The great 20th century American poet Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. (a.k.a. Snoop Dogg) once said, "I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind." That line seemed appropriate at Day 5 of the WPT Championships as the 27 remaining players slowly made their way down to the final 6.
Last Saturday at the Bellagio, the first flight of 639 players forked over $25K with one thing on every entrant's mind... to make the final table and be in a position to win $4 million. After 99 episodes of the WPT, there's not a sane person in poker who does not know that WPT final tables are a crap shoot. Even though chipleader Paul Lee has over 1/3 of the chips in play... anything can happen at the final table of a WPT event due to the accelerated blind structure at the TV table.
While WPT co-creator Lyle Berman played in the WPT Championships, he was constantly told that the structure sucked ass. Roland de Wolfe, who is the only player to have won an EPT event and a WPT event, told Berman that the WPT should use the same final table format that the EPT does. Berman's response, "Send me their blind structure and I'll take a look."
Alas, there's nothing he can do about it right now. The levels were ninety minutes in length with a gradual increase in blinds. Once the final table starts, the levels drop to under an hour with much bigger jumps. The suits at the WPT want action for the TV program... not to have an event where the final six players actually play poker to determine who's the next WPT World Champion. That's what I loved about the WSOP main event with two hour levels and that's why the European players prefer the EPT over the WPT.
The WPT Championship Final Table (with chip counts):
1. Paul Lee (Los Angeles, CA) 11.8M
2. Carlos Mortensen (Las Vegas, NV) 6.5M
3. Guy Laliberte (Beverly Hills, CA) 4.69M
4. Kirk Morrison (Topeka, KS) 4.194M
5. Mike Wattel (Phoenix, AZ) 2.887M
6. Tim Phan (Westminster, CA) 2.162M
Final TV Table Payouts:
Day 5 Money Winners:
7 Thomas Wahlroos $278,465
8 Scott Fischman $247,525
9 Tommy Vu $216,585
10 Jimmy Tran $185,645
11 Grant Lang $154,705
12 CK Hua $154,705
13 David Levi $154,705
14 Jake Minter $154,705
15 Sorel "imper1um" Mizzi $154,705
16 Jim "KrazyKanuck" Worth $123,670
17 Richard Anthony $123,670
18 Phil Hellmuth $123,670
19 Loi Phan $123,670
20 Ben Johnson $123,670
21 Tom Pniak $92,820
22 Raymond Davis $92,820
23 David Baker $92,820
24 Paul Wasicka $92,820
25 Adeeb Harb $92,820
26 Roland de Wolfe $92,820
27 Robert Wazelle $92,820
Here's some quick background on the players...
Chipleader Paul Lee doesn't play too many big events, but a glance at his Hendon Mob stats show that he plays tons of smaller buy-in events all over Southern California. He was freerolling into the WPT Championships after winning a different event at the Bellagio last week.
Carlos Mortensen is the best player to come out of Spain and is considered one of the top 10 pros in all of Europe. The 2001 WSOP bracelet winner is trying to become the first WSOP Main Event champion to win a WPT World Championship. Mortensen is in an elite club of four players (along with Joe Hachem, Doyle Brunson, and Scotty Nguyen) who have won the WSOP and at least one WPT event. Mortensen is clearly the best player at the final table. El Matador is my pick to win it all.
(Photo courtesy of Flipchip)
Guy Laliberte sneezes $100 bills. The guy named Guy is originally from Montreal and the founder of Cirque du Soleil. Whispers made its way through media row about his estimated net worth. Some said $5 billion but the actual number is somewhere between $1 and $2 billion. BJ did his homework and said that Forbes listed him at $1.5 billion. He's playing for chump change, which means he's fearless at the tables. He was tipping the Bellagio cocktail servers $20 bills for bringing him Fiji water. Change100 said that he wore a $600 cashmere sweater. All I could say was, "I like the eagle on the back."
Kirk Morrison won a WSOP bracelet back in 1988 and has been away from tournament poker the last few years. What a way to make a resurgence into poker! Out of everyone who made the final table, Morrison gutted out some of the toughest situations.
Mike Wattel is a former WSOP bracelet winner who had been best known as Cyndy Violette boyfriend. I think he looks just like Mike Gordon (the bass player from Phish). I have also never seen Wattel not wear shorts. I wonder if they'll make him wear long pants for the final table. He went from 1M in chips to 3M in less than fifteen minutes winning several small pots in a row. He stepped up his game late in Day 5.
