Etching his name into the history books, Darren Elias made history last night in defeating Kitty Kuo to capture his fourth ever World Poker Tour championship in winning the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic.
It seemed as if it were almost predestined for Elias to rewrite the record books on Wednesday. He sat on nearly half of the chips in play (2.127 million, 44%) and none of his other final table mates were even over the million-chip mark. Dietrich Fast (801,000), Kuo (683,000), Sam Panzica (566,000), Joe McKeehen (385,000) and Jonathan Little (300,000) faced the task of building up a stack to challenge Elias. Regardless of who walked away with the championship, it was arguably one of the most accomplished final tables in the history of the WPT, with eight WPT titles and almost $40 million in tournament earnings between the six players.
Surprisingly, the battle down to the final two was rather quick as players looked to make their moves. Little was the first to go off his short stack, even though he won the first three hands he played (the first three hands of the day, actually). The fourth hand, however, saw Little limp out of the small blind and Panzica put him to the test by declaring all in. Little made the call to put himself at risk and certainly had to be pleased to see his A-J was a significant leader over Panzica’s A-4.
That confidence disappeared when the 4-2-9 flop hit the felt. Panzica took over the lead in the hand, which expanded once an eight came on the turn. Down to roughly a 6% chance in one of the three Jacks remaining in the deck, Little instead saw a worthless five come on the river to see the end of his tournament in sixth place.
After Little’s knockout, there was a bit of a lull before the next would occur. On Hand 42, Panzica would suffer the fate that befell Little when, after he bet out under the gun, Elias three-bet the action to 110K. With only about 400K in front of him, Panzica decided to make his stand and pushed his stack to the center. Instead of pondering the situation, Elias made the call quickly and the cards went to their backs.
It was a classic race situation, Panzica’s Big Chick (A-Q) up against Elias’ pocket sixes, and the 5-10-3 flop did nothing to change the hand status. A second five on the turn left Panzica drawing to six outs for his tournament life. None of those six, however, would appear, as the trey on the river helped no one, kept Elias in the lead and sent Panzica to the rail in fifth place.
About 20 hands later, the foursome left on the felt became a trio. After a Fast limp and an Elias call, Kuo decided to push the gas pedal in popping her tablemates with a 125K bet. Fast pondered his action, using a Time Bank chip for a few extra seconds, before making the call and Elias left skid marks leaving the hand. A two-diamond K-3-6 flop saw an out-of-position Kuo move all in to test Fast, but it wasn’t even a test. Fast immediately called and tabled his pocket Aces for the lead hand, although Kuo’s A♦ 10♦ had a plethora of outs to draw to. Those outs came home on the Q♦ turn, leaving Fast drawing dead; after the formality of the final card (a trey), Fast packed up and left the felt in fourth place.
Down to three players, it looked as if Elias (2.422 million) and Kuo (1.662 million) would be the ones to battle it out as McKeehen (778K) looked for a way to get in the mix. Ten hands after Fast’s knockout, McKeehen would find the hand to go to war with, going up against Elias and his A♣ 2♣ with an A♦ Q♦ of his own. The dealer, however, held the cards and handed out a 7-2-K that immediately changed leadership in the hand. A five on the turn kept Elias in the lead and, after an eight hit the river, McKeehen was done for the night and out of the tournament in third place.
With the win in the hand, Elias held 3.562 million chips to go against Kuo’s 1.3 million heads up. Simply because of the chip edge, Elias was a huge favorite to win but Kuo would prove to be a formidable opponent. Elias was able to get Kuo close to the felt on a couple of occasions, but Kuo would come back strongly. On Hand 155, Kuo’s pocket Kings doubled through Elias’ Big Slick to pull her within 440K of the lead, but that would be as close as she would get.
That would be her final stand, although it would take another 19 hands for the end to come. On Hand 174, Kuo moved all in immediately and Elias called just as quickly, with Elias’ A-10 off suit holding the edge over Kuo’s A-5 off suit. When the Jack high board ran out (4-J-8-7-2), the tournament was over and Darren Elias captured the inaugural championship of the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic.
Darren Elias, $387,580
Kitty Kuo, $248,380
Joe McKeehen, $178,610
Dietrich Fast, $130,895
Sam Panzica, $97,795
Jonathan Little, $74,520
With the win, Elias breaks the logjam that had developed atop the all-time winners on the WPT list. In taking his fourth WPT championship, Elias steps above Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Anthony Zinno and David ‘Chino’ Rheem (all with three titles) to stand alone on top of the WPT mountain. He also will be participating in the 2018 WPT Tournament of Champions that begins today (he was eligible to play as a former champion if he ponied up the buy in but, with the victory in the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, he now is in without having to pay).