Yesterday saw one of the very toughest WPT final tables ever, if not the toughest final table ever, period. Everyone at the table was more than capable of holding their own; each player world class in their own right. Last year’s final table was no slouch either, with Kevin Saul (the eventual winner), Mike Matusow, Shane “Shaniac” Schleger, and Danny Wong at the final table. However, this year’s final table takes the cake. From top to bottom, there was an unbelievable amount of talent.
Ralph Perry, Michael “SirWatts” Watson, Luke “IWearGoggles” Staudenmaier, David Benyamine, Gabriel Thaler, and John Phan comprised this final table, with no weak links. Anyone familiar with online tournaments know SirWatts and IWearGoggles quite well, as both players shared the same cheering section, one that was often conflicted on who to root for as the day wore on. Gabriel Thaler and Ralph Perry are two legitimately tough live pros, John Phan is fresh off of his two bracelets this summer, and David Benyamine is having a positively huge year, with a bracelet and with millions of winnings in the online nosebleed cash games.
446 players started this $15k tournament, up from the $10k buy in last year. At the end of the road, here were the stacks of the players heading into the massive final table.
Mike Watson: 5,060,000
David Benyamine: 4,860,000
Luke Staudenmaier: 3,495,000
John Phan: 3,495,000
Ralph Perry: 1,635,000
Gabe Thaler: 1,550,000
And here’s what waited for them:
Blinds were starting at 40k/80k with a 10k ante, which meant no one was in any real trouble, despite Gabe Thaler and Ralph Perry being on the short stack. Watson came in holding a very narrow lead over David Benyamine, with less than 3 big blinds separating the two players.
Thaler battled up to 2 million, while Watson still hung around 5 million, when a huge hand between the two players went down. Watson bumped it up to 220k preflop, as everyone folded to Thaler in the big blind. He put in the extra 140k, and they were off to the flop. The flop came down 754, with two hearts, and Thaler checked the action to Watson. Watson led at it for 320k, and Thaler shoved in the rest of his chips. After some thought, Watson made the call with AJ of hearts, good for overcards and the nut flush draw. Thaler had pocket tens, and Watson was a small favorite. The turn was the three of diamonds, shifting the favorite to Thaler, but the river was the eight of hearts, giving Watson the nut flush, and ousting Thaler in 6th place. Thaler took home $129,275 for his efforts.
After that huge pot, here’s how things looked:
Michael Watson: 7,140,000
Luke Staudenmaier: 4,280,000
John “The Razor” Phan: 4,085,000
David Benyamine: 2,785,000
Ralph Perry: 1,535,000
The blinds moved up to 60k/120k with a 15k ante before the next elimination went down.
After taking a bad beat at the hands of Ralph Perry, John Phan was down to 760k. He moved in with A9 off suit, and was called down by David Benyamine’s A6 of spades. The KJ7 flop with one spade and two diamonds was a relatively safe one for John. However, the turn queen of spades gave him a big sweat. The river three of spades completed another brutal suckout on Phan, and this year’s only multiple bracelet winner was taken down in 5th place, for $193,915.
Just a few hands later, another played exited stage left. The action folded to Michael Watson in the small blind, who raised it up to 360k, Ralph Perry moved in for over 2.1 million, total. Watson snap-called with the AQ of spades, and was decently ahead of Ralph’s KJ off-suit. The 542 rainbow offered no help to Perry. The turn nine pushed Perry out the door a little bit more, and the river ace sealed the deal. Perry finished in fourth place, for $290,900.
Entering three-handed play, here’s where Benyamine, Watson, and Staudenmaier stood.
Luke Staudenmaier: 7,685,000
Michael Watson: 7,555,000
David Benyamine: 4,865,000
After a bit of play, Benyamine and Staudenmaier got into a conflict which lead to the biggest pot of the tournament thus far. With the blinds still at 60k/120k with a 15k ante, Benyamine raised it up from the button to 360k. Watson folded, and Staudenmaier moved all in over the top from the big blind. Benyamine made the call, putting himself and his over 4 million chip stack at risk. However, he was well ahead with AJ, up against Staudenmaier’s AT. The flop rolled out 643, with neither player having a flush draw of any sort. The turn sent out a Q, and the river a 7, giving Benyamine the pot and the chip lead.
After that mammoth hand, Benyamine was up to 9 million, Watson at 6.7 million, and Staudenmaier down to 4.2 million.
However, it wouldn’t take long for Luke to get back on his feet. Just a few hands after, he raised it up to 360k from the button. Watson three-bet, making it 1.1 million to go. Staudenmaier moved in for roughly 3 million more, and Watson made the easy call with pocket queens. Staudenmaier flipped up AK, and the classic race was underway. The flop came out QJ2, giving Staudenmaier just the four remaining tens as outs, and needing to avoid any board pairing, as Watson flopped a set. The turn was a big one – the ten of hearts. Staudenmaier suddenly had vaulted into the lead, and needed to avoid a Q, J, 2, or T, and he’d double up. The river was none of those cards, as it came down the six of diamonds, doubling up Staudenmaier. After that hand, Watson was down to 4.9 million, while Benyamine held 8 million, and Staudenmaier was back up over 7 million.
As the blinds rose to 80k/160k with a 15k, the players continued to battle. Benyamine was up to around 10 million at the time, with Watson and Staudenmaier hovering around 5 million apiece. Watson and Staudenmaier were against each other blind vs. blind when the next massive pot went down. Benyamine folded the button, and Watson made it 480k to go from the small blind. Staudenmaier moved all in, and was instacalled by Watson, who was at risk. Watson was way ahead with AQ, vs. Staudenmaier’s AT. The flop came down KJ9, meaning Staudenmaier would need a Q for the win. The turn was a 7, giving Staudenmaier an 8 as an out. However, the river paired the 7, giving Watson the win. Watson was up to 7.5 million, while Staudenmaier was crippled to just over 500k. He wasn’t able to make a miraculous comeback, and soon exited in 3rd, for a respectable $452,465.
Going into heads-up play, here’s how Benyamine and Watson shaped up:
David Benyamine: 11,700,000
Michael Watson: 8,420,000
The two pros jostled for a bit, trading chips, ultimately in the same spot as the blinds moved up to 100k/200k with a 20k ante. Benyamine was down to 11,395,000, while Watson was up to 8,720,000.
Just a bit after the blind change, Benyamine and Watson got into a pot for nearly all of the chips. Benyamine made it 500k from the button, and Watson reraised to 1.5 million from the big blind. Benyamine went all in, and Watson made the easy call with AK. However, he was behind Benyamine’s QQ, but not by far. The T82 flop was barren, offering nothing to Watson. The turn 5 followed suit. However, the ace of diamonds on the river was sweet salvation for Watson, and he doubled up to over 17 million! Benyamine was left with 2.6 million in chips, and would need to get to work fast.
Benyamine was up to 3 million when his final hand occurred. Watson moved all in from the button, and Benyamine made the call with K9 of hearts, which was in a dominant spot over Watson’s Q9. However, the AQ6 flop changed everything, vaulting Watson into the lead. The turn 9 changed nothing, and the river 7 doomed Benyamine, sending him home in 2nd place, $840,295 richer.
The day belonged to Watson. The 24 year old pro from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, is well-respected amongst his online peers, and has clearly made a huge impact on the live scene now, taking down the Bellagio Cup IV for $1,673,770!