The WPT Gardens Poker Championship – the third of three World Poker Tour final tables that will play out this weekend at HyperX Arena at Luxor Las Vegas – has been set. And the biggest name on the marquee once play resumes on Saturday is none other than WPT Ambassador Brad Owen.
Owen, the vlogger and Meet-Up Game innovator (alongside fellow WPT Ambassador Andrew Neeme) will appear at his first major tournament final table in the WPT Gardens Poker Championship. He’ll start the night in third in chips, well within striking distance of the top spot, as he and the rest of the field chases another first-timer on the big stage, chip leader Ryan Salunga.
This remaining field of six has a lot in common. All six players have roots in California – five living there now, with Owen having been born there. Five of the six players are in their 30s (with 52-year-old Josh Lachman the outlier), and two of the players – Salunga and Ky Nguyen – even share the exact same birthday of April 28, 1986.
They’ll all be making the short trip from Hawaiian Gardens, California to Las Vegas, where the final table will pick up at 4 p.m. The blinds will be 50,000/75,000 with a 75,000 big blind ante, and all six players will be chasing the top prize – $357,380, a seat in the 2023 WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas and a permanent spot on the WPT Mike Sexton Champions Cup.
Ahead of that final table, here’s a little bit more about each of these final six players.
Seat 1: Ryan Salunga | 7,275,000 (97 big blinds, 1/6)
Hometown: Mission Viejo, California
Currently Resides: Whittier, California
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $31,105
Biggest Lifetime Cash: 1st, 2023 LA Poker Classic Survivor for $4,000
Until this week, Ryan Salunga had never played a WPT main tour event. He won his way into the $5,000 buy-in WPT Gardens Poker for just $600, and, after three days of poker, now finds himself in prime position to win as the commanding chip leader with six players left. Salunga entered Day 3 with a solid lead, and in just under an hour of play before they got down to the six-handed final table he extended it further.
The 37-year-old California local primarily plays $5/10 cash games and smaller tournaments, and his previous best tournament result was smaller than the buy-in for this tournament. Away from the poker table, he’s a registered nurse who’s been in the field for 14 years.
End of Day 1 chip count: 177,000 (34/125)
End of Day 2 chip count: 915,000 (8/22)
End of Day 3 chip count: 5,775,000 (1/8)
Seat 2: Brad Owen | 3,350,000 (44 big blinds, 3/6)
Hometown: Santa Rosa, California
Currently Resides: Las Vegas, Nevada
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $332,412
Biggest Lifetime Cash: 35th, 2022 WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas for $99,600
Other Prominent Scores: 2nd, 2023 WPT Prime Cambodia Mini High Roller for $28,373
The headliner for the WPT Gardens Poker Championship, WPT Ambassador Brad Owen, is best known for his exploits in cash games. He’s documented his adventures on his very popular vlog on YouTube, and just over a year ago he and fellow poker vlogging superstar Andrew Neeme officially signed on with WPT. Since that endeavor began, Owen and Neeme have taken their Meet-Up Games all over the world, playing poker with fans in lower-stakes games as they continue to build up an ever-growing community.
Owen’s tournament game has been sharpening over the last year as well. He finished 35th in the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas, and in the lead-up to that tournament actually managed to win his own branded ClubWPT satellite which featured 2,154 players. Owen has been a professional poker player for 13 years, but this is the first time he’s made the final table of a major tournament.
Owen did the heavy lifting during the abbreviated Day 3 of this event. His pocket jacks – a hand he’s specifically nicknamed “jiggities” – won a coin flip against Steve Spunt’s . Then, 15 hands later, Owen came from behind against the super short-stacked Thomas Choi, as Owen’s outflopped Choi’s to set the final six.
End of Day 1 chip count: 290,500 (10/125)
End of Day 2 chip count: 815,000 (10/22)
End of Day 3 chip count: 1,175,000 (5/8)
Seat 3: Ky Nguyen | 1,700,000 (22 big blinds, 4/6)
Home Country: Vietnam
Currently Resides: Los Angeles, California
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $326,011
Biggest Lifetime Cash: 1st, 2016 Liz Flynt Fall Poker Classic $200K Guaranteed for $53,303
Other Prominent Scores: 5th, 2023 PokerGO Tour $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha for $32,220
Ky Nguyen is a high-stakes cash game regular known as ‘Suited Superman’ who documents his poker adventures on Instagram. He’s appeared multiple times on Hustler Casino Live, and can be found playing big No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha cash games in California, Las Vegas, and elsewhere along his poker travels.
