It was World Poker Tour final table Tuesday as not only did Erkut Yilmaz win the WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event in the Sacramento, California area, but down in Las Vegas, Frank Stepuchin won the WPT Gardens Poker Championship Main Event. The Gardens Casino, the host venue for the tournament, is actually in California, but this was the second of three consecutive WPT final tables that used the new schedule of a delayed final table. The penultimate day of the Gardens Main Event was nearly two months ago, at which point the tournament paused. The six remaining players gathered this week at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to battle it out to a champion. That champion, Frank Stepuchin, won $548,825, which includes a $15,000 entry into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions.
Stepuchin entered the final table as a significant chip leader, holding 4.065 million chips. The second place player, the formidable Shannon Shorr, had just 1.710 million.
I did not get a chance to watch the live stream of the final table on PokerGO, but I very much look forward to catching it on television, as Stepuchin is a hell of a character. The 59-year old was certainly in it to win it (in fact, he said he was going to take it down before the final table started), but he is one of those guys who is also there because just loves poker. He is there to have fun.
Poker players are known to be superstitious; many bring a lucky charm to the table. Johnny Chan has his orange, Greg Raymer has his fossils and hologram glasses. Stepuchin clutched a chicken win on a fork. Yes, picture it and that’s what it is. A chicken wing on a fork. He also partook in several beers, a la Scotty Nguyen or your neighbor in your home game.
But even though he plays with a smile and a wink doesn’t mean he isn’t good.
“People oftentimes think I’m a guy past middle age who’s hammering beers, and doesn’t look like he’s ever paying attention so they assume the wrong thing,” he told WPT.com after his victory.
He explained that when he started playing bigger tournaments like this one a couple years ago, he tried not to drink, but during rough stretches of play, he decided it was time to order a beverage.
“As soon as I order one, 85 percent of the time I instantly get King-Queen suited, win a pot, and start accumulating chips,” he said. “Even if that doesn’t happen the 15 percent of the time, it makes it much more enjoyable to [makes motion shoving chips in].”
Stepuchin dominated the final table, required just 72 hands from start to finish. He eliminated four of his five opponents, including such names as Steve Sung, Ray Qartomy, and Shorr, who he played heads-up for the title.
Going into heads-up play, Stepuchin had a massive lead, 8.655 million to 1.460 million. And though Shorr won half of the ten hands, he never hit the big one he needed to catch up. On the final hand, Shorr raised pre-flop to 160,000 and Stepuchin called. On the flop of 7-5-8, Stepuchin check-called a 210,000 bet. With an Ace on the turn, all of the chips ended up in the middle, Stepuchin covering Shorr more than three times.
Shorr revealed 8-5 for two pair, while Stepuchin had A-4 for top pair. The river, though, was another 4, giving Stepuchin a better two pair and both his first WPT title and just his second WPT cash.
2019 World Poker Tour Gardens Poker Championship Main Event – Final Table Results
1. Frank Stepuchin – $548,825
2. Shannon Shorr – $355,885
3. Steve Sung – $259,880
4. Brent Roberts – $192,465
5. Ray Qartomy – $144,595
6. Jonathan Abdellatif – $110,225