The format for the 2010 WPT Celebrity Invitational was a bit different than in years past, as the first two days of action were set to play out on the weekend of February 20 but the final table would not take place until March 3. But what remained the same was the plethora of poker and Hollywood stars playing in an exciting freeroll tournament at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, with charity at the fore of the event.
The World Poker Tour partnered with Chrysalis for the 2010 poker tournament. The non-profit organization that helps disadvantaged or homeless people in the L.A. area benefited first from a live auction for tickets to the WPT Invitational, and they then raised money from $200 single-option rebuys during the first two hours of the tournament. In tough economic times, the partnership with Chrysalis couldn’t have been more timely or necessary.
The festivities began on February 20 with a red carpet welcome and food/drink set-up for players at the Commerce Casino, and players eventually took their seats in the evening hours to play some poker. They were competing for a $200K prize pool, all reserved for final table players. There were 567 players in all, and some of the notable celebrities at the tables included Teri Hatcher, Jenny McCarthy, Hank Azaria, LeeAnn Rimes, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Oliver Hudson, Camryn Manheim, Donnie Wahlberg, Jennifer Tilly, Michael Vartan, Shannon Elizabeth, Danny and Chris Masterson, Tia Carrere, Matthew Lillard, Sara Rue, Laura Prepon, Eric Dane, and Rebecca Gayheart. The more recognizable poker pros included Erik Seidel, Chris Ferguson, Mike Matusow, Phil Laak, Mark Seif, Antonio Esfandiari, and JC Tran.
When the evening was finally done at about 1:30am, the totals were in for Chrysalis, and $109,700 had been raised for the organization. And players busted at a rate common to charity tournaments, leaving the field at only 161 at the end of the day. Final chip counts showed a player named Otis Hincks in the lead with 242,000, followed by Rich Eisen, Scott Vener, David Marshall, and Kirk Acevedo who rounded out the top five.
On Day 2, play continued and players were eliminated quickly, as no money was at stake except for the six final table players. That meant that play did slow in the later evening hours when the final table bubble approached. Ultimately, it was David Zayas who moved all-in for his last 50K from the big blind with . Sean Urban and Thor Hansen both called and checked the board as it came , at which point Hansen flipped over for the turned straight, and Zayas was eliminated in seventh place.
The final table was then set to return on March 3 with the following players and chip counts:
|Seat 1: ||Steve Elliott ||1,520,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Thor Hansen ||1,480,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Trishelle Cannatella ||1,540,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Sean Urban || 2,090,000 |
|Seat 5: ||Neev Baram ||1,900,000 |
|Seat 6: || Leron Washington ||1,790,000 |
Action began with blinds at 30K/60K and a 10K ante, and play started rather cautiously, as most players found themselves under the lights and cameras for the first time and were likely getting comfortable. By the first break, Urban had increased his lead, but Cannatella soared into a close second. Washington also increased his stacks, while Elliott and Hansen lost ground.
It was on the 29th hand of the final table that Elliott made his move. When Baram raised before him, Elliott called all-in from the small blind with . He was ahead of the held by Baram, but the board came and gave him the Broadway straight. Steve Elliott was the first to go from the table, taking $5,000 for sixth place.
A little more than 20 hands later, the other short stack made his move. Hansen pushed all-in from the small blind with , and Washington called with the dominated . But that hand improved on the flop, and though the on the turn changed nothing, the on the river gave Washington the set. Longtime pro poker player Thor Hansen was eliminated in fifth place with $10,000.
With Washington on somewhat of a roll, he proceeded to take a 1.8 million-chip pot from Baram, leaving the latter with only 1.7 million behind. On the very next hand, Baram moved all-in with , and Urban made the call from the big blind holding . The flop of gave Baram hope to double up, and the on the turn allowed that to hold. But it was the on the river that gave Urban top pair and the pot, leaving Neev Baram out in fourth place with $15,000.
It was soon after that Cannatella found herself losing momentum and chips. But she found her spot to move all-in for 1.75 million with against the of Washington, and the board gave Cannatella a king on the flop to score the double-up. She then moved into second place of the three remaining players while Washington maintained his solid lead. It was Urban on the short stack and in need of progress.
But it was Cannatella who would get involved in the next big pot, and again she clashed with Washington. The hand started with a raise from Cannatella on the button and a call from Washington in the big blind. The flop came , and Cannatella made the bet, prompting a check-call from Washington. When the turn brought the , Washington checked again, but this time Cannatella bet all-in with . Washington called with for the pair of sevens and the straight draw, but Cannatella’s overpair was good. That was until the hit on the river to give Washington the straight. Trishelle Cannatella was eliminated in third place, which was worth a payday of $20,000.
After a short break for the money presentation, the heads-up battle began with the following chip counts:
|Leron Washington ||9,235,000 |
|Sean Urban ||1,085,000 |
It took only three hands for Urban to make his move, and he did it with . Washington called with , and the board came to allow Urban’s hand to stick. Two hands later, Urban moved again, this time on a board of . Urban had for top pair, and Washington called with for that same pair with the lower kicker. The on the river gave Urban another double-up, though Washington maintained more than a two-to-one chip lead over Urban.
Urban continued to chip up and nearly evened the chip counts, but Washington stayed aggressive and kept his lead. But on the 100th hand of the final table, Urban took over the lead, though only by a few chips.
Ten hands later, the two players went to see a flop of . Washington bet out, and Urban check-raised. Washington called, and they watched the turn card come . They both checked to see the on the river, at which point Urban moved all-in. Washington considered his options, knowing that his tournament life would be on the line, and finally called with for the two pair. Urban showed that missed the draws, and Washington took the pot, leaving Urban with only 175,000 chips behind.
The very next hand, Urban pushed all-in before looking at his cards, and Washington called before looking down at . Urban showed a dominating , but the flop immediately hit Washington when it came . The on the turn gave Urban even more outs, but the on the river wasn’t one of them. That left Sean Urban with a second place finish and $50,000.
Leron Washington won the WPT Celebrity Invitational as a qualifier on the ClubWPT website. For the victory, he won $100,000, a watch, WPT bracelet, L.A. Poker Classic trophy, and an entry into the $25,000 WPT World Championship in April.