Nguyen has already beaten his career-best tournament cash by locking up a spot at the WPT Gardens Poker Championship, but he’s no stranger to big tournament final tables or bigger buy-in events with a final table in a $5K PLO event in the PokerGO studios back in March. Away from the table, Nguyen has a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He was born in Vietnam and currently resides in Los Angeles.
Nguyen grabbed the chip lead by the end of Day 2 and remained among the top stacks for the majority of the playdown from 22 down to a final table.
End of Day 1 chip count: 276,000 (14/125)
End of Day 2 chip count: 1,750,000 (1/22)
End of Day 3 chip count: 2,000,000 (3/8)
Seat 4: Chris Lee | 3,975,000 (53 big blinds, 2/6)
Hometown(s): Washington, D.C and Hamburg, Germany
Currently Resides: Santa Monica, California
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $1,598,207
Biggest Lifetime Cash: 2nd, 2017 WSOP $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha for $580,177
Other Prominent Scores: 1st, $2,500 10-Game for $254,955; 5th, 3rd, 2012 WPT Parx Open Poker Classic for $158,450; 2018 $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo for $120,264
Chris Lee has far and away the most big-time final table experience of the six remaining players in the WPT Gardens Poker Championship. While he’s spent a long time in the high-stakes cash game streets like several other players at this final table, Lee has a World Series of Poker bracelet, two WSOP $10,000 buy-in final table appearances and a previous WPT final table appearance, at the 2012 WPT Parx Open Poker Classic.
Lee also works as a private equity investor, with a degree in sociology from Duke and an MBA from USC. Like five of the six players at this final table (the other being Owen, who was born in California), Lee is based out of California, where he lives in Santa Monica.
End of Day 1 chip count: 235,000 (19/125)
End of Day 2 chip count: 1,465,000 (3/22)
End of Day 3 chip count: 4,000,000 (2/8)
Seat 5: Josh Lachman | 225,000 (3 big blinds, 6/6)
Hometown: Huntington Beach, California
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $96,637
Biggest Lifetime Cash: 10th, 2015 Legends of Poker $235 side event for $26,000
Other Prominent Scores: 27th, 2016 WPT Legends of Poker for $14,090
Josh Lachman has a big hill to climb once the WPT Gardens Poker Championship resumes on Saturday in Las Vegas. He has exactly three big blinds, and he’ll start the first hand under the gun. But simply by making this final table, Lachman has made a major step forward in his poker career and he’s guaranteed to nearly double his lifetime career tournament poker earnings no matter where he finishes.
The 52-year-old was born in Huntington Beach, California, about 30 minutes away from The Gardens Casino (depending on the traffic), where he’s a regular at the tables. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from nearby Long Beach State.
End of Day 1 chip count: 348,000 (5/125)
End of Day 2 chip count: 700,000 (11/22)
End of Day 3 chip count: 675,000 (8/8)
Seat 6: Joseph Deluca | 875,000 (11 big blinds, 5/6)
Hometown: Anaheim, Califronia
Currently Resides: Irvine, California
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $248,852
Biggest Lifetime Cash: 3rd, 2019 WPT Gardens Poker Festival $175 event for $18,500
Other Prominent Scores: 10th, WSOP Circuit Bicycle Casino Main Event for $14,825; 8th, 2014 WPT DeepStacks Los Angeles Main Event for $10,205
Joseph Deluca is the youngest player at this final table at 31 years old, and he’s already locked up his career-best result regardless of where he finishes to this point. The professional poker player who (and stop me if you’ve read this before) plays Pot Limit Omaha high low cash games, entered this tournament a single time, at the very last possible moment on Day 1B.
Born and raised in Anaheim, California, Deluca hopes to cash for enough in this tournament to make a down payment on a house.
End of Day 1 chip count: 100,000 (79/125)
End of Day 2 chip count: 1,490,000 (2/22)
End of Day 3 chip count: 1,475,000 (4/8)