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2009 L.A. Poker Classic

More Than $17 Million Won During Popular Tournament Series

by Tournament Reporters |  Published: Apr 08, 2009


By Ryan Lucchesi

Fountain at the Commerce CasinoThe L.A. Poker Classic tournament series was first hosted at Commerce Casino in 1992. The inaugural LAPC featured 31 events, including a half-dozen lowball tournaments, and culminated with a $5,000 no-limit hold'em championship. This tournament series started out big and stayed that way, thanks to the fact that the cash games found at Commerce Casino, the world's largest poker room, attract players from around the world all year long. The LAPC became one of the original stops on the World Poker Tour in 2003, and it has been the strongest stop on the tour ever since. It is the second-largest tournament series of the year behind the World Series of Poker, and it took another step forward this year.

Tournament Director Matt Savage was hired to run the series this year, and he quickly added $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. and $10,000 heads-up no-limit hold'em events to the schedule, along with a $5,000 pot-limit Omaha rebuy event. This gave players a reason to show up in L.A. early, especially with the juicy cash games awaiting. The popular $300 tournaments, which feature guaranteed prize pools, were included on the schedule, and they proved to be a huge success, drawing fields of 1,592 and 1,362 players. In total, the 2009 LAPC tournament series attracted 13,400 players and awarded $17,003,763 in prize money.

The excitement generated by the large turnouts was followed up by a shot of adrenaline when the week of $10,000 preliminary events kicked off. These preliminary championships produced two notable champions in Scotty Nguyen ($10,000 H.O.R.S.E.) and Vivek Rajkumar ($10,000 heads-up no-limit hold'em). The masses stuck around for the $10,000 no-limit hold'em championship, producing a field of 696 players, the second-largest championship event in the history of the LAPC. The prize pool for the championship event was $6,681,600, with $1,686,780 going to the winner.

Due to the 2009 LAPC's success, there is already talk of adding more $10,000 preliminary events in 2010, and the lucrative cash games aren't going anywhere, either. Even as the LAPC grows, it hasn't forgotten what it is in the eyes of poker players ­- a tournament for the players, where poker always takes center stage.

Cornel Cimpan Wins the 2009 L.A. Poker Classic Championship

Cornel Cimpan win 2009 L.A. Poker Classic A space asset of Commerce Casino was on display during day 1 of the $10,000 championship event, erasing the need for two starting flights. The large tournament room at the casino was able to accommodate every player in the field of 696, with just six tables starting the day in a tent set up on the balcony. By night's end, the field was slashed to 406. Antonio Esfandiari was atop the leader board that night, and he remained there for the majority of the journey to the money bubble. He was joined at the top by young gun Kofi Farkye during day 2, as the field dwindled to 167. The third day saw the remaining 63 players make the money at the end of the night, but Esfandiari was not among them. In a performance that was eerily similar to the 2008 Festa al Lago, "The Magician" plummeted as the money bubble approached, and all of his chips disappeared before he could walk away with a single dime.

Farkye, on the other hand, was repeating the dominant show that he put on at the 2007 North American Poker Championship, where he finished in fifth place to book his first live-tournament cash. He was playing in his first live tournament in the U.S. at the LAPC. He was the first player in the tournament to hold a million in chips on day 4, but he tangled with Chris Ferguson in the largest hand of the tournament and lost, sending him spiraling downward to his demise in 31st place. That hand propelled Ferguson to his first WPT final-table appearance.

Here's how the hand came down: Farkye raised to 24,000 preflop, and Ferguson reraised to 76,000 behind him. Farkye made the call, and the flop came A Q 6. Both players checked, and the turn was the 7. Farkye bet 120,000, and Ferguson made the call. The river was the 3, and Farkye moved all in for 600,000. Ferguson decided to make the call for his final 376,000, and Farkye turned up the 6 5 for a small pair. Ferguson showed the A K for top pair, top kicker, and won the massive pot. Farkye was down to 240,000, while Ferguson took the chip lead with 1.184 million.

Ferguson was joined at the final table by Chris Karagulleyan, Cornel Cimpan, Mike Sowers, Binh Nguyen, and Pat Walsh after a long day 5 that took the field 10 hours to play down to six from the final 20. Ferguson's first WPT final table was a short experience; he was the first to fall, 66 hands into final-table play, in sixth place ($240,538). It took just 116 hands for the action to play down to the heads-up match, as Walsh fell in fifth place ($310,694), Karagulleyan busted out in fourth place ($430,963), and Sowers exited in third place ($654,797). The final two players then embarked upon a heads-up odyssey that lasted longer than most final tables.

LAPC by the numbers

Chip counts at the beginning of heads-up play were as follows:

Binh Nguyen: 8,450,000
Cornel Cimpan: 5,450,000

Nguyen quickly increased his stack to as much as 11,975,000. It looked like things were going to end when Nguyen had Cimpan dominated and covered preflop with A-Q just an hour into the match. Cimpan held Q-10, but he flopped two pair and turned a boat to double up to 4.45 million. Cimpan doubled up again a while later with K-Q against Nguyen's A-9 when he made trip kings, and the tables were turned, as Cimpan took the lead. Nguyen received some retribution when he chose to move all in against Cimpan in his new role as the short stack. He was behind with K-5, facing Cimpan's K-J. On a board of 9-9-8-3, with Nguyen needing a 3 or an 8 for a chop, or a 5 for the win, the 5 fell on the river to prolong the action once again.

