“Chino” Rheem Defeats Erick Lindgren To Win WPT World Championship

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After a nearly nine hour battle on the felt at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, David “Chino” Rheem was able to defeat Erick Lindgren to take down the World Poker Tour World Championship early this morning.

Rheem came to the final table on Friday afternoon as the overwhelming chip leader with his 5.49 million stack, but another player had the attention of much of the rail. Erick Lindgren, making his return to the tournament poker world after a difficult 2012, was sitting in second place with 3.42 million and seemed to have every bit of his tournament game in his arsenal. The other players at the table – Jonathan Roy, Matt Hyman, Brandon Steven and David Peters – all had less than 1.8 million chips each and they faced an uphill struggle to get into the game.

While Rheem and Lindgren could afford some patience, the other players on the baize were not afforded such luxury. On the 14th hand of action, Roy would put out a min-raise of 80K and Peters pushed out a three bet to 165K. After some thought, Roy made the call and the duo saw a monochrome J♠ 6♠ 2♠ flop. Roy would check raise Peters at this point, pushing his remaining chips to the center and Peters made the call, turning up pocket tens (with the 10♠) for a potential four flush. Roy, however, clipped Peters in revealing his J 9 for top pair of Jacks and just needed to fade any spades or tens on the turn and river. An Ace kept Roy in the lead and, once the Q♣ came on the river, Roy had outrun Peters to eliminate him in sixth place and move up to the 2.5 million mark.

Steven, now the short stack, tried to push his way back into the game. He would flop a Jack high straight flush against Lindgren, but was unable to get any further action from him after the flop. As the next level began, he and Hyman were jousting for the bottom rung of the ladder, while Rheem still rode high with Lindgren and Roy in pursuit.

After Steven’s straight flush, the players settled into a slow grind, with no player taking and extreme chances. It would take 34 hands before fortune eventually would push Steven to make a move, which he did after Roy raised in front of him, Steven moved all in and Roy made the call. Putting his pocket tens on the line against Roy’s A-4, Steven was dismayed to see an Ace come on the flop and the board pair fives on the turn. Looking for a two outer to take the hand, Steven would blank on the river to be eliminated in fifth place.

Once Steven had taken the walk from the WPT stage, Rheem began to up the aggression. He pushed his way over the eight million mark within six hands of Steven’s departure, but doubled up Hyman to come back to the pack a bit. After that double, Rheem still held almost seven million in chips, while Roy had moved into a comfortable second place, Hyman was alive with almost 2.5 million in chips and Lindgren was suddenly on the short stack.

Lindgren would patiently wait for an opportunity to get back in the tournament and, while he did, another player would exit the arena. In an exciting Hand #92, Hyman would raise from under the gun, but he would get a host of action as Rheem reraised and Roy made it four bets to go. Hyman moved all in and Rheem folded what the WPT Update crew said were pocket tens, but Roy wasn’t going anywhere as he made the call and tabled his pocket Aces. Hyman was the victim of the ultimate cooler, rolling over his pocket Kings, and after an uneventful Queen high board, he was eliminated in fourth place why Roy rose to challenge Rheem for the lead.

The trio was pleasantly happy to trade blinds and antes over the next 20 hands, but Lindgren would get back into the match at that point. He first doubled up through Roy, his pocket Kings holding over Roy’s A-8, and took a three million chip pot against Rheem to suddenly be back in the midst of the battle. As the 115th hand of the final table ended, the three men were only separated by a million chips.

Over the next 45 hands, the players would joust with each other as Rheem slowly moved out to a lead. That lead would be further solidified when he raised from the button and Roy three bet the action out of the small blind to 670K. Rheem made the call and, after a K 10♣ 8 flop, pondered and made the call on a Roy bet. On a Q turn, Roy fired a second bullet and, using the same preponderance, Rheem would look him up. A 3 on the river brought a third (and what would prove tournament fatal) bullet from Roy as he moved all in and Rheem immediately called, turning up his A 10 for the nut flush; Roy had been ahead all the way to the river with his pocket eights for a flopped set, but the third diamond proved to be his downfall as he exited the WPT Championship in third place.

By winning that huge pot against Roy, Rheem entered the heads up battle against Lindgren with a huge advantage (11.02 million to 3.585 million). Lindgren fought valiantly over the next two hours (and nearly 100 hands), pulling to within a couple million of Rheem at one point. In the end, however, Rheem’s overwhelming stack starting heads up play became too much for Lindgren to overcome.

On the final hand, Rheem pushed all in on the button and Lindgren agonized over the decision. “This is close,” Lindgren commented as he looked his stack over. After that internal debate, Lindgren made the call and showed Q 9 while Rheem did him just one better with his K-9 off suit. Stating to his friends on the rail, “I got this,” Rheem would watch as the board failed to bring a Queen or diamonds for Lindgren, ending the epic battle and pushing Rheem to the WPT World Championship.

1. David “Chino” Rheem, $1,150,297
2. Erick Lindgren, $650,275
3. Jonathan Roy, $421,800
4. Matt Hyman, $289,988
5. Brandon Steven, $223,203
6. David Peters, $173,993

The victory marks an important milestone for Rheem. He is now a two-time champion in the annals of the WPT and the ducats he earned for the title pushed him over the $7 million mark for career earnings (pushing him into the Top 50 in all-time earnings). Lindgren, for his part, has shown that he is back after his sojourn from the game last year and looks to be in shape for the remainder of 2013.

The completion of the WPT Championship also brings the battle for the WPT Player of the Year title to a close. Although he had to sweat Roy’s appearance (and deep run) at the final table, Matt Salsberg will take down that title by 175 points over Roy. Salsberg joins such luminaries as Lindgren, Daniel Negreanu, Gavin Smith, Jonathan Little, Bertrand Grospellier, Faraz Jaka and 2012 POY Joe Serock with the honor of being the WPT Player of the Year.

The lights have now dimmed on the WPT final table for the last time for Season XI and congratulations to all the winners. Before we know it, however, Season XII will be upon us and the WPT merry-go-round will begin once again.

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