By Paul Seaton
Eight years ago, Sean Jazayeri won the WPT L.A. Poker Classic for a massive $1,370,240, which still represents a huge chunk of his almost $2 million in winnings on the live poker circuit. The memories of that incredible event – and one of the toughest final tables ever broadcast on the World Poker Tour still linger today.
“It’s still huge to me now,” says Jazayeri, “It seems like it was ages ago. It’s definitely my biggest win then and unfortunately still my biggest win today!”
While Jazayeri concedes that the ‘best in the world’ are able to keep winning million-dollar scores year on year, he was delighted to achieve that dream just once back in 2012 when he beat David ‘Doc’ Sands heads-up for the title. The quality of the opposition throughout the event didn’t surprise him.
“It’s typical LAPC – they always get a high number of players, but they also get an unusually high percentage of top-quality players. I remember my first day. Every table I was at I had someone I’d watched on TV since Day 1. At my first table, I had Erik Seidel and Faraz Jaka. That’s not typical of a tournament. At the WSOP Main Event, you usually have an easier couple of days then you start running into people.”
One player who he loved playing was a talent he always thought would turn into one of the world’s best – Stephen Chidwick.
“I had my only big suck-out of the tournament against him. Right after I got crippled by Joe Hachem when I ran kings into his aces, I had ace-six. Chidwick raised, I shoved for 12 big blinds and after a lot of thinking, he called with ace-jack. Nothing on the flop, nothing on the turn; I was getting up to wish everybody well… and a six showed up. I didn’t quite stand up or put my back on my back like you’re supposed to, but I definitely thought I was done!”
Jazayeri was far from done. Chidwick would depart in ninth place, but Jazayeri was a huge fan of his.
“Chidwick, I felt, was one of the top players in the world. I was very surprised he didn’t already have a WSOP bracelet and I’m surprised it took him so long. He is, in my view, one of the top five players in the world right now.”
As the final table was reached, it was quickly shorn of another talented pro in Jason Somerville, this time thanks to Jazayeri himself.
“On the fourth or fifth day, I had an overpair to the board. Jason shoved and I was torn, because a lot of younger guys think they can just bluff older guys all the time. I make a living out of hero-calling against them. But I laid it down and he had a set.”
When just half a dozen players were remaining, Somerville would be busted by the eventual champion.
“I knocked him out with ace-queen against pocket eights when a queen came on the river. He is an extremely good player and dangerous, but at the same time everyone at the final table was. I liked and respected Jason Somerville, he showed a lot of dignity in the way he conducted himself, so I had mixed feelings about busting him.”
Jazayeri could sense a huge chance to achieve poker immortality and win a World Poker Tour Main Event and one of the biggest tournaments in the poker world. His eventual opponent heads-up was David ‘Doc’ Sands.
“My plan was to try and look for opportunities to double-up and try to make the pot sizes big as I didn’t think I had a chance of beating him post-flop. I was looking for chances to take a coinflip. In this hand, four or five hands before I had ace-king, he raised from the button, I re-raised and he folded. I tried not to show the disappointment in my face. I was thinking ‘Here’s my chance.’”
In what was a tough heads-up battle, Jazayeri wasn’t getting what he wanted, raising big but not getting it all-in.
“We both had trips, but I had a better kicker. I was thinking ‘this is my chance’ again but the river paired the board a second time and it was an opportunity lost.”
Sands was getting information from friends but Jazayeri, though he had the same idea, didn’t get the same information through.
“People were texting him what hands I had or telling him at the break. I had somebody texting me the numbers. I didn’t get any texts and I asked him what was going on. He said he was texting them to me. The next day, around noon, I got all the texts. It wasn’t his fault, he texted them as he saw them!
Jazayeri may have short of information, but he was making the right plays. His attacking, pre-flop strategy was about to pay off.
“He knew I’d three-bet with ace-ten earlier. I was hoping he had something he wouldn’t fold when I went all-in with ace-king. I was praying for ace-queen but hoping for any pair. He had a pair and went with it; it was certainly the right play. He was favourite and I was lucky to win it.”
Jazayeri is modest enough to credit his fortune at the final table all these years later, and did so at the time too.
“At the final table, I remember four races and I won three of them; that’s a pretty good ratio. When I won that flip with ace-king, my first thought was; ‘I’m going to win this tournament’. But I didn’t jump up and down celebrating. I don’t like it when others celebrate against me like they won the Olympics. You got lucky – enjoy it, you don’t need to rub it in the other guys face.”
Jazayeri closed it out and celebrated the signature win of his poker career.
“Ace-king against queens in this hand, I can’t imagine a scenario where the chips don’t go in. We both have two premium hands; if you get into the business of folding ace-king or pocket queens heads-up, you probably shouldn’t be playing poker.”
Even though he won in such stunning fashion, he still has a full-time job. He just makes time for stops on the World Poker Tour.
“The WPT means a lot to me. I love the structure and think Matt Savage is the best tournament director in the world. The year I won, I deserve credit for but my luck does too. Against those guys, I don’t win too often. Luck is still a part of poker. I didn’t make many bad plays to lose my stack, but luck is still a factor.”
Taking to the felt quite a lot that year, Jazayeri used his victory on the WPT as a springboard for some poker travel.
“I traveled the world. I went to Austria, England, Malta, Germany, and Monte Carlo, winning a few more flags than I was used to. Now I’m back to being a recreational player, I always try to play the LAPC. I still watch WPT and I subscribe to PokerGO and watch the bigger events. I’ve got friends I stay in touch and people who when I run into them it’s a pleasure to see them and say hello.”
It’s always a pleasure when a former champion is such a gentleman about the tournament he took down. Sean Jazayeri is still fondly remembered as a true Champions Club legend to this day, and he never misses a chance to take a Step Back in Time to relive the magic moment he became a WPT champion.