Five Diamond World Poker Classic
|Dates||Dec 15 - 18, 2003|
|Final Table Date||Dec 18, 2003|
|Buy-In||$10,000 + $200|
|Number of Entrants||314|
Everywhere you turn on the WPT these days, there's a former backgammon champion. The 2003 Bellagio Five-Diamond World Poker Classic carries on that tradition, with a remarkable four of the final six players having made a living at one time or another at the high-stakes version of that popular dice game. After swimming their way through the turbulent waters of a 3.1 million dollar prize pool, and a record draw of 314 players, these are the final six who grappled for the jumbo-jet size winner's payout of nearly $1.2 million:
In seat 1, Australian veteran Tino Lechich with a starting chip count of $811,000; in seat 2, two-time WPT winner, the formidable Gus Hansen with the chip lead of $1,484,000; in seat 3, legendary professional gambler and two-time WPT final table player Dewey Tomko with $757,000; in seat 4, WPT Season 2 Legends of Poker champion, Aussie journeyman, Mel Judah with $655,000; in seat 5, relative unknown, first-time tourney entrant and native New Yorker, Abraham Mosseri with $1,350,000; and WPT regular, tech-bubble multi-millionaire Paul "Dot Com" Phillips, with $1,220,000.
First to go: Mel Judah called with Jh-Th after Abe Mosseri raised $100,000 on his Kc-6c. When the flop came Kd-Jc-7d, Judah went all-in, not seeing Mosseri's haymaker on the way. Mosseri called him down to make it a nearly million dollar pot, and when the board went 7c, Qs, Judah was out in 6th place with a purse of $101,000.
Immediately after the first Aussie went to the rail, it was the other Aussie's turn to try his luck, this time against Gus Hansen. Lechich, with Ks-Qs, raised $120,000, and when Hansen, with As-Ts, made it $320,000 to go, Lechich faced a tough call. Make it, he did, though. The flop came big with A-K-J, but Hansen kept the heat on, wagering another $300,000 on his top pair and straight draw. Lechich, practically pot-committed, pushed all-in, only to see the turn and river come blank-blank, busting him out in a disappointing 5th place, but with a nice paycheck of $130,000.
Now the chip leader with over a million, Gus made a quick run to pick off young Mosseri. Mosseri proved he belonged at the table, forcing a fold by going all-in on A-3, after a flop of As-Ts-9s was tentatively checked by Gus, with a J-4 offsuit. Later, Gus took an offsuit A-6 in with a $90,000 bump, and stack-dwindling Mosseri called him, holding offsuit 8-7. The flop came Ah-8s-3s, and Mosseri picked the wrong moment to test Hansen. When the turn and river came 5, 2, Mosseri went to the rail with a highly respectable 4th place finish, and a tidy $175,000.
Now down to three terrific poker players, Hansen and Paul took the gloves off, engaging in a series of bare-knuckle brawls. The first round was taken by Hansen when he hit the nut flush with four running spades, the next by Paul, who began to employ his professed "secret method" for dealing with the aggressive, unpredictable Hansen. It seemed pretty clear that his method entailed large, quick re-raises, and it seemed to unnerve the normally unflappable Hansen, even though he had a large chip lead with 3.1 million, to Paul's 2.1 million and Dewey's 1.1.
In perhaps the critical hand, Hansen called with Q-9, and Phillips limped in with J-2 offsuit. After Hansen checked a rainbow J-6-4 flop, Phillips deftly raised his top pair the minimum $100,000, which was like catnip to Hansen, who re-raised $200,000, only to watch as Phillips went right back over the top of him! Hansen meekly mucked. On the very next hand, Hansen caught wired T's and raised $280,000. Phillips, with A-Q offsuit, went all-in, a massive 2.5 million dollar raise! Hansen was now talking to himself, repeating "How can I make this call?" three times before figuring out how, and stating simply, "I call." The flop came J-9-9, making Hansen a strong favorite to devastate Phillips, and when the turn came 4, Hansen's odds increased further. But Phillips' miracle Q floated up on the river, and Hansen was sent packing in 3rd place, with a nice payoff of $276,000, and a Schwarzeneggerian promise: "I'll be back." See you soon, Hansen!
Now head up between the circumspect, wily Tomko, and the dominating chip leader, Phillips, the action intensified. Dewey went all-in for a remarkable 7 hands in a row, taking each one of them without a single showdown. But as Mike Sexton succinctly put it for the home audience, "There's a saying in poker that going all-in works every time but once..." On the eighth straight attempt, Tomko put it all on the line with K-8, a decent hand for heads up play. But Phillips looked down to find his favorite starting hand, 7-7, a hand that had won him a key pot against T.J. Cloutier in the Legends of Poker last year.
"Poker affords you many opportunities to make one mistake that will end your tournament," Phillips said before the final. This wasn't one of them. He never hesitated to make the call, and after making his set with an 8-7-4 flop, followed by a couple of blanks, Paul Phillips had finally claimed his first WPT title, and with it the coveted $25,000 seat at the WPT Championship. Oh, not to mention becoming an instant millionaire with a $1,100,000 payday. Dewey Tomko graciously accepted his parting gift of $552,000 for his second place finish. Dewey had quipped on the eve of the final, "Its not that you have to be lucky at a poker tournament, you have to not be unlucky." Enough said. Hard to think of over a half a million clams as being unlucky though, isn't it...?
This tournament is included in the World Poker Tour Season Two DVD Collection. Special features include commentary by Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu and Erik Lindgren.