It is one of the most anticipated live tournaments of the poker year. The WPT World Championship ends the season of the World Poker Tour - this one being Season 7 - and is one of the final events that leads up to the World Series of Poker. And with a massive $25,000 buy-in, solid structure, and 100K in starting chips, players traverse the globe to participate in the event.
The 2009 WPT World Championship started on April 18, and though it would find itself with far fewer players than in years past, the first prize would still boast of over $2.1 million out of the nearly $8.2 million prize pool. While it has been clear throughout Season 7 of the World Poker Tour that more tournament options and a global financial crisis has weighed heavily on the event turnouts, the WPT finale would prove to be as exciting a one as ever.
With the starting days divided into two, Day 1A only brought 126 players to the tables at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. And though the structure and chips allowed for a great deal of play, it was reported that one player was already gone within the first hour after losing most of his chips to Andy Bloch’s straight flush and then pushing K-J suited against the pocket tens of Hafiz Khan to secure a quick elimination. But very few left during the day’s five levels, as 105 remained standing when play concluded. Vadim Trincher sat atop the leaderboard, fresh off his recent WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic victory. His 309,725 chip stack was trailed by Johnny Chan, who held down second place with 291,675. Burt Boutin, Shaun Deeb, and Brian Powell rounded out the top five.
There were an additional 211 players for Day 1B of the event, pushing the total to 337, the smallest WPT Championship field since Season 1. The total field made for a $8,172,250 prize pool, and only the top 50 players would find themselves cashing out. When the day was done, only 15 players were missing from the second starting day’s action, including Allen Cunningham and Clonie Gowen. And the leaderboard saw Daniel Fuhs as the day’s leader with 254,200, though when combined with Day 1A leaders, he ranked fifth. But for Day 1B’s top five, behind Fuhs was Rhynie Campbell, Steve Billirakis, Justin Young, and Bruno Fitoussi.
Day 2 found 301 players coming together to thin the field, and players like Barry Greenstein, Erik Seidel, and David Pham were casualties of that effort. When play wrapped for the evening, there were only 162 survivors, and Jean Noel Thorel sat at the top of the player list with 743,500 chips. Bertrand Grospellier was sitting in second with 678,300, and coming in close behind were Steve Billirakis, Dan Heimiller, and Justin Young.
Day 3 of the marathon, albeit one with relatively short days, took 162 players and brought that number down to only 62, still several places outside the money. With exactly 100 players eliminated throughout the day, notables Annie Duke, Alex Outhred, Joe Sebok, and Johnny Chan were among them, as was the previous day chipleader Thorel. Of the 62 survivors, Steve Billirakis was the chip leader with 1,722,000 chips, and he was trailed by Matt Hyman, Mark Seif, Nenad Medic, and David Singer.
Day 4 was the all-important one in which the money bubble would burst and the 50 finalists would be guaranteed a profit from the tournament. Early pre-bubble casualties included Jimmy Fricke, Sam Farha, Kathy Liebert, Mike Matusow, and Dutch Boyd. And as the bubble approached, one hand made it unnecessary, as Ron Levi was eliminated on one table in 52nd place and John Martin was ousted in 51st place at another table. Hand-for-hand was skipped, and the rest of the players were in the money.
Cody Slaubaugh was the first to cash in 50th place for $32,685, and notables who followed in the money were Freddy Bonyadi in 47th, David Benyamine in 45th, David Singer in 41st, tennis pro Boris Becker in 40th, Mark Seif in 38th, Liv Boeree in 37th, Steve Sung in 35th, Phil Ivey in 34th, Chris Ferguson in 28th, and Nenad Medic in 27th. Finally, with the elimination of Hyon Kim in 25th place, action stopped for the day with Eugene Katchalov in the lead holding 4,294,000 chips. The rest of the top five, in order, were Christian Harder, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Justin Young, and Brian Rast.
Day 5 found players a bit more cautious as the money jumps were more prominent and the final table was in sight. Nick Binger started the day as the first elimination, taking home $49,025 for his 24th place finish. David Grey followed in 23rd place, and other notable eliminations throughout the day included Jeff Madsen in 18th, Freddy Deeb in 12th, and Jennifer Harman in 11th place. Action then stopped with ten players remaining and Scotty Nguyen holding the top position on the leaderboard with 5,880,000 chips. Yevgeniy Timoshenko was in second, followed by Christian Harder, Justin Young, and Shannon Shorr. The rest of the field included Brian Rast, Eugene Katchalov, Bertrand Grospellier, Ran Azor, and Bruno Fitoussi.
