From the outset, it seemed like a David-versus-Goliath battle. When the Season XVI WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic resumed in the PokerGO Studio on Wednesday, those facing off with Darren Elias faced an uphill climb. With a massive chip lead, highly touted skills, and an unprecedented fourth WPT title in sight, an Elias win just seemed inevitable.
In this case, Goliath won. His opponents fought gamely, especially runner-up Kitty Kuo who engaged in a spirited heads-up duel that lasted three hours, but in the end, Elias took down this event named for one of the most legendary figures in the game. With so much WPT success, it seemed fitting that Elias would vanquish the field in the first-ever WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic.
WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic Final Table Results
1st: Darren Elias – $387,580*
2nd: Kitty Kuo – $248,380
3rd: Joe McKeehen – $178,610
4th: Dietrich Fast – $130,895
5th: Sam Panzica – $97,795
6th: Jonathan Little – $74,520
*First place includes a $15,000 seat to the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions.
The event featured 162 entries and some of the biggest names in poker, including a stacked final table with four WPT Champions Cup members (Jonathan Little, Dietrich Fast, Sam Panzica, and Elias), a World Series of Poker Main Event champion (Joe McKeehen), two players seeking their third WPT title (Little and Panzica), one seeking his fourth WPT title (Elias), and more. And after a fourth-place score of almost $200,000 in January at the Aussie Millions, Kitty Kuo was looking for her breakout win on the WPT stage. Any way you would have sliced it, this final table was going to deliver, and it did.
To say it was a tough final table would be quite an understatement. Not to mention, WPT Raw Deal analyst and 14-time WSOP champion Phil Hellmuth finished seventh, just short of the official WPT final table of six that would be live streamed from the new PokerGO Studio at ARIA.
The key hand of the final table occured three handed in Level 23 with blinds at 10,000-20,000 with a 3,000 ante. Elias raised on the button to 45,000 and McKeehen three-bet from the big blind to 180,000. Elias tossed in a time-extension chip and then announced all in for a little over 2 million. McKeehen called for his last 1.465 million. Elias tabled the and McKeehen showed a dominating . The flop came down , vaulting Elias to the lead with a pair of deuces. The turn and completed the board, sending McKeehen out in third place for $178,610.
“We had been battling in that spot, button versus big blind,” Elias said of the hand. “I figured I had a good hand to put pressure on him. He made a good call. He was playing for the win, and I respect that. He just got unlucky.”
Had McKeehen won, he could have overtaken Art Papazyan as Hublot WPT Player of the Year, but with McKeehen’s elimination in third, Papazyan officially earned that distinction. For winning the Hublot WPT Player of the Year award for Season XVI, Papazyan won a Hublot Big Bang Unico World Poker Tour Limited Edition watch and complimentary accommodation for all Season XVII WPT Main Tour events he wishes to attend.
Elias began heads-up play with nearly a 3-1 lead, but it would take 103 hands for him to eliminate Kuo. Kuo doubled up three times and closed the gap to nearly even the stacks. In the end, though, Kuo wasn’t able to overcome Elias.
“I tried to bluff him, but it didn’t work because my chips weren’t enough to push him to fold a hand,” said Kuo. “If I have had a bigger chip stack, I’d have had a better chance.”
“She played tough the whole time,” Elias said about Kuo. “She was definitely tricky, a tough player to play against. She was short most of the time. With the strategy she was playing, if I didn’t get good cards it was going to take a while. We were both limping. She was limping a ton. I didn’t really want to press the action if I didn’t have to. The blinds kept going up and she just wouldn’t die. She played tough.”
Tough, but it wasn’t enough to stop history from being made. Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Chino Rheem, and Anthony Zinno are now in a tie for second place with three WPT titles each, and it is Elias alone on top of the moutain with the most titles in WPT history.
“It was cool to do something no one has ever done,” Elias said of his achievement. “I think I do well against the American pros and American recreational players who play in these more so than the European players. These WPTs are mostly in America with mostly American players, so I think that’s a lot of the reason for my success.”
Photography by Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive.com
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