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Suck-outs galore for LAPC champ Cimpan
Cornel Andrew Cimpan won the 2009 Los Angeles Poker Classic in fitting fashion: he sucked out.
Over the course of 117 hands of heads-up play with Binh Nguyen at Thursday's final table, the Texan was thrice all-in behind with his tournament life on the line but managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat each time.
He did it with Q-T against A-Q, K-Q against A-9 and A-4 against TT, breaking Nguyen's spirit and eventually turning the tide in his own favor.
Although Nguyen entered heads-up play with an 8-5 chip lead and at one point held nearly $11 million of the almost $14 million chips in play, he would ultimately relinquish the chip lead, and the match, to an opponent who didn't execute a preflop raise until the 75th hand of heads-up play.
Nguyen would rebound from the first two of his opponent's miracle suck-outs, only to see his fortunes virtually erased when Cimpan hit runner-runner to make a flush with A♥ 4♥, taking all but $1.1 million of the Californian's chips with one devastating river card.
Though crippled, Nguyen would fight valiantly to stay alive, only to make the mistake of getting it all-in good against Cimpan a fourth time, this time with his own tournament life on the line and A♥ 9♦ in his hand.
Cimpan held K♣ 5♣, and not a soul in the building was surprised when a five flopped, giving a man who'd entered the final table as an afterthought the lead in what would prove to be the tournament's climactic hand.
The turn and river bricked out and thus Cimpan was champion, earning $1,686,760 in prize money, as well as a WPT bracelet, a $25k entry into the WPT's World Championship this April, and the Commerce Casino's trademark horse-and-rider trophy.
Check out Cimpan's winner interview with PokerListings TV here.
On a day when WPT Season 1 Legends of Poker champ Chris Karagulleyan brandished his World Poker Tour bracelet and celebrated the beginning of the day as though he'd already clinched the title, Cimpan flew under the radar.
Throughout the tournament, he let Karagulleyan, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Mike Sowers attract the attention while he and Nguyen amassed the chips.
Ferguson entered play on Thursday's Day 6 as the marquee name, but couldn't find the traction he needed to make a deep run at his second WPT final table.
Jesus busted out in sixth place after losing in a 60-40 spot to Cimpan, taking $240,538 for his time.
Missouri's Pat Walsh would follow Ferguson to the rail, stacking off with A-2 against Nguyen's A-J and taking $310,694 for his fifth-place result.
Karagulleyan, whose crowd of supporters urged him on as would any group with a collective 80% stake, hit the road in fourth place, coincidentally at the hand of another Cimpan suck-out.
The hand saw the erstwhile Legend call all-in with A♥ 9♦ against Cimpan's Q♣ 8♣ and even flop an ace to retain his advantage. But the board ran A♦ Q♥ T♠ Q♠ 7♠ and Cimpan turned trips, busting Karagulleyan in fourth for $430,963.
Internet whiz kid Mike "SowersUNCC" Sowers would quickly follow, doubling up Cimpan in a coin-flip situation before shipping with pocket fours and running into Nguyen's pocket queens. He earned $654,797 for his time.
That left only Nguyen and Cimpan, and though Nguyen entered with the chip lead and badly outplayed his rival over the first three-quarters of the heads-up match, the deck came cold at the least opportune times.
Thus Cimpan was given enough room to stage a comeback and ultimately take down the title.
For his second-place finish, Nguyen earns $935,424.
Get full results here.