Tuan Le takes WPT

Apr 26, 2005 12:52 AM

The World Poker Tour concluded its season with the third annual Five-Star World Poker Classic championship at Bellagio in Las Vegas last weekend. When the dust settled late Sunday night, Tuan Le of Los Angeles defeated Paul Maxfield of London, England in heads-up competition to win the WPT title.

The No Limit Hold’em event attracted 452 of the best poker players in the world, who each bought in for $25,000.

The $10,961,000 prize pool featured a first place award of $2,856,150, with $1,698,390 to second place and $896,375 to third. Cash prizes were paid through 100th place.

In addition to the top two finishers, the final table consisted of (in order of finish) Hasan Habib of Downey, California, John Phan of Long Beach, Rob Hollink of Groningen, Netherlands, and Phil Ivey of Las Vegas.

There were plenty of early casualties, some of whom are the biggest names in poker. Bowing out on the second day of competition was Scotty Nguyen, Jennifer Harman, Todd Brunson, Erick Lindgren, Phil Hellmuth, Kathy Liebert, Antonio Esfandiari and Annie Duke.

Surviving the early rounds only to be eliminated later were former World Series of Poker champions Greg Raymer and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, as well as top pros Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, Alan Goehring and Tony Ma.

Heading into the final table, Hasan Habib held the chip lead with $10.6 million. He was followed by Paul Maxfield ($3.3 million), John Phan ($3.0 million), Rob Hollink ($2 million) Tuan Le ($1.7 million) and Phil Ivey ($1.5 million).

But because of poker’s ebb and flow, the lead would change several times in the last round.

The first to be eliminated was Phil Ivey, who went all-in with A-J against Habib’s pocket queens. The flop came with K-8-7, which was no help for either player. Needing an ace, Ivey watched a 9 on the turn, which produced a straight draw, but everything came to a halt when the river card was revealed as a 4. For sixth place, Ivey won $264,000.

A short time later, Rob Hollink pushed all-in with K-J, but was bested by Phan’s pocket jacks. For his trouble, Hollink took home $377,000 for fifth place.

Phan couldn’t sustain his run of success after he went all-in against Paul Maxfield. Trying to bluff with only 8-3, Phan was stunned when Maxfield called with A-5. The flop came with A-Q-5, giving Maxfield a pair of aces and pushing Phan further into the abyss. The turn card was a 6, and Phan was drawing dead on the river. (The meaningless river card was a jack.) Phan was sent packing with $518,920.

At this point in the action, Habib ($13 million) enjoyed a sizable chip advantage over Tuan Le ($4.9 million) and Maxfield ($3.3 million).

But fortunes can change quickly in No Limit Hold’em, and Tuan Le took over the chip lead after a series of successful all-in moves.

Habib’s downward spiral continued until he went all-in with Q-8 suited and was called by Tuan Le’s K-J. The flop produced a 9-7-2, no help, and Habib was in dire need of a queen or an 8. Unfortunately, the turn produced a 2 and the river a 3, thus eliminating Habib in third place and $896,000.

When head-to-head action began, Tuan Le had a $14.9 million to $7.7 million chip advantage over Paul Maxfield.

But the lead would flip-flop between the two with Maxfield at one point taking a 2-1 lead over Tuan Le.

The chip counts were relatively even ($12.4 million for Tuan Le to Maxfield’s $10.2 million) when the end mercifully arrived.

On the last hand of the tournament, Maxfield pushed all-in with a K-5, and Tuan Le quickly called with a more dominant K-J. The flop came J-10-3 and Maxfield’s chances looked bleak. Needing to catch something like 5-5 to stay alive, Maxfield watched as a queen was turned over. The river followed with a 7, and Maxfield was eliminated in second place and Tuan Le celebrated his World Poker Tour championship title.