If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?
Eminem, “Lose Yourself”
The lyrical poetry of Eminem is appropriate in the case of poker player Aaron Van Blarcum. In his first ever shot at a World Poker Tour event, Van Blarcum came back from the short stack at the start of the final table to grab the gold in winning the WPT Legends of Poker in California.
From Worst to First
While he came from the short stack, Van Blarcum wasn’t that far out of the lead at the start of the final table of the Legends. Gueorgui Gantchev was the chip leader at the start of the action on Wednesday afternoon, holding 5.56 million in chips. Following behind Gantchev was Jisup Hwang, who held 4.38 million in chips, and Vahan Sudzhyan, who was sitting on a stack of 3.335 million chips. The final three players that rounded out the field – Jared Griener (2.75 million), Antonios Roungeris (2.72 million) and Van Blarcum (2.05 million) – were only a double up from getting themselves back into the mix for the championship.
In the early jousting, Hwang was able to take over the lead from Gantchev, but it was Van Blarcum who was making the biggest moves. On Hand 23, Van Blarcum raised the betting off the button and Roungeris decided it was time to push the action. From the big blind, Roungeris put in his stack of over a million chips and Van Blarcum was more than happy to call. When the cards were on their backs, the hand basically played itself.
Van Blarcum’s original raise with pocket Jacks was expected and Roungeris’ move with pocket sevens off what he perceived to be a steal wasn’t out of the question either. Looking for one of the two sevens in the deck, Roungeris would instead see a K-9-Q-6-4 board run out as he stood and shook hands with his conqueror. For his efforts, Roungeris earned sixth place and the $96,955 payday associated with it.
The knockout of Roungeris seemed to light a fire under Van Blarcum. Now with 4.775 million in chips, he would make a most memorable Royal Flush against Hwang to crack the five million mark. They would clash again, not as memorably, on Hand 48, when Van Blarcum was able to win a decent pot with only an Ace-high. It was on Hand 52, when Van Blarcum flopped two pair that stood against Gantchev’s flopped pair of Jacks, that Van Blarcum broke the six million chip mark and took control of the tournament.
50 Hands to a Champion
Although Gantchev would take down Hwang in fifth place, the rest of the destruction was ravaged by Van Blarcum. In a span of 23 hands, Van Blarcum would take down Sudzhyan in fourth and Griner in third to go to heads up action against Gantchev with about a 4:1 lead. Still, it was the first time that Van Blarcum was in this position, at least in this prestigious an event, and anything could happen.
Gantchev would prove to be a formidable opponent, seizing the lead from Van Blarcum 14 hands into the heads-up match. Only five hands later, however, Van Blarcum ripped the lead back from Gantchev and wouldn’t let it go again. On Hand 128, the twosome got the chips to the center and both with respectable hands:
Gantchev: pocket fives
Van Blarcum: pocket tens
The Q-8-4 flop opened the door for some straight draws for Gantchev, but the trey on the turn slammed the straight door shut. Looking for one of the two fives in the deck to save him, Gantchev instead saw a deuce that finished his tournament in second place as Aaron Van Blarcum did the unbelievable in winning on his first ever trip into the World Poker Tour arena.
1. Aaron Van Blarcum, $474,390
2. Gueorgui Gantchev, $306,265
3. Jared Griener, $226,040
4. Vahan Sudzhyan, $168,630
5. Jisup Hwang, $127,165
6. Antonios Roungeris, $96,955