It began on Saturday, December 13th at the Bellagio with the first day of the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, the $15,000 buy-in poker tournament that has become one of the player favorites of the year. A total of 497 players shelled out the hefty buy-in, creating a prize pool of $7,231,350.
Play at the Bellagio in Las Vegas was meted out over the course of nearly a week, and the final table ensued on Friday, December 19th. The final table had been set on the previous day as follows:
Seat 1: Chino Rheem - 4,240,000
Seat 2: Amnon Filippi - 2,750,000
Seat 3: Hoyt Corkins - 2,295,000
Seat 4: Steve Sung - 5,885,000
Seat 5: Justin Young - 2,410,000
Seat 6: Evan McNiff - 4,805,000
Steve Sung was making an appearance at his third WPT final table. After a previous fourth and second place finish, he was looking strong to achieve his first victory as the chip leader going into the last day of action.
But it was Evan McNiff who started off the tournament as the aggressor, winning the ninth hand of the night against Amnon Filippi, which turned out to be the first one to go to showdown. A few hands later, he took a substantial pot from Chino Rheem to grab the chip lead with over 6.5 million.
At the same time that Hoyt Corkins was losing chips, having taken a hit from Rheem, opponent Justin Young was gaining them. Young doubled through Rheem to sit with 4.95 million. Then it was time for Corkins and Young to tangle on the 21st hand of the night. Corkins had only 1.54 million left and pushed all-in preflop with the sole exception of two chips on his hole cards. Young called, and when the flop showed , Young bet enough to put Corkins officially all-in. Corkins called and showed for middle pair, but Young turned over for top pair. The turn was a , and the irrelevant river was a to give Young the win. Hoyt Corkins was eliminated in sixth place, which was worth a respectable $216,175.
Young was the new chip leader, but he wouldn’t hold that distinction for long, as McNiff took a pot worth nearly 4 million from Steve Sung to grab that chip lead back. But keeping with the roller coaster of a WPT final table, McNiff took a hit when Rheem doubled through him to stay alive in the five-handed match McNiff took more hits when Young took a significant pot from him, and again when Filippi doubled through him about ten hands later.
On the 59th hand of the evening, action occurred that would change the dynamic of the table in a major way. Filippi began by moving all-in preflop for 975K, which prompted a call from Sung, but Young came over the top all-in. Sung called all-in for 3,595,000, and two players were suddenly at risk.
Young showed , Sung turned over , and Filippi flipped . Everyone anxiously watched as the dealer turned over , and the pocket aces held up. Amnon Filippi was eliminated in fifth place for a $288,235 prize, and Sung was out in fourth with $396,206.
Young came out of the hand with a massive chip lead of nearly 12 million chips, while McNiff held steady with just under 6 million and Rheem had a bit more than 4.5 million. But not long after the three players began duking it out, Rheem doubled through McNiff when his A-9 found a nine on the turn to beat the A-J of McNiff.
With only 505,000 left in his very short stack, McNiff folded the next hand, and then got a walk in the big blind to stay alive. But he finally pushed his 555,000 all-in from the button with and found a caller in Rheem with . The board came , and Rheem won the hand with the better kicker. Evan McNiff was gone in third place, which was worth $540,440 in prize money.
When the table started, it seemed as if it might be a long night for the six players, but some aggressive play and willingness to take risks was all it took for the tables to turn. Within only about three and a half hours of play behind them, the final two players were ready to begin heads-up action. Chip counts for the two finalists were as follows:
Justin Young 14,200,000
Chino Rheem 8,185,000
Rheem took the first pot, but Young took the second, and on it went with no pot exceeding one million chips for eight hands. On the ninth hand of heads-up, Young took a pot worth just over 2 million chips, but Rheem was standing strong with a bit more than 7 million. With blinds at 50K/100K and a 10K ante, there was more play left for the duo.
The determination was evident in Rheem, who began mounting a comeback by winning a 1.5 million pot. A few hands later, he would turn the tables on the match completely. The hand began with a raise from Young to 300K and a call from Rheem to see the hit the flop. Young bet 425K, but Rheem check-raised to 1,525,000. Young called, and the two watched the come on the turn. Both checked to the river, which was the . Rheem put out 2 million, and Young called with a six in his hand for trips, but Rheem showed the for the flush. With that 7.67 million chip pot, Rheem took over the chip lead by about 1.4 million chips.
Play continued for another twenty hands or more when Young took a major pot to reclaim the chip lead by a few chips. Rheem got it back five hands later with a 4.8 million chip pot, which at that point gave him the biggest lead of the tournament thus far with a 2:1 stack to Young. But Young followed up with a 10,350,000 pot to take the biggest pot thus far holding 4-3 on a board of A-8-5-6-2. Rheem merely mucked, and Young climbed back ever closer to his starting lead.
But Rheem was far from giving up. With the winning of a 2.2 million pot, he grabbed the lead back and kept it as the two surpassed the 100th hand of heads-up play. Thirteen hands after that point of distinction, Rheem took down a monstrous pot of more than 9 million with an ace-high flush draw and a monster bet after the flop that prompted Young to fold his hand. That gave Rheem an approximate 4:1 chip lead.
Ten hands later, Young made an attempt to double up by calling the all-in of Rheem preflop. Young had to the pocket threes of Rheem. The board showed , and the flopped pair for Young was good enough to get him back up to 7.5 million. And shortly thereafter, his luck stayed with him, and he doubled again, this time with versus the of Rheem. Young hit his ten on the flop of a board, and he doubled back into the lead with 13,360,000 chips to the 9,030,000 of Rheem.
It wasn’t long before Rheem took control again. With an audience full of friends and supporters rooting him on despite the five-hour length of the heads-up match, he was more determined than tired. He doubled through Young by pushing all-in after the flop with , and he caught the flush when the came on the turn to beat the two pair () of Young. That 18 million chip pot gave the confidence and massive lead back to Rheem.
Finally, at nearly 2:00am after a grueling heads-up battle, Young made his all-in move after the came on the flop. Rheem called with , and Young showed . The short stack didn’t have many outs, and the on the turn and were nothing he could use. The kings held up, and Justin Young was ultimately eliminated in second place and awarded the $936,760 prize that went with it.
It was David “Chino” Rheem who took the World Poker Tour title. After finishing in seventh place at the 2009 World Series of Poker final table, the WPT victory redeemed himself in his own eyes. The championship title will undoubtedly be treasured by Rheem, as will the $1,538,730 first prize.
(Thanks to WPT Live Updates for specific hand and chip count information.)