Alaei: Out of Bobby's Room and Into a WPT Title


High-stakes cash game player Daniel Alaei found a way to make stepping out of Bellagio’s famed Bobby’s Room a profitable decision this week, winning the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic and its almost $1.5 million first-place prize.

“This is great,” Alaei said moments after the win Saturday. “I’ve been wanting one of these for a while. I was basically the only one of my friends that didn’t have one, now I’ve got one and it feels great.”

The tournament began at Bellagio this past Monday with 329 players entering the fray by time registration closed.

But it did so without the eventual champion, who chose to spend Day 1 letting his stack be blinded off while he stuck it out in Bobby’s Room in a cash game with noted whale and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté.

Alaei immediately went to work Tuesday building a big stack that put him contention before making a final six Friday pundits dubbed one of the toughest in tour history.

When play got going just after 4 p.m. Saturday, short staked online pro Steve O’Dwyer moved up the leader board with a few well timed shoves, but soon ran into Scotty Nguyen and a pair of jacks pushing with A 6.

Nguyen flopped a set, and although O’Dwyer picked up two pair on the turn, the river bricked to bounce him sixth.

Nguyen could not hold on to those chips, however, falling below the two million mark before open shoving with nines.

WPT Bellagio Cup runner-up Faraz Jaka made the easy call with kings and after a board of blanks, the Prince of Poker was forced to settle for fifth place money in his sixth WPT final table appearance.

Shawn Buchanan then dropped out fourth in his attempt at a second WPT win, shoving short with K 8 and running smack into Alaei’s A K.

A short stacked Josh Arieh doubled up twice early to jump back into contention and scooped a more than 3 million chip pot calling down a naked Jaka bluff with just ace-high to move into the chip lead.

A tough heads-up opponent.

Despite not being involved in any of the bust-out hands, all the chips seemed to end up in Josh Arieh’s stack, and just after play went three-handed, he had an almost 3:1 chip lead on Alaei and Jaka combined.

Alaei moved on to heads-up with Arieh, calling Jaka’s A 6 shove with kings and flopping a set to send Jaka home third in a hand the 26-year-old Santa Fe Springs, California native described as critical.

“That was extremely crucial,” he explained. “I knew I wanted to get heads-up with Josh, but if Josh would have busted him I would have only had 3 million to his 16 million and that would have been really tough.”

Arieh, a two-time WSOP bracelet winner making his second WPT final table appearance, still held an almost 2:1 chip lead when heads-up began, but it didn’t last long.

In just the second hand of heads-up play the two combatants found themselves in a classic race with Alaei all in holding queens and Arieh on big slick.

The queens held and suddenly Alaei was the one in charge.

“There was really nothing we could do - Two queens against ace-king,” he said. “It just kind of played out and I’m happy to be the one standing here.”

Alaei gave back some chips when Arieh sucked out with a dominated ace, but eventually made a huge call with top pair against Arieh’s under-pair to book the $1,428,430 win.

Alaei, who has two WSOP bracelets and is a regular in the Big Game and TV’s High Stakes Poker, said the experience he has playing in the world’s biggest cash games paid great dividends.

“I’m more used to the swings,” he said. “I’m used to big money changing hands. That makes you more comfortable and that definitely had to give me an advantage here.”

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