Las Vegas resident Paul Phillips captured the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio last week and took home the first place prize of $1,101,908.
The World Poker Tour (WPT) event was the seventh in a series of 15 scheduled televised WPT tournaments; the entry fee was a cool $10,000.
The WPT Championship returns to the prestigious Bellagio resort for the Five Star World Poker Classic April 3-23, 2004, and requires a $25,000 entry fee.
The 31-year-old Phillips, who defeated Dewey Tomko along with four others at the final table, was ecstatic following his victory.
"I was completely calm all day and was simply sitting at the table ready to play," Phillips said. "I played all the right hands and got some good cards too. I have really been waiting for this time for a while and it sure feels great. Winning the tournament means so much more than the money right now."
Phillips’ began the winning hand with a pair of 7s against Tomko’s king and 8 of spades. When asked about the winning hand Phillips stated, "I know hand values and I know what I needed to call. Doubling up against Dewey was going to be a grind. I know the standards of betting and raising and I tried my best to make it all happen."
Phillips was also able to overcome defending champion and third place finisher, Gus Hansen of Copenhagen, Denmark. "The biggest hand against Gus really knocked him off his game. I said to myself that I had to step it up once I won that hand and I had to put the pressure on Gus because he is a great player and definitely one of the best in the world."
The tournament, which included a WPT-record 314 participants and a prize pool of more than $3 million, was narrowed to six finalists on the third day of competition. Tomko, who lives in Winterhaven, Fla., won $552,853 for second place while Hansen earned $276,426 for third. New York resident Abe Mosseri and Tino Lechich of Melbourne, Australia finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Mosseri won $174,585 for his play and Lechich pocketed$130,940. Mel Judah was the sixth place finisher and earned $101,842.
The inaugural Bellagio WPT tournament, held in June 2002, included 146 participants and a prize pool of more than $1.4 million.
The WPT has transformed poker into a televised mainstream sports sensation, creating record-setting ratings and capturing millions of new fans for America’s favorite card game.
The blockbuster series has riveted the nation’s TV viewers thanks to its hallmarks: a blend of high caliber sports-style production shot from 13 different camera angles, expert commentary, cliffhanging "reality TV" drama and the WPT’s signature "ace in the hole" — its revolutionary WPT cameras that reveal the player’s hidden cards.
The WPT is broadcast weekly (Wednesday) on the Travel Channel at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The WPT consists of 14 additional nationally televised poker events, filmed in casinos around the world, where the finalists compete for multi-million dollar prize pools.
The season will culminate with the grand finale, "The Second Annual Five Star World Poker Classic" in April 2004, which has a participant entry fee of $25,000. The event, also held at Bellagio, will feature the winners from the previous 14 events, including Gus Hansen, winner of the first Five Star World Poker Classic tournament in June 2002 at Bellagio.
The World Poker Tour is a joint venture between Steven Lipscomb and Lakes Entertainment, Inc., which owns 78% of WPT.