It has become a tradition. Just as the World Series of Poker winds down at the Rio in Las Vegas and most poker players become anxious to enter a rest and relaxation period after a long summer of poker, the Bellagio Cup launches at the Bellagio only a few blocks away. And hosting a main event with the World Poker Tour name will draw the players, no matter their levels of exhaustion or frustration with poker. Thus, the Bellagio Cup remained a hit in its fifth year.
Play began on Monday, July 13, as the first event of the eighth season of the WPT got underway. The first of two starting days brought only 79 players to the tables, but the field was thick with well-known pros. Day 1A ended with 60 players and Alec Torelli as the chip leader holding a 308,675-chip stack, and he was followed by recent WPT champion Cornel Andrew Cimpan, who claimed 256,375 in chips.
Day 1B more than doubled the field, finding 188 players in their seats and sending the final number of registrants for the tournament to 268. That created a prize pool of $3,899,400, which would be dispersed to the final 27 players in the event, giving $1,187,670 to the ultimate winner. From the second starting day of players, there were about 161 survivors, and Vijayan Nagarajan was the chip leader of the day with 256,775. Matt Graham followed up with 195,150 for the second spot on the leaderboard.
The remaining players combined to compete on Day 2, which resulted in Alec Torelli coming through strong to end with 590,200 and the chip lead. Day 3 found a new leader in Faraz Jaka, who ended the day in dominating position with approximately 3 million chips. The next closest player was Anthony Spinella, who had 1,250,000 when the day was done. Only 31 were left after the carnage at the tables, and they returned for a short Day 4 that found the bubble bursting via Erik Seidel ousted Tommy Hang in 28th place. That left the last 27 players to cash but only 10 to survive the day with Faraz Jaka still in the chip lead.
Day 5 was the day that the ten players would be reduced to the television table six. It started with Alec Torelli eliminating Pavel Reshetov on the very first hand of the day, sending him out in tenth place with $46,485. Faraz Jaka then went on to take out two players in the same hand - Sam Stein took $61,980 for ninth place, and Ray Taylor grabbed $87,160 for eighth.
With one more to go, it was on the 28th hand of the afternoon that Mimi Tran finally pushed her 382K into the middle with pocket jacks, and Jaka called with . The flop hit Jaka with , and the on the turn made it even better. The on the river eliminated Tran in seventh place, for which she received $125,900.
The final table was then set with chip counts and seating assignments as follows:
Seat 1: Faraz Jaka 5,041,000
Seat 2: Erik Seidel 2,170,000
Seat 3: Christoffer Sonesson 1,671,000
Seat 4: Alexandre Gomes 1,586,000
Seat 5: Justin Smith 2,992,000
Seat 6: Alec Torelli 2,623,000
No one could have predicted the slow pace of the final table, especially as compared to the other five days of the tournament. The action began with Jaka taking a substantial pot from Justin Smith, but it wasn’t until quite a few hands later that Seidel was able to make some headway by taking a 1.5 million-chip pot from Jaka. The two tangled again, though, and Jaka came out on top via a 3.4 million pot.
At the 94th hand of the night, with all six players still standing, it was noted by the live tournament reporters that the lack of eliminations so deep into the final table set a WPT record. In eight seasons, it had never taken so long to find the first elimination.
Finally, on hand 108, Erik Seidel and Justin Smith tangled. The two went to see a flop, at which point, Smith bet out 225K. Seidel check-raised all-in with for the flush draw, but Smith called with pocket nines and the overpair. The turn brought the and the river the , which ended Seidel’s tournament in sixth place with $164,640.
Action seemed to speed up at that point, with Alex Gomes taking charge and doubling through Jaka to take the chip lead for the first time at the final table.
Christoffer Sonesson then decided it was time to move his relative short stack of 1,145,000 with pocket fours, and he found a caller in Gomes, who held . The board came , and the river card gave Gomes the pot with the pair of queens. Sonesson was ousted in fifth place with a $203,385 prize.
Play slowed again, and Jaka did his best to reclaim the chip lead, doubling through Gomes and then taking a 2 million-chip pot from him on the very next hand to secure that lead. The next hand brought more action, as Gomes looked to become more aggressive. Gomes raised preflop, but Alec Torelli came in with a reraise from the small blind, prompting Gomes to push all-in. Torelli called all-in for his tournament life with , and Gomes turned over pocket tens. The race was on as the board came , and the pocket pair held up. Torelli was eliminated in fourth place with $271,165.
Justin Smith looked to double out of his short-stack position and did so only a few hands after Torelli left the table. Smith doubled through Gomes once when his A-3 beat the pocket threes of Gomes, then again in the very next hand when Smith’s K-J caught a straight to defeat the pocket eights of Gomes. Suddenly Smith was in the lead, but it lasted only a few rounds before Gomes got his revenge and doubled through Smith with A-K over the A-Q of Smith.
Smith was somewhat desperately short and pushed all-in from the big blind a few hands later for 1,450,000 chips. Jaka called with pocket kings, and Smith showed . The dealer gave them , and Smith couldn’t catch his ace. The loss relegated him to a third place finish, which was worth $464,870.
Heads-up action began with the following chip counts:
Faraz Jaka 7,710,000
Alex Gomes 8,375,000
Gomes came out fighting, chipping away at his opponent, but Jaka ended up taking down a very sizable 7.5 million-chip pot to capture the lead, and a substantial one at that. But Gomes never gave up and continued to win relatively small pots. In less than 20 hands, Gomes had taken the lead and had nearly double the chips of Jaka.
The 243rd hand of the night finished it. Gomes raised, and Jaka pushed all-in with . Gomes called without hesitation holding and dominated. The board came , and that eliminated Faraz Jaka in second place, for which he was awarded $774,780.
Brazilian Alex Gomes won the WPT Bellagio Cup V, the first event of the World Poker Tour’s eighth season, and took home $1,187,670 for the win, along with a WPT bracelet, a Bellagio bracelet, and a $25,500 entry into the April 2010 WPT World Championship at Bellagio.
(Thanks to WPT Live Updates for specific hand and chip count information.)