The World Poker Tour ends each season with style at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Its WPT World Championship boasts of a massive $25,000 buy-in and brings some of the absolute best players in the world to its tables for one of the most watched tournaments of the year. Not only is it the epitome of the WPT season, but it brings to a conclusion the WPT Player of the Year race and crowns its newest member of that elite club.
Season 8 of the World Poker Tour found a smaller cluster of casinos in participation, though new ones like the Hollywood, Indiana stop were included. Many of the stops during the 2009-2010 season also saw decreased numbers from the prior year, as some players opted for lower buy-in tournaments at various locations around the world. But the prestige of the WPT Championship remains the same, and the poker community focused its attention on Las Vegas for some exciting poker action.
The 2009 finale brought 338 players to the tables and watched young poker pro Yevgeniy Timoshenko take down the championship title and $2.15 million prize at the age of 21. The 2010 numbers were to be determined over the first two days of play, as registration remained open, as is the new Bellagio policy, through the first eight levels, which allows players to buy in through the middle of the second day. Each player with the ability to pony up the $25,000 entry fee sat down with 100,000 in starting chips.
Day 1 saw a slow start with only 117 players registered at the beginning of the afternoon, but the field grew to 160 by the end of the day, though along the way a number of players were eliminated. Soheil Shamseddin took out Antonio Esfandiari early in the day, and Brian Lemke busted Vivek Rajkumar and another player to soar into an early lead. Others who hit the rail included Annette Obrestad and Kevin Saul. All in all, only 138 players ended the day, and it was Shawn Buchanan who led the pack with 388,600 chips. Lemke brought up second place with 298,825, and the rest of the top five consisted of David Benyamine, Timoshenko, and Shamseddin.
Day 2 brought another 35 players to the tables, making for a total field of 195, a whopping 143 less than the prior year. Whether due to tough financial times, players stuck in San Remo for the European Poker Tour, or a simple desire not to put up $25K for a single tournament, the resulting statement was clear that the WPT Championship lost a bit of its allure and quite a few of its players. The prize pool for the 2010 event was set at $4,728,750, with enough to pay only the top 18 players but award $1,530,537 to the ultimate winner.
As the second day of play progressed, some well-known players were sent to the rail, including Gavin Smith, Isaac Haxton, Alex Gomes, Chris Ferguson, John Duthie, Martin de Knijff, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, and Tom Dwan. Play ceased after five levels were completed, and there were 98 players bagging their chips. The one with the most was Faraz Jaka, who claimed chip leader position with 597,100 chips, and he was followed by Shawn Buchanan and his 596,600-chip stack. The others in the top five were Justin Bonomo, Joshua Gould, and Brandon Cantu.
Day 3 got underway with 98 players, and that number quickly dwindled. During the first level alone, some of the notables eliminated from the field were John Hennigan, Beth Shak, Joe Cassidy, James Mackey, Howard Lederer, and Lee Markholt. As the day progressed, more hit the rail, such as Jimmy Tran, John Juanda, Freddy Deeb, Brock Parker, Soheil Shamseddin, Tommy Vedes, Eric Froehlich, Erik Cajelais, Hasan Habib, Ralph Perry, Hoyt Corkins, Dwyte Pilgrim, Brandon Cantu, and Justin Bonomo. The end of the night showed 35 players remaining and Shawn Buchanan with the most chips by far, bagging up 1,841,500 of them. Second on the leaderboard was Heather Sue Mercer with 1,364,500, and the rest of the top five included Robert Cooper, Matt Stout, and Billy Baxter.
Day 4 thinned the field from its starting number of 35 down to the money bubble. Throughout the day, some intense match-ups eliminated key players from the tournament. For example, David Williams eliminated David Ulliott, Eric Baldwin took out Carlos Mortensen, Matt Stout busted Brian Lemke, Faraz Jaka sent home Heather Sue Mercer, and David Benyamine ousted Todd Terry. And 2009 WPT World Championship winner Yevgeniy Timoshenko was eliminated by Josh Arieh to prevent a repeat. And finally, with 19 players in action and hand-for-hand implemented, it was Maroun Jazzar who pushed his last 177K all-in from the big blind. Original raiser Benyamine called with , and Jazzar showed a dominating . But the flop hit Benyamine when it came with two pair. The rest of the board blanked, and Jazzar was gone in 19th place on the money bubble. The rest of the players were guaranteed a minimum payout of $47,033 when they returned the following day. And leading the pack of 18 players was Faraz Jaka with 3,117,000 chips, followed by David Benyamine with 2,350,000, and the rest of the top five were David Williams, Billy Baxter, and Nikolay Evdakov.