On Day 6, it took several hours to find four players to be eliminated. Early action found some double-ups, though the 56th hand of the day brought the first bust-out as Fitoussi took tenth place and $98,050, courtesy of Timoshenko. Azor then eliminated Katchalov in ninth place, which was worth $130,735, and Rast took out Young in eighth place, good for $163,420.
Just over 100 hands into the day’s action, it came down to a hand between Timoshenko and Rast, which found the latter all-in preflop with . Timoshenko showed pocket kings, and the board came down to eliminate Brian Rast in seventh place with $204,275.
The final table for April 25 was set as follows:
Seat 1: Bertrand Grospellier 5,955,000
Seat 2: Scotty Nguyen 3,275,000
Seat 3: Shannon Shorr 1,330,000
Seat 4: Yevgeniy Timoshenko 13,300,000
Seat 5: Christian Harder 7,425,000
Seat 6: Ran Azor 2,525,000
Action for the WPT World Championship began in the midst of Level 26, with 60K/120K blinds and a 15K ante.
Shannon Shorr came out swinging with his short stack, moving all-in four times in the first eight hands and pulling himself out of last place in the chip counts. Shorr then took the opportunity to double through Scotty Nguyen with pocket tens versus the pocket sixes of Nguyen.
Nguyen was then forced to put his last 390K at risk. When he did, Shorr and Christian Harder called and checked it all the way through the board of . Harder put out a 600K bet holding A-9, Shorr folded, and Nguyen showed A-4. Scotty Nguyen was thus eliminated in sixth place with $285,985.
As three of the remaining five players struggled to reach or exceed the 5 million mark in chips, and Harder was solidly in second place while Yevgeniy Timoshenko soared above the 10 million mark. But when Timoshenko and Harder tangled for a 4 million chip pot, Timoshenko took it and found himself with 15,810,000 chips and about half of the total chips in play after the 25th hand of the evening.
Finally, Shorr was the short-stacked player with just over 2.5 million and pushed it all-in from the small blind with , but Timoshenko looked down at pocket fours and called. The board came , and Shannon Shorr was eliminated in fifth place with $408,550 for the effort.
With that, an accomplishment was noted for Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, as he was guaranteed a fourth place finish or better. With that being his third cash and second final table finish of Season 7 of the World Poker Tour, Grospellier secured his place as the WPT Player of the Year.
It was nearly 20 hands later that one hand would change the face of this final table. Harder was down to 1.9 million chips and pushed all-in preflop. Ran Azor called from the small blind, but Grospellier reraised all-in from the big blind for his remaining 2,790,000. Azor called both players with . Grospellier showed , and Harder turned over , both of which dominated Azor. But the flop came to give Azor the lead in the hand, and the on the turn helped no one but Azor. When the dealer gave them the on the river, Azor took the 7.5 million chip pot and eliminated Christian Harder in fourth place with $571,965 and Grospellier in third place with $776,245.
Suddenly, the final two players were heads-up with the following counts:
Yevgeniy Timoshenko 23,375,000
Ran Azor 10,435,000
The first ten hands of heads-up found Timoshenko as the aggressor, which led to a sizable pot of 8.74 million that went to Timoshenko. Azor was down to little more than 7 million, and play continued to see Azor continue to lose ground. More than 50 hands between the two finally led to Azor deciding to risk his tournament life with pocket kings, a solid decision when Timoshenko showed pocket deuces. The board brought a pair of fives to add to the kings and allow Azor to double through. At that point, however, Azor still only possessed 5,950,000 chips to the 27,875,000 of Timoshenko.
Azor lost ground again, down to just over 4 million. It was time.
The hand began with Azor opening for 800K, but Timoshenko pushed all-in. Azor called immediately with , and Timoshenko showed . The flop came to give Azor top pair and the lead, but the on the turn gave more outs to Timoshenko. The river brought the , which made the straight for Timoshenko and relegated Ran Azor to a second place finish, which was worth an impressive $1,446,265 for the Israeli businessman and casual poker player.
Yevgeniy Timoshenko won the Season 7 WPT World Championship, becoming the second youngest player to ever win a WPT at 21-years old, 2 months, and 15 days, but the youngest ever to win the WPT World Championship. For the victory, Timoshenko was awarded a WPT bracelet, Bellagio bracelet, and phenomenal first place prize of $2,149,960.
(Thanks to WPT Live Updates for specific hand and chip count information.)