Amir Vahedi arrived at the final table of the Hustler Casino’s Challenge Cup championship event with about twice as many chips as anyone else. Managing his chips carefully and moving in only one time ("Going all in is for weak players," he said) he was never in any trouble and scored an easy wire-to-wire victory in the $2,000 buy-in, no-limit hold’em event.
Amir, just coming off a $1,000 limit hold’em win at Tunica, has won numerous events in his six-year professional career and two other no-limit money finishes this year.
The final table of the championship event got started after Young Phan was brutalized, losing about $90,000 in three quick hands. First he lost with pocket aces. Then his pocket jacks lost to Tony Ma’s pocket aces. Finally, holding pocket kings, he again lost to pocket aces, this time held by Joe Grew.
The last table started with $500 antes and blinds of $1,500 and $3,000. On the first hand, "Fisherman Greg," a fisherman/poker player, set the bait with a $7,000 raise. David Chiu, winner of the first Tournament of Champions in 1999, took the bait by moving in for $29,500 with two 9s. The Fisherman then reeled him in by turning over two kings and flopping a set.
Earlier, the players had agreed to pay 10th place $3,000. On hand 25 the Fisherman became the fish. This time Amir had pocket aces, and when he raised 12K, Greg moved in for 10K more with Kh, 9h. Two hearts flopped, but the flush didn’t come and Greg collected $3,720 for finishing ninth.
Pocket aces also kept Jack Boghossian alive on hand 26. Boghossian, who has a $200 limit hold’em win at the L.A. Poker Classic to his credit, got three-way action and ran his $19,500 up to $69,000. Then, Mark Ausley, a controller, lost control on hand 35 after blinds went to $3,000-$6,000 with $1,000 antes. Ma raised 9k with A-J and Ausley moved in for $40,000 with A-6 of spades, losing when the board showed J-9-7-7-10. His pay-off was $4,575
On hand 53, Stan Schwartz blew off about $30,000 when he bet into a flop that had given Boghossian a nut straight. Left with about $25,000, Schwartz, who had until then hardly played a hand, banged his chips on the table and declared all in on the next hand holding A-J. Vahedi gambled by calling with 7-5 of spades while Miller, with pocket kings, slow-played and also just called. The flop was J-9-6 with two spades.
Miller moved in for about $40,000. Amir called with his flush draw and hit it on the river. Two players were gone and suddenly Amir had about $370K, a bit more than half the chips on the table. Miller, a shift manager and tournament director at the Hustler, whose victories include an Omha win at the WPO, collected $8,235. Schwartz, an investor, pocketed $6,405.
Lindsay Jones, a CPA, was left with just $4,000 after his Ad, 9d was beaten by Boghossian’s A-K. He survived about four all-in encounters, making a straight one time with 9-7 and a full house another with 10-8, before finally running out of luck. He was all in again with A-10 of hearts. Amir had pocket 7s and finally put him away, decisively, by making a set on the turn. Fifth place paid $10,065.
Shortly after blinds went to $6,000-$12,000 with $1,000 antes, Joe Grew went broke. Grew, who won a no-limit hold’em, $100k guarantee event at the Bicycle Casino last year, had pocket 9s and put himself all in with a button raise of about $33,000. Ma saw him with K-Q. A flop of J-10-3 gave him an open-end straight. He missed the straight but won instead when a queen came on the river. For finishing fourth, Joe collected $12,810.
The three finalists counted down their chips. Vahedi still had most of them with $494,000, followed by "Tony the Tiger" Ma with $265,000 and Boghossian with $171,000. It took a rather long time and a lot of wrangling to hammer out a deal, but the deal was finally done and Amir Vahedi was the undisputed champion of the first Challenge Cup event at the Hustler Casino.
For finishing third, Boghossian’s official payout was $12,810. Second place was worth $42,090 to Tony Ma. And Vahedi’s first-place reward was $73,200.
Ultra high-stakes poker!
While the Challenge Cup no-limit championship event was playing out, the $125,000 buy-in 7-card stud special event, no doubt the biggest buy-in poker tournament in the history of the world, entered its first day.
It was held in the same tournament area at an adjacent table. The day’s action ended with Barry Greenstein as the chip leader with $350,000, followed by Larry Flynt with $184,300; Johnny Chan with $182,900 Steven Wolfe with $128,300; Doyle Brunson with $88,900; and Ted Forrest with $65,300.
Flynt and Brunson both had been down to the cloth in early going and made comebacks. Phillip Ivey and Dr. Jerry Buss were the two entrants who failed to make the second-day finals.