Day 5 started with those 18 players as Level 20 was coming to a close, and it didn’t take long to thin the field. Tony Cousineau was eliminated in 18th place by Nikolay Evdakov, Matt Stout was ousted by David Williams in 17th place, and Josh Arieh was done in 16th place and Robert Cooper in 15th place, both at the hands of Faraz Jaka. But then a sharp turn of events allowed Williams and his K-Q to make a straight, cracking the pocket aces of Jaka and eliminating him in 14th place. J.J. Liu was sent home in 13th place ($51,736) by David Benyamine, Jason Lester was ousted in 12th place ($56,439) by Scotty Nguyen, and Olivier Busquet was eliminated in 11th place by Cliff Josephy. Play ended then with John O’Shea in the chip lead with 3,174,000 chips and Scotty Nguyen in second with 2,637,000. Just behind in the top five were David Benyamine, David Williams, and Billy Baxter in that order.
The plan for Day 6 was to play down to the final table of six, and though that seemed like an easy task, it was not. It did only take 11 hands to find the first elimination, as Cliff Josephy was sent home by David Williams, taking with him $56,439 for tenth place. A bit later, Phil Hellmuth doubled through Nikolay Evdakov, and the latter was crippled and out, courtesy of Hellmuth on the next hand, with $75,252 for ninth place. It then took about 100 hands and more than five hours to find another elimination, and it happened when Scotty Nguyen, who made the final table in this event last year, was ousted by David Benyamine, and the eighth place finish was worth $105,823. Finally, after a frustrating evening for Phil Hellmuth, he pushed all-in on the 197th hand of the night with . David Williams made the call with , and the board came to force Hellmuth out in seventh place with $152,856.
After quite the long night, the final table was set, and the six players and their chip counts were as follows:
|Seat 1: ||John O’Shea ||1,200,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Billy Baxter ||2,440,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Eric Baldwin ||4,490,000 |
|Seat 4: ||David Williams ||4,700,000 |
|Seat 5: ||David Benyamine ||4,705,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Shawn Buchanan ||1,965,000 |
In the late afternoon hours of Saturday, April 24, action got underway with Level 27, blinds at 50K/100K and a 10K ante.
It only took 14 hands for short-stacked O’Shea to make a move, and he pushed his last 1,130,000 all-in from the small blind with . Billy Baxter called with a dominating . The board brought nothing of significance when it came , and Baxter took the pot. John O’Shea left the table in sixth place with $199,888.
By the 39th hand of the evening, after Williams won a 4.4 million-chip pot against Baxter, it was Williams in the chip lead. And Baxter was struggling. Several hands later, Baxter pushed for 1,370,000 with , and Williams called from the big blind with . The flop came to give Baxter two pair, but Williams flopped the Broadway straight. The on the turn and on the river ended Baxter’s run, and he was forced out in fifth place with $246,921.
Williams was the massive chip leader at that point, and he continued to rise, eventually pushing past the 11 million chip mark. And the next few rounds found some double-ups. Buchanan doubled through Baldwin, and the latter doubled through Williams twice. Benyamine doubled through Buchanan.
Though Benyamine had a fair amount of chips, he decided to move again. Benyamine took the opportunity of the small blind to move in for 3,205,000. Buchanan looked down at from the big blind and made the call, and Benyamine showed . Buchanan barely had Benyamine called, but it was enough, especially when the board came . Buchanan’s two pair won it, and David Benyamine was eliminated in fourth place with $329,228.
Williams lost the chip lead temporarily but caught up and took it back not long after Buchanan claimed it for a short time. But Buchanan was fighting and took a 2.2 million-chip pot from Baldwin to stay in direct competition with Williams.
But on the 114th hand, Buchanan and Williams tangled. Williams led out with a raise, Buchanan reraised, and Williams responded with an all-in move. Buchanan called for his tournament life with , and Williams showed . But the flop came , and Williams caught the set. The on the turn changed nothing, nor did the on the river. Shawn Buchanan exited the tournament in third place with $587,906.
With the elimination of Buchanan, the WPT Season 8 Player of the Year race was finally decided. Faraz Jaka took the honors for his significant finishes during the season and narrowly beating Buchanan for the title.
Heads-up play then began with the following chip counts:
|David Williams ||15,105,000 |
Baldwin fought but Williams fought back, and the chip counts remained virtually the same throughout the match.
It took less than 25 hands to decide the tournament. Baldwin knew he had to make a strong move, and he did it by pushing all-in for 4,765,000 chips with . Williams took a few moments to think but called with . The flop came to give Baldwin top pair, but the turn brought the to give Williams the set. The on the river changed nothing, and Eric Baldwin earned $1,034,715 for the second place finish.
David Williams won the WPT World Championship, which came with a WPT bracelet, Bellagio watch, one of the most prestigious titles in poker, and $1,530,537 in cash.