The $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship this week perhaps showed the impact of tougher and more competitive times with only 338 players registering, down by 207 from last year's entrants.
Despite the low turnout the ambience was good as the eight day tournament kicked off with quality land and Internet players like Nenad Medic, Freddy Deeb, Jennifer Harman, Bruno Fitoussi, Mark Seif, Phil Ivey, Jeff Madsen, and Steve Billirakis all on board and enthusiatic.
The final table can only be described as ace-heavy, with Yevgeniy Timoshenko holding a massive 6 million chip lead over his nearest opponent, Christian Harder (7 425 000) followed by Bertrand Grospellier with a 5 955 000 chipcount, Scotty Nguyen (3 275 000), Ran Azor (2 525 000) and Shannon Shor (1 130 000).
Nguyen was first to the rail, eliminated by Shor in the sixth spot for $285 985, but Shor's jubilation was short-lived as he followed his erstwhile opponent to the exit after a clash with Timoshenko took him out in fifth place for $408 550. The next two eliminations, Harder and Grospellier, were both the work of the sole amateur at the table, Ran Azor. Harder went out in fourth for a payday of $571 965, and Grospellier in third for $776 245 – in the process setting the scene for the heads up between Timoshenko – still with a huge chip lead – and Azor.
The 21-year-old Ukrainian-born Washingtonian phenom was merciless and aggressive in using his advantage to take his amateur opponent Azor down in short order, recording his third major tournament win in a short but remarkable career and adding $2 149 960 to his burgeoning career winnings.
Plucky Azor's second placing was worth $1 446 265, which will more than top up his personal coffers, depleted by the entry fee for the event.