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Art Papazyan Denies Trio of Pros History in Winning 2017 WPT Legends of Poker

 Art Papazyan Denies Trio of Pros History in Winning 2017 WPT Legends of Poker

Despite facing one of the most stacked final tables in recent memory – with two top flight professional poker players looking for their third titles and one legend of the game looking to etch his name on a piece of hardware he hasn’t touched yet – Art Papazyan beat back all comers from the second slot at the start of the penultimate day to win the 2017 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, CA, early Friday morning.

Papazyan had a decent chip stack to start the day (slightly over six million chips), but the seas of the final table were awash with sharks. Two-time WPT champion J. C. Tran was the chip leader coming to the table on Thursday while Phil Hellmuth, who has yet to garner the only accolade that has eluded him in poker (a WPT title), lurked in third place with almost three million in chips. A player that has been making a name for himself in 2017, D. J. Alexander (runner-up in the World Series of Poker “Millionaire Maker”) held down the fourth slot (2.73 million chips), while a quiet Adam Swan (1.655 million) and two-time WPT champion Marvin Rettenmaier (1.225 million) brought up the bottom of the leaderboard.

It would only take eight hands for the first elimination to occur at the final table. Swan, with a dwindling stack, was in a blind-versus-blind battle with the 14-time WSOP bracelet winner when he moved all in holding an A-J. Normally that is a fine holding in a heads-up situation, but Hellmuth woke up in the big blind with pocket Queens and immediately made the call. A Jack came on the flop but there was no further help for Swan as he departed the tournament in sixth place.

Rettenmaier short stack of chips bumped up a spot with Swan’s elimination, but that was as far as he would go. On Hand 20, Rettenmaier got the remainder of his stack in the center from the button, not feeling very confident when both Papazyan and Tran called in the blinds. An 8-6-3 flop didn’t seem very impressive but, after a check from Papazyan, Tran’s flop bet ushered him out to get the hand heads up with Rettenmaier. Tran’s flop bet was explained when he turned up pocket eights for the flopped top set as Rettenmaier packed his bags drawing thin with a Q-10. A Jack on the turn kept some drama alive for the gutter ball straight, but those disappeared with a four on the river as Rettenmaier headed for the rail in fifth place.

Tran held nearly half the chips in play after Rettenmaier’s departure while the remaining three players – Hellmuth (5.505 million chips), Papazyan (4.99 million) and Alexander (950K) – were looking like mere footnotes to Tran’s run to the championship. That would be the high mark for Tran, however, as he gradually began to bleed chips from his stack. Within 20 hands of Rettenmaier’s elimination, Tran had come back to the pack, unable to call bets out of his opponents with his meager holdings to maintain his stack. By Hand 40, Tran’s once-insurmountable lead had shrunk to less than 400K in chips over Papazyan.

Papazyan would be the one who knocked Tran off the top of the pedestal when he took a huge hand against Hellmuth. On a 4-2-2-2-6 board and with approximately four million chips in the pot, both Papazyan and Hellmuth had blustered about the content of their hands with heavy three bets (Papazyan’s pre-flop, Hellmuth’s on the flop). The river brought checks from both combatants, however, at which point Hellmuth turned up an A-J for the board’s trip deuces. Papazyan, however, had pocket nines (not the two black nines that Hellmuth won the 1989 WSOP Championship Event with, ironically) for the boat, good enough to take the bounty and the chip lead from Tran.

Tran would quickly come back to retake his lead as the foursome settled in for a drawn-out battle. They would play 130 hands before the next elimination, which came about when Alexander called off his stack of almost three million chips after Papazyan put the squeeze play on Hellmuth’s limp on the button. Holding an A-2, Alexander was behind Papazyan’s A-6 and, once a six hit the flop, he was looking for something runner or that would counterfeit Papazyan’s pair. The turn and river were uncooperative, however, as Alexander’s outstanding play in the tournament earned him the fourth-place slot.

Tran (11.715 million) still was dominating Papazyan (6.36 million) and Hellmuth (4.775 million), but the wheels were about to come off his wagon. Hellmuth started a stunning charge where he would take eight of the next 15 hands to assume the lead, but Papazyan would fight back to knock Hellmuth back down. Tran could find nothing at this point, unable to call big bets from his opponents, as his chip stack slid through his fingers. As the 200th hand of the final table approached, Tran and Hellmuth would finally clash.

