The World Poker Tour crowned a new champion in Australia on Wednesday.
Richard Lee, of the United States, bested a field of 600 entrants to earn his first WPT title, a spot on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup, and the top prize of $854,890 AUD, which includes a seat in the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas in December. The field of players generated an official prize pool of $4,500,000 AUD, which paid out the top 76 finishers.
An unlikely champion
Lee, a Los Angeles resident, surely found the winning moment a tad bit surreal. Primarily a cash game player, Lee had the least amount of tournament experience amongst the remaining players at the final table. With only $6,000 in previous live cashes on his record, Lee’s win in Australia gave a serious boost to his resume.
Speaking with WPT’s Lynn Gilmartin after the victory, Lee said, “I don’t think it will ever sink in.”
Giving credit to his seat draw as one of the factors that led to the win, Lee continued, saying, “I think I was really fortunate to have a really good seat, two of the better players were to my right so I didn’t really face any bullying. For the most part, it was as smooth as it could have gotten.”
Lee came to Australia for a two-month stay and, at the tail end, decided to jump into the event. In fact, Lee’s flight back home was scheduled for the morning of the final table. “I was like, if I [final table] this, I might as well cancel my flight,” he said, “But I missed my flight today. Played it. Shipped it. So I’m glad the flight didn’t go to waste.”
The path to victory
Lee entered the final table sitting comfortably in fourth place in the chip counts, right in the middle of the pack. Around twenty hands into play, Lee took down a big pot against start-of-day chip leader Romain Morvan. In a three-way all-in pot, Lee’s pocket queens held up against Morvan’s pocket jacks. The third player involved, short-stacked Ken Demlakian, scored a full triple up in the hand when he flopped trip sevens. The crucial pot saw Lee’s stack jump to the top of the leaderboard. Despite the triple up, Demlakian would soon find the exit in sixth place after running his trip fives into the stronger trip fives of Martin Kozlov, of Australia.
Morvan was the next to fall, committing nearly all of his chips pre-flop with ace-seven. Lee gave him a spin with the nine-ten suited. The flop paired Morvan’s seven, but provided Lee with an open-ended straight draw that came right in on the turn, crushing Morvan’s hopes for a double up and ending his day in fifth place.
Lee found two big pairs in key spots that led to the elimination of Gary Lin. First, Lee’s pocket kings held against the four-bet all-in from Lin with ace-eight. A clean runout gave Lee the full double and crippled Lin’s stack, leaving him with just under twenty big blinds. Not long after, Lee’s pocket jacks held up against Lin’s pocket nines, ending Lin’s run in fourth place.
Kozlov would go on to score an elimination against Nino Marotta in dramatic fashion. From the button, Kozlov moved all with ace-king and Marotta called in the big blind with pocket threes. The flop and turn were clean, they even cut down on Kozlov’s outs, but an ace on the river paired Kozlov and sent Marotta to the rail in third.
Heads-up Lee vs. Kozlov
Lee took a sizable chip lead into the final stretch of the tournament and the heads-up battle between him and Kozlov lasted just five hands. The two players saw fit to play for the title in the 95th hand of the day. Lee’s ace-ten was out in front of Kozlov’s queen-jack, but the Aussie had live cards and plenty of potential. The runout brought nothing but small cards, nothing to improve Kozlov’s queen-high, and Lee took down the pot, and the title, with his ace-high.
Check out the video below from WPT to hear more from Lee on his monumental victory down under!
WPT Australia final table payouts
All Images Courtesy of World Poker Tour