A record setting 839 players put up $5,000 each to try to become the next Legend of Poker at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, easily eclipsing last year's number of 667. This big number forced tournament organizers into the eleventh hour decision of splitting the field into two day ones. The decision put a lot of pressure on tournament organizers, who now had to make a four day poker tournament work in essentially three days. This forced the third day to go until nearly six am...today, making for some really tired puppies at this final table.
On about eight hours rest, the final table participants were ready to play. The chip counts when cards went in the air were:
Todd Phillips 1,900,000 in chips
Alex Kahaner 1,855,000
Kenna James 1,540,000
Jake Minter 1,525,000
Tim Phan 1,080,000
Kevin O'Donnell 500,000
Even though you may not recognize many of the names on the list above, there were some really good stories at this table. Kenna James was be far the best known of the six as a poker player, but Todd Phillips is a big time Hollywood director, having recently helmed the comedies 'Old School' and 'Starsky & Hutch', among others. It is only appropriate that in the land of La La, we had a film director at our final table.
The mood at the table was driven by Kenna James, always a 'ham' as tournament director Denny Williams called him even when the cameras aren't on. Several competitors were drinking beer and mixed drinks, and within minutes it was clear this would be one of the more jovial, and relaxed final tables in WPT history.
The money at stake was enough to make people very tense, however, and you wondered when the easy smiles and quick banter would give way to tense silence as the money at stake was huge.
1st place - $1,125,000
2nd - $588,210
3rd - $333,600
4th - 291,900
5th - $250,200
The chattiness of this final table made for a very long night. The players seemed to really be enjoying their moments in the sun, and they were going to get as much camera time as possible. Our first elimination took nearly four hours (most WPT final tables take about five hours total). Kevin O'Donnell was left with one chip after calling Kenna James all in bet with A 6 (Kenna had A 9) on a board of A 10 4 8 7. This left Kevin with not even enough to make the ante on the next hand. Kevin's hand all in was 7 2 offsuit, and the 'worst hand in poker' held true to its name, and Kevin O'Donnell was our sixth place finisher. Kevin O'Donnell - 6th place - $208,500.
Every good film must come to an end, and director Todd Phillips time had come. After leading under the gun, and getting called in two places, Todd Phillips moved in after Kenna James had made a small bet after the flop. In a cruel (plot) twist of fate, Kenna James had pocket threes, and Todd had pocket sevens. The cruel twist was that the flop had brought a three, and James had out flopped his opponent, and sent Todd Phillips off to the edit bay to try to write a different ending to this script. Todd Phillips - 5th place - $250,200.
Kenna James began to perfect the strategy of getting his money in with the worst of it, and coming out ahead. Tim Phan moved all in with A J, and Kenna called him with A 7 of clubs. The flop seemed innocent enough - Q 9 6 with one club. But the turn was the most interesting card in the deck, the eight of clubs, giving Kenna an open ended straight draw, a flush draw, and he still could catch a 7. Indeed the river brought a 7, and a swift end to Tim Phan's night. Tim Phan - 4th place - $291,000
Now Kenna had accumulated a huge chip lead, and with Phan gone, Kenna was by far the most experienced player at the table. Now down to three, the chip counts were.
Kenna James 5,020,000 in chips
Alex Kahaner- 2,000,000
Jake Minter 1,700,000
The play had gone on for so long, the blinds were at 100,000/200,000, with a 20,000 ante, and things got wild and wooly. Jake Minter moved all in on four of the first five hands, and in fact got called on a funny chop pot by Kenna James. Both players had pocket fours, and no flush cards came, so it was chop/chop, and on to the next all in.
Finally, the end came for Jake Minter. Jake had shown a lot of guts by moving in over and over, but A 5 was not his hand today. First, Jake doubled Alex up when his first A 5 ran into Alex's pocket queens. A few hands later, Jake's A 5 ran into Alex's A 9, and when no miracle came, Jake was free to go. Jake Minter - 3rd place - $333,600
Now down to heads up, the chip counts looked like this.
Kenna - 4,600,000 in chips
Alex - 3,780,000
What happened next could only happen in the post Moneymaker/TV era of poker. With Kenna having about an 800,000 chip lead, he led out preflop for 600,000. Alex re-raised it to 1,500,000. Kenna moved in after some thought.
After a long think, Alex said the following (remember, the difference between first and second was $600,000 in real money) "Kenna, I know you have me beat, but I'm tired, and I want to go home....I call." Kenna's jaw dropped, and hit the floor when he saw his opponent called him with J 10. Kenna turned over A 4, but you kind of knew what was coming. The flop gave Alex even more outs, as it came Q 9 6. The turn was a King, and Kenna went from having control of the match to being outchipped 7 to 1. Kenna was visibly shaken, and Alex visibly moved.
After chopping the next pot with identical hands, the end came for Kenna James. Alex moved in with K J (Kenna's nickname, ironically), and Kenna called immediately with pocket sixes. As we have seen so many times in recent months on the World Poker Tour, the worst hand got there, as a King on the river made Kenna no longer a King.
Many will question Alex's call with J 10, but the bottom line is he won, and for several Wednesdays on the Travel Channel next year, he will be the next Legend of Poker.
Kenna James - 2nd place - $588,210
Alex Kahaner - Champion - $1,125,000
Ed note: Aruba satellites are in full swing at Ultimate Bet doesn't the beach sound nice....