On Hand 198, Tran moved all in off the button and Hellmuth looked him up out of the small blind. Papazyan had no interest as his cards headed to the muck, while Tran showed an A-10 that was leading the K-Q of Hellmuth pre-flop. A K-J-5 gave something to both men, momentarily putting Hellmuth in the lead with a pair of Kings but giving Tran a gut shot straight draw to go along with his Ace over card. Looking for one of six outs (three Aces and three Queens), Tran instead saw an innocuous four turn and a river trey to be eliminated by “The Poker Brat” in third place.

Going to the heads-up battle, Papazyan held an 800K chip lead over Hellmuth and wasted little time in putting a hammerlock on the championship. Ten hands into the fight, Papazyan had moved out to a two million chip lead and a few hands later extended his lead. On Hand 211, Papazyan would flop a wheel straight and get three streets of action out of Hellmuth to take a 10 million chip pot and stretch his lead to more than 12 million chips.

On the very next hand, it was all over. Hellmuth min-raised off the button and called after Papazyan moved all in against him. Hellmuth dominated pre-flop, his Big Slick crushing Papazyan’s K-Q off suit, but the Q-10-8 flop had other things in mind. A five on the turn helped neither man and, with Hellmuth looking for an Ace, King, or Jack to earn the double up (10 outs), an innocent trey came on the river. With a double thrust of his arms into the air, Papazyan had defeated one of poker’s legendary names to capture the championship of the WPT Legends of Poker.

1. Art Papazyan, $ 668,692
2. Phil Hellmuth, $ 364,370
3. J. C. Tran, $ 217,040
4. D. J. Alexander, $ 161,490
5. Marvin Rettenmaier, $ 120,775
6. Adam Swan, $ 91,825

The post Art Papazyan Denies Trio of Pros History in Winning 2017 WPT Legends of Poker appeared first on Poker News Daily.

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2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 4: J. C. Tran Leads Stacked Final Table That Includes Hellmuth, Rettenmaier

 2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 4: J. C. Tran Leads Stacked Final Table That Includes Hellmuth, Rettenmaier

After 12 hours of battle, the final table of the 2017 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Main Event has been determined. It is one of the stronger final tables in recent memory, with poker professional J. C. Tran looking to become a three-time champion on the WPT circuit as Marvin Rettenmaier looks for his third and Phil Hellmuth looks for his first.

24 players came back on Wednesday, all with the ambitions of being one of the final six who would vie for the crown. Tran was dominating the event as play began, the only player over the three million mark in chips and only Steven Tabb above two million. In looking at the last three tables, there wasn’t a weak spot anywhere; along with Tran, Hellmuth and Rettenmaier, there were such names as Oddie Dardon, Garrett Greer, David ‘ODB’ Baker, David ‘Doc’ Sands and Tuan Le arranged around the various patches of felt.

With the “Action Clock” by Protection Poker in play, the competitors had 30 seconds to make their decisions and, if there was more thought required, six “time chips” were given to the Day 4 participants to use for an additional 30 seconds each. This arrangement had been in place since one table before the bubble on Day 3 (as it will be for the remainder of the WPT Main Tour Season XVI schedule) and, for the most part, seems to have been seamlessly integrated into the WPT action.

Tran had fortune on his side early on as he four-flushed Paul Balzano to increase his lead further, while Hellmuth improved his stack to nearly one million chips in four-flushing Rettenmaier. The news wasn’t as good for Allan Le, who pushed from early position with pocket nines and ran into Mike Heshmati’s pocket Queens to eliminate Le in 24th place. Le was soon followed to the rail by Balzano, Lawrence Ma, Arkadi Onikoul, Greer and Le, Heshmati and Jason Les as the play quickly brought the field down to two tables within the first two hours of the Day 4 play.

After the redraw Tran was still at the helm of the field with 3.211 million chips, but the footsteps were drawing closer. Dardon was within roughly 300K of Tran on the leaderboard while Baker had popped over the two million mark in chips also. Hellmuth, who was responsible for eliminating Greer from the tournament, was healthy with 1.288 million in chips, but Rettenmaier was struggling to stay over the 20bb level.

