WPT World Championship
|Dates||Apr 18 - 24, 2005|
|Final Table Date||Apr 24, 2005|
|Buy-In||$25,000 + $500|
|Number of Entrants||647|
It's WPT Championship time. This season, a record 452 players converged on the beautiful Bellagio in Las Vegas, each laying out $25,000 per seat.
The field boasted all of the WPT Season 3 champions, joining in the hunt for the massive $2,800,000+ winner's share of the $11,300,000 prize pool – the 2nd largest prize pool in the history of tournament poker.
A fitting capstone to a season that created 13 instant millionaires, with a grand total of over $70,000,000 paid out. For five grueling days of intense concentration, tough calls, bold bluffs, classic races, bad beats, and everything in between, this giant field fought it out on the green felt, until 6 battle-toughened players were left. As the First Lady of Poker, Linda Johnson, called out "shuffle up and deal" for the last time this season, here were the six players who responded to the call:
In Seat 1, Paul Maxfield, the sole amateur, an entrepreneur from Stoke-on-Trent, UK, with $2,885,000 in chips. In Seat 2, Hasan Habib, a top pro in his 2nd consecutive Championship final table, the prohibitive chip leader, with $7,795,000. In Seat 3, Phil Ivey, a WPT fixture, in his 6th final table, and 2nd Championship final table, with $3,355,000. In Seat 3, Tuan Le, the 26 year old winner at Foxwoods, the only Season 3 champion to make the final table, with $2,680,000. In Seat 5, John "the Razor" Phan, the current Card Player Player-of-the-Year points leader, a top journeyman pro from Long Beach, CA, on the short stack with $1,405,000. In Seat 6, Rob Hollink, skilled international pro from the Northern Netherlands, with $4,430,000. Blinds and antes started at $10,000, $50,000 and $100,000.
Right out of the gate, Hasan Habib appeared intent on establishing that he was the table boss, and successfully used his massive chip advantage to bully his competitors. Then, with blinds and antes going up to $15,000, $60,000, and $120,000, the first major blow was struck. Phil Ivey, with Ac-Js, came over the top of short stack Hollink's $400,000 opener, pushing all-in. Habib, with Kh-Qd, had also called Hollink's raise, but he got out of the way when Hollink quickly called Ivey's bet. Ivey had earlier lost with A-Q suited to the Razor, and he didn't look happy at all when Hollink flipped over Qh-Qc. His mood never lifted as the board ran out Kc-8s-7d, 9d, 4s, and Hollink tripled up, crippling Ivey in the process. The very next hand, Ivey found the exact same cards, Ac-Js, and came over the top of Habib's $400,000 opener, all-in for his remaining $935,000. Habib called smooth, and Ivey couldn't believe his eyes as Habib turned up Qd-Qc, the exact same cards and situation in consecutive hands. The flop came 6s-4s-3d, giving Ivey distant flush and straight draws, but a turn and river of 7d, Kd ended his hopes of a first WPT title, sending him to the rail with a 6th place finish, and a $264,195. This unfortunate turn of events also gives Phil the not-so-dubious distinction of being the first 6-time WPT finalist without a victory. Rest assured, though, he will return.
With Ivey out of contention, the new short stack, Hollink, continued to stub his toe, as he had all final, picking the wrong time to make moves. After Phan brought it in for $400,000 to go, Hollink, with Ks-Jc, tried to buy the pot, going all-in for $1,635,000. Phan quickly called though, and Hollink was up against a dominating hand, Jc-Jh. The flop offered him a glimmer of hope, coming Qh-9h-5d, picking up an inside straight draw, but help never came as the turn and river went 3c, Ah. Hollink became the 5th place finisher, and the congenial Dutchman flew with a nifty $377,420 payday.
Next, John Phan was crippled when Maxfield, with A-K offsuit, overcame Phan's Ks-Qd, even after Phan paired when the flop came Qc-Tc-6d. After the turn paired the board with Td, Maxfield hit a miracle J on the river to make a straight and double up, while Phan fell into the weeds. Very next hand, Phan – perhaps steaming a bit – chose the wrong time to push his short stack of $1,135,000 all-in, with 8s-3c, and once again found a ready caller in Maxfield, who flipped up Ac-5h. When the flop came Ad-Qd-5c, netting Maxfield top and bottom pair, Phan was nearly gone, and a 6s on the turn sealed his fate. An obligatory river card, Jc, made it official, and John "the Dragon" Phan coasted back to Long Beach with a 4th place finish, and a phat $518,920 to show for it.
