Yesterday, I said I would be shocked if Yunkyu Song didn’t win the 2024 World Poker Tour (WPT) Rolling Thunder Main Event, so…consider me shocked. Song went into the six-handed final table with three-fifths of the chips in play, looking like he would roll to victory. But poker is a funny thing; it takes just one or two cards to completely change one’s fortunes. In the end, it was Casey Sandretto who emerged victorious, notching his first WPT title and $296,600.

Song was cruising early, still well in control after Michael Kinney eliminated Brock Wilson in sixth place. He then doubled-up Travis Egbert twice in a row, but Egbert was so short, it didn’t hurt Song much. After doubling-up Sandretto, Song was down to 11.150 million chips, about 4 million below his initial final table stack, but still more than 7 million ahead of his closest competition.

But then Sandretto doubled through Song yet again and the game was on. A few hands later and Sandretto had the lead, 8.875 million to Song’s 7.225 million. Song did take the lead back once they were four handed, but at the end of Level 28, it was tight – nobody was out if it anymore.

After the break, Sandretto and Kinney separated themselves from the other two players as Song sunk, eventually eliminated in fourth place. On Hand 116 of the final table, Kinney knocked out Egbert to get to heads-up with a substantial 15.950 million to 6.950 million chip lead on Sandretto. Sandretto quickly tied it up and from there, it was a back-and-forth match for about 50 hands.

On the final hand, Sandretto raised to 650,000 pre-flop and Kinney called. On the flop of Kd-3d-2s, Kinney checked, Sandretto bet 400,000, and Kinney called. The action picked up with the Ac on the turn, as Kinney checked again, Sandretto bet 975,000, Kinney check-raised to 3.200 million, and Sandretto called after a bit of a tank.

With the Th on the river, Kinney shoved for 7 million and Sandretto called. Kinney had Ah-2h for a turned two pair, but Sandretto showed pocket Kings – he flopped a set – to win the tournament.

This was the best live cash of Sandretto’s career, more than doubling his live tournament earnings. Prior to Black Friday (April 2011), he played professionally online, but said he got “wrecked” by Black Friday and soon gave it up for the stability of a “real” job. He said he didn’t play any poker for three years.

When he did return to poker, his perspective had changed.

“All of a sudden the games that I played before that felt big to me, didn’t feel as big anymore. And so it felt like, okay, now I’m just playing the game,” he told in his post-game interview.

“In the five or six years I was playing live, I didn’t have any opportunities like this,” he said. “But I had plenty of good opportunities and it felt like every time I got close, I ran [not good] and nothing went my way every time. It got to the point where it just kind of drives you crazy. After a while, you get so close, you can just taste it.”

Image credit: World Poker Tour via Flickr

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