After 12 hours of battle, the final table of the 2017 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Main Event has been determined. It is one of the stronger final tables in recent memory, with poker professional J. C. Tran looking to become a three-time champion on the WPT circuit as Marvin Rettenmaier looks for his third and Phil Hellmuth looks for his first.
24 players came back on Wednesday, all with the ambitions of being one of the final six who would vie for the crown. Tran was dominating the event as play began, the only player over the three million mark in chips and only Steven Tabb above two million. In looking at the last three tables, there wasn’t a weak spot anywhere; along with Tran, Hellmuth and Rettenmaier, there were such names as Oddie Dardon, Garrett Greer, David ‘ODB’ Baker, David ‘Doc’ Sands and Tuan Le arranged around the various patches of felt.
With the “Action Clock” by Protection Poker in play, the competitors had 30 seconds to make their decisions and, if there was more thought required, six “time chips” were given to the Day 4 participants to use for an additional 30 seconds each. This arrangement had been in place since one table before the bubble on Day 3 (as it will be for the remainder of the WPT Main Tour Season XVI schedule) and, for the most part, seems to have been seamlessly integrated into the WPT action.
Tran had fortune on his side early on as he four-flushed Paul Balzano to increase his lead further, while Hellmuth improved his stack to nearly one million chips in four-flushing Rettenmaier. The news wasn’t as good for Allan Le, who pushed from early position with pocket nines and ran into Mike Heshmati’s pocket Queens to eliminate Le in 24th place. Le was soon followed to the rail by Balzano, Lawrence Ma, Arkadi Onikoul, Greer and Le, Heshmati and Jason Les as the play quickly brought the field down to two tables within the first two hours of the Day 4 play.
After the redraw Tran was still at the helm of the field with 3.211 million chips, but the footsteps were drawing closer. Dardon was within roughly 300K of Tran on the leaderboard while Baker had popped over the two million mark in chips also. Hellmuth, who was responsible for eliminating Greer from the tournament, was healthy with 1.288 million in chips, but Rettenmaier was struggling to stay over the 20bb level.
At this point, Hellmuth and Rettenmaier both continued a slow grind upwards, although they would sometimes surprisingly clash with each other. On an A-K-Q-J-J board, Rettenmaier fired out a river bet that had the new host of the WPT’s “Raw Deal” segment talking to himself. As he pieced the hand together in his mind, Hellmuth commented, “Man, how did I lose this pot? I flopped Aces with the nut flush draw.” After more deliberation, Hellmuth released his hand and Rettenmaier improved the health of his stack with a roughly 350K pot.
Tran, however, wasn’t letting anyone creep any closer to him. He eliminated Igor Zektser in 15th place, Ben Nguyen in 13th place and Alex Greenblatt in tenth place to bring his stack over the six million chip mark heading to the unofficial final table. Only Adam Swan was within shouting distance and he barely had half of Tran’s stack (6.6 million to 3.320 million). Both Rettenmaier and Hellmuth were lurking with almost identical stacks (1.69 million for Rettenmaier, 1.62 million for Hellmuth) as the unofficial final table began.
With only three players to eliminate, the survivors of the 2017 WPT Legends of Poker Main Event settled in for what would turn out to be a drawn-out battle. Within the first 30 hands, both Rettenmaier and Hellmuth had improved their station in the game in reaching 3.13 million chips for Hellmuth and Rettenmaier moving up to 2.6 million. As they were improving their chances in the tournament, Tran maintained his stranglehold on the tournament in knocking off Dardon in ninth place and Jared Griener in eighth place to set the stage for the final elimination of the night.
On Hand 111 of the unofficial play at the final table, Tran opened for a raise out of the cutoff and Sands three-bet the action to 560K. Tran wasted little time in putting Sands to the test, moving all in, and Sands made the call. It was a classic race, Sands’ pocket Kings against Tran’s Big Chick (A-Q), and fortune was still sitting on Tran’s shoulder. The flop came down Q-Q-6 to give Tran trips and, instead of a cowboy coming to the rescue for Sands, the case lady hit on the river to give Tran quads and eliminate Sands on the final table bubble in seventh place.
1. J. C. Tran, 8.295 million
2. Art Papazyan, 6.005 million
3. Phil Hellmuth, 2.94 million
4. D. J. Alexander, 2.73 million
5. Adam Swan, 1.655 million
6. Marvin Rettenmaier, 1.225 million
There’s a great chance at history in this WPT final table. Should Tran or Rettenmaier win the tournament, they would join the pantheon of players – Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Anthony Zinno, David ‘Chino’ Rheem and Darren Elias – who have won three WPT titles. Hellmuth, for all the accolades he has received in his career, has NEVER won a WPT event despite making four final tables. The “fly in the ointment” could be Papazyan, who might have a slim poker resume (only seven cashes) but has a monster stack of chips at his disposal.
The final table of the 2017 WPT Legends of Poker will be the first live-streamed through the arrangement between the WPT and Poker Central over the subscription outlet PokerGO. It will begin at 4:30PM (Pacific Time) and will also be videotaped for broadcast on Fox Sports 1 later in the year. It promises to be an entertaining event as the WPT crowns their latest champion tonight at “The Bike.”