At this point, Hellmuth and Rettenmaier both continued a slow grind upwards, although they would sometimes surprisingly clash with each other. On an A-K-Q-J-J board, Rettenmaier fired out a river bet that had the new host of the WPT’s “Raw Deal” segment talking to himself. As he pieced the hand together in his mind, Hellmuth commented, “Man, how did I lose this pot? I flopped Aces with the nut flush draw.” After more deliberation, Hellmuth released his hand and Rettenmaier improved the health of his stack with a roughly 350K pot.

Tran, however, wasn’t letting anyone creep any closer to him. He eliminated Igor Zektser in 15th place, Ben Nguyen in 13th place and Alex Greenblatt in tenth place to bring his stack over the six million chip mark heading to the unofficial final table. Only Adam Swan was within shouting distance and he barely had half of Tran’s stack (6.6 million to 3.320 million). Both Rettenmaier and Hellmuth were lurking with almost identical stacks (1.69 million for Rettenmaier, 1.62 million for Hellmuth) as the unofficial final table began.

With only three players to eliminate, the survivors of the 2017 WPT Legends of Poker Main Event settled in for what would turn out to be a drawn-out battle. Within the first 30 hands, both Rettenmaier and Hellmuth had improved their station in the game in reaching 3.13 million chips for Hellmuth and Rettenmaier moving up to 2.6 million. As they were improving their chances in the tournament, Tran maintained his stranglehold on the tournament in knocking off Dardon in ninth place and Jared Griener in eighth place to set the stage for the final elimination of the night.

On Hand 111 of the unofficial play at the final table, Tran opened for a raise out of the cutoff and Sands three-bet the action to 560K. Tran wasted little time in putting Sands to the test, moving all in, and Sands made the call. It was a classic race, Sands’ pocket Kings against Tran’s Big Chick (A-Q), and fortune was still sitting on Tran’s shoulder. The flop came down Q-Q-6 to give Tran trips and, instead of a cowboy coming to the rescue for Sands, the case lady hit on the river to give Tran quads and eliminate Sands on the final table bubble in seventh place.

1. J. C. Tran, 8.295 million
2. Art Papazyan, 6.005 million
3. Phil Hellmuth, 2.94 million
4. D. J. Alexander, 2.73 million
5. Adam Swan, 1.655 million
6. Marvin Rettenmaier, 1.225 million

There’s a great chance at history in this WPT final table. Should Tran or Rettenmaier win the tournament, they would join the pantheon of players – Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Anthony Zinno, David ‘Chino’ Rheem and Darren Elias – who have won three WPT titles. Hellmuth, for all the accolades he has received in his career, has NEVER won a WPT event despite making four final tables. The “fly in the ointment” could be Papazyan, who might have a slim poker resume (only seven cashes) but has a monster stack of chips at his disposal.

The final table of the 2017 WPT Legends of Poker will be the first live-streamed through the arrangement between the WPT and Poker Central over the subscription outlet PokerGO. It will begin at 4:30PM (Pacific Time) and will also be videotaped for broadcast on Fox Sports 1 later in the year. It promises to be an entertaining event as the WPT crowns their latest champion tonight at “The Bike.”

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2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 2: Oddie Dardon Out in Front as Money Bubble Nears

 2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 2: Oddie Dardon Out in Front as Money Bubble Nears

No more separate flights at the World Poker Tour (WPT) Legends of Poker Main Event, as Monday was Day 2, when the survivors of each of the three Day 1’s came together in a single, unified field to try to make their way toward their poker dreams. Oddie Dardon is the chip leader going into Day 2 with 775,000 chips.

Dardon finished Day 1C with 160,000 chips, good for ninth-best of that flight and placing him squarely among the overall chip leaders heading into Day 2. One of the hands that really put him in position to make a run came in Level 15. According to the WPT.com report, Day 1C chip leader Cody Slaubaugh raised pre-flop to 7,000 chips, Will Kassouf called, Dardon called, Mel Wiener called from the small blind, and the button also called. Action! On the 9-T-J (two hearts) flop, the action checked to Kassouf, who bet 25,000. Dardon raised to 55,000 and then Wiener moved all-in for 180,000. Everybody folded back to Dardon, who snap-called.

It was no mystery why Dardon was so eager to make the call, as he had K-Q for the nut straight. Wiener’s hand was almost as good – Q-8 for the second-best possible straight, given the cards on the board. Great luck turned into terrible luck. The turn and river changed nothing and Wiener was eliminated from the tournament. Dardon was already the chip leader at that point, increasing his stack up to 860,000.

