Darren Elias Eyes Record Fourth WPT Title, Leads ARIA Final Table
The inaugural WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, the new season-ending $10,000 buy-in event on the storied tour, drew a total of 162 runners after 150 Day 1 entrants and 12 Day 2 late registrants. After three days of action at the ARIA in Las Vegas, an official final table of six has been reached with three-time WPT champion Darren Elias well out in front, looking for a record number four titles.
Elias brings 2,127,000 chips (177 big blinds) into the final day, separating himself ahead of the pack by a hefty 110 big blinds. Former WPT champion Dietrich Fast is the next closest competitor, sitting on 801,000 (67 big blinds).
A whopping four of the remaining six already have at least one WPT title to their credit and there are eight total titles among them. Elias has a record-tying three, while Sam Panzica as well as Day 2 chip leader Jonathan Little both have two titles, looking to join the illustrious three-title club, and Fast has one.
Elias had an interesting day, to say the least, and it seemed that the more chips he accumulated, the more he was berated and verbally threatened by eighth-place finisher Ray Qartomy and Phil Hellmuth, who busted to Elias in seventh with tens against queens.
"I had a similar situation in Jacksonville earlier this [season] and I wasn't able to win. Hopefully, I can redeem myself this time."
"Playing with Hellmuth, playing with Ray all day... 'I'm gonna knock you out. I'm gonna punish you.' The usual Hellmuth stuff. He thought he had me with pocket tens but I had pocket queens," Elias recounted.
When asked if he would be okay with anything but first, Elias was adamant: "No, no, if I don't win, I'll be pretty disappointed. I had a similar situation in Jacksonville earlier this [season] and I wasn't able to win. Hopefully, I can redeem myself this time."
Kitty Kuo and 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen are both looking for their first WPT victories, though neither is a stranger to success in the tournament poker circuit. McKeehen has had strong results on this WPT season, and is the only player at the final table who could catch Art Papazyan on the WPT Player of the Year leaderboard, though he needs a victory to win outright or a runner-up to tie for points.
"I think at this final table I'm the worst player, but it's OK. You never know, right?"
Kuo told PokerNews after bagging up the third-largest stack that she did not even plan to play this event because she knows all the high rollers play here at ARIA.
"I would never put the money into this tournament," she said. "It's too tough."
She decided to fire up a $1,000 satellite anyway though on Saturday and got through, so she went for it. Despite being seated with five $300K high roller regulars on Day 1, she was able to advance, eventually making Day 3 with one of the shorter stacks out of the remaining 20 players. Kuo highly values the learning experience she has gotten from observing her high-level opponents and even got some pointers from a lot of them. Heading into the final table, Kuo is humble, but optimistic.
"I think at this final table I'm the worst player, but it's OK," she said. "You never know, right?"
One would imagine that for this elite group of players, the title is at the top of their thoughts, though all of them would also like to get their hands on the first-place payout of $387,580 that includes a $15,000 entry into this weekend’s Tournament of Champions.
Bobby Baldwin Classic Final Table Chip Counts
|Seat||Player||Chips (big blinds)|
|Seat 1||Dietrich Fast||801,000 (67 bbs)|
|Seat 2||Jonathan Little||300,000 (25 bbs)|
|Seat 3||Sam Panzica||566,000 (47 bbs)|
|Seat 4||Darren Elias||2,127,000 (177 bbs)|
|Seat 5||Kitty Kuo||683,000 (57 bbs)|
|Seat 6||Joe McKeehen||385,000 (32 bbs)|
Getting to the Final Table
The Day 1 field was full of the usual suspects, most of whom hit the rail before it was time to bag with 62 players remaining. David Sands, Eric Wasserson, Cary Katz, Byron Kaverman, Andrew Lichtenberger, Rainer Kempe, Jake Schindler, Dominik Nitsche, Ankush Mandavia, Antoine Saout and Jennifer Tilly were just some of the bigger names to come and go on Day 1.
On Day 2, the field was thinned to just 20 and the field was in the money after Darryll Fish’s elimination on the bubble in 22nd when he fell to a river two-outer versus Kevin Eyster, according to the WPT live updates. The remaining 20 bagged after the elimination of Terry Fleischer in 21st place for the first min-cash of $19,990.
Also busting out on Day 2 before the money were several familiar faces including Liv Boeree, Tom Marchese, Cate Hall, Koray Aldemir, Dominik Nitsche (again), Erik Seidel, Anthony Zinno, Barry Hutter, Maria Ho, Nick Schulman, Dan Weinman, Ben Yu, Igor Kurganov and Mike Del Vecchio.
The third day of play on Tuesday saw no shortage of action as the field was whittled down to just six. Short stacks Qartomy and Kuo both got to work early on, doubling up multiple times to stay alive and eventually both making it to the unofficial final table. While Qartomy would be eliminated by Little in eighth place ($45,975), Kuo bagged a third-place stack for the official final table.
The second elimination of the day after Josh Kay in 20th ($19,990) was Tom Wheaton (19th place - $19,990), founder of Faded Spade playing cards, a partner of the WPT. Also falling short of the final table were WPT champions club members Jared Jaffee (16th - $22,580) and Kevin Eyster (13th - $26,100), as well as Rex Clinkscales (17th - $19,990), Tim Reilly (15th - $22,580), Bryan Piccioli (14th - $26,100), Manig Loeser (12th - $30,845) and Ralph Perry (11th - $30,845).
Final Table Action
Getting from nine to six was a drawn-out process. Stephen Chidwick was the first to go in ninth ($37,255) after his stack did a bit of a rollercoaster ride. He eventually took the debilitating hit when McKeehen picked off his airball river bluff and Fast got the rest of it when his dominating ace help up blind versus blind.
Fast brought the lead into the final table of nine, though Elias wasn’t far behind and would promptly start running away with it, with help from a nearly 1 million pot against Little where he got paid off with a disguised nut flush on the river.
From there, Elias continued to build, bringing down the final blow on Hellmuth in seventh ($57,935) to get the field to an official final table after Qartomy lost a flip to Fast to bust in eighth ($45,975).
Action resumes Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the brand new state-of-the-art PokerGO live streaming studio with fan access at the ARIA. Players return to blinds of 6,000/12,000/2,000.
Fans can watch the action cards-up on a 30-minute delay at subscription-based PokerGO to see who adds to their WPT legacy.
Reporting from Mo Nuwwarah contributed to this piece.
Photos courtesy of Joe Giron/WPT
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