Posts Tagged ‘Thunder’

David Larson Buys In, Fights from Short Stack to Win WPT Rolling Thunder

 David Larson Buys In, Fights from Short Stack to Win WPT Rolling Thunder

After failing several times to satellite into the tournament and instead buying in directly, David Larson fought from the short stack to win his first major poker tournament title in taking the World Poker Tour’s Rolling Thunder in California last night.

Not only did Larson come off the short stack, it was a “life support” short stack. With only 700,000 in chips, Larson couldn’t even double up and pass fifth place D. J. Alexander with 1.425 million chips. They both were in dire straits when looking up at Rayo Kniep (2.435 million), Ian Steinman (2.48 million) and Joe McKeehen (2.755 million) ahead of them on the leaderboard. Ruling the roost as the cards went in the air was Ping Liu (3.33 million), who seemingly had been at the top of the leaderboard since the start of the tournament.

McKeehen, the former World Champion, was an active participant from the start of the final table’s play. After making a bit of a misstep on Hand 2 in doubling up Larson (Larson’s pocket Queens defeating McKeehen’s A-J), McKeehen rebuilt his stack by brutally running over the rest of the table. Down to 2.3 million after the double to Larson, McKeehen would rebuild his stack within five hands to seize the chip lead from Liu and continue to power his way through his opponents.

After that double through McKeehen, Larson was able to sit back for a bit but, when his moment came around, he would take advantage of it. On Hand 43, a short-stacked Alexander pushed his chips in from under the gun and only Larson looked him up. Larson had the pre-flop lead, his pocket tens over Alexander’s K♠ 9♠, and he kept that lead over the run of the A-8-3-7-Q board. Once at the end of his rope, Larson was now up to 2.1 million as Alexander headed to the rail in sixth place.

It took some time to get to Alexander’s elimination and it would take another lengthy span of time to get to the next elimination. Over the next 60-plus hands, McKeehen would lengthen his lead to the point he held over 50% of the chips in play. It also left the other four players scrambling to see who would challenge the former World Series of Poker Championship Event winner.

The first challenger emerged on Hand 104. After another McKeehen raise, Kniep called out of his small blind and Steinman called off the big blind to see a J-10-5 flop. Strangely, all three players checked the flop and, after another ten came on the turn, Kniep checked his option. Steinman put out a big bet on that turn card and got rid of McKeehen, but Kniep fired over his bet with an all-in move for 1.1 million. Steinman didn’t waste any time calling, turning up 10-8 for the turned trips. Kniep saw that his slow play didn’t pay in this case, turning up his pocket Kings, and he needed one of the two remaining Kings to save his skin. The paint on the river was a Jack, however, ending the tournament for Kniep in fifth place.

The elimination of Kniep seemed to open up the action. Only a few hands after Kniep’s departure, On Hand 109, Steinman would take down Liu, his A-Q dominating Liu’s Q-10, to end Liu’s tournament in fourth place and send Steinman into the chip lead. Larson, meanwhile, doubled up through McKeehen (Larson’s Big Slick picking off a McKeehen steal attempt with Q-7 off suit) once and, in another mano y mano fight between the two, ended the WSOP champ’s tournament when McKeehen made another strong but ill-advised move in push with Q-9 on a J 5♠ 4 flop. Larson looked him up with A 7 and, after a King turn and a four river, scooped up the remainder of McKeehen’s chips to go to heads up play against Steinman.

Down almost 2:1 against Steinman, Larson’s comeback was stunning to those in attendance in the Thunder Valley poker room, but he wasn’t quite done yet. Within six hands of heads up play, Larson had reversed the standings, moving out to a slight lead (7.5 million to 5.6 million) over Steinman and he would never look back. Although it would take another 20 hands, Larson would complete the unlikely “worst to first” comeback with a stunner of a final hand.

On Hand 171, Larson raised the betting and Steinman three-bet the action to over a million chips, which Larson called. An A-J-6 rainbow flop saw Larson fire again, but this time Steinman only called the bet. A second ace on the turn slowed both men down with a check, but a Queen river saw Larson check-raise all in Steinman’s 500K bet. Steinman called off his final million chips and was dismayed at the result; Larson had flopped two pair with his A-6 and turned a boat as Steinman’s slow played pocket Kings got crushed. As the final chips were pushed to Larson, he shook Steinman’s hand and reveled in his victory in the WPT Rolling Thunder.

