By Kevin Taylor
When the Season XVI WPT Legends of Poker Main Event got down to three-handed play, there were two legends of the game remaining in JC Tran and Phil Hellmuth. Tran is a two-time WPT champion with over $12 million in live tournament earnings, while Hellmuth, the WPT’s new Raw Deal analyst, has more than $21 million in live tournament earnings, countless victories on the felt, and numerous deep runs on the World Poker Tour. The only thing Hellmuth’s résumé was void of was a WPT title.
Then there was Art Papazyan.
Primarily a cash-game player, Papazyan’s biggest tournament cash before this event was $16,130, recorded earlier this year. Despite his perceived disadvantage against his two heavily experienced opponents, Papzyan had a simple plan. A plan he would go on to execute flawlessly.
“I was just trying to play my best,” Papazyan said. “Just play my cards and not make any mistakes. I think I played pretty well.”
After Tran busted out in third place, it was the ultimate David-versus-Goliath battle between Hellmuth and Papazyan. The two players were virtually even in chips, but Papazyan shot out to an early lead and never looked back, defeating Hellmuth in less than half an hour.
“It was a surreal experience,” Papazyan told media after his victory. “Actually, I’m kind of sad that it didn’t last very long, but I’m not at the same time.”
On the final hand, Hellmuth got it in good, holding the to the of Papazyan. If Hellmuth’s hand held, he would be right back to even, but the deck had other plans, as the flop came down . Hellmuth wasn’t able to catch up, and Papazyan secured the title.
“I kind of had a gut feeling I was going to spike the queen,” Papazyan said of the final hand. “I got it in bad and I won. It happens, you know, it’s a tournament.”
A regular in the streamed Live at the Bike cash game at The Bicycle Hotel & Casino, Papazyan said after that fact that, despite the huge tournament score of nearly $670,000, he doesn’t plan on leaving his daily grind.
“Maybe I’ll think about playing more tournaments, but cash games are my bread and butter, so I’ll always go back to cash games,”
Ironically enough, Papazyan and Hellmuth were previously scheduled to play on Live at the Bike in the days following their heads-up battle. However, Papzyan said that he is more than open to recreate the heads-up match that ended rather quick.
“Phil and I were supposed to play heads-up anyways,” Papazyan said. “We just ended up playing for the championship. It was kind of ironic. I challenged him. I like challenging people to heads-up [play]. Me and Phil can play heads-up whenever he wants.”
Photography by Joe Giron of PokerPhotoArchive.com.
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