Doing something that only seven men had done before him, Art Papazyan was able to vanquish a tough final table to emerge with his second World Poker Tour championship of the year in winning the WPT Maryland Live! Main Event.
Papazyan was a part of a tight five-man pack at the top of the leaderboard to start the final table on Wednesday. Leading the way was Tom Reynolds and his 4.395 million chips, closely marked by Randal Heeb and his 3.97 million stack. There was a bit of a drop to a three-man scrum of Papazyan (2.92 million), Grigoriy Shvarts (2.49 million) and Timothy Chang (2.01 million), with all three a double-up from becoming a force in the tournament. Only Day 1A chip leader Zachary Donovan (1.195 million) could have been considered a “long shot,” but he still had 24 big blinds to play with as the tournament began its drive to conclusion.
Donovan knew he would have to be aggressive from the start to stay viable in the tournament and he was just that, shoving all-in on Hands 8 and 9 to win pots without showing and make increases in his stack. It also allowed him to move up the ladder as, on Hand 15, Reynolds and Chang knocked heads in what was a bad beat for Chang. Getting his chips to the center with pocket Jacks against Reynolds’ pocket nines, Chang was in prime position for a double up on a 7-5-4-7 flop and turn, but a river nine cruelly stole the hand from him and gave it to Reynolds. The beat sent Chang to the rail in sixth place for a consolation prize of $76,620.
Those chips added to Reynolds’ lead, but his pursuers weren’t letting up on him. Only three hands after Chang’s departure, Reynolds and Papazyan went to battle on a J-9-2-8-5 board with over 1.3 million chips in the pot. Reynolds fired out a 325,000 bet on the river, but Papazyan responded with an all-in move that Reynolds wasn’t ready for. After some thought, Reynolds commented, “Good bet,” flashed an A-Q to Papazyan, and folded to give Papazyan the nearly two million chip pot.
It wasn’t all sunshine for Papazyan, however. After getting the chip lead, he would double up Heeb on Hand 53 when Heeb saw through a Papazyan bluff. That ill-timed move dropped Papazyan back down to the basement and forced him to scratch back into the tournament again. On Hand 71 against Shvarts, Papazyan would check-call a Shvarts bet after an A-J-8 flop. After Shvarts fired out a half-million chip bet on a deuce turn, however, Papazyan shoved his remaining chips to the center. Shvarts called and turned up an A-10 for top pair, but Papazyan had hit gold with his J♣ 8♣ (two pair). Needing to dodge a deuce or another Ace, a trey on the river gave the double up to Papazyan and sent Shvarts to the cellar; Shvarts would be eliminated on the very next hand in fifth place by Papazyan.
Papazyan stepped on the gas following Shvarts’ departure. He knocked off Heeb in fourth place, his pocket Aces standing tall against Heeb’s pocket tens, and once Donovan eliminated Reynolds in third place in a “battle of the short stacks,” Papazyan went to heads up against Donovan with a massive lead. Holding 10.44 million chips against Donovan’s 6.34 million, Papazyan was the odds-on favorite to win the Maryland Live! championship.
Donovan had played outstanding poker throughout the run of this particular WPT event, but he would never get close to Papazyan’s monstrous stack. Over the next 55 hands, Donovan would scramble his way close to eclipsing Papazyan, but each time he drew near, he would get knocked down. On Hand 162, the final knockdown would occur.
Donovan didn’t try to draw in Papazyan on that hand, instead pushing his stack to the center for nearly three million chips pre-flop. Papazyan squeezed out his cards and immediately made the call, turning up pocket Kings for the penultimate battle versus Donovan’s A-4 off suit. The Jack-high board didn’t bring the saving Ace that Donovan badly needed, sending him to the rail in second place and crowning Papazyan with his second WPT title of the year.
1. Art Papazyan, $389,405
2. Zachary Donovan, $262,930
3. Tom Reynolds, $168,990
4. Randal Heeb, $120,165
5. Grigoriy Shvarts, $92,015
6. Timothy Chang, $76,620
With the win at Maryland Live!, Papazyan enters rarefied air in WPT history. He joins 26 other men in having won at least two WPT events, but it is more impressive that he joins a small fraternity that have won two tournaments in a season. That list has only seven other names on it, with Gus Hansen (Season I), Howard Lederer (Season I), Erick Lindgren (Season II), Tuan Le (Season III), Darren Elias (Season XIII), Anthony Zinno (Season XIII) and Sam Panzica (Season XV) welcoming Papazyan into the club. As the Season XVI schedule is but six events old, there will be plenty of opportunities for Papazyan to put himself into WPT annals as the only player to ever win three WPT Main Event tournaments in the same season.