Let’s just say that the Fallsview Casino Resort overlooking the Canadian side of Niagara Falls isn’t a venue that Mike Leah is going to stop visiting any time soon. On Monday night, Leah won his first World Poker Tour (WPT) title, taking the crown at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in what was the tournament’s largest field ever: 517 entries. His purse for the win was CAD $451,821 (about USD $358,520).
Leah isn’t going to be a repeat customer of Fallsview just because he won last night. Leah actually has quite the history at the casino, one which has treated him extremely well. Prior to his victory, Mike Leah won the CAD $1,100 preliminary event at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic three out of the last four years: 2014, 2016, and 2017 for a total of CAD $573,334.
“To do it here, where I’ve had so much success winning three tournaments already, is pretty cool,” the Ontario native told WPT.com afterward. “So close to home, in my home country, it’s a pretty special tournament to win. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet.”
Leah had gotten tantalizingly close to a WPT once before, finishing second to Anthony Zinno at the 2015 WPT L.A. Poker Classic. He does have one World Series of Poker bracelet – in the 2014 WSOP Asia Pacific $25,000 High Roller event – and he has a number of WSOP Circuit wins, as well.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Leah said to WPT.com. “Winning a WPT has been near the top of my goal list for a long time, especially getting so close almost exactly three years ago when I lost to Anthony Zinno heads up at LAPC, so I’ve been pretty hungry to get back here again since that.”
He’ll have a chance to improve on that runner-up finish soon, as the L.A. Poker Classic is the next stop on the World Poker Tour. Leah now has almost $7 million in live tournament earnings.
Unlike many major tournaments, the final day of the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic did not begin at the final table, but rather with 20 players remaining. Leah was third going into Monday’s action with 1.235 million chips, 600,000+ behind the leader, Joe Ferrier.
For much of yesterday, Leah stayed in his general starting range. He dipped below 1 million chips for a little bit, then rose back up to around 1.6 million, but for the most part, he was in that 1-1.5 million chip range. The big move came with just seven players remaining when he moved all-in after some raising pre-flop and doubled through Tim Rutherford with A-K versus A-Q to jump to 3.105 million chips and into the lead. When he eliminated David Eldridge to clinch a spot at the official final table, he was in second place with 3.970 million chips.
He kept climbing from there, knocking out Joe Ferrier on the ninth hand of the final table to move to 6.930 million chips. At the start of Level 29 with four players remaining, he was at nearly 8 million. Leah couldn’t keep up the hot run for much longer, though, steadily dropping chips until, by Hand 75, he was back to second with 4.835 million. Ryan Yu had taken over the lead with 6.185 million. It really looked like Yu was going to steamroll from there, as he knocked out Carlos Chadha in third place to grow his stack to 9.630 million and then bounced Tim Rutherford in second to go into heads-up against Leah with a huge lead, 10.800 million to 4.715 million.
On literally the first hand of heads-up play, though, Leah made a bold move. Yu raised to 4 million pre-flop (the big blind was 120,000) and Leah, either holding a great hand or sensing a big bluff because of that strange bet, moved all-in. It was barely more than what Yu had put in, but Yu folded, giving Leah the chip lead.
On the next two hands, Yu continued to play rather strangely. Leah limped pre-flop and Yu raised to 5 million. Leah re-raised all-in and Yu folded, leaving him with just 1.760 million chips to Leah’s 13.755 million. Then, Yu raised pre-flop to 1.700 million and Leah shoved. Obviously, Yu needed to put his last chips in, an amount that was less than the small blind, but for some reason, he folded AGAIN, leaving himself with just 40,000 chips.
Yu survived a few more hands, but it was academic from there as Leah won his first WPT title. Unfortunately, this event was neither live streamed nor televised, so I don’t know if we will find out what Yu had in those key hands. It was bizarre.