The World Poker Tour Legends of Poker – a $3,700 buy-in Main Event that attracted 786 entrants to Bicycle Casino in California – proved to be an exciting affair. Freddy Deeb, who made a name for himself in the early years of the tour, was eyeing his record-tying third WPT title, which would put him alongside Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen and Anthony Zinno as the only players to accomplish the feat.
Deeb showed just why he is one of the game's true legends as one by one his opponents hit the rail until he was heads-up with significant against Mike Shariati. In what turned out to be one of the most exciting heads-up battles in WPT history – one that lasted 117 hands – Shariati and Deeb battled, with the former getting lucky when it counted. In the end, Deeb was denied his third title, and it was Shariati, a genetic engineer/researcher and professional poker player, who etched his name on the WPT Champions' Cup.
Prior to the win, Shariati, who was born in Iran but lives in Irvine, California, had $279,480 in career earnings, all but $4,480 of which came from a single score – a win in March's World Series of Poker Circuit Event #35: $160 No-Limit Hold'em Mega Millions XII.
Final Table Results
Notable Finishes: Michael Wang (7th - $70,604), Bill Fagerbakke (10th - $26,149), Alex Masek (12th - $26,149), Griffin Paul (13th - $20,920), Tom Marchese (16th - $17,782), JJ Liu (30th - $13,075), and JC Tran (38th - $10,983)
According to updates from the event, the first elimination of the final table happened on Hand #6 when Craig Chait shoved all in for 855,000 under the gun and Deeb three-bet to 1.7 million from the button to drive out the blinds.
Chait had kicker issues, and the flop provided no help. The turn gave him a flush draw, but the river was a blank. Chait took home $91,523 for his sixth-place finish.
On Hand #32, Stan Jablonski, who was fresh of a Heartland Poker Tour final table, when his failed to improve against the of Brent Roberts. Then, 47 hands later, Aaron Kweskin, who began the final table as chip leader, followed him out the door in fourth place after his couldn't outrun the of Shariati.
On Hand #83, with the blinds at 80,000/160,000/20,000, Deeb opened for 360,000 from the button only to have Roberts three-bet to 900,000 from the big blind. Deeb responded by moving all in, and Roberts snap-called off his stack of 3.255 million with the . Unfortunately for him, Deeb held the and held after the board ran out . Roberts took home $251,035 for his third-place finish, which marked the second-largest score of his career.
That hand allowed Deeb to take a 2:1 chip lead into heads-up play, but Shariati held strong and erased the deficit. The two exchanged the lead a bit after that, and then Deeb came on strong winning pot after pot to pull out to an 11:1 lead. It seemed Deeb had his third title locked up, but Shariati spiked a six on the river with the to survive against Deeb's , and then a hand after that double yet again to get back into contention. Amazing, two hands later, Shariati flopped a set against Deeb's top pair to double for a third time, which put him back in the lead.
Again, the two jockeyed for position, each taking turns holding the lead and doubling through the other. Then on Hand #201 of the final table, which occurred in Level 27 (300,000/600,000/100,000), Shariati, who held the lead, limped before snap-calling Deeb's shove of 6.7 million.
The flop paired Deeb, but he needed more help to stay alive. The turn was no help, and neither was the river. Deeb took home a $383,090 consolation prize for his runner-up finish, while Shariati captured the $675,942 first-place prize, which included an entry into the season-ending in the WPT World Championship.
The WPT's next stop will be the Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City from September 20-25. PokerNews will bring you a recap of that event upon completion of play.
*Lead photo courtesy of Joe Giron and WPT.