It must have been a surreal experience for Richard Lee, a 26-year-old cash game player from Los Angeles who found himself at the final table of a World Poker Tour event in Gold Coast, Australia.
On paper, he had the least amount of tournament experience among the remaining six players with just over $6,000 in previous live cashes on record. Lee was coming to the very end of a two-month stay Down Under when he decided to jump into the WPT Championship Event, one in which he ultimately topped the field of 600 entries for a serious boost to his poker resume.
“I don’t think it will ever sink in,” Lee said to WPT’s Lynn Gilmartin mere moments after the final hand.
Lee captured his first World Poker Tour title on Wednesday, taking home the $854,890 AUD first-place prize ($550,267 USD) and a seat at December’s WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas. As he appreciated all of the circumstances that led him to this victory, he recognized his good fortune from start to finish, all the way up to how things fell at the final table.
“I think I was really fortunate to have a really good seat, two of the better players were to my right so I didn’t really face any bullying,” he said. “For the most part, it was as smooth as it could have gotten.”
Indeed, it worked out perfectly for Lee, who was scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles on the very morning the final table wrapped up. Once he made the final table, it was a no-brainer to spend a little extra time in Australia.
“I was like If I [final table] this, I might as well cancel my flight,” he said. “But I missed my flight today. Played it. Shipped it. So I’m glad the flight didn’t go to waste.”
Along with a new career-high score, Lee locked up his $10,000 seat for December. And with an opportunity to slice off a piece of the $40 million guaranteed prize pool, he was eager to picture himself in Las Vegas.
For a full rundown on how Lee punched his ticket to the WPT Champions Club and the results of WPT Australia, follow along as it happened, hand-for-hand, in the WPT Live Updates from The Star Gold Coast.