Day 3 of the Season XVI WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event concluded on Monday with the final table being reached at Thunder Valley Casino Resort. Just six players remain from the field of 440 entries, and it’s Ping Liu (pictured above) in the lead with a stack of 3.33 million.
“It’s awesome,” Liu said of reaching the final table as chip leader. “It’s really awesome. It’s always been a dream of mine to make a final table like this. Especially at Rolling Thunder, this place is really special to me. I’d love to take this one down.”
Liu entered this event with more than $585,000 in live tournament earnings, according to his HendonMob.com profile, and he has two prior WPT Main Tour cashes. One of those cashes came this season when he placed 38th in the WPT Legends of Poker Main Event.
“My background is live cash,” Liu said. “I’ve mainly been playing cash the last few years. I recently started studying tournaments a little bit more. I used to think that there wasn’t that much to it as I do now. I’m starting to see some of the different skills in tournaments that you need. I’m trying to work on that side of my game a lot more because I just want to be a better all-around live player.
Liu spent good chunks of this tournament playing against Joe McKeehen (pictured below) and D.J. Alexander. Both very respected players with handfuls of big results.
“They’re both very good live MTT players,” Liu said of McKeehen and Alexander. “I just try to watch and pick up things and see what my opponents are doing. See what they’re doing well and try to add that.”
Speaking of McKeehen, he finished Day 3 second in chips behind Liu with 2.755 million. A big chunk of those chips came from a huge double for McKeehen with 10 players left.
McKeehen held pocket tens and was involved in a three-way pot with Rayo Kniep and two-time WPT Champions Club member Sam Panzica. McKeehen turned a set of tens and got the money in with Panzica, who had an overpair with pocket kings. The river didn’t help Panzica and McKeehen scored the big double up.
Panzica was out in 10th shortly thereafter.
The Season XVI WPT Rolling Thunder final table is the third WPT Main Tour final table for McKeehen, who is known for winning the 2015 WSOP Main Event. Should McKeehen go on to win the WPT Rolling Thunder title, he would become the seventh WSOP Main Event champion to win a World Poker Tour title.
Alexander also reached the final table. It’s his second WPT final table and fourth cash of Season XVI of the WPT Main Tour. He’s the second shortest stack remaining with 1.425 million and will be looking to better his fourth-place finish from the Season XVI WPT Legends of Poker Main Event that earned him $161,490.
Alexander is currently 27th in the Hublot WPT Player of the Year race with 1,000 points. Making this final table, Alexander has guaranteed himself another 400 points in the race.
Joining Liu, McKeehen, and Alexander at the final table are Ian Steinman (2.48 million), Rayo Kniep (2.435 million), and David Larson (700,000). All six players are looking to win their first World Poker Tour title and are guaranteed a minimum of $56,417.
The winner of the Season XVI WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event will take home $295,128, which includes a $15,000 seat into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions.
Day 3 saw 64 players return to action. The top 55 were set to reach the money, and they did so after Jesse Rockowitz, WPT Rolling Thunder runner-up from Season XIII, busted on the first hand of hand-for-hand play on the bubble. Rockowitz was all in with the best of it, holding the , but Brett Murray flopped a set of tens with the and then turned quads to send Rockowitz home.
After the money bubble burst, WPT champions Pat Lyons (9th), Sam Panzica (10th), Olivier Busquet (32nd), Dylan Wilkerson (50th), and Anthony Zinno (53rd) all hit the rail, paving the way for a new member to join the prestigious WPT Champions Club.
Interestingly, Lyons had a near miss at the WPT Rolling Thunder final table for the second season in a row. In Season XV, Lyons placed eighth in this event for $35,437. This season he finished ninth for $30,228.
The final elimination of Day 3 was Paul McCaffrey, who ran the into the for Steinman to fall in seventh place.
The Season XVI WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event final table will commence at 1 p.m. PT from Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Tuesday. A live stream of the event will be available on a 30-minute delay.
Photography by Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive.com
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