The first event of the seventeenth season of the World Poker Tour blew away all expectations. A total of 584 entrants joined the $5,000 fun at the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, CA for the first Main Tour stop on the journey to the Tournament of Champions.
Simon Lam emerged victorious at a daunting final table that included Jake Schindler, 2018 World Series of Poker bracelet winner Craig Varnell, and Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen.
Seven hours of play and 164 hands equaled a win for Lam, who collected $565,055 and new Mercedes-Benz.
Final table lineup
Seat 1: Simon Lam – 6,115,000 (102 bb)
Seat 2: Craig Varnell – 1,955,000 (33 bb)
Seat 3: Jake Schindler – 4,045,000 (67 bb)
Seat 4: Jared Griener – 3,875,000 (65 bb)
Seat 5: Saya Ono – 3,445,000 (57 bb)
Seat 6: Men Nguyen – 3,935,000 (66 bb)
Long trudge to the first bustout
Almost half of the final table hands were spent waiting for the first elimination. 75 hands went by and Jared Griener was the first to succumb. The Season XV L.A. Poker Classic third-place finished lost an ace-king to pocket sevens flip against Craig Varnell on Hand #37 to damper his chances. Griener doubled up two hands later against Saya Ono but fought an uphill battle leading to his demise on Hand #75.
Griener shoved for 1.75 million with the blinds at 75,000/125,000 with pocket jacks and Varnell was there to meet him with ace-king. Varnell flopped and rivered an ace and Griener fell short of the Champions Cup.
Action picks up speed
Start of Day 4 chip leader Saya Ono lost steam heading into the final table but remained in with a fighting chance to open her Season XVII WPT account with a win. Ono busted 13 hands after Griener to shift play to four-handed.
1,050,000 went into the middle from Ono with queen-jack of hearts and Men Nguyen called with ace-jack of clubs. Nguyen turned the nut flush and Ono was dead heading to the river.
Varnell came to the Gardens trying to beat his podium finish from Season XV in Choctaw but settled for fourth instead.
On Hand #114, Varnell moved in for 2.3 million out of the small blind with ace-jack of spades and received a call from Jake Schindler’s queen-ten offsuit in the big blind.
Schindler paired his ten on the flop and no help came for Varnell. The $201,615 earned by Varnell tops the $181,790 he earned for winning the $565 Pot Limit Omaha event at this summer’s WSOP.
The watch of ‘The Master’ ends
Men Nguyen livined up the Day 4 action with his antics. Nguyen was penalized on a few occasions for issues involving disagreements with tournament staff and angle-shooting players during major all-in situations. The peak of the Nguyen Show came at the final table of nine when he fell asleep at the table with the chip lead in front of him.
Nguyen regained his composure and made three-handed play without any distractions to the poker. All six players at the final table were in search of their first WPT title and Nguyen led them in experience with his fourth final table achieved.
Lam doubled up Nguyen before Varnell’s elimination when his ace-king lost Nguyen’s ace-queen in a key all-in but got the last laugh by busting ‘The Master.’
In Hand #154, Lam opened the button to 600,000 and the 63-year-old Nguyen moved all-in for 7,675,000 out of the big blind. Lam used some time and called with ace-king. He was in front of the ten-seven of Nguyen and a king on the flop equaled third-place.
Lam finishes the job
Jake Schindler entered the final table with his third chance to claim WPT glory but could not overcome the heads up chip lead of Lam. Schindler topped his third-place position from the Season XV Five Diamond World Poker Classic in Las Vegas, NV but remains empty-handed of WPT or WSOP hardware.
Lam opened to 600,000 in the 164th hand of the final table, and Schindler called. On a jack-seven-deuce board with two clubs, Schindler checked and Lam bet 500,000. A check-raise of 1.5 million fired back from Schindler and Lam moved all-in.
Schindler called with jack-eight and trailed the jack-nine of Lam. No help came and Schindler settled for silver with Lam besting his fourth-place spot from the Season XV Borgata Poker Open.
Final table results
1st place: Simon Lam – $565,055 + 2018 Mercedes-Benz SLC Roadster
2nd place: Jake Schindler – $366,740
3rd place: Men Nguyen – $270,430
4th place: Craig Varnell – $201,615
5th place: Saya Ono – $151,995
6th place: Jared Griener – $115,885
Lead image courtesy of WPT/Flickr