The third installment of the PartyPoker Premier League was a much-anticipated event, which was no surprise, nor was the fact that some of the biggest names in professional poker traveled from various corners of the world to compete in London. The competition is always intense, and the show that ultimately airs on television is immensely popular.
Play began on Monday, November 24th, with two heats, the first of which featured newly crowned WSOP champion Peter Eastgate and defending Premier League champion Andy Black. Ulliott was the first to be eliminated, which earned him no points in the heat, and the two finalists left standing were Eastgate and J.C. Tran. The second heat featured a near-battle between rivals Phil Hellmuth and Tom Dwan, though it was only the latter that lasted until heads-up with Tony G. Nenad Medic was the first out of that heat, which netted him no points. The final points awarded, based on finishes, were:
10 points each - Tony G and J.C. Tran
6 points - Peter Eastgate and Tom Dwan
4 points - Annette Obrestad and Vicky Coren
3 points - Andy Black and Phil Hellmuth
2 points - Roland de Wolfe and Juha Helppi
Day 2 of the tournament would see the third and fourth heats play out and one player emerge as the clear leader in the tournament thus far. But two players who would not claim that distinction were Phil Hellmuth and Peter Eastgate, both eliminated first in their respective heats to gain no points. Tony G was not able to repeat the performance of his first heat and was out in fifth for only two points, but it was J.C. Tran who beat out Vicky Coren to take a second first-place finish, putting him ever so close to securing a spot at the final table. The point tallies after four total heats were:
20 points - J.C. Tran
12 points - Tony G and Juha Helppi
10 points - Annette Obrestad and Vicky Coren
8 points - Tom Dwan
7 points - Andy Black
6 points - Peter Eastgate and Roland de Wolfe
3 points - David Ulliott, Phil Hellmuth, and Nenad Medic
The third day of play consisted of two more heats, the first was taken over by Eastgate. Obrestad was the first to go, which garnered her no points, and Helppi was out in fifth to gain only two. The final two were, again, Tran and Eastgate, but the outcome was reversed as Eastgate emerged as the victor of Heat 5. The second heat saw Ulliott leave the table first, as was the case on his first day, but the result was the same - zero points. The two finalists in Heat 6 were Hellmuth and de Wolfe, the former coming out on top. Points accumulated by the end of the day were:
26 points - J.C. Tran
16 points - Peter Eastgate
14 points - Juha Helppi, Tony G, and Vicky Coren
13 points - Phil Hellmuth
12 points - Tom Dwan and Roland de Wolfe
10 points - Annette Obrestad and Andy Black
6 points - Nenad Medic
3 points - David Ulliott
Day 4 began with Tran having locked up his seat at the final table and the rest of the field struggling to follow that lead. Heat 7 saw Hellmuth eliminated first to earn no points, while Tran again found himself in the final two, this time against Dwan. Dwan was victorious, but Tran continued to show strength. Heat 8 kicked Black to the rail in sixth place with no points, and the heads-up match ended up with Helppi and the tenacious Eastgate. The latter took the win, and the cumulative scores at the end of the day were:
32 points - J.C. Tran
26 points - Peter Eastgate
22 points - Tom Dwan
20 points - Juha Helppi
18 points - Vicky Coren
16 points - Tony G and Roland de Wolfe
13 points - Phil Helllmuth
12 points - Annette Obrestad
10 points - Andy Black
9 points - Nenad Medic
6 points - David Ulliott
More qualifying heats took place on the fifth day of action, and Tran soared ahead of the crowd with a total of 45 points. Eastgate was the second qualifier with a total of 39 points, followed by Helppi with 34. Tony G and Dwan tied for the fourth spot at the table, but it was given to Dwan based on his heat performances. Tony G had to go heads-up with Coren for the seat, and he won two out of three matches to earn it. Obrestad and de Wolfe had to battle for the last remaining seat, and de Wolfe won two out of three to take it.
The final table was set with six players, and each would take 10K in chips into battle for each point for the title and $300K first prize. Those chip counts and seating assignments were as follows:
Seat 1: Tom Dwan (United States) - 260,000
Seat 2: Juha Helppi (Finland) - 340,000
Seat 3: Tony G (Australia) - 260,000
Seat 4: Roland de Wolfe (United Kingdom) - 230,000
Seat 5: J.C. Tran (United States) - 450,000
Seat 6: Peter Eastgate (Denmark) - 390,000
The final day, the final table, and J.C. in the lead was the story going into it, but everyone in tournament poker knows how quickly things can change. And change it did by the fifth hand of the action when Tony G doubled through Dwan, leaving the latter as the new short stack.
Eastgate, who entered in second chip position, tangled with the wrong player. With , he raised preflop, and Tran simply called to see the flop. Eastgate then moved all-in with top pair, but Tran called and showed pocket aces. The turn and river were and , respectively, and Peter Eastgate was eliminated in sixth place, which was worth $30,000 for the effort.
One who hadn’t been able to gain much momentum was de Wolfe, who finally pushed all-in with pocket kings, and he found himself up against Helppi’s . The flop had put Helppi in the lead with , and the next two cards - and - only solidified the result. Roland de Wolfe was gone in fifth place with a $40,000 prize.
Dwan was still severely short-stacked and took those chips into battle with . It was Tony G who chose to tangle with , and the board only helped him with . Dwan was relegated to the rail in fourth place, which garnered him a $50,000 payday.
Going into three-handed play, Tony G was the new chip leader at the table and loving it. Confidence goes a long way, and when Helppi pushed preflop with , Tony G called with . The board ran out with and an unknown river card. Helppi got no help and was pushed to the rail in third place with an $80,000 bonus.
Heads-up play began with the following chip counts:
Tony G 1,150,000
J.C. Tran 780,000
The chip leader held on and played strong for awhile, though Tran found an opportunity to gain a significant advantage at one point, which changed the direction of the heads-up action. Tony G made an initial raise with , and Tran called with to see the flop of . Betting occurred, then the turn brought a . Tony G led out with the betting again, but when Tran raised it up to 260K, Tony G folded and gave the chip lead over to Tran, who then sat with 1,140,000.
The final hand came when Tran and Tony G went to see a cheap flop together. It came , to which Tony G checked. Tran put out a bet, but Tony G came over the top with an all-in raise holding for the straight draw. Tran called with and top pair. The turn came a , which didn’t help the all-in player, and the on the river sealed the deal. Tony G was forced to accept the position of runner-up in the tournament, and he received $150,000 for it.
As Tony G wrote in his blog, summing up the experience from his point of view, “This is one tournament I want so badly to win and look forward to playing in and I managed to make the final table again, the second year in a row, and played my heart out to take second place to J.C. Tran. It just wasn’t meant to be this time, J.C. played too good and the cards weren’t there for me.”
J.C. Tran claimed the title of PartyPoker Premier League champion, another title to add to his list of accomplishments, and the $300,000 first place prize.