In a classic battle of “David versus Goliath” Dennis Blieden, who had only cashed twice in his tournament poker career, was able to vanquish poker pro Toby Lewis to win the 25th running (and 16th under the World Poker Tour banner) of the L. A. Poker Classic’s Championship Event.
Lewis led the six-man final table as they gathered together on Thursday afternoon to determine the champion. Blieden, for his part, was within shouting distance of Lewis’ stack (5.39 million to Blieden’s 4.125 million), while the remainder of the field looked to play catchup. Marc MacDonnell (1.695 million), Derek Wolters (1.52 million), Peter Hengsakul (1.065 million) and Manuel Martinez (985K) all had their work cut out for them if they were going to get in the mix for the title.
Blieden came out of the gates on a rampage, winning four of the first five hands, and would be responsible for the first elimination only six hands in. On Hand 6, Martinez raised the flop from under the gun and Blieden, out of position in the big blind, made the call to see an 8-8-2 flop. Blieden would then check-raise a Martinez continuation bet, which Martinez only called, to see a six on the turn. Blieden once again led out, this time for 230K, and after Martinez came over the top of his bet with an all-in move, Blieden was more than happy to call.
Martinez had a beautiful pair of ladies in his pocket, but the whims of fate had struck for Blieden. His 8-6 had found trips on the flop and filled up the boat on the turn, leaving Martinez looking for one of the remaining Queens in the deck to reverse his fortunes. Another six on the river gave Martinez three pair, still not good enough to beat Blieden’s boat, and send him out of the tournament in sixth place.
That hand would temporarily move Blieden into the lead, but Lewis would take it back with authority a few hands later. After limping into a pot, Wolters would call but Blieden would three bet the action. Lewis made the call and Wolters folded as the dealer fanned out the innocuous 8-3-2 flop. Blieden aggressively led out and, after a moment of thought, Lewis made the call. On a ten turn, Blieden fired again for 360K and, pondering for a moment again, Lewis made the call. A King came on the river and it was Blieden’s turn to pause, using up a Time Bank chip before firing his third bullet (of 785K) at the pot. Lewis didn’t hesitate this time, calling the bet and showing pocket fives for FOURTH pair. Surprisingly, it was good; Blieden was pushing air with his Q-9 off suit and, soon after he showed his hand, the 3 million-plus pot and the chip lead were pushed to Lewis.
Undaunted, Blieden went back to work in building his stack back up. He knocked out Hengsakul in fifth place, but it was another clash with Lewis that put him back into the lead. 25 hands after losing that big pot to Lewis, Blieden would turn a flush against Lewis to capture a nearly four million chip pot to rocket up to 7.05 million. Lewis wasn’t in bad shape with his 3.63 million in chips (good for second with four players left) but he – nor anyone else at the table – would get close to Blieden again.
Although Lewis would take down both MacDonnell and Wolters in fourth and third places, respectively, Blieden steamrolled the opposition so much that he held more than a 5:1 edge when heads up play began. On the second hand of heads up (Hand 79), the final battle would commence and the tournament would be concluded.
Lewis raised the betting pre-flop and, after Blieden three-bet the action, responded with a four bet of his own. Blieden just called and saw a 6-6-3 flop, which he also check-called after a 400K bet from Lewis. The Queen on the turn saw Blieden check again and pause after Lewis hammered in his remaining 2.2 million chips. Blieden tentatively called and showed his Big Chick (A-Q), Queens up, while Lewis sprung his trap one street too late in turning up his pocket tens. Looking for one of two tens to save his tournament life, Lewis instead made an inferior full house with the six on the river, giving the championship to Blieden.
1. Dennis Blieden, $1,000,000
2. Toby Lewis, $603,630
3. Derek Wolters, $430,210
4. Marc MacDonnell, $319,310
5. Peter Hengsakul, $244,430
6. Manuel Martinez, $186,235
There is no rest for the WPT and its players. As soon as the tournament concluded at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, the WPT workhorses packed up the circus and moved up the coast to the Thunder Valley Casino Resort for the WPT Rolling Thunder tournament. That tournament runs from today through March 6, with two Day Ones kicking off the action on Friday and Saturday. For now, however, Dennis Blieden is celebrating his first major poker title as the champion of the L. A. Poker Classic.