Battling through a 373-player field and the start of final table chip leader, veteran pro Roger Teska earned his first major championship and a brand-new BMW in taking down the first event of the World Poker Tour’s Season XVIII schedule, the 2019 WPT Gardens Poker Festival.
Deep Final Table Doesn’t Stop the Action
The final six men were tightly packed together when the cards hit the air on Thursday afternoon at the Gardens Casino. Lior Orel had the chip lead coming to the table with 3.245 million in chips, with Teska (2.97 million) and Lazlo Molnar (2.855 million) tight on his heels. Lars Kamphues (2.54 million), Cord Garcia (1.88 million) and Andrew Wisdom (1.435 million) were in the bottom half of the ladder but, with even Wisdom holding 48 big blinds, the players would have a good deal of play before anything would happen.
At least that was the CONVENTIONAL wisdom. Garcia couldn’t get any traction out of the gate, losing a big hand to Teska on the second deal, and treaded water for the next dozen hands at around a million chips. On Hand 17, Garcia would get what he thought was the best flop possible, but it turned out to be the worst.
After a bet from Kamphues, Garcia called out of the small blind to see a Q-10-7 rainbow flop. Garcia checked his option and, after Kamphues made a continuation bet, Garcia sprung a check-raise on him. Kamphues made the call, which arguably should have made Garcia pause, but the six on the river didn’t seem to help anyone so he moved all-in. Kamphues nearly beat him into the pot with the call, tabling a pocket pair of Queens for the flopped set. Garcia could only shake his head as he tabled his drawing dead Q-10 and, after a river trey was dealt to complete the hand, Garcia headed to the door in sixth place.
Kamphues used these chips to go on a run of his own that saw him take the lead for a time. On Hand 23, Kamphues once again slid out a min-raise to 80K and Wisdom three bet the action. Kamphues called and the 5-5-4 flop hit the baize, drawing a check-call out of Wisdom of 150K as the duo saw an Ace on the turn. Wisdom would once again check-call a bet, this time of 380K, as the river came with a 9♣.
Wisdom would check for a third time and got some bad news when Kamphues moved all in for his remaining three million plus stack. Wisdom burned up three of his extension chips (the WPT utilizes a 30 second “shot clock” at the final table and six “time bank” chips) before making the call for less and it wasn’t the wisest move. Wisdom’s A-Q for a turned two pair paled in comparison to Kamphues’ pocket fours for the flopped boat and Wisdom was out in fifth place.
New Sheriff in Town
Now holding the chip lead, Kamphues looked to take control of the final table. Instead, the four remaining players saw the action slam to a halt. It would take 164 hands before the next elimination would be made and, in that time, the players all drew closer together as the chip lead swung wildly. With roughly the same stacks on Hand 187, Teska and Kamphues would clash in a hand that sealed the future of the tournament.
After a raise from Teska on the button, Kamphues moved all in from the big blind and Teska was more than willing to dance. It was a classic race, Teska’s Big Slick up against Kamphues’ pocket Jacks, and the 10-4-2-9 flop and turn didn’t change anything. The Ace on the river did, however, thrusting Teska into the lead on the hand as Kamphues left in a disappointing fourth place.
Down to three handed, Molnar now asserted himself on the table. He crept out to the lead and, once he knocked off Orel in third place, his pocket Kings delivering a cooler to Orel’s pocket Jacks, Molnar held more than a 4:1 lead over Teska. The battle was only beginning, however.
On the very first hand of heads up, Teska doubled through Molnar when he turned Broadway with a Q-J against Molnar’s A-Q and the fight was on. Over the next 30 hands, Teska was satisfied with chipping away at Molnar’s lead until a major clash changed the situation. On Hand 2018, the men saw a 10-7-7 flop and Molnar called a 400K bet from Teska. On the turn trey, Teska fired again with a million-chip bet and Molnar only called again. After a third seven on the river, Teska fired a third bullet and Molnar called but was extremely unhappy with the result. Teska flopped over an 8-7 that had miraculously turned into quads by the river and Molnar didn’t show his hand as it went to the muck.
Although Teska had over 13 million of the chips in play, it still took about 10 hands for him to find the right moment to take out Molnar. On Hand 229, Molnar shoved and Teska called, his A-6 holding the slight edge over Molnar’s K-Q, and the J-4-9-3-2 board brought some drama but no change to the outcome as Molnar was eliminated in second and Roger Teska claimed his first major championship.
1. Roger Teska, $368,475
2. Laszlo Molnar, $235, 615
3. Lior Orel, $172, 770
4. Lars Kamphues, $128,320
5. Andrew Wisdom, $96,545
6. Cord Garcia, $73,600
The last year for Teska has been a good one. In November 2018, Teska capture the partypoker MILLIONS Caribbean Poker Party $25,000 High Roller event for a cool two-million-dollar payday. While that wasn’t a major title, this one is as Teska can now say he is a World Poker Tour champion.