Tim Phan just made his second WPT final table. I'm a fan of Phan because he uses his tournament winnings to support his extended family in California and overseas.
So what happened on Day 5?
Phil Hellmuth showed up late. Not like Hellmuthian late (anything over one hour), but the Poker Brat was the last player to arrive and had not sat down until the second hand was dealt. On the first hand that he played, he doubled up. He started 18th in chips and that hand put him closer to the Top 10. However, his run would not last long.
Hellmuth headed straight for tiltdom after his Kings were cracked by the Lizard King Kirk Morrison. Both Flipchip and I agreed that Hellmuth played his hand poorly on all streets. The best NL Hold'em player in the world succumbed to FPS... Fancy Play Syndrome.
Here's the hand: A very loose Morrison raised 75K preflop and Hellmuth smooth called with Ks-Kh. Mistake #1. The flop was 6s-5c-3s and Morrison fired out 150K. Hellmuth smooth called again with a flush draw and gutshot on the board. Mistake #2. The turn was the 3d and Morrison checked to Hellmuth who underbet 150K when the pot was 450K. Mistake #3. Morrison called Hellmuth's weak bet. The river was the 2s and Morrison fired out 225K. Hellmuth called his value bet with straights and flushes out there. Morrison tabled As-7s for the nut flush, while Hellmuth angrily showed his pocket Kings. That's when Hellmuth blew up and began berating Morrison.
Everyone in the room knew that Hellmuth fucked up and that his anger was misdirected. Hellmuth should have punched himself in the balls. The best NL Hold'em player in the world is not supposed to make a rookie mistake like that with $4 million and history on the line. I could justify the smooth call pre-flop in order to trap Morrison. But not raising the flop with all those draws was a total rookie mistake.
"I'll get all of his chips," Hellmuth steamed as he referred to Morrison in the third person. "Tournament after tournament these donkeys give away their chips to me. I don't have to chase them down. They come to me eventually."
Hellmuth and Tommy Vu (yes that Tommy Vu from those 1980s infomercials) were jawing back and forth. Vu sensed weakness and went for the attack. They had some interesting banter on one particular hand where Hellmuth min. raised preflop and Vu called. The flop was Kc-8h-7s and Vu checked to Hellmuth. He bet 70K and said, "I'm expecting you to check-raise me, but I have to bet my set of Kings."
Vu went into the tank for a few minutes which irritated Hellmuth.
"I'm playing against the best player in the world," sarcastically quipped Vu. "I need time to think."
Hellmuth called a clock on Vu as he counted out his chips. Vu min. raised Hellmuth as he pushed 140K past the betting line. Hellmuth quickly min. reraised 70K more.
"Let's see if you really have something," Hellmuth said.
"I don't have a clock still on me," joked Vu to the TD.
When the TD said no and walked away, Vu counted down some more chips and took more time. That bothered Hellmuth even more.
"Come on Tommy! If you have a set of 8s, let's do it. Just push all of it into the pot."
Just before Hellmuth called a clock on Vu for the second time in that hand, Vu min. raised again as he tossed out 140K chips.
"Looks like they are playing limit poker," joked the TD to the crowd.
Hellmuth was steaming. He stood up and sighed. He said he had Queens and folded. Vu didn't show his hand as Vu became a quick crowd favorite for standing up to the Poker Bully.
Hellmuth busted out an hour later at the hands of Thomas Wahlroos from Finland. Hellmuth went to battle with J-J but ran into Wahlroos' A-A.
"First time I got (pocket) Aces in the last two days," Wahlroos told me.
The young Fin, who made the WPT Paris final table, got a large applause from the spectators at the Bellagio on the rail who were cheering against Hellmuth.
Former WSOP Joe Hachem was on the rail most of the afternoon. Tiffany and Shronk got an interview with him where he discusses WPT final table strategy.
Click here to watch the Hachem video.
Thomas Wahlroos issued the Bad Beat of the Day. With 8 players remaining, he cracked Scott Fischman's Aces with the Hilton Sisters. Wahlroos rivered a four flush to cripple the surly Fischman who was in a bad mood the entire tournament. He is not as loud as Hellmuth or Matusow, but he has a reputation to be a constant complainer at the tables which is why most of the pros I've talked to don't like his attitude.
"What are you in such a bad mood for?" teased Tommy Vu. "You just won at least a quarter of a million!"