1. David Larson, $ 295,128
2. Ian Steinman, $ 201,428
3. Joe McKeehen, $ 131,081
4. Ping Liu, $ 97,510
5. Rayo Kniep, $ 69,650
6. D. J. Alexander, $ 56,417

The WPT crew will now get a bit of a break before charging out for their end of season run. The WPT will be on hiatus until April, when the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in Hollywood, FL, and the WPT Amsterdam in the Netherlands take to the stage. Then comes May and the flurry of action in Las Vegas for the WPT, including two new events at the Bellagio and ARIA, that will close the Season XVI schedule.

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David Larson Wins 2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event

 David Larson Wins 2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event

Donned in Minnesota Twins gear, David Larson accomplished the improbable, going from short stack to champion in the 2018 World Poker Tour (WPT) Rolling Thunder Main Event Tuesday night. For the victory, Larson won almost $ 300,000.

This was by far the largest cash of Larson’s career. In fact, it makes up all but $ 30,000 of his live tournament earnings. It is also the priciest live tournament ($ 3,500) in which he has ever played. And he almost didn’t play in it, falling one spot short in a satellite that awarded seats to 23 players.

Larson told, “It was a whole comedy of things that went wrong. We were a couple from the money and I had quite a few chips. It was devastating, no doubt about it. It bothered me. I wanted to get the seat, I’m not made of money. It was hard to take. At the last minute, I went to the ATM and grabbed the money and bought in.”

As mentioned, Larson entered the six-handed final table as the shortest stack. And he was definitely a short stack. Take a look:

Ping Liu – 3,330,000
Joe McKeehen – 2,755,000
Ian Steinman – 2,480,000
Rayo Kniep – 2,435,000
D.J. Alexander – 1,425,000
David Larson – 700,000

That was quite the hill to climb. Larson was realistic about his chances and was happy to have already won $ 56,417; it was that contentedness that helped him make the comeback. It is a wonder what a poker player can do when he feels he has nothing to lose. Larson credited aggressiveness as one of his keys to victory.

He got going right from the start, doubling up on the second hand of the final table to rise to 1.550 million chips. He was relatively quiet for a while after that, seemingly content to stay a little more patient with that slight chip cushion, but on Hand 43, Larson eliminated D.J. Alexander, who had seen his chip stack sink to under 700,000. Larson’s Tens beat Alexander’s K-9 suited and Alexander was out in sixth place while Larson had 2.100 million chips.

It took another couple levels for the next elimination, which served as a lesson about slow-playing big hands. We won’t go through it all, but suffice to say Rayo Kniep had pocket Kings and opted to slow play pre-flop and post-flop. Unfortunately for him, when he did decide to move all-in after the turn, Ian Steinman had hit trip Tens and then improved to a full house on the river to knock Kniep out in fifth place.

A few hands later, Steinman eliminated Ping Liu in fourth place, A-Q dominating Q-T. By Hand 123, Larson’s stack had fallen back 1.900 million while Steinman was cruising at 6.100 million and Joe McKeehen had 4.900 million.

Larson started rising from there, doubling through McKeehen to get up to 2.700 million, then taking another chunk to climb to 4.200 million. He increased his stack a bit more before giving some back to Steinman, but on Hand 147 of the final table, he finished what he started and eliminated McKeehen in third place. It was one of the rare hands where neither player improved and Larson simply won with Ace high (well, technically a pair of Fours, but that pair was on the board).

Going into heads-up Larson trailed Steinman 4.600 million to 8.300 million. Within six hands, Larson had flipped the table, amassing a stack of 7.530 million chips. He continued to drive ahead, getting to the point where his lead was nearly insurmountable, barring a series of double-ups by Steinman.

On the final hand, Larson raised to 375,000 pre-flop and Steinman re-raised to 1.1 million. Larson called to bring on a flop of A-J-6 rainbow. Larson bet 400,000 and Steinman made the call. Both players checked an Ace on the turn and when a Queen was dealt on the river, Steinman bet 500,000, Larson moved all-in, and Steinman called all-in for his remaining 1 million chips. Steinman had pocket Kings, but Larson had A-6 for a full house, giving him his first WPT title and the most lucrative cash of his career.

