At 4 p.m. ET on Thursday the final table of the World Poker Tour's third event of its seventh season will begin, and gathering under the mood lighting and the newly redesigned set will be four familiar faces and two virtual unknowns, battling it out with cards and chips for the lion's share of a $4.4 million prize pool.
The identities of those six future poker superstars were established after another day of action at the Fallsview Resort and Casino in Niagara Falls, Canada, with 21 players seeing their fortunes shattered over the course of five long levels of play.
WPT Borgata Poker Open champ Vivek Rajkumar led the final 27 back into action on Wednesday, his $1,081,000 good for top spot ahead of a four-pack of poker greats that included the likes of Gavin Smith ($979,000), Matt Matros ($943,000), Kathy Liebert ($879,000) and Erik Seidel ($851,000).
The field also included such names as Jason Potter, Marc Karam, Pat Pezzin and "Miami" John Cernuto, but as play began on Day 4 at Fallsview all eyes were on the young chip leader from Seattle, Wash., who came into play a final-table favorite with a chance to make history with back-to-back WPT wins.
The proceedings commenced with short stack Cernuto removing himself from contention very quickly and after a rather dull first level, the eliminations seemed to continue with remarkable speed, structure be damned.
Pat Pezzin would hit the road in 22nd place midway through the day's second level (Level 16), eliminated courtesy of Matt Matros, who made an early push for chip-leader status by eliminating Xuan-Tien Nguyen in 20th place shortly thereafter.
All told, Level 16 would claim eight tournament lives, leaving just two tables in the hunt as the blinds marched upward. Ryan Fisler would quickly log a couple of eliminations and take over the chip lead early in Level 17, saving the fingers of the assembled media by sending both Spiro Mikrogianakis and Nick Alafogiannis packing in 18th and 17th places, respectively.
Then disaster struck for Rajkumar, who in a shocking turn of events found himself on the wrong side of the security rope after shipping it all-in on a K♦ Q♦ 3♦ flop with A♣ A♥ and getting an instant call from Karam, who held T♦ 9♦ for the flopped diamond flush.
The A♠ on the turn would keep things interesting, but the T♠ on the river failed to fill "Psyduck" up, instead eliminating him from contention in a disappointing 16th place, good for $56,868 from the prize pool.
Karam would thus take over full custody of the chip-leader mantle and would sit back for the rest of the level, relaxing as the next four eliminations came courtesy of four different opponents. Gavin Smith sent Martin Ruas packing in 15th, before Jason Potter busted Khaled Aljoma, Ryan Fisler sunk Brian Hawkins and Glen Witmer punked Mark Zjadner, leaving the field with only 11 players in contention as the 17th level of the tournament closed.
Potter himself would be the next to go, busting in 11th place after making an ill-advised four-bet all-in with K♠ 7♦ against Matt Matros, who was lucky enough to wake up with aces in tailor-made squeeze scenario. The aces held and Potter was gone, taking $56,868 with him and sparking another round of hand-for-hand play as the next pay jump came into play.
Hand-for-hand would take some time, with Liebert, Matros, Karam, Seidel and Fisler all battling it out on one table while Gavin Smith entertained the amateurs on the other. In the end, the Table of Doom would claim the victim as Karam and Seidel got all of the Full Tilt Poker pro's chips in the middle in an A-K vs. QQ scenario.
A king on the flop gave the advantage to Karam and after the turn and river bricked the Gentle Giant was felled, out in 10th and the last member of the $56,868 club.
Thus was the field reduced to a nine-handed final table and thus did the usual slowdown of play commence. The field would play out their level and go to dinner with Karam still chip leader before returning to play out Level 19 and, eventually, wind up the evening.
That 19th level would mark the demise of both Dominic Staniscia and Sam Greenwood and also see the end of Karam's reign as chip leader. Staniscia hit the bricks in ninth ($69,992) with an interesting all-in open-shove on a 6♠ 5♠ 4♠ flop holding 6♦ 5♣ with three players left to act. Gavin Smith had flopped the nut straight with 8♦ 7♦ and rode it to the river, thus ending the Dom's day.
Greenwood would fall to Glen Witmer, who perhaps demonstrated a level of inexperience while simultaneously taking over the chip lead after he and Matt Matros called Greenwood's all-in and saw the flop come A♥ Q♦ 7♠. Witmer immediately shipped all-in and Matros duly got out of the way, only to see his rival turn up pocket nines.
Greenwood could only muster fives, however, and after bricks fell on both turn and river the Sapling was eliminated, out in eighth for $87,490.
That left but one elimination before the day was done and it came in Level 20 with Matros meeting his unlucky demise on the final-table bubble. The short stack, Matros would ship on a king-high flop holding K-8, only to find himself outkicked by Gavin Smith's K-Q. A queen on the turn all but sealed the deal and Matros was gone, the seventh-place finisher and $109,362 richer.
With Matros' elimination the six-handed final table was established and it's a good one. Chip leader Witmer will attempt to stave off the likes of Kathy Liebert and Canadian Gavin Smith, while Marc Karam will attempt to build on his sparkling success at the NAPC (one final table, three cashes in three years) with an outright win on Thursday. Ryan Fisler and James Trenholm round out the field.
Action will begin at 4 p.m. from the Grand Hall at Fallsview and continue until one man or woman is yakking it up with the PokerListings.com winner interview specialists. Keep it locked on the PL all Thursday evening for comprehensive coverage and we might just waive the activation fee. We do it 'cuz we love ya!
Here are the seating positions and chip counts for the final six:
|Seat 1||Kathy Liebert||$1,620,000|
|Seat 2||Gavin Smith||$2,815,000|
|Seat 3||Marc Karam||$1,850,000|
|Seat 4||Glen Witmer||$3,710,000|
|Seat 5||James Trenholm||$1,365,000|
|Seat 6||Ryan Fisler||$2,285,000|