My pick to win it all, Thomas Wahlroos, ended up being the TV bubble boy when his As-10s did not hold up against Paul Lee's A-Q. If Wahlroos came from behind and won that hand, he would have been the chipleader. His luck ran out as he headed to the rail. Here's the picture of that intense moment that BJ took as I stood right behind Wahlroos.
(Photo courtesy of BJ Nemeth)
The final table is set to go at 5pm local time. BJ Nemeth and I will be co-blogging the final table together for Poker News. He'll be doing the play-by-play while I will be providing the color commentary. Check out our live updates at Poker News.
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 5
The WPT hosted a media tournament for us in the Fontana Room before the action started for Day 5. Chops from WCP and RawVegas played as did Lacey Jones, along with a slew of us from PokerNews such as Gaz, Shecky, BJ, myself, and Change100. I was crippled in the first orbit when I turned a boat and my opponent had been slowplaying quads on me. Ouch. I got my money back when I open-shoved with K-9o and was called by Ed from Gutshot. He had 8-8 and I flopped a King. I lost a race against Owen when his Hilton Sisters beat my Big Slick. I busted out on the next hand with Q-4o. Meanwhile, Change100 made the final table and went on to win it. She chopped with Craig from Gutshot when they were even in chips. She won two free nights at the Bellagio and a free meal for two at any MGM/Mirage eatery! Nice score.
Phil Hellmuth drew the most railbirds in the Fontana Room. They stood six or seven deep to catch a glimpse at the Poker Brat. It reminded me of rubberneckers on the highway slowing down to look at the carnage of a car wreck. Hellmuth would need to jaws of life to get his ass out of the mess he was in.
Charlie Shoten made a cameo early on and told me about the movie he's trying to make in Hollyweird. It's a mocumentary about poker and the concept seems hilarious.
Johnny Chan walked around in media row and stood on the rail most of the day. That's rare. Several members of the media tried to ask him who he had a piece of but he didn't say.
Other pros wandered around and Snoopy from Blonde Poker asked, "What level of poker celebrity do you have to be in order to be allowed inside the ropes?" I told him that you have to be high up. Chan and Hachem get automatic entry along with guys like Gavin Smith who have won a WPT event. I'm sure if Dutch Boyd tried to cross the line, he'd get tossed out.
(Photo courtesy of Flipchip)
Carlos Mortensen must have been inspired by influenced by Antoni Gaudi's buildings such as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. If you ever watch Mortensen play in a tournament, he'll do weird things with his chips like line up all the side designs in a row or erect his chips into odd shapes. At one point, Mortensen took several minutes to undo his sculpture in order to count out his chips when he moved all in with K-K. Tommy Vu was bothered that Mortensen was slowing up the game. "He not allowed to build a house no more!" Vu complained to the dealer. The most upset seemed to be Scott Fischman who sat right next to El Matador. Mortensen's sculpture drew the attention of the media including every photographer in the room who wanted to snap a photo of his masterpiece and Fischman doesn't like any media around his table.
Snoopy offered me $1 to knock down Mortensen's stack. I offered him $100 to snatch Fischman's hat off his head. We both declined.
A drunk Gavin Smith wandered up to the final table with a cocktail in his hand and chatted with Wahlroos. "Rum and coke?" asked Wahlroos. That Finnish kid makes some amazing reads.
The final table (of ten players) had a true international flavor to it with four players of Asian descent, three Americans, two Europeans, and one French-Canadian.
Change100 approved of all three of Isabelle Mercier's outfits. The poker fashionita made three appearances in the Fontana Room and she wore three different outfit changes. That's a move right out of Joe Speaker's playbook.
One anonymous reporter in media row referred to another media person as "the biggest tool in poker." Snoopy wanted to know what that meant. I guess British people don't use that term. I explained to him what a "tool" was and he gave me some comparable British slang such as... tosser, tosspot, twat, shirt lifter, or poo pusher. Of course my favorite one was... sausage jockey. Heh. The former biggest tool in poker now has the new title of... The biggest sausage jockey in poker!
Don't forget to check out Flipchip's WPT Championship photos.
Also take a peek at the Poker News extensive WPT Championship video gallery put together by our mulitmedia guru Shronk. The video gallery includes interviews with final table players Paul Lee and Kirk Morrison.
BJ and I will be live blogging the WPT Championship Final Table directly from the Bellagio for Poker News. It starts at 5pm local time or 8pm for all you east coasters.
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