Tuan Le, normally aggressive and loose, exhibited real poker maturity all day by showing the ability to let go of some quality holdings when necessary, even when heavily invested in the pot. In a critical hand that would have major repercussions, Maxfield limped with Ac-8c, and flopped top two pair when it came Ad-8d-3h. But as he did all day, he failed to take control of the hand. After betting $500,000 on the flop, he shut down after Le called and the turn came 3d, pairing the board and bringing the third flush card. Hollink checked, and Le checked after him. A Ts on the river brought another weak check from Hollink, and emboldened Le to take a shot, which he did, bringing it in for most of his chips, $1,000,000-plus. Maxfield folded the winner, and little did he know, as the TV audience did, that Le, with 6h-5s, had nothing. Nothing but the heart of a killer, that is.
Down to three, with blinds and antes moving up all the way to $40,000, $200,000, and $400,000, all three of the players put on a display of fine poker skills and instincts. Le, now the short stack, kept the heat on by pushing in his whole stack time after time, and Habib, suddenly conservative and worried about doubling up his buddy, let him run over him a few times. Then, in perhaps the pivotal hand of the tourney, both Habib and Le limped with garbage, Habib 6c-3c, and Le 7s-6d, and a dangerous flop of T-6-3 fell. Habib, trapping with his middle and bottom pairs, checked, and Le fell in, raising $600,000 on his middle pair. Habib massaged it, raising to $1,800,000, and Le came right back over the top for $3,800,000, leaving him essentially pot committed. Habib fumbled, meaning to say "all-in," but actually first saying "I call." This afforded Le a look at the turn, and when it came 2s, he declined to risk his few remaining chips when Habib pushed all-in.
With antes and blinds up to a vision-blurring $40,000, $200,000, and $400,000, Habib looked primed to run away with it. Instead, he first ran into "Miracle" Maxfield, who sucked out a river K on a 6-outer to double up. Then Habib, with wired 7's, ran aground on Le's As-8s, doubling him up when the spade flush came in, at the same time surrendering the chip lead to his good friend. Shell-shocked, perhaps thinking about getting so close in last year's Championship without winning, Habib limped with Qc-8c, and when Le came over the top for another million, Habib impulsively pushed all-in for $5,810,000. Never one to shy from a big bet, Le called, and showed Kd-Jc. All Habib could do was watch and wonder what might have been, as the board ran out 9h-7d-2c, 2d, 3d, knocking him out in 3rd place, with a mammoth $896,375.
Now down to the final two players of the season, blinds and antes again escalated to a an oxygen-depleting $50,000, $250,000, and $500,000. Le was practically licking his chops to find himself heads up with the amateur, but as he did all week, the Briton proved treacherously difficult to do away with. Proving that he was willing to gamble with the super-aggressive Le, Miracle Maxfield reached deep into his magic bag, and once more, sucked out a 7-out river K to stay alive, and pulled even. After giving up the chip lead, Le found himself on the brink of destruction, but he also proved to have some luck on his side, hitting a 4-outer on the river to stay alive, and retake the chip lead.
With blinds and antes now up to $100,000, $600,000, and $800,000, putting 1.6 million in play on every hand, Maxfield found himself getting chiseled down fast by Le's confident, pressing play. So, having had great luck with kings all night, on finding Ks-5d, he decided to make a stand, pushing all in for his final $9,700,000. Le, this time with a better king of his own, Kd-Jd, called, and was elated to see his dominating position. But he couldn't breathe easy, even after a flop and turn of Jh-Th-3s, Qh, which threatened a split pot with an A or 9. But it was his day, as a 7h fell on the river, winning Tuan Le a well-deserved second Season 3 title, making him, with his 1st place payout of $2,856,150, the richest player in the history of the WPT, while also establishing him as the WPT Champion of Champions. Don't feel too bad for the happy-go-lucky amateur Paul Maxfield. His 2nd place finish netted him the respect and admiration of the poker world, as well as making him the 24th, and latest, instant millionaire in WPT history, with a suitcase-busting $1,698,390 of his own.
And that's the last word from Season 3 on the WPT. Don't know about you, but I'm already looking forward to next season.
This tournament is included in the World Poker Tour Best of Season Three DVD Collection. Special features include deleted hands – never-before-seen exclusive hands that didn't air on TV!