Dardon, whose real first name is Osmin, has more than $ 2.3 million live tournament earnings, according to TheHendonMob.com. His best cash was for just over half a million dollars for a third place finish at the 2008 World Poker Tour Championship. He has had some success recently, winning a $ 1,100 event at the Deepstack Extravaganza III in July for $ 311,664 and finishing tenth at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open just a couple weeks ago.

Another 48 players registered for this tournament before Day 2 began, so the final tally is 763 entries. The total prize pool is approximately $ 2.74 million with the winner receiving $ 653,692 and a seat in the $ 15,000 WPT Tournament of Champions. The tournament will pay down to 81 players; min-cash is $ 7,135.

As there are just 90 players left and therefore the tournament is one table away from the money, the Action Clock will be put into action. All players will have 30 seconds to act, timed by a large digital clock set into the table in front of and controlled by the dealer. Players are given four time extension chips that grant them an additional 30 seconds each. When the tournament is down to three tables, all remaining players will have their time extension chip stack reset to six and when the final table is reached, the players will have stacks of eight time extension chips. The base time to act remains the same at 30 seconds.

2017 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Main Event – Day 2 Chip Leaders

1. Oddie Dardon – 775,000
2. J.C. Tran – 565,000
3. Hovhannes Khachatryan – 530,000
4. D.J. Alexander – 517,500
5. David “ODB” Baker – 479,000
6. Alex Greenblatt – 461,500
7. Marcos Exterkotter – 447,000
8. Nikhil Gera – 447,000
9. Curt Kohlberg – 445,000
10. Mark Hamilton – 435,000

Featured photo credit: World Poker Tour via Flickr

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2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 1C: Cody Slaubaugh Takes Overall Lead

 2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 1C: Cody Slaubaugh Takes Overall Lead

The final of the three starting flights of the World Poker Tour (WPT) Legends of Poker Main Event went down on Sunday, as 383 more entries were paid for, bringing the total Day 1 field to 715. Keep in mind that that number doesn’t mean 715 “players,” as this is a re-entry tournament. Thus, “entries” means “paid entries.” The chip leader for Day 1C – who also became the overall chip leader of the tournament – was Cody Slaubaugh with 310,500 chips.

“I chipped up early,” Slaubaugh told WPT.com afterward. “I got a double in the second level and ran pretty hot from there on out. I had a big hand, top two versus bottom two versus an open-ended draw for like a 100K pot early and that got me going. That put me up at like 120 or 130K. Then I just won some small pots and won a big flip for like 60K in Level 7 with jacks versus ace-king.”

Slaubaugh has $ 1.3 million in live tournament earnings, according to TheHendonMob.com. His biggest cash came almost a decade ago, when he finished second in a $ 1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event at the 2008 World Series of Poker for $ 389,128. Slaubaugh has three cashes on the World Poker Tour.

Slaubaugh also has $ 1.6 million recorded online poker tournament winnings, according to PocketFives.com.

The live coverage of any poker tournament – whether you’re talking online or on television – features non-poker celebrities whenever possible. There’s almost always video of Ray Romano and Brad Garrett on ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker. PokerStars has been hyping up Kevin Hart incessantly. I will admit, though, even though I usually know who the celebrity is, even if it’s just a situation where I’ve only “heard of” the name of some model, I have never heard of the person who is all over WPT.com’s coverage of the WPT Legends of Poker: GACKT.

Now, when I first read that name, I thought it was an awfully odd spelling of the ubiquitous Nickelodeon slime. GACKT, though, is a Japanese musician, singer, and songwriter. He has a pretty impressive list of credentials, including holding the record for the most consecutive top ten singles for a male soloist in Japanese music history. While I would assume not more than a handful of players at the Legends of Poker have any idea who he is, GACKT (whose real name is Kamui Gakuto), isn’t a total poker noob. He has $ 93,000 in live tournament earnings, most of which came from a fourth place finish at the ARIA High Roller 65 in July.

Though all three starting flights have wrapped up, the total prize pool, and therefore the prize breakdown, will not be known until after play begins on Monday’s Day 2. Players can still register up until the cards get in the air Monday; shortly thereafter, the prize money will be posted.

