Chris Leong Wins WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open

Feb 5, 2016

Champion Chris Leong

By Ryan Lucchesi (@Luccrazy)
Photos by Joe Giron

There was a tale of two tables tonight on the final day of the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open. The play down from the final table of six (from a total field of 1,171) down to the heads-up final was one thing, but the final battle was another matter entirely. It’s rare that the heads-up final takes longer than the rest of the final table, but that was the case tonight.

Chris Leong started out with a deficit against Rafael Yaraliyev in the final, but he battled back to take the lead. The two players then traded punches as a raucous rail cheered them on with enthusiasm. Leong lasted longer in the end, and you could tell that his first WPT title (and $816,246 in prize money) meant a lot to him. Leong was one of the more emotional champions we’ve had on tour in a while, and it’s always nice to see genuine happiness after a big victory.

Seat 1. Matthew Wantman – 5,545,000 (55 bb)
Seat 2. Chris Leong – 4,230,000 (42 bb)
Seat 3. Yevgeniy Timoshenko – 6,555,000 (66 bb)
Seat 4. Rafael Yaraliyev – 9,945,000 (99 bb)
Seat 5. Joe McKeehen – 4,825,000 (48 bb)
Seat 6. Liam He – 4,910,000 (49 bb)

Action meandered along for 27 hands and past the first break before we had an all-in confrontation at the start of play. Matthew Wantman was all in with pocket queens against the A-K of chip leader Rafael Yaraliyev, and the board brought an ace to send Wantman home in sixth place ($166,803). Chris Leong and Yevgeniy Timoshenko then both took a turn doubling up.

The next elimination was claimed when Timoshenko moved all in with pocket fours, but he was behind the pocket queens held by Leong. The board changed nothing and Timoshenko was our fifth-place finisher ($206,160). The elimination of Timoshenko ensured we would have a new WPT champion here at Borgata, but it was not going to be reigning world champion Joe McKeehen. He was all in with K-Q against the suited A-10 of Yaraliyev, and the board was dealt A-K-J-9-7 to send McKeehen home in fourth place ($249,267).

Just one hand later Liam He was all in with pocket sevens and he was in a good spot to double up against the pocket fives of Leong. That was until the board fell 9-5-3-2-K and Liam was eliminated in third place, good for $297,995. That set the heads-up final in under 100 hands for the first time in a while on tour.

When cards got into the air on the 93rd hand of play Yaraliyev held the lead with 21,725,000 over the 14,275,000 held by his opponent Leong. On just the second hand of play between them, Leong stole the chip lead by winning the largest pot of the tournament – a 20.4 million monster.

Leong raised to 450,000 to open the action preflop, and Yaraliyev reraised to 1.2 million. Leong tanked before making it 3.7 million to play. Yaraliyev then tanked before calling. The flop was dealt Club ADiamond 8Spade 2 and Yaraliyev bet 3.7 million. Leong called and the turn fell Heart 4. Both players check and the river delivered the Club 9. Yaraliyev bet 2.8 million and Leong tanked before calling. Yaraliyev said nice call as Leong turned over Heart ASpade K. Yaraliyev mucked and he was down to 11,975,000 after the hand, while Leong was up to 24,025,000.

The heads-up match was just getting started at that point. It turned out to be longer than the entire playdown period that preceded it at the final table, lasting for over 100 hands. Yaraliyev would double up two times to fight back to the lead before Leong doubled up to charge to the front again.

On the final hand, Leong moved all in and Yaraliyev called all in for 10,100,000 with Heart QClub Q. Leong turned over Club ASpade 8, and Yaraliyev needed his hand to hold to stay alive. The board came Diamond ADiamond 6Spade 4Diamond JClub 5, and Leong won the pot — and the WPT title — with a pair of aces. Yaraliyev finished as the runner-up, earning $487,288.

Leong won the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open, earning $816,246, which includes his entry into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions. Leong also received a WPT Champions Trophy, a Borgata trophy, and his name will be enscribed on the one-and-only WPT Champions Cup, alongside every other WPT champion from all 14 seasons. Congratulations to Chris Leong!

Champion Chris Leong

Final Table Results:

1: Chris Leong – $816,246
2: Rafael Yaraliyev – $487,288
3: Liam He – $297,995
4: Joe McKeehen – $249,267
5: Yevgeniy Timoshenko – $206,160
6: Matthew Wantman – $166,803

That concludes our coverage from the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open. Thanks to the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa for hosting another great event. The next stop on the tour takes us to Canada for the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in Niagara Falls. The WPT live reporting team will be there to bring you the action just over two weeks from now.

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