Donned in Minnesota Twins gear, David Larson accomplished the improbable, going from short stack to champion in the 2018 World Poker Tour (WPT) Rolling Thunder Main Event Tuesday night. For the victory, Larson won almost $300,000.
This was by far the largest cash of Larson’s career. In fact, it makes up all but $30,000 of his live tournament earnings. It is also the priciest live tournament ($3,500) in which he has ever played. And he almost didn’t play in it, falling one spot short in a satellite that awarded seats to 23 players.
Larson told WPT.com, “It was a whole comedy of things that went wrong. We were a couple from the money and I had quite a few chips. It was devastating, no doubt about it. It bothered me. I wanted to get the seat, I’m not made of money. It was hard to take. At the last minute, I went to the ATM and grabbed the money and bought in.”
As mentioned, Larson entered the six-handed final table as the shortest stack. And he was definitely a short stack. Take a look:
Ping Liu – 3,330,000
Joe McKeehen – 2,755,000
Ian Steinman – 2,480,000
Rayo Kniep – 2,435,000
D.J. Alexander – 1,425,000
David Larson – 700,000
That was quite the hill to climb. Larson was realistic about his chances and was happy to have already won $56,417; it was that contentedness that helped him make the comeback. It is a wonder what a poker player can do when he feels he has nothing to lose. Larson credited aggressiveness as one of his keys to victory.
He got going right from the start, doubling up on the second hand of the final table to rise to 1.550 million chips. He was relatively quiet for a while after that, seemingly content to stay a little more patient with that slight chip cushion, but on Hand 43, Larson eliminated D.J. Alexander, who had seen his chip stack sink to under 700,000. Larson’s Tens beat Alexander’s K-9 suited and Alexander was out in sixth place while Larson had 2.100 million chips.
It took another couple levels for the next elimination, which served as a lesson about slow-playing big hands. We won’t go through it all, but suffice to say Rayo Kniep had pocket Kings and opted to slow play pre-flop and post-flop. Unfortunately for him, when he did decide to move all-in after the turn, Ian Steinman had hit trip Tens and then improved to a full house on the river to knock Kniep out in fifth place.
A few hands later, Steinman eliminated Ping Liu in fourth place, A-Q dominating Q-T. By Hand 123, Larson’s stack had fallen back 1.900 million while Steinman was cruising at 6.100 million and Joe McKeehen had 4.900 million.
Larson started rising from there, doubling through McKeehen to get up to 2.700 million, then taking another chunk to climb to 4.200 million. He increased his stack a bit more before giving some back to Steinman, but on Hand 147 of the final table, he finished what he started and eliminated McKeehen in third place. It was one of the rare hands where neither player improved and Larson simply won with Ace high (well, technically a pair of Fours, but that pair was on the board).
Going into heads-up Larson trailed Steinman 4.600 million to 8.300 million. Within six hands, Larson had flipped the table, amassing a stack of 7.530 million chips. He continued to drive ahead, getting to the point where his lead was nearly insurmountable, barring a series of double-ups by Steinman.
On the final hand, Larson raised to 375,000 pre-flop and Steinman re-raised to 1.1 million. Larson called to bring on a flop of A-J-6 rainbow. Larson bet 400,000 and Steinman made the call. Both players checked an Ace on the turn and when a Queen was dealt on the river, Steinman bet 500,000, Larson moved all-in, and Steinman called all-in for his remaining 1 million chips. Steinman had pocket Kings, but Larson had A-6 for a full house, giving him his first WPT title and the most lucrative cash of his career.
2018 World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder Main Event – Final Table Results
1. David Larson – $295,128
2. Ian Steinman – $201,428
3. Joe McKeehen – $131,081
4. Ping Liu – $97,510
5. Rayo Kniep – $69,650
6. D.J. Alexander – $56,417