2017 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Main Event – Day 1C Chip Leaders

1. Cody Slaubaugh – 310,500
2. Mel Wiener – 307,100
3. Benjamin Nguyen – 245,100
4. Men Nguyen – 185,000
5. Zachary Smiley – 176,900
6. James Carroll – 176,200
7. Shankar Pillai – 173,500
8. Kristina Holst – 162,200
9. Oddie Dardon – 160,000
10. Jim Mangiamele – 159,300

Featured photo credit: World Poker Tour via Flickr.

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2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 1B: Valentin Vornicu Makes Most of Second Chance, Takes Over Chip Lead

 2017 WPT Legends of Poker Day 1B: Valentin Vornicu Makes Most of Second Chance, Takes Over Chip Lead

After coming up dry on Day 1A of the event, Valentin Vornicu got the most out of his second shot at the tournament on Saturday, emerging as the overall leader of the 2017 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker with one more Day One left.

Looking to top Day 1A’s 155 entries, Day 1B saw another throng of poker professionals and amateurs looking to take their shot. At the sounding of the “shuffle up and deal” call, notables such as WPT Champions’ Club members Tony Dunst and Barry Greenstein were at their tables alongside Eric Baldwin, Ray Quartomy, and Matt Stout, who were all back from their Day 1A disappointment for another chance. Vornicu was on that list also, but the day didn’t start very well for him.

About three hours into Saturday’s play, Vornicu found himself staring at a Q♠ 10 6♣ 5♣ 8♣ board, Vornicu fired off a bet but was met with an all-in check raise from the small blind. Vornicu couldn’t put together the logic behind his opponent’s hand and, after several minutes, made the call and turned up pocket fives for the turned set. Vornicu’s opponent, however, had stuck around for the runner-runner nut flush with his A♣ 3♣, sending the nine-time World Series of Poker Circuit ring winner to the rail for his second chance at his second chance.

Vornicu would make the most of his last chance on Saturday. Within three hours of using his re-entry option for Day 1B, Vornicu had run his stack up to over 183K in chips to take over the chip lead. After the dinner break, Vornicu’s star continued to rise as he picked off a bluff and rivered a straight to cross the 200K mark. The only thing that stopped the “Vornicu Express” was the end of 10 levels of play for the day, when he bagged 286,700 in chips.

1. Valentin Vornicu, 286,700
2. Adam Geyer, 273,000
3. Peter Neff, 266,100
4. Igor Zekster, 198,700
5. Tuan Mai, 179,400
6. Jamie Armstrong, 164,900
7. Bill Germanis, 152,100
8. Gaurav Raina, 146,600
9. Skip Huber, 135,200
10. Derek Wolters, 133,800

Among those who have to decide if playing Day 1C is going to be worthwhile are Samantha Cohen, Allen Kessler, Mike Matusow, Jordan Cristos, Poker Hall of Famer John Hennigan, Stout and Quartomy. Of the 177 entries that were received on Saturday (bringing the total field to 332), only 60 people would be standing by the final bell in the Bike’s tournament arena (117 between the first two Day Ones).

Vornicu is an intriguing player. He has the second most WSOP-C rings of all time (behind only Maurice Hawkins) and is only about $ 10K short of earning $ 1 million in his tournament poker career. Surprisingly, none of those winnings has ever come from a WPT Main Tour event; if (and it’s a strong if) Vornicu is able to cash in this tournament, it would be his first-ever WPT cash on the Main Tour schedule.

Overall, Vornicu has not only taken over the combined Day One leaderboard, the two men pursuing him join him to make up the Top Three in the tournament:

1. Valentin Vornicu, 286,700
2. Adam Geyer, 273,000
3. Peter Neff, 266,100
4. Thomas Zanot, 217,700*
5. Igor Zekster, 198,700
6. David Lambard, 183,900*
7. Tuan Mai, 179,400
8. Gary Sewell, 176,700*
9. Vince Salvatore, 173,000*
10. Christopher Staats, 167,900*

(* – Day 1A player)

The final Day One – and the final chance for many of those around the Bike – will kick off at noon on Sunday. The players will have one re-entry available should they bust on Sunday, then there will be a final “last chance” for players to buy in (30K in chips for $ 4000; it is possible that a player could burn through seven buy-ins, or $ 28,000, without success) before the start of Day Two on Monday. With the popularity of the first two days of the tournament, it is likely that the 2017 WPT Legends of Poker will crack the 500-entry mark and could take a run at 600.

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