2018 World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder Main Event – Final Table Results

1. David Larson – $ 295,128
2. Ian Steinman – $ 201,428
3. Joe McKeehen – $ 131,081
4. Ping Liu – $ 97,510
5. Rayo Kniep – $ 69,650
6. D.J. Alexander – $ 56,417

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2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Final Table Set

 2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Final Table Set

The final table of the World Poker Tour (WPT) Rolling Thunder Main Event was determined Monday night as now just six players remain from the original field of 440 entries. Ping Liu is the chip leader with 3.330 million, but all in all, the top four players are quite close. Behind Liu is 2015 World Series of Poker Champion Joe McKeehen with 2.755 million chips, then Ian Steinman with 2.480 million, and Rayo Kniep with 2.435 million.

Liu is a self-professed cash game player, but clearly he’s doing something right this week in the tournament.

“I recently started studying tournaments a little bit more,” he told “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 added that he has been trying to pick up tips here and there from watching McKeehen and D.J. Alexander.

Speaking of the 2015 WSOP Champ, McKeehen’s run is that much more impressive (not that his WSOP win, just in general) because he has been battling the flu.

“I’m dead,” McKeehen said. “Fucking had the flu the whole time, but when I’m sick, I play better, obviously. It’s a proven fact. I’m one-for-one.”

Um…anyone need some Purell? I mean, we all try to put it out of our heads that poker chips and cards are disgusting, but that must be fun seeing someone coughing and sneezing and then handling chips that (hopefully) will make their way over to you. But hey, that’s life in live poker – can’t begrudge a guy for willing himself to the final table.

McKeehen has two previous final table appearances on the World Poker Tour, the first in 2016 when he finished fourth at the Borgata Winter Poker Open and second this January, again a fourth place finish in that same tournament.

McKeehen told that some bad luck led to his downfall in those tourneys.

“Both Borgata final tables, I ended up getting bad beat, actually. I’d like to not get bad beat [Tuesday]. Both times, I was in a very good spot and the bad beat brought me back to Earth. If I won the hand, I’d be in a great spot.”

McKeehen has nearly $ 14.5 million in live tournament earnings, about half of that coming from his WSOP Main Event win. That also means that he isn’t a one-trick pony – he has won several million dollars aside from that.

For his part, Ping Liu has $ 585,709 in live tournament earnings, according to Most of his cashes look to be in the four-figure range, but he did win $ 133,110 for a third place finish in a WSOP Circuit Event in 2014. He has two cashes in World Poker Tour Main Events, both coming last year.

The final table has just gotten underway, so we will soon know who will be the newest inductee into the WPT Champions Club.

2018 World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder Main Event – Final Table Chip Counts

1. Ping Liu – 3,330,000
2. Joe McKeehen – 2,755,000
3. Ian Steinman – 2,480,000
4. Rayo Kniep – 2,435,000
5. D.J. Alexander – 1,425,000
6. David Larson – 700,000

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2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event Day 2: Chris Hinchcliffe Jumps to Front

 2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event Day 2: Chris Hinchcliffe Jumps to Front

The World Poker Tour (WPT) Rolling Thunder Main Event is already down to just 64 players at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort as Day 3 is just getting underway. The money bubble will burst fairly quickly today; just nine eliminations are needed for everyone remaining to breathe a sigh of relief. Leading the charge – and someone who probably isn’t too worried about making the money – is Chris Hinchcliffe with 723,000 chips. Nobody else has more than 600,000 chips and only two other people even have as many as 500,000.

Hinchcliffe has won just over a million dollars in his live tournament career, with his biggest cash accounting for almost half of it. Interestingly enough, it is his first recorded cash on his page at, a third place finish in the 2004 Million III $ 7,000 Limit Hold’em Championship, good for $ 441,463.

One of the more interesting developing stories of this tournament is the presence of Derek Wolters in Day 3. Wolters has finished third in WPT Main Events twice in the last few months, doing it at WPT Montreal in November and then the WPT L.A. Poker Classic at the end of February. Wolters is currently second in the World Poker Tour Player of the Year Race with 1,800 points; Art Papazyan is first with 2,400. Wolters is not in tremendous shape to start day, but with 167,500 chips entering Day 3, he still sits squarely in the middle of the field. Seriously, he is 32nd in chips out of 64. While he is not exactly comfortable, it also won’t take much for him to push toward another final table. It is poker, after all.

The WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event drew a total of 440 entries, creating a prize pool of $ 1.408 million. The top 55 players will make the money with the winner receiving $ 295,128 and min-cash being worth $ 5,990.

