After four grueling days of poker at the Las Vegas Bellagio Resort's Casino in Las Vegas, the World Poker Tour crowned it's newest champion when Minh Ly beat Dan Harrington heads up to win $1 million in the Doyle Brunson North American Classic for the main and final event of the Festa al Lago IV poker tournament.
The final table was held in the prestigious Fontana Room overlooking the lake in front of the Bellagio where the spectacular water show could be seen every fifteen minutes. 420 players entered the $10,000 event with hopes of winning one million dollars and a free seat in the $25K WPT Championships at the Bellagio to be held in April 2006. Some of the top names in poker bought into the event and it was great to see some familiar faces at the tables like Howard Lederer, Jennifer Harman, Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Chirs "Jesus" Ferguson, Erik Siedel, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Nergeanu, Gus Hansen, Max Pescatori, Andy Bloch, Barry Greenstien, and Erick Lindgren.
With three big stacks and three small stacks, the final table was going to be interesting. There was also the possibility that we'd see Dan Harrington and Minh Ly play heads up of for the title since they were the top two stacks. Minh Ly ended Day 3 as the chipleader and Dan Harrington has plenty of final table experience and should never be overlooked. However, the young gun from Canada, Gavin Smith, was seeking his second win on the WPT. Jan Sorensen might be one of the best players out of Denmark and tried to overcome a short stack. The former soccer player won a bracelet at this year's WSOP. Tony Grand is an amazing story. At 81 years old, he's the oldest player ever to make it to a WPT final table.
Here's who made the final table including seat assignments and chip counts:
Seat 1: Tony Grand $118K
Seat 2: Minh Ly $3.056M
Seat 3: Dan Harrington $2.937M
Seat 4: Don Zewin $552K
Seat 5: Gavin Smith $1.368M
Seat 6: Jan Sorensen 370K
Here the payouts:
1st place = $1,060,000
2nd place = $620,730
3rd place = $327,610
4th place = $189,630
5th place = $137,940
6th place = $96,560
The cards were in the air by 7:36pm and the final hand wouldn't be dealt until 1:51am, over six hours later. The action during the first hour and last hour was exciting and fast. That's when all the bustouts occurred. The four long hours in the middle was a fight with four players pushing chips back and forth to each other without anyone getting knocked out. Less than a half hour into the final table, Dan Harrington won the first big pot, a $500K one against chipleader Minh Ly when Harrington flopped an ace with A-3. A few minutes later, Gavin Smith and Tony Grand were both all in preflop. Gavin Smith had 3-3 and Tony Grand showed A-10. With the Ace of hearts in his hand, Tony luckily flopped three hearts, then caught a flush on the turn and doubled up.
Tony Grand found 10-10 and moved all in. Don Zewin had A-Q and flopped an Ace. That pot was big enough for him to take over the chip lead. The turn and river did not help Tony Grand and he finished in sixth place, winning $96,560. Tony Grand made history when he became the oldest player to make a WPT final table. Less than an hour into the tournament, Jan Sorensen was eliminated in 5th place. Don Zerwin moved all in with 7-7 and Sorensen called with 5-5. Sorensen's hand did not improve and he was eliminated in 5th place, winning $137,940.
With four players remaining, Dan Harrington moved into the chip lead with $3.16M. He wouldn't hold onto his lead for too long. He lost a hand to Gavin Smith and that started the wave of revolving chip leaders. With an Ace on the flop, Gavin Smith moved all in with A-Q against Dan Harrington's A-10s. Gavin Smith's hand held up and he doubled up against Harrington. Smith would eventually take over the chip lead but give it back to Harrington when he won a hand against Minh Ly with 9-9.
Over the next hour, while the players went card dead and action slowed down, Minh Ly moved back into the chip lead with $3M. Shortstacked, Don Zerwin doubled up with K-K against Dan Harrington's A-J. That hand hurt Harrington and he slipped into a virtual three-way tie for second in chips with Gavin Smith and Don Zerwin. They all had about the same amount of chips with $1.5M to Minh Ly's $3M.
One hour later, Gavin Smith built his stack to over $4M in chips, while Harrington slipped to the short stack with $800K. By Midnight, Gavin Smith would cough up the lead to Minh Ly and Don Zerwin became the short stack. Five hours into the tournament, with the blinds escalating, the table finally saw some action. Minh Ly raised on the button and Dan Harrington came over the top all in with K-J versus Minh Ly's 9-9. The flop didn't help Harrington, but he turned a King and his fans in the crowd went wild. The river did not help Minh Ly and Dan Harrington doubled up.
Minh Ly moved all in with his shortstack with J-J against Dan Harrington's 8-8 and it held up. Minh Ly got most of his chips back. About ten minutes later, Dan Harrington moved all in with 9c-7c. Don Zewin called with 9-9 and had Harrington dominated. The flop contained a 7 and two clubs. The Harrington-heads went wild because Action Dan picked up a flush draw. When the 10 of clubs spiked on the river, the room erupted in applause. Harrington survived his all in attempt and Don Zewin was eliminated in 4th place. He won $189,630. That hand ended a good four plus hours in between eliminations. After that pot, Dan Harrington moved back into the chip lead with $3M to Gavin Smith's $2.7 and Minh Ly's $2.6M.
Minh Ly made a move and pushed all in with K-8o. Gavin Smith took several minutes before he eventually called with A-7s. Minh Ly flopped a King and won the pot when Gavin Smith's hand did not improve. Smith was crippled. Minh Ly became the chipleader with over $5M.
Shortstacked, Gavin Smith moved all in with 10-2o, which was a fitting hand since he was playing in the Doyle Brunson North American Classic. The 10-2 was nicknamed after Brunson when he won back to back WSOP main events with 10-2. Dan Harrington called with 8-4s and was behind. He flopped an 8 and turned a 4 to send Gavin Smith home in 3rd place. Smith won $327,610 for 3rd place.
The Bellagio Babes entered for the money presentation. They wore sexy black cocktail dresses and carried cash in the Stetson hats, much like the one often seen on Texas Dolly's head. As the Bellagio Babes emptied the cash onto the table, the anticipated heads up match between Minh Ly and Dan Harrington began. Minh Ly is one of the best cash game players in the world and can be found playing in Doyle Brunson's Big Game. And Dan Harrington is considered one of the best tournament players in the world after making four final tables at the WSOP main event. Minh Ly held a chip lead of $5.02M to $3.375M.
On the first hand of heads up play, both players moved all in preflop. Minh Ly showed K-J and Dan Harrington flipped over A-J. Dan Harrington's hand held up and he doubled up. Minh Ly was crippled and had only $1.6M to Harrington's $6.75M. Minh Ly would quickly close the gap when he moved all in with 10-9o. Dan Harrington quickly called with A-9o and was outflopped. Minh Ly came from certain defeat to take over the chiplead.
Thirty minutes later, and the two almost even in chips. Dan Harrington moved all in with A-5 against Minh Ly's J-3. The flop was: 3-6-9 and Minh Ly took the lead. The turn was a King and the river was a Jack and Minh Ly won the WPT Doyle Brunson North American Classic. Minh Ly will take home a cool $1,060,000 for first place along with a seat in the WPT Championships next April at the Bellagio. Dan Harrington won $620,730 for second place.
Congrats to Minh Ly!