with a little more than 900,000 in chips, and others on his heels were Adam Berger, Jonathan Little, Ted Forrest, and Mark Seif.

Day 3 was an intense one, with the returning 68 players playing down to the final three tables. The most stressful part of the day was reaching the money bubble, which was done within the first three hours of play. And when it happened, one of the first players to bust in the money - 52nd place - was Upshall, who vowed to donate 100% of his tournament earnings to two charities, Flyers Wives Fight for Lives and the Kids Forever Foundation.

Playing from 54 players to 27 players took another five hours, and when it was done, some familiar names peppered the list of survivors. At the top of the leaderboard was poker veteran Dan Heimiller, who was more than one million chips ahead of online-turned-live pro vivek Rajkumar. Thayer Rasmussen held up the third spot, and other notables remaining were Mark Seif, Michael Binger, Steve Dannenmann, Ted Forrest, Nam Le , and Chris Bell.

Day 4 was the deciding day, the one that would determine the six spots at the coveted World Poker Tour final table. It was expected to be full of surprises, and that it was.

Ted Forrest busted on the first hand of the day with Aces cracked by Thayer Rasmussen. Other short stacks to leave early were Nam Le and Chris Bell. And when the final 18 players were seated at two tables, the fireworks began.

Kevin Lang was the first to go from those two tables when Pat Carney eliminated Lang in 18th place. Bo Toft took the 17th place elimination spot, courtesy of tournament pro Michael Binger. Bobby Shasta was sent to the rail in 16th place by Vivek Rajkumar, and Steven Levy was ousted in the 15th spot by none other than Binger.

Mark Seif had looked solid but was at risk when two players doubled through him. Rasmussen doubled through with Q-8 of hearts against Seif’s A-3 of clubs when the board brought no less than four hearts. Then Stephen Vanauken doubled through with A-2 over the 10-2 hand of Seif. But having been in this situation numerous times before and being a tournament pro, Seif took his beats and quietly chipped up as the subsequent hours went by.

Patrick Carney was taken out of the tournament in 14th place by Sang Kim and received $47,500 for the deep run. Then Borgata local Nick Frangos was forced out in 13th place by Chris Arvanitis, also earning $47,500. And it was the aggressive young player Thayer Rasmussen who took 12th place and the $65,000 that accompanied it when Steve Dannenmann sent him away.

Dannenmann was on a serious run, as his elimination of Rasmussen, combined with doubling through Rajkumar twice in the course of only a few hands, put him back in contention. Nevertheless, as the action slowed, so did Dannenmann’s ability to stay alive, as he was finally relieved of his seat in 11th place, courtesy of Rajkumar who took those previous double-up chips back with A-J over Dannenmann’s A-7.

The final ten players were seated at one table, with Dan Heimiller still holding the lead. Michael Binger was the short stack with only 650K, but sixteen hands into play, he doubled through Heimiller with A-Q over the A-2 of Heimiller. Binger then doubled through Vanauken to finally close in on the million chip mark. He stayed alive, continually chipping up as he could, but it was Binger who was finally eliminated in 10th place by Rajkumar who had jacks against the pocket nines of Binger. The board blanked, and Binger was awarded $65,000 for his finish.

Vanauken was eliminated by John Myung in 9th place, which was worth $100,000. Arvanitis was ousted in 8th place for $137,500 at the hands of the ever-aggressive Rajkumar. And John Myung had the unfortunate distinction of being the 7th place finisher, courtesy of Rajkumar - who else? - and the WPT final table bubble player. Myung received $187,500 for his efforts.

And the final table was established. Six players would return on Day 5 to take their seats under the lights and cameras of the World Poker Tour production set to play for more than $1.4 million. The players and their chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Vivek Rajkumar  6,480,000
Seat 2:  Dan Heimiller  3,360,000
Seat 3:  Andrew Knee  1,475,000
Seat 4:  Mark Seif  4,665,000
Seat 5:  Jason Strochak  1,650,000
Seat 6:  Sang Kim  3,085,000

Rajkumar’s chip lead would give him the distinct advantage at the final table, but Mark Seif was a solid second and was the only player with WPT final table experience, this being his third visit to the television set as a final table player. But Dan Heimiller has been hungry for a major tournament title for years, and the experience and slow and steady pace might win the race.

It was anyone’s game, and the final table was scheduled for Thursday, September 17th at the Borgata.
 (Thanks to WPT Live Updates for specific hand and chip count information.)

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