The second place player, Rayo Kniep, knows what it’s all about. Afterward, he expressed his joy to, saying, “I’m a lucky player. Running up a ton of chips and playing with people that I know from television. That’s why you play poker. If you have a good time, enjoy it. I can’t help myself. I’m running so good so I have such a good time.”

“This is my first-ever Day 3,” he added. “My dream is to make the final table. I know it’s silly of course, as an amateur player. Telling your friends you can see me on the stream, that’s something I would look forward to.”

It’s not silly at all, man. We are you.

As mentioned, Day 3 of the WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event has just gotten started. The plan is to get the field all the way down to the final table.

2018 World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder Main Event – Day 2 Chip Leaders

1. Chris Hinchcliffe – 723,000
2. Rayo Kniep – 567,000
3. Django Young – 500,000
4. Joe McKeehen – 494,000
5. Sam Panzica – 460,000
6. Glenn Larson – 413,500
7. Ian Steinman – 340,000
8. Ping Liu – 322,000
9. Pat Lyons – 281,500
10. John Richards – 265,000

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2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Day 1B – Dean Freedlander Takes Over Lead, Final Numbers Yet to Be Determined

 2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Day 1B – Dean Freedlander Takes Over Lead, Final Numbers Yet to Be Determined

The 2018 World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort in California completed the second of its two-Day Ones on Saturday. By the time the dust had settled, there was a new overall leader in Dean Freedlander. With late registration still ongoing, however, the players were still unsure of what they were playing for.

The final Day One of the tournament brought out a flock of players looking for redemption from busting out of Day 1A. From the first flight of the cards, 145 entries were on the tournament clock and many of those were from players who had taken a previous shot. Ari Engel, Anthony Zinno, Darren Elias, Blair Hinkle, Curt Kohlberg and Kathy Liebert were all return guests of the tournament, looking to make the most of their final shot (?) on Saturday.

By the time the tournament had reached Level 4 on Day 1B, it was obvious that it was going to be a much bigger day than Day 1A. 199 entries had been received by the start of Level 4 and the players continued to stream in through the Thunder Valley tournament arena doors. That number continued to ratchet up and reached a grand total of 251 entries by the time that the day had concluded.

It was an interesting ride for many pros in the field on Saturday. Ray Qartomy (who had also been a part of the proceedings on Friday) saw his chip stack yo-yo all through the day before he departed late in the action. He wasn’t the only one, however; Liebert and Elias were also victims of the elimination bug and Aaron Mermelstein, Loren Klein, Taylor Paur, Rep Porter, Allen Kessler and Hinkle were all under the original starting stack of 30,000 at the close of business.

Someone who was able to move quietly through the field was Freedlander. The psychiatrist was able to diagnose that his opponents didn’t have much in hands against him, although he did admit to hitting “a few nut flushes on the turn or river” that his opponents didn’t pick up on. There must have been quite a few of those “nut flushes” because, by the end of the night, Freedlander had seized the overall lead.

1. Dean Freedlander, 163,900
2. Tim McDermott, 148,800
3. Paul Nguyen, 137,000
4. Anthony Zinno, 131,500
5. Ari Engel, 123,900
6. Darryl Okamoto, 120,000
7. David Larson, 113,600
8. Kevin Eyster, 110,000
9. Amnon Filippi, 104,000
10. Darrel Dier, 102,400

Along with the finishers from Day 1A, here’s how the overall leaderboard looks:

1. Dean Freedlander, 163,900
2. Tim McDermott, 148,800
3. Sean Marshall, 142,100*
4. Eddy Sabat, 140,000*
5. Matt Salsberg, 139,200*
6. Paul Nguyen, 137,000
7. Anthony Zinno, 131,500
8. Ping Liu, 130,100*
9. Jesse Rockowitz, 126,200*
10. Ari Engel, 123,900

(* – Day 1A Player)

There were 141 survivors from the Day 1B field, bringing the grand total of players that made it through either Day 1A or 1B to 212. The final numbers are not known yet as late registration is going to go through Level 10 on Sunday’s Day 2 action, or about 2PM (Pacific Time). Once Level 11 begins, the final totals will be revealed (still an excellent shot at getting over 400 entries for the overall tournament) and the final prize pool revealed. The tournament is scheduled to play down to its final table on Monday, with the next champion crowned at the WPT Rolling Thunder on Tuesday night.

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