The final table is set for the World Poker Tour’s stop at the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open. There’s a chance at some history as Brian Altman looks for his third ever WPT title, but he’ll have two obstacles to that achievement. One is the chip leader, Veerab Zakarian, and the other four men at the final table; the second would be the delayed final table until April 1.
28 Men and a Dream
The final 28 players in the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open settled into their chairs on Friday, all with the dream of a WPT championship dancing in their heads. Leading the way, as he had been for the past two days, was Patrick Serda, who sat on a healthy chip lead with his 6.26 million chips. Zakarian was in second at the start of the action, holding 4.075 million in chips, while Altman held the third place slot on the leaderboard.
The trio was the focus of the railbirds, primarily because they weren’t sitting back and playing passively. Serda and Altman were on the same table to start the day and they weren’t afraid of mixing it up with each other. They would clash in the early going, with each taking a hand, but the end results were they basically treaded water with their chips. Serda would find some chips in knocking out Joey Galazzo in 25th place, however, and his stack expanded over the eight million mark.
Zakarian, meanwhile, was having some troubles getting the engines started. He would drop down to around two million in chips before eliminating Sam Taylor in 19th place. In the hand, Zakarian dangerously played a pocket pair of sevens with a draw at a flush against Taylor’s two over cards (A-10), straight draw and bigger flush draw on a 9-4-3-5 flop and turn. Needing an Ace, ten, deuce or any club to take the hand, Taylor instead saw an eight hit the river and end his tournament, with Zakarian rocketing up to 4.465 million in chips.
Zakarian Goes on the Attack
With three six-handed tables, the action was frenetic. Zakarian, after fading the world against Taylor, went on the attack and found Serda as his next victim. On a 9-7-2-7-J board, Zakarian was able to get a two million chip call from Serda and turned up a pocket pair of Jacks for the rivered full house. Serda didn’t even bother to show his cards, instead shipping a massive pot and the chip lead over to Zakarian.
Zakarian continued to abuse Serda, picking up a nut flush against Serda’s King high flush to chop some more chips from Serda’s stack. Serda was probably quite happy when, after the elimination of Jesus Martinez in 17th place, the redraw separated him from Zakarian. The problem was that the table redraw was massively slanted.
On one table, Serda only had Brandon Hall (3.7 million) to look up at on his patch of felt. On the other, however, Zakarian (with 10 million plus in chips), Bin Weng (six million) and James Anderson (5.7 million) all had more chips than Serda’s table combined. This imbalance in the redraw would have an effect on the runup to the final table.
Of the seven eliminations to get to the unofficial nine-handed final table, six of them came from the Serda table, including the elimination of Serda himself. After doubling up Altman (whose pocket Jacks caught a set on the river against Serda’s flopped pair of eights), Serda would depart after clashing again against Altman. On a 9-4-3-9-Q board, Serda check-called all in a bet from Altman and saw Altman turn up A-9 for trips; Serda could only muster a K-Q for the lesser rivered pair of Queens and left in 10th place.
After a quick redraw with nine remaining, Altman held a slight lead over Zakarian, but that would change rather quickly. Zakarian would eliminate Alex Queen in ninth place in a cooler of a hand, Zakarian’s pocket Kings against Queen’s…well, pocket Queens…on a ten-high board. Altman would waver at the unofficial final table, dropping as low as four million chips before knocking out Peter Vitantonio in seventh to get some health back and end the tournament until April.
1. Veerab Zakarian, 11.99 million
2. James Anderson, 10.04 million
3. Brian Altman, 9.865 million
4. Bin Weng, 8.89 million
5. Andrew Hanna, 6.73 million
6. Nathan Russler, 3.99 million
The players will have some time to reflect on their play and perhaps plot some strategies for the future. The WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open is one of a triumvirate of tournaments that will be delayed until the end of March and played at the HyperX eSports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas. This shows the problem with these “delayed” events in that there’s some great drama here in Altman going for his third championship (and technically a back-to-back win, as he won the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open prior to the Borgata stop) and Zakarian’s run to his first major title. Alas, we’re going to have to wait until April 1 to see how it all plays out.