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Johan Lees Wins 2017 WSOP Sydney Opening Event for $105,416

Johan Lees Wins 2017 WSOP Sydney Opening Event for $105,416 0001

It looks like the Star Poker Room is living up to its promise of a bigger and better 2017 after attracting a record field of 1,357 players to its opening World Series of Poker Circuit event.

The 2017 WSOP Sydney series crowned its first champion in the 13-event series. It was Johan Lees who claimed the ring after lasting six days and surviving a heads-up battle where he started second in chips to his opponent Matthew Velcic.

Lees seemed to be a favorite of the locals to pull off a win, if not today, then sometime soon. It's well-known that Lees has been working on his game and everyone was betting that it was time for that work to pay off. But Lees isn’t one to take the credit for the time he’s spent perfecting his skill, instead, he chalks up his win to a good run of cards.

“I just try to do my best in every situation,” Lees told the Star Poker Live Reporting Team. “I got some good cards at the right time and was lucky to be able to take advantage of that.”

Early in the Tournament

After four starting days, the action leading up to the final table on day 2 was a wild ride. Steve Pappas started day 2 as the early chip leader with an impressive stack, but it didn’t take long for him to go from the top of the leaderboard to out.

It was Hannah Lee who took over the top spot and used her five times the average chip stack to dominate play. Until she didn’t. Poker is a finicky mistress and it didn’t take her long to go from an almost guaranteed seat at the final table to the rail.

And Day 2 claimed another life after Eric Wu willingly stepped in for Lee. But he, like Pappas and Lee, didn’t hold onto the top spot for long. It was Lees who did what the other chip leaders of the day couldn't. He was able to hold onto the chips he earned which propelled him all the way to the final table with more than double the chips of the player in second place.

The Final Table

SeatNameChip Count
1Unensaikhan 'Uno Yuka' Bolovson1,900,000
2Toby Bentall395,000
3Declan Russell310,000
4Matthe Velcic1,345,000
5Nathan Kiely1,520,000
6Johan 'Bucket Hat' Lees4,815,000
7Carlos Youssef755,000
8David '2 Card FuFu' Dai1,315,000
9Daniel Franks1,300,000

Lees wasted no time in letting his opponents know he’s in it to win it by scoring the first elimination of the day when he tabled {k-Hearts}{k-Spades} to Declan Russel’s {7-Diamonds}{7-Hearts}. Russel couldn’t find a seven and was eliminated in ninth place, taking home a hard-earned $10,448.

The next elimination followed shortly after, when runner-up Velcic found himself in a dominating position with {q-Diamonds}{q-Clubs} against Toby Bentall’s {9-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}. Bentall couldn’t find help on the {7-Clubs}{a-Spades}{8-Spades}{a-Clubs}{k-Clubs} board and hit the rail in 8th place pocketing a decent $13,104.

Nearly an hour elapsed before the final table lost its next player and again it was Lees claiming the knockout. Unensaikhan 'Uno Yuka’ Bolovson put his final 1,035,000 in the pot from middle position. He almost made it through until he encountered Lees on the button who, after some thought, moved in over the top for his remaining 3.5 million. Both blinds got out of the way and the cards were tabled:

Bolovson: {8-Spades}{8-Clubs}
Lees: {A-Spades}{q-Clubs}

Lees hit his ace on the flop and held the lead through the river to eliminate Bolovson in seventh place for $16,627.

Just a few hands later, Nathan Kiely was in eliminated in sixth place when his {J-Spades}{J-Hearts}couldn’t hold against Velcic’s {a-Hearts}{k-Diamonds}. Kiely is taking home a healthy $21,342 for his efforts.

Shortly after, Velcic earned his third elimination of the final table when he called the all in of Daniel Franks with {a-Spades}{8-Hearts}. Franks held {q-Clubs}{j-Diamonds}and didn’t find any help sending him home in fifth place and $27,711.

It took just under two hours to eliminate over half the final table and play never slowed down, even as the six-figure winner's paycheck came into view.

It didn’t take long after returning from break for Velcic to earn another notch on his belt when he raised to 325,000 from the button.

David “2-Card Fufu” Dai made the call and the players saw a flop of {6-Diamonds}{k-Clubs}{j-Hearts}.

Dai check-called Velcic’s bet of 350,000 and the {4-Clubs} turn was dealt. Dai wasted no time moving all-in holding {k-Hearts}{q-Clubs}for top pair, but soon realized he was crushed against the {a-Spades}{a-Diamonds}of Velcic. The river {a-Hearts} made Dai’s elimination in fourth place official, taking home $36,400 for his efforts.

Velcic was an ace-magnet for most of the final table and held them yet again to eliminate Carlos Youssef in third-place for $47,881 creating a heads up battle with the only other player to score an elimination at the final table, Lees.

Heads Up

Going into heads-up, Velcic’s six eliminations put him at the top of the chips counts with 7.1 million to Lees' 6.2 million. Velcic may have had the momentum leading up to the heads-up battle, but Lees didn't let that thwart him. He continued to chip away at Velcic’s stack with some well-timed steals, raises, and three-bets.

Lees was completely in command when the final hand was dealt.

He called Velcic’s raise of 350,000 and the players saw the flop {6-Diamonds}{10-Clubs}{7-Spades}.

Velcic led out for 450,000 and Lees once again called. Both players checked on the {k-Spades} turn and went to the river where the {4-Spades} fell. 


Lees wasted no time in moving all in, which actually put Velcic all in. Velcic made the call and Lees quickly tabled {3-Diamonds}{5-Spades} showing the rivered straight. Velcic saw the bad news and slid his cards into the muck. After dominating much of the final table play, Velcic hit the rail in second-place taking with him $65,539 for his hard work.

A ring and nice paycheck isn't the only thing Lees is walking away with. His final hand may have earned him a new nickname. “We are gonna call you Mr. Three-Five offsuit from now on,” good friend and fellow player Jesse Mason yelled out to Lees.

“You know what, I am pretty happy with that,” Lees replied.

Final Results

PlaceNamePrize
1Johan Lees$105,416
2Matthew Velcic$65,539
3Carlos Youssef$47,881
4David “2-Card Fufu” Dai$36,400
5Daniel Franks$27,711
6Nathan Kiely$21,342
7Unensaikhan 'Uno Yuka’ Bolovson$16,627
8Toby Bentall$13,104
9Declan Russel$10,448

The work Lees has been putting in on his game has paid off with some good quality play, and of course, some good timing. It says a lot that he pulled out a win against Velcic who had an impressive final-table performance.

If the opening event is any indication, you can expect some impressive poker being played at the tables in Sydney. And if the play we saw from Lees today is any indication, we'll surely see him sitting on top of the leaderboard again.

The Action Down Under is Just Getting Started

There is plenty more action to come at the 2017 WSOP Sydney Circuit. The tournament series is being held through December 18, 2017. The full schedule can be found on the StarPoker website.

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