On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Chiu systematically dismantled overwhelming favorite Gus Hansen in a masterful heads-up performance to claim the Tour Championship for Season 6 along with $3,389,140 in first-prize money.
The win came after one of the most exciting final tables in recent memory, in which Hansen took only 22 hands to reduce the field to the final two before Chiu took over, reversing the Great Dane's advantage over 58 hands of gutsy, unwavering assault.
Before the heads-up match, all signs pointed to the final table being an easy victory for Hansen. The much-decorated Danish pro came into the final table with $8.57 million in chips, good for the chip lead over competitors Chiu ($6.05 million), Cory Carroll ($6.67 million), former NFL kicker John Roveto ($2.72 million, Da Bears), Baby Bapester Tommy Le ($1.95 million, Nam Le's younger brother) and Jeff King ($1.3 million).
Hansen seemed to get all the bounces in the early going, too. After doubling up Jeff King when his deuces lost to the Monarch's K-J, Hansen got on his steamroller and flattened the competition.
King would be the first to fall after making the mistake of getting all-in good for 10 big blinds with A♣ Q♣ against Hansen's T♠ 9♠ pre-flop. The flop came 8♦ 6♣ 4♥ and Hansen picked up the gut-shot draw, but the K♣ on the turn erased some of his outs. No worries, though: the river brought the T♥ and thus King was eliminated, out in sixth for $263,815.
Next to go would be Tommy Le, the victim of some poker cruelty that saw him flop a set of fives at exactly the moment that the Great Dane flopped a set of tens. Le waited until the turn to get his money in and found he was down to one out, and after the river was the 3♣ he was gone in fifth place for a $395,725 score.
It wouldn't take much longer for Hansen to topple Cory Carroll, the Canadian pro who had a million-dollar May in Vegas a year ago with a first-place finish at the Caesars Palace WSOP Circuit event and a second-place finish at the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown shortly after. Carroll came into the final table second in chips, but would lose all of those chips in another prototypical Gus Hansen hand.
With the blinds at $80,000/$160,000, Hansen raised to $480,000 pre-flop and Carroll re-raised to $1.6 million. Hansen flat-called and the flop came Q♣ J♦ 6♦. Carroll checked and Hansen put him all-in for his last $6.9 million.
Carroll tanked for a year and a half before finally making the call and turning up A♦ J♠ for middle pair, while Hansen was revealed to be on the draw with 7♦ 5♦. The turn was a blanky Q♥ but the river, of course, was the 3♦ and Hansen made his diamond flush, busting Carroll in fourth for a $593,645 payout and taking complete command of the final table.
As three-handed play began, Hansen could claim over $20 million of the $27 million in play, and he soon added even more to that stack, busting John Roveto in third place just 22 hands into the final table. Roveto open-shoved twice in a row and the second time saw Hansen move all-in over the top on the strength of his A♣ T♣.
Roveto held pocket kings but, given the way the Great Dane was running, had to consider himself a big dog (heh heh). The flop came J♥ 9♦ 8♥ and the suck-out seemed a foregone conclusion, although the dealer obviously waited until the river just to twist the knife a little deeper. After the turn card was the 6♦, the river brought the 7♠ and Hansen made the straight, cracking the cowboys and sending the Kicker back to the dressing room with $923,355 in bonus money.
Heads-up play began with Hansen holding $22,905,000 to David Chiu's $4,360,000, the latter player having been content to sit back and watch Hansen eliminate the competition while riding the payout wave to a guaranteed $1.7 million.
As the final stage of the tournament began, Hansen looked primed to capture his fourth WPT title and the lion's share of the remaining prize money, but then David Chiu woke up and put on one of the most impressive heads-up performances PokerListings.com has ever witnessed.
For 58 hands, Chiu pounded away at his opponent, taking a series of large pots to grind away at Hansen's chip lead while managing to avoid putting the entirety of his stack on the line all but once, when he doubled through Hansen with pocket fives against deuces.
After that, however, Chiu took advantage of the deep structure by playing a patient, relentless style that seemed to confound a visibly frustrated Hansen. In the 76th hand of the final table, Chiu would take down a $12 million pot after forcing Hansen to fold to his $5 million all-in on fourth street with the board showing J♠ 6♠ 3♠ 6♣, thus closing himself within $2 million of Hansen's total.
A few hands later, Chiu would take over the chip lead, and then on the 80th hand of the tournament would clinch the victory. In the climactic hand, Hansen raised to $750,000 pre-flop and Chiu made the call. The flop came A♣ T♣ 8♠ and Chiu checked to Hansen, who bet out $900,000. Chiu flat-called again and the turn was the 5♠. This time, Chiu bet out $1.2 million and Hansen moved all-in for $8.675 million more.
Chiu stood and faced the crowd. "I think this is it, boys," he told his supporters before returning to his stack to count out the damage a loss would do to his stack. He must have liked his chances, because he stood ramrod-straight and announced his call, turning up A♠ 9♠ to Hansen's T♠ 8♥. Hansen's two pair put him ahead of his fellow Full Tilt pro's top pair/flush draw, but the Great Dane needed to dodge an ace, nine, five or spade to remain alive.
With the tension almost unbearable in Bellagio's Grand Ballroom, the dealer burned and turned the river card - the A♥! As the river had given Hansen most of his chips so too it took them all away, shipping them across the felt to David Chiu. On the strength of his trip aces, Chiu became WPT Season 6 Champion and the winner of over $3.3 million, as well as a WPT trophy, WPT chipset, WPT bracelet and controlling interest in the WPT (just kidding about the last one, but he did also receive a Bellagio bracelet and the extreme honor of his second PokerListings interview in three days).
For his runner-up finish, Gus Hansen takes home $1,714,800, no swag, and a few months of sleepless nights. Meanwhile, the publicity-averse WPT regroups and reloads for Season 7, which will begin with a bang in July with the Bellagio Cup right here in Las Vegas.
You'll be able to catch PokerListings.com's record-breaking World Poker Tour coverage right here as soon as Season 7 gets under way, as well as our scintillating World Series of Poker and World Series of Poker Circuit coverage in the meanwhile. Congratulations to all who cashed on the WPT this season and to Steve Lipscomb and Co. for a sixth successful kick at the can - here's hoping you let us see more of the action the seventh time around.