With an audience full of friends, young pro Vivek Rajkumar plowed through the WPT Borgata Poker Open final table in a record number of hands. When Eugene Katchalov won the Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic in December of 2007 in only 53 hands, the World Poker Tour was unsure if anyone would beat that record, especially with the deep stacks and player-friendly blind structure at the Borgata event, but Rajkumar completed the tournament in only 48 hands and ran over the table to claim his first WPT title.
Out of the 513 players who registered for and played in the WPT Borgata Poker Open, only six survived the four-day playdown to arrive at the final table. Under the bright lights and television cameras, and in front of an audience of friends, family, and fans, the finalists were ready to play for the World Poker Tour title and $1,424,500 first prize.
Day 4 of the tournament was one filled with tension and surprises, as players like Steve Dannenmann, Thayer Rasmussen, and Michael Binger went deep but just missed the opportunity to fight on for the WPT title. But the six who did make the final table were an interesting mix of pros and relative amateurs, newcomers and seasoned pros.
The chip leader was Vivek Rajkumar, a very popular, young online pro who turned to the tournament circuit within the last two years. Mark Seif was in the second spot and was the only player to have been at a WPT final table in the past; in fact, this was to be his third time under the WPT lights. And Dan Heimiller is a longtime pro who was glad to finally make a WPT final table after years of attempts. The entire six-pack was 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
Play began at Level 30 with blinds at 60,000/120,000 with a 10,000 ante. And Mark Seif came out swinging, grabbing the first three pots at the final table. But the other experienced player at the table took a chunk out of Seif on the fourth hand. Dan Heimiller took a pot worth 3.6 million chips holding the nut flush, while Seif was forced to muck his hand and accept the setback.
The action then took on a somewhat furious pace. Jason Strochak tangled with Andrew Knee, the table’s short stack who moved all-in from under the gun. Strochak called with pocket tens, and Knee had . The board came , and the tens held up. Knee was gone in six hands in sixth place, taking $237,500 with him.
Strochak had a rougher time after the elimination of his first opponent. Seif got involved with Strochak, the former with eights and the latter with queens. With an eight on the flop, Seif doubled through Strochak to stay alive. Then it was Strochak who attempted a double-up through Heimiller. Strochak had J-8 and it held up against the 10-9 of Heimiller. Strochak then moved all-in again for 910,000, and was called by Rajkumar and Heimiller. With a on the board, Heimiller bet out, prompting Rajkumar to fold A-10 face up. Heimiller turned over pocket jacks, and Strochak showed . The turn card came an and the river a , and Strochak tripled to 2.99 million in chips.
Rajkumar wanted a little vengeance for feeling forced out of the last hand, and he then took pocket tens into battle with Seif’s aces. A ten came on the flop, and Rajkumar doubled up to more than 12 million.
Seif was able to gain some ground and double through Strochak a few hands later, but then he tried it again with against the of Rajkumar. The board bricked with , and Seif was eliminated in fifth place with $287,500.
It was then Sang Kim’s turn to double up, which he did through Strochak with pocket kings over the queens of Strochak. The victim of that double-up then went all-in with and was called by Rajkumar with . The board only helped the chip leader when it came . Strochak was out in fourth place with a $337,500 consolation prize.
Heimiller had been able to double up previously through Rajkumar with kings against the A-8 of diamonds of Rajkumar, but Heimiller subsequently lost some of those chips and sat with only 1.5 million by the 41st hand of the night. He pushed those into the pot with from the button, and Rajkumar called immediately from the big blind with . The board was brutal for Heimiller when it came down . Rajkumar showed what kind of momentum he had with quads, and Dan Heimiller was relegated to the rail in third place, earning $387,500 for his accomplishment.
Heads-up play began with the following chip counts:
Vivek Rajkumar 16,805,000
Sang Kim 3,910,000
And the action was quick. On the very first hand of heads-up - the 48th hand of the final table - Rajkumar was the first to act and raised, and Kim reraised to 1.05 million. Rakjumar reraised to 2.5 million, Kim pushed all-in with , and Rakjumar called with . And as luck would have it, Rakjumar picked up his necessary card as the first one to hit the felt when the board came . Sang Kim finished the in second place with a $750,000 reward for his efforts.
Vivek Rajkumar won the WPT Borgata Open, and along with it a WPT bracelet, an entry to the 2009 WPT World Championship in April at Bellagio, and the $1,424,500 first prize.
(Thanks to WPT Live Updates for specific hand and chip count information.)