The "Year of the Pro" continued at the 2008 World Series of Poker as John Phan became the latest pro player to claim his first bracelet. Phan joined the company of Erick Lindgren and David Singer, all highly successful tournament pros who picked up their first bracelets in 2008. Phan came from the middle of the pack at the final table to best Johnny Neckar in a phenomenal heads-up match for the bracelet.
Matt Vengrin took the chip lead into the final table, as the seating assignments and chip stacks looked like this to start the day:
Seat 1: Sebastian Segovia (Guatemala) — 128,500
Seat 2: Alex Bolotin (Brooklyn, New York) — 534,000
Seat 3: David Singer (Las Vegas, Nevada) — 334,000
Seat 4: Thuy Doan (Williamsburg, Virginia) — 369,500
Seat 5: John Phan (Stockton, California) — 396,500
Seat 6: Matt Vengrin (Red Hook, New York) — 1,007,500
Seat 7: Stewart Newman (Coral Gables, Florida) — 398,000
Seat 8: Johnny Neckar (Madison, Wisconsin) — 796,000
Seat 9: Tony Dunst (Melbourne, Australia) — 333,000
After a few hands of feinting and jabbing as players tried to find openings at the final table, short-stacked Sebastian Segovia got all his chips in the middle against chip leader Matt Vengrin. Segovia raised preflop, and John Phan reraised enough to put Segovia all in. Vengrin then reraised Phan, who got out of the way. Segovia called with , and Vengrin tabled for a coin flip. The board ran out , and Vengrin's rivered set sent Segovia home in ninth place ($39,523).
Australian online star Tony "Bond18" Dunst was next to fall when he went all in over the top of Vengrin's preflop raise. Vengrin called with , and Dunst tabled . The flop was a good one for both players, as the board gave Vengrin a pair and a straight draw, while Dunst made a flush draw to go with his overpair. The on the turn made Vengrin's straight, and the on the river didn't complete Dunst's flush, as he went to the rail in eighth ($54,344).
Thuyen Doan outlasted a lot of top-notch players, male and female, to become the only woman at the final table. Her quest to pick up her first bracelet ended in seventh place ($69,165) when she ran her pocket sixes into John Phan's . Phan made top pair on the board, and the turn solidified his lead. The river was no help to Doan, and she was busted in seventh.
Stewart Newman got his chips in good, pushing all in preflop with and being called by John Phan with . The flop, however, was brutal for Newman as it ran out . No help showed on the turn or river, as they came down , and Newman picked up $88,927 for his sixth-place finish.
David Singer's quest for a second bracelet in 2008 came to an end when he was eliminated in fifth place. After calling a preflop raise from John Phan with , Singer moved all in over the top of Phan's flop bet on a board of . Phan snap-called with for bottom two pair, and Singer needed to hit his straight or running perfect cards to survive. The turn and river came down , and Singer went to the rail in fifth place ($112,641).
Alex Bolotin then found himself on the opposite side of the coin flip as Sebastian Segovia when he moved all in with and was called by John Phan with . The coin came down tails for Bolotin, as the board ran out , giving Phan a bigger two pair and sending Bolotin home in fourth place ($137,343).
Day 2 chip leader Matt Vengrin got all his chips in against Johnny Neckar preflop with to Neckar's . The board was not kind to Vengrin, as it came down , and the former chip leader was eliminated in third place ($167,973).
Phan took a slight chip lead into heads-up play, and no one could suspect the marathon that was about to ensue. The chip stacks looked like this as heads-up play began:
John Phan: 2,345,000
Johnny Neckar: 1,950,000
It took over six hours of heads-up play for the two remaining competitors to agree to gamble, but after playing for hours and hours against each other, Neckar and John Phan agreed to play their hands all-in, blind!
In the first hand of blind insanity, Phan tabled to Neckar's . With both players all in preflop, the board ran out as Neckar doubled through Phan to take the chip lead.
On the next hand, the players again agreed to shove all in blind before the flop, and not reveal their cards until the river. With all the chips in the middle and the board reading , Phan first revealed the . Neckar tabled the . Neckar revealed the , and was playing the board, and Phan turned over the for a better kicker and Phan doubled through Neckar.
The next hand, with Phan holding a massive chip lead, the players pushed all in blind once again. The board read , and Phan turned over the . Neckar revealed the , and Phan showed the . Neckar tabled the for a pair of fours and a double-up. After those few hands, the players returned to more normal play, but it only took a few more minutes for Phan to send Neckar to the rail.
It ended when Phan raised preflop from the button with , and Neckar moved all in over the top. Phan called, and Neckar tabled . No help came for Neckar on the flop, and the turn was the , also no help. Neckar's bracelet hopes ended when the landed on the river, giving Phan top pair and his first WSOP bracelet. Neckar picked up $277,452 for his impressive runner-up finish, as John Phan grabbed the bracelet and the $434,789 first prize.