Destiny Shines on the Duck
By Tom Bostic
Never underestimate the wisdom of a fortune cookie.
The night before the final table of the WPT Borgata Poker Open, Vivek Rajkumar cracked open a fortune cookie during an interview on PokerRoad Radio. It read, "You may lose the small ones, but win the big ones."
Less than 18 hours later, that's exactly what he did.
Vivek "Psyduck" Rajkumar won the quickest final table in World Poker Tour history in just 48 hands, catching a lucky card early to take a big lead and steamroll his opponents en route to a WPT title.
Action started shortly after 4:00 pm, and these were the opening chip counts:
Seat 1: Vivek Rajkumar – 6,480,000
Seat 2: Dan Heimiller – 3,360,000
Seat 3: Andrew Knee – 1,475,000
Seat 4: Mark Seif – 4,665,000
Seat 5: Jason Strochak – 1,650,000
Seat 6: Sang Kim – 3,085,000
The first player was eliminated in Hand #6. Short stacked coming in, Andrew Knee was eliminated in sixth place when his all-in push ran into the pocket tens of Jason Strochak. Four hands later, Stochak’s pocket pair wouldn't work out quite as well.
In Hand #10, Mark Seif raised from the cutoff to 350,000, and Strochak reraised from the button to 1.55 million. Seif moved all in and Strochak quickly called with QQ. Seif showed 88 and needed to improve to stay alive. The board came A84510, and Seif flopped a set to crack Strochak's queens and cripple him. The eight saved Seif from elimination, but his stay of execution wouldn't last long.
Strochak doubled up a few hands later, and then tripled up in Hand #17 in a three-way pot when his A4 spiked an ace on the turn to crack Heimiller's pocket jacks. (Vivek Rajkumar called Strochak's preflop all in, but folded to a flop bet by Heimiller.) That hand brought Strochak back to life and moved him into third in the chip counts. But like Seif, his resurrection wouldn't last long.
The next hand (Hand #18), Mark Seif would be the won with a big pocket pair, taking his AA up against Rajkumar's 1010. It was a battle of the chipleaders in the biggest pot of the tournament. The big pair got cracked once again as Rajkumar flopped a set, and Seif got to feel both sides of the bottom pair sucking out in the span of nine hands. Seif was crippled while Rajkumar catapulted to a massive chip lead with more than 60% of the chips in play.
Mark Seif was eliminated in fifth place a few hands later, taking home $287,500 and yet another WPT Final Table horror story. (Mark Seif had pocket aces cracked at his first WPT Final Table all the way back in Season I.)
A Rajkumar victory seemed nearly certain at that point, but he didn't sit back and wait for things to happen. He repeatedly open-pushed to pressure his opponents, who seemed to be jockeying for second place.
Sang Kim doubled through Jason Strochak in Hand #29 when his KK was not cracked by Strochak's QQ -- the first time of the night a big pair held up. Crippled to barely more than the big blind, Jason Strochak was eliminated in fourth place on the next hand.
In Hand #41, Heimiller took a stand and moved all in first to act with Q3. Rajkumar called with A5, and Heimiller never improved. Not only that, but Rajkumar flopped a pair of fives, turned trips, and rivered quads. Talk about overkill. Dan Heimiller was eliminated in third place.
Vivek Rajkumar now had a 4.3-to-1 chip lead over Sang Kim as heads-up play began. Kim was clearly the tightest player at the table to that point, playing only one hand to a showdown to this point. But the strategy served him well, as he was guaranteed more money for second place ($750,000) than third and fourth place combined. Rajkumar kept up the pressure, winning four out of the first five pots to increase his lead.
Two hands later, it would all be over. In Hand #48, they quickly reraised each other until they were both all in -- Rajkumar with AJ, but Kim with the slightly better AQ. Kim's hand should be a big favorite in that spot, but remember, Rajkumar had a fortune cookie on his side.
The board came J107A8, and Vivek Rajkumar won the pot -- and the tournament -- with two pair. Sang Kim was eliminated in second place, earning $750,000.
Vivek "Psyduck" Rajkumar won the WPT Borgata Poker Open, earning $1,424,500, a WPT bracelet, and his entry into the Season VII WPT World Championship at Bellagio in April. The final table ended in just 48 hands, five hands faster than the previous record set at Bellagio last December. Rajkumar was almost solely responsible for the pace, eliminating seven out of his final nine opponents in an incredible show of aggression and skilled decision making.
Of course, it doesn't hurt if you can crack aces to stay alive along the way. That's the power of a fortune cookie.
Vivek Rajkumar becomes the third WPT Millionaire of Season VII, joining Mike "SirWatts" Watson (WPT Bellagio Cup IV) and John "The Razor" Phan (WPT Legends of Poker). Niagara Falls is the next stop for the World Poker Tour for the North American Poker Championship. Day 1 of that tournament starts October 16th, and as always, you'll be able to follow all of the action here at WorldPokerTour.com.