Mike "SirWatts" Watson Transitions From Online Pro to WPT Champion
Mike Watson, a 24-year-old online pro, overcame some big chip swings and a very tough final table (featuring four live pros and two online pros) to win the WPT Bellagio Cup IV, earning more than $1.6 million.
Side note: This final table will be the first to air as part of a new U.S. television deal between the World Poker Tour and the FoxSports network for Season VII. WPT CEO Steve Lipscomb announced the deal moments before the final table began. In other news, there has been no announcement of an official hostess to replace Layla Kayleigh, though WPT Live Updates hostess Amanda Leatherman stepped up to do some audience interviews with friends and family of the players during the action.
As for the action at the final table, here were the starting chip stacks:
Seat 1: Ralph Perry - 1,635,000
Seat 2: Luke "IWearGoggles" Staudenmaier - 3,495,000
Seat 3: John "The Razor" Phan - 3,495,000
Seat 4: David Benyamine - 4,860,000
Seat 5: Gabe Thaler - 1,550,000
Seat 6: Mike "SirWatts" Watson - 5,060,000
Thaler was the short stack and he moved all in with 1010 after a flop of 754. Unfortunately, he was a slight underdog to Watson's AJ (two overcards and the nut flush draw). Watson caught the 8 on the river to make his flush and Gabe Thaler was eliminated in sixth place.
John Phan is having a great summer, winning two WSOP bracelets last month and making a WPT final table, and if he finished third or higher, he'd take the top spot on Card Player's 2008 Player of the Year leaderboard. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. At the start of Hand #48, John Phan was second in chips. But he lost a five-million-chip pot against Luke Staudenmaier in Hand #49 (Staudenmaier made a full house), and then Ralph Perry sucked out with A9 against Phan's A10 to double up in Hand #50. Phan's final hand was more of the same -- his A9 was cracked by David Benyamine's A6. John Phan was eliminated in fifth place.
Ralph Perry was near the back of the pack all night, surviving but not thriving. He moved all in with KJ three hands after Phan busted, but ran into the AQ of Watson. Perry never improved, and an ace on the river clinched it for Watson. Ralph Perry was eliminated in fourth place.
It was now down to the veteran player of the Bellagio Big Game (David Benyamine) against the two young online pros (Mike Watson and Luke Staudenmaier). Short stack Benyamine doubled through chipleader Staudenmaier in Hand #69 when his AJ held up against A10, and they reversed positions on the leaderboard. Benyamine would hold the lead for the rest of three-handed play.
In Hand #117, Staudenmaier moved all in with A10, but ran into Watson's AQ. (If there was a theme to the evening, it was ace vs. ace in a battle of the kickers.) Their stacks were pretty close, and when Watson's hand held up, it crippled Staudenmaier.
Two hands later, Staudenmaier moved all in for 2.6 big blinds, and both Benyamine and Watson called. The flop came Q53, and Benyamine check-folded to a bet from Watson, and showed Q4. It was a little shock-and-awe; the audience was shocked that Benyamine folded top pair, and then awed when Watson flipped over Q8 -- Benyamine would have been outkicked. Staudenmaier showed K4, never improved, and Watson won the pot. Luke "IWearGoggles" Staudenmaier" was eliminated in third place.
Here were the chip stacks for heads-up play:
David Benyamine - 11,700,000
Mike "SirWatts" Watson - 8,420,000
Benyamine retained the lead until Hand #149, when he moved all in preflop (after some reraising) with QQ, and Watson called with AK. The board came Benyamine's way -- until the A hit the river. Watson won the race to double up to a 6.2-to-1 chip lead.
David Benyamine - 2,665,000
Mike "SirWatts" Watson - 17,440,000
The final hand was Hand #154. Watson moved all in from the button with Q9, but Benyamine was a big favorite to double back into contention with K9. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, a queen on the flop would end his potential comeback. David Benyamine was eliminated in second place, earning $840,295.
The WPT final table stage exploded as Watson's large group of friends cheered and congratulated him on his first major title (but not likely to be his last). Mike "SirWatts" Watson won the WPT Bellagio Cup IV, earning $1,673,770, a WPT bracelet, a Bellagio bracelet, and entry into the Season VII WPT World Championship next April.
Watson is off to a strong start in his WPT career; after entering just five WPT tournaments, he already has this victory and a 10th place finish in the 665-player field of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic back in February.
As a side note, John Phan's fifth-place finish is enough to give him the #2 spot in Card Player's 2008 Player of the Year rankings, while David Benyamine's second-place finish moves him right behind Phan as #3. (Benyamine also won a WSOP bracelet last month.) They both trail Erik Seidel, whose big victory this year was the WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic back in April.
The next World Poker Tour event will be at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, and Day 1a begins on Saturday, August 23rd. Return to WorldPokerTour.com, where we will be providing live updates, chip counts, photos, and video interviews with Amanda Leatherman. And, if you were following our coverage here at the WPT Bellagio Cup IV, you know we've also started including video footage of key hands and big moments from the days leading up to the final table. The response has been positive, and we hope to continue improving our coverage throughout the season.
Final Table Results:
1st: Mike "SirWatts" Watson - $1,673,770
2nd: David Benyamine - $840,295
3rd: Luke Staudenmaier - $452,465
4th: Ralph Perry - $290,900
5th: John "The Razor" Phan - $193,915
6th: Gabe Thaler - $129,275
See you August 23rd at the Bike!