In a scene reminiscent of last year, the two amateur players who started the final table with the two shortest stacks outlasted a group of seasoned pros and found themselves battling for the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star title heads up. When all was said and done, it was Kai Chang who prevailed in the end, etching his name onto the WPT Champions Cup and taking home more than $1.1 million in first-place prize money, including a $25,500 entry to the WPT World Championship at Bellagio in May.
The day started with WPT LA Poker Classic runner-up Paul Volpe chasing history after making his second WPT final table in just two weeks time. If that feat wasn’t impressive enough, Volpe came into each final table as the chip leader, a sight never before seen on the WPT. Trailing close behind Volpe was Erik Seidel, the last official Shooting Star in the field, who was seeking his second career WPT title. Chris Johnson and Joe Kuether rounded out the final six.
With all six players starting the day with deep stacks, it took nearly 3-1/2 hours for the day’s first elimination to take place. The unfortunate victim was Kuether who moved all in with pocket Jacks and found himself in trouble when Nguyen re-shoved over him before tabling his own pocket Aces. A board of Ah-Qs-7c-Qc-3d gave Nguyen Aces full and sent Kuether to the rail in sixth spot with a payday worth more than $162,000.
Chris Johnson was sent to the rail in fifth position on the very next hand when he moved all in on a flop of 10d-8s-5h and was quickly called by Chang. Johnson showed Kh-10h for top pair while Chang tabled pocket 10s for a flopped set. When Johnson couldn’t improve, he went to the rail $208,000 richer, while Chang added valuable chips to his stack. Four handed, Erik Seidel found himself as the short stack. He managed a double up and then shoved his chips a second time, drawing a call from Paul Volpe.
Seidel, who held Js-10h, flopped trips on a board of Jh-Jd-7d, but Volpe wasn’t out of the picture as he flopped a flush draw with his Ad-4d. The Kd on the turn completed the flush and the 8h on the river failed to pair the board, sending Seidel home in fourth spot with nearly $300,00 for his efforts. Seidel’s elimination gave Volpe much needed chips and earned him enough points to take the lead in the WPT Player of Year race over Matt Salsberg.
After a protracted three-handed battle, Volpe was finally sent to the rail when he moved all in from the small blind with Qh-10h. Chang called from the big blind with Ac-9c and found himself heading to heads-up play with a sizable chip lead after Volpe’s hand failed to improve. Chang began heads-up play holding a near two-to-one chip lead over Nguyen and took just six hands to lay claim to all of the chips in play.
In the night’s final hand, both players saw a flop of 10h-7d-5s after Chang called Nguyen’s 250,000 pre-flop raise. A 325,00 bet and call on the flop brought the 9d on the turn and another 530,000 bet from Nguyen. After a check-raise from Chang, Nguyen shoved all in for more than 7 million and was quickly called by Chang who turned over 8s-6d for a 10-high straight. Nguyen showed 10d-2d for top pair and flush draw, but failed to improve when the river brought the 6c.
Nguyen took home more than 666,000 for second place, while Chang pocketed more than 1.1 million for first, along with an entry to the WPT World Championship in May. Full payouts are below:
- Kai Chang – $1,138,350, including a $25,500 entry to the WPT World Championship
- Joe Nguyen – $666,740
- Paul Volpe – $435,610
- Erik Seidel – $295,590
- Chris Johnson – $208,910
- Joe Kuether – $162,240