Winning a World Series of Poker title is one thing, but defending it, that's where it's at. Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar, and Johnny Chan famously did it in the WSOP Main Event long ago, while the most recent to do it was Thang Luu, who won the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better in 2008/09. Now all of those players, along with a few others, have company as Tuan Le, 37, just added his name to the prestigious list of back-to-back champions.
A year ago, Le topped a field of 120 players to win Event #5: $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball for $355,324 and his first gold bracelet. Fast forward one year and Le was one of 109 players taking part in the same event, albeit as the defending champ. Le managed to make it all the way to the final table, which is where he faced some stiff competition including Calvin Anderson, Rep Porter, and Phil Galfond, who improved upon last year's sixth-place finish by placing fourth for $89,939.
In the end, Le secured the victory to become the first player in six years to successfully defend a WSOP title.
"This year’s victory is like ten times as big as last year," Le said after the win. "When you defend a title, that’s a totally different ball game. It’s a statement. Anyone can get a rush one time and win, but to do it again, makes a statement. For me, last year was about the money. This year was about the bracelet."
Final Table Results
|1||Tuan Le||Los Angeles, CA||$322,756|
|2||Max Casal||Burbank, CA||$199,438|
|3||Ismael Bojang||Vienna, Austria||$130,851|
|4||Phil Galfond||New York, NY||$89,939|
|5||James Obst||Adelaide, Australia||$63,863|
|6||Rep Porter||Woodinville, WA||$46,813|
|7||Calvin Anderson||Yukon, OK||$35,389|
According to Le, he almost didn't play the event but ultimately opted to enter, which obviously proved to be a wise decision.
"At the beginning, but once yesterday when the money bubble busted, I just really cranked it up because I saw the players get more loose," Le said when asked if he felt any pressure to defend. "So I just cranked it up a notch and put a lot of pressure on them."
Le also credited his friend Tim Phan, a high-limit cash game player, for part of his 2-7 triple draw success. As Le explained, he and fellow poker pro Nam Le used to go over to Phan's house to play. Poorer then than they are now, they would often lose their "lunch money" and would be forced to leave empty handed as Phan would never "give it back."
"I sat behind him and I learned a lot from him playing deuce," Le said of Phan before adding, "I play a lot of deuce at home … It's no coincidence half the table were live cash game players at Commerce playing nothing 2-7."
One of those players was Max Casal, 47, a player Le respected, but wasn't excited to see in heads-up play.
"I really didn't want Max to begin with" Le admitted. "I play so much with him at home, and his feel for heads up is [incredible]… he's tough like that."
Despite Casal's skill, he would become Le's final victim. According to updates from the event, it happened when Le raised to 80,000 on the button and Casal three-bet to 120,000. Le four-bet, and Casal called off for 140,000 total.
Casal drew one card on each draw, while Le took three, two, and then stood pat with . Casal was drawing live to , but the he received paired him and sent him out the door in second place for $199,438, his first WSOP cash in four years and by far the biggest of his career.
As for the timid Le, he sat for a winner's photo, answered a few questions, and politely declined to take part in tomorrow's bracelet ceremony, instead opting to take the bracelet home tonight, which WSOP officials were happy to let him do.
Le may be low key, but his accomplishment is anything but.