LAPC Day 5 Recap
Both players are modern day legends, with impressive poker resumes that stream for pages. Between them, they have already earned over $17.85 million in live poker tournaments, won 16 WSOP bracelets, and reached 9 WPT final tables.
But both of their resumes have something missing -- with all that success, neither one of them has ever won a WPT event.
Phil Ivey started the day as chipleader, in the middle of a very unusual streak. He has finished in the money seven times on the World Poker Tour -- each time, he has made it all the way to the final table. Seven cashes, seven final tables. Could he make it eight-for-eight? (No player has ever reached eight WPT final tables.)
Phil Hellmuth started the day in third place, followed in fourth place by Nam Le, who already has a WPT victory under his belt (WPT Bay 101 in 2006). There was also a celebrity still in action -- actress Jennifer Tilly won the Season IV WPT Ladies Championship, and she was looking to become the first female in history to win an open WPT event.
The prize money is huge (nearly $1.6 million for first place), but seemed almost secondary in importance to these players chasing history.
PLAYING DOWN TO THE FINAL SIX
Jennifer Tilly struggled with a short stack most of the day, and eventually busted in 12th place. While she was disappointed at missing the final table, she broke her own record for highest finish by an Academy Award nominee. (She finished 15th at the 2006 WPT Borgata Poker Open, and fellow nominee James Woods finished 24th here at the L.A. Poker Classic two years ago.)
When the next player busted (Blair Hinkle, 11th place), the final ten combined to a single table, and the random draw put Hellmuth and Ivey side by side. Hellmuth dominated the first half of the day, and his stack of 3.8 million dwarfed the others. Ivey was in second place, and he had barely half as many chips (2 million). Nam Le was still alive with a below-average stack, patiently waiting for the right situations to make his moves.
Shortly after 9:00 pm PT, Theo Tran was eliminated in eighth place, and the final seven were one spot away from the televised final table. That's when we started to see some significant action between Hellmuth and Ivey.
Hellmuth raised under the gun, only to have Ivey reraise him. Hellmuth thought for about four minutes before folding, saying he had a mid-level pocket pair. He felt that Ivey had pocket jacks or ace-king, and was tempted to play the hand, hoping to flop a set.
The next hand, it was Ivey who raised under the gun, and everyone folded to Hellmuth in the big blind. Hellmuth stared at Ivey and said, "This time I'll at least call you." It would turn out to be a mistake. They built a huge pot, and when Ivey bet big on the river after checking the turn (the board was Q10210K), Hellmuth was flustered, asking, "What is this B.S.?" Hellmuth called to see Ivey's AA, and he couldn't beat it. Ivey pulled in a pot worth nearly 2 million, and moved into the chip lead -- slightly ahead of Hellmuth, who was fuming.
Hellmuth regained the chip lead over the next half hour, but then he made his second big mistake of the day. Hellmuth raised from the cutoff, and Ivey reraised from the button. Hellmuth stood his ground, moving all in with AK -- but Ivey had AA. The best hand held up, and Ivey double up to the biggest chip stack of the day -- more than 5.5 million. Hellmuth plummeted down to about 1.2 million.
Phil Hellmuth, who had the chip lead with seven players left, was now a short stack. If he were to bust, it'd be one of the biggest blowups in WPT history -- and that's to say nothing of the tantrum he was likely to throw.
Hellmuth steadied his temper and refocused his play, patiently waiting for the right situation. After nearly two hours of seven-handed play, Wei Kai Chang moved all in with a short stack, and Hellmuth found AQ in the small blind. He had found his situation, and he called. Chang hung his head as he showed his dominated KQ. Hellmuth's hand held up, busting Wei Kai Chang in seventh place and setting the stage for Thursday evening's televised final table.
THE FINAL SIX
Ivey continued his amazing streak of turning WPT money finishes into WPT final tables, and sets the record with his eighth final table. Ivey is in a strong position with the chip lead, but Hellmuth has a shot at the title himself in third place. Nam Le is the short stack, but he is one double up away from becoming a serious threat. Here are the official counts:
Seat 1 - Quinn Do - 1,450,000
Seat 2 - Nam Le - 1,180,000
Seat 3 - Phil Hellmuth - 2,380,000
Seat 4 - Phil Ivey - 4,100,000
Seat 5 - Charles "Woody" Moore - 1,510,000
Seat 6 - Scott "r_a_y" Montgomery - 2,680,000
First prize is $1,596,100, but there's much more on the line than that. Nam Le is looking to join the elite club of multiple WPT winners, and Hellmuth's claim to be the best in the world is hard to back up without a single WPT title (or a million-dollar victory of any kind). As for Ivey, in seven previous visits to the final table, he's come up short. At what point does a losing streak get labeled by the media as a curse?
The WPT final table is scheduled to start at 5:00 pm PT. Return to WorldPokerTour.com for live hand-by-hand coverage of every check, bet, call, raise, and fold. This is a must-watch poker tournament if there ever was one.