It was a marquee final table for one of the World Poker Tour's marquee events, and with its epic battle between two famous Phils the thrilling conclusion of the Los Angeles Poker Classic did anything but disappoint.
It was pretty well Steve Lipscomb's best-case scenario: Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth, together two of the most successful and recognizable poker players on the planet, facing off under the mood lighting for a shot at their first WPT title ever.
Granted, there were four other guys joining them on the soundstage at the Commerce with eyes on that $1.6 million prize. One of them was WPT Season 4 Bay 101 Shooting Star champ Nam Le and the other three weren't half-bad poker players either.
The main draw, though, was the battle between Hellmuth and Ivey. The two had squared off already during the tournament's penultimate day, with Hellmuth taking a chip lead into the proceedings but ultimately relinquishing it when he doubled up Ivey with A-K vs. AA in a hand that would eventually lead Ivey to publicly question his opponent's decision-making process.
Hellmuth would retaliate by not showing up for the pre-final table photo shoot, thus denying PokerListings.com's intrepid photojournalists the opportunity to provide you with a decent picture of his lucky final-table moo-moo.
And into that environment the poker world was thrust on Thursday evening, as before the watchful eyes of Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, Layla Kayleigh and the hundreds of millions of PokerListings.com readers around the world Phil Ivey brought his tournament-best $4.1 million chip stack to the green baize with his eyes on the rather overstated Commerce Casino bucking bronco trophy as his prize.
Hellmuth for his part brought $2.38 million to the table, good for third, with Quinn Do ($1.45 million) and Nam Le ($1.18 million) bringing up the rear of the Chip Count Express.
As soon as play began, however, the wheels started to fall off for the Full Tilt Phil (Ivey), when he made a questionable call against Charles Moore on the first hand of the tournament after Moore had re-popped all-in against Ivey's opening raise. Ivey deliberated forever but eventually called off $1.2 million on the strength of his A-9. Then, though, he found himself up against A-K and couldn't recover. Moore doubled through and Ivey was back down to average.
Then short stack Le doubled through Hellmuth in a battle of the blinds situation that took a bite out of the Poker Brat's stack while simultaneously putting him on mega tilt. Steaming and short on funds, Hellmuth would open-shove a few rounds later with A-9 and find himself looked up by Moore, who once again had a better ace with the A♥ Q♥.
The board came A♣ J♠ 2♥ 7♣ Q♣ and Hellmuth was off, muttering profanities in Le's direction while headed in the direction of a $229,820 check.
Canadian Scott Montgomery came into the day second in chips, but found himself playing philanthropist after Hellmuth's elimination. The Ottawa native would double up Quinn Do twice to see his stack drop under a million before getting his last $800,000 all-in with J♣ 8♠ against the K♦ J♦ of Le. Montgomery could not engineer any miracle suck-out and was gone in fifth place, with an interview with Layla Kayleigh and a $296,860 consolation prize waiting for him.
Quinn Do continued to play the Doubleupagus, staying alive at Charles Moore's expense this time with K♦ 9♦ against A♦ 5♦ after getting all-in on the flop with both players catching a piece. Meanwhile, Phil Ivey was slowly recovering from his early setback, accumulating chips by taking down a number of decent-sized pots while avoiding any major confrontations. After an hour or so of four-handed play Ivey had amassed a stack that included over $7 million of the $13.3 million chips in play.
It wouldn't take long for the superstar to make use of that big stack. First he busted Nam Le after getting the short-stacked Le all-in with pocket aces to his own pocket threes. A trey on the turn meant the end of the night for the Bapester, who was gone in fourth place for a $411,770 payday and who could leave with the knowledge that his elimination had all but assured Ivey of a victory.
On the very next hand, Ivey sent Charles "Woody" Moore packing in a battle of the blinds that saw both players see a flop come 8♥ 5♥ 2♦. Moore flat-called a small bet from Ivey on the flop and then came over the top of a larger wager from his opponent after the 7♠ hit on the turn. Ivey quickly called with 8♦ 7♣ and Moore was on the draw with 6♥ 2♠. The river was the J♠ and Woody was Guthrie'd in third place, taking home $625,630 for his accomplishment.
That left only Quinn Do, and with respect for Mr. Do, it was Ivey's title for the taking and take it he did. As heads-up play began the Deathmatcher held a 5-1 chip lead and he only took two hands to gobble up the rest.
In the climactic hand, Do limped from the small blind and called Ivey's $400,000 raise. The flop came A♠ 8♠ 6♠ and Ivey bet out $700,000. Do flat-called, leaving himself with barely $1 million behind, and the turn was the A♣. Ivey put his opponent all-in and after five or six agonizing minutes, Do called, pinning his tournament life on the strength of his 9♥ 8♥ for aces and eights.
Aces and eights are the "Dead Man's Hand," however, and when Ivey turned over the A♥ 8♦ Do was indeed drawing dead. The 4♣ on the river made it official and there was nothing left to do but the crying as Ivey had captured his first-ever WPT title and the $1,596,100 first place prize that came along with it. As an added bonus, Ivey also earned that garish bucking bronco paperweight, a WPT chip set, an entry into the $25,000 WPT World Championship and an exclusive interview with PokerListings.com (which we'll publish on Friday).
Do takes home $909,400 for his second-place finish, and though he didn't win an interview with the PL he does leave with the consolation that he won't need to rent a U-Haul to cart his ancillary loot from the Commerce ballroom to his pad.
That about does it for the LAPC, but PokerListings.com will remain in the City of Commerce for four more terrifying days. The WPT Celebrity Invitational is coming to town on Saturday and we'll be on hand for the biggest, drunkest and most star-studded game of Name That Limp-Folder you ever did see. Take a day off and we'll see you back at the tables on the weekend!