When the final table of the World Poker Tour Lucky Hearts Poker Open — a tournament that attracted 1,027 entries and created a prize pool of over $3.2 million — commenced on Wednesday at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, there were two major storylines to follow.
The first was the appearance of 27-year-old attorney Kelly Minkin, a Wisconsin native who had relocated to Arizona. Minkin, who finished runner-up to Joe Kuether in the 2013 Arizona State Poker Championship for $151,983, was looking to become the first woman in history to win a WPT open event. As PokerNews Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters pointed out on Twitter, it was the 217th open WPT Main Event, a number he put in perspective.
"In terms of females winning open events on other big tours, Victoria Coren Mitchell won the 16th [European Poker Tour] event, Barbara Enright won the 315th [World Series of Poker] event, and there have been 152 WSOP Circuit main events with no female winner."
The other big story was that of Brian Altman and Mark Dube, who began the final table as the two massive stacks with 72 percent of the chips in play. Ultimately, history would be denied when Minkin fell in third, while Altman and Dube squared off in heads-up play. It took two hours before Altman, a 26-year-old poker pro from Longmeadow, Massachusetts, came out the victor to capture the $723,008 first-place prize, a pair of Monster DNA headphones, and a $15,400 seat into the season-ending WPT World Championship.
Final Table Results
Notable Finishes: Jared Jaffee (10th - $39,437), Justin Zaki (12th - $39,437), Anthony Zinno (23rd - $14,789), Shannon Shorr (35th - $12,817), and Allen Kessler (60th - $9,202)
According to updates from the event, the first three eliminations came quickly, and it was no surprise the fallen were the three short stacks at the start of play. Jon Graham, a 24-year-old online poker pro from Orlando, was the first to go in sixth place, and he was followed out the door in fifth by Sanjay Gehi, a 36-year-old married father and Certified Public Accountant from Anniston, Alabama. The $180,752 marked the Georgia Tech graduate's largest career score.
Greg Rosen, a 48-year-old recreational player who works in the security business, was the next to go, earning $220,189 for his fourth-place finish. Not too shabby considering Rosen, who is married with twins, won his way onto the event via a $100 buy-in satellite.
Minkin would meet her demise in Level 31 (60,000/120,000/20,000) on Hand #75 of the final table when she shoved her last 1.88 million all in from the small blind and Altman called from the big.
Minkin was well out in front with her pocket pair, but the flop made things interesting by delivering Altman an open-ended straight draw. The turn actually gave Minkin a set, but it also gave Altman a flush draw to go with his straight outs. The dealer burned one last time and put out the on the river. Altman spiked his straight and Minkin had to console herself with $262,912 in prize money.
Heads-up play began with Dube holding a slight chip lead over Altman, but over the course of the next 56 hands those chips would bounce between the players. Finally, on Hand #131 when Altman had pulled out to a 2-1 chip lead, he called a raise to 900,000 from Dube to see a flop. Altman checked, Dube bet 1.1 million, and Altman woke up with a check-raise to 2.6 million. Dube proceeded to move all in for 9.6 million and Altman snap-called.
It was a cooler flop as Dube had flopped top set while Altman flopped the flush. Dube was looking for the board to pair, but that didn't happen as the blanked on the turn followed by the on the river. Dube, a 25-year-old poker pro from Massachusetts, took home $434,462 for his runner-up finish, which notched out his $377,467 win in the 2014 Deepstack Extravaganza III Event #66 $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em as his largest career score.
Congrats to Altman, who graduated Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences with a doctorate degree, on etching his name on the WPT Champions' Cup. The win marked the largest score of his career, but it was not his only notable accomplishment. Altman, who is also an Assistant Coach for the Sabris Bulldogs wrestling team out of Springfield, Massachusetts — a team his brother coaches — actually topped PokerStars' yearly tournament leaderboard back in 2010. Black Friday derailed his online career, but clearly he's made a successful transition to the live realm.
The next WPT Main Event takes place at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario from Feb. 13-16. PokerNews will bring you a recap of that event upon completion of play.
*Hands, pictures, and information obtained on worldpokertour.com.