FINALLY!

March 04, 2008 2:30 AM
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One of Phil Ivey’s claims to fame was the fact that he had the most World Poker Tour (WPT) final table appearances without a win. That, however, changed last week.

Ivey scored a resounding victory at Commerce Casino’s L.A. Poker Classic (LAPC), walking away with $1,596,100 — and a pretty big grin.

"It’s an unbelievable feeling to finally win one of these WPT tournaments," Ivey said during a post-event interview. "I felt unbeatable all evening, and the monkey is finally off my back."

Unbeatable is an understatement for what Ivey accomplished during the six-hour final table. He entered the evening as chip leader, but suffered some setbacks early. In the middle stages of the game, the Las Vegas resident settled down and started to grind back the chips he lost.

On the way, he delivered some outstanding "beats" that left the audience at Commerce Casino cheering, shaking their heads, and generally mumbling "there’s no stopping Phil tonight."

The person that kept closest to Ivey’s pace was Quinn Do of El Monte, California, who finished second and won $909,400. After the tournament’s conclusion, he stood with a group of friends and listened to them provide words of consolation.

"Tonight at least I lost to the best poker player in the world," Do said. "I tried to stay out of his way for most of the evening. He was playing really well all night."

The third place finisher was Charles Moore of Carlsbad, California, who won $625,630. Like the rest of the final table players, Moore realized fairly early in the evening that Ivey was going to be unstoppable.

"Phil was phenomenal tonight," Moore said. "He got hot and ran the table."

Phil Hellmuth, Jr., finished sixth earning $229,480, and proclaimed on his way to the cashier’s cage, "I’m terribly disappointed."

Less displeased with his performance was Scott Montgomery of Perth, Canada, who finished fifth and claimed $296,860 in his first ever big-time poker tournament. Montgomery has only been playing poker for two years. He came to Los Angeles for a vacation and to play the LAPC.

"This was a very good vacation," proclaimed Montgomery as he left the WPT television set. "I did a lot better than I possibly ever could have hoped."

The "bad beat" moment of the evening easily went to fourth place finisher Nam Le, who still won $411,770 for his time and patience. Le went "all in" with pocket aces. Ivey "called" and showed a pair of threes. The flop did nothing for either player, but a three appeared on the "turn," giving Ivey the three-of-a-kind that eliminated Le.

"It’s a tough beat, but it happens," Le said. "I can’t complain. I’ll bounce back and try to keep the ball rolling at the next tournament."

A total of 665 people each put up $10,000 to compete in the LAPC No-Limit Hold’Em Championship that lasted six days. Of those competitors, 63 placed in the money and claimed a portion of the $6,384,000 overall prize pool. In addition to the money, Ivey also garnered a $25,000 seat to the Season VI WPT World Championship being held in April at Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Add the LAPC Main Event’s $6.3-plus million total prize money to the $6,689,296 awarded in the tournament’s previous 29 events staged in January and February, and Commerce will have awarded $12,977,200 to a handful of nearly 10,000 players that joined in the tournament this year.

Ivey now joins an illustrious list of LAPC champions that includes Eric Hershler, who won $2,429,970 last year; Alan Goehring, who went home with $2,391,550 in 2006; Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, who claimed $1,859,909 in 2005; and Antonio Esfandiari who grabbed $1,399,135 in 2004.

"The great titans of poker came out to this year’s LAPC, and two of the best ever to grace the ”˜green felt’ made it to the final table." said Commerce Casino Manager Tim Gustin. "The fact that Phil Ivey emerged the victor after years of coming so close will forever make the 2008 LAPC a very special event for the poker world."

The 2008 L.A. Poker Classic WPT final table will be televised on GSN July 14. The World Poker Tour airs every Monday night at 9 p.m. PT/ET starting March 24, 2008.