It was Cimpan's turn to put his tournament life on the line next, and this time he held the A 4 against Nguyen's pocket tens. For the fourth time in the heads-up match, the player who got his money in with the worst of it received a bailout from the poker gods when the board came 8 6 4 8 5. Nguyen was crippled after this hand, and a short time later he moved his stack all in for the last time. It was only fitting that his A-9 held the lead against Cimpan's K-5 until a 5 fell on the flop. Nguyen was eliminated in second place, and he took home $935,424 in prize money. Cimpan was the 2009 LAPC champion, and he banked $1,686,780. The WPT final table eclipsed 300 hands (303) for the first time, and the heads-up match that lasted 187 hands also was a new record.

Scotty Nguyen Wins $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Event

By Ryan Lucchesi

Scotty Nguyen wins $10,000 LAPC H.O.R.S.E. EventSixteen players returned for the final day of the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at Commerce Casino. This three-day event at the L.A. Poker Classic had attracted 96 of the best pros in the game, and of those who had survived, only eight would make the money. Howard Lederer, Nick Schulman, Chris Amaral, Gavin Griffin, Ralph Perry, Randall Skaggs, Steve Billirakis, and Kenny Tran all fell during the march to the final table during rounds of limit hold'em, Omaha eight-or-better, razz, seven-card stud, and seven-card stud eight-or-better.

John Monnette fell quickly at the final table in eighth place ($29,491). The remaining seven players then played for a full two levels before Amnon Filippi was the next to fall in seventh place ($40,550). This was the second major H.O.R.S.E. final table for Filippi, who finished fourth in the 2007 World Series of Poker $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world championship. Stud specialist Bob Golick was eliminated next, in sixth place ($52,531), capping off his third final-table appearance at the 2009 LAPC; he won both the $300 and $500 seven-card stud preliminary events.

Scotty Nguyen surged into the chip lead with five players left, and became more vocal, as well. This reached a peak when Nguyen eliminated Matt Graham in fifth place ($66,355) and celebrated in an enthusiastic manner that offended Graham. Nguyen calmed down after Tournament Director Matt Savage came to the table and warned players that they could no longer talk about hands at the table without incurring a penalty.

Chino Rheem then surged into the spotlight by eliminating both Chris Tsiprailidis in fourth place ($86,630) and Jeff Madsen in third place ($122,573). This evened Rheem's chip stack with the now relaxed Nguyen's. The two players then took a break and decided to make a gentleman's agreement to chop the prize money. As part of that agreement, Nguyen was crowned the champion.

This was the second major H.O.R.S.E. win for Nguyen, who captured the 2008 WSOP H.O.R.S.E. world championship. "When you choose to do something professional, you want to do something other people haven't done. You want to set the record, so people can chase it," said Nguyen about his second H.O.R.S.E. title. He acknowledged that his table manners at the WSOP final table drew criticism, but he said that he has learned from those mistakes. "What I learned from the final table at the World Series is that winning is not everything sometimes; you have to win in a gentlemanly way, not a nasty way - you know, baby," said Nguyen.

Vivek Rajkumar Captures $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em Title
By Julio Rodriguez

Vivek Rajkumar wins 2009 LAPC heads-up eventThe 2009 L.A. Poker Classic heads-up no-limit hold'em championship was a resounding success, not only for the players, who were happy with the unique double-elimination format, but also for the fans watching from the rail. The three-day event saw hundreds of matches come and go before its conclusion, as each of the 111 players took a shot at the title. A total of 12 players returned for the final day of play. The eight players in the losers bracket would have to win every match the rest of the way to claim the top prize.

The in-the-money finishers from the previous night were as follows:

Tie 13th Michael Pesek $20,000
Tie 13th John Conkright $20,000
Tie 13th Scott Seiver $20,000
Tie 13th Peter Feldman $20,000

The final day began with the winners-bracket final four. David Oppenheim was beaten by Chris Moore, and James Mackey sent Evan Roberts to the losers bracket. Moore and Mackey then decided to play their final winners-bracket match early. Moore quickly took the lead, and closed out the match when his A-8 held up against a dominated Q-8. While Moore was emerging as the champion of the winners bracket, things were playing down swiftly in the losers bracket to get to the final four survivors. Here is a look at the players who lost a second match during that time and busted out of the tournament:

Tie 9th David Paredes $25,150
Tie 9th Owen Crowe $25,150
Tie 9th Ryan Hughes $25,150
Tie 9th John Racener $25,150
Tie 7th Steve Sung $35,000
Tie 7th Amit Makhija $35,000
Tie 5th Evan Roberts $50,000
Tie 5th Steve Billirakis $50,000

Vivek Rajkumar had lost to James Mackey earlier in the tournament, but "psyduck" had set the losers bracket on fire with a string of victories, beating two-time bracelet winner Ryan Hughes, good friend Amit "amak316" Makhija, and then online pro Evan Roberts. Next on his hit list was Oppenheim, who was facing elimination after his first loss to Moore in the
winners-bracket semifinal. Rajkumar eliminated Oppenheim in fourth place ($75,000), and then had his rematch with Mackey. This match went differently from the start, with Rajkumar getting paid off hugely with a set of threes. Rajkumar had Mackey on the ropes, and finally sealed the win after slow-playing pocket aces. Mackey pocketed a cool $100,000 for his third-place finish, and Rajkumar won the losers bracket to advance to the challenge round against winners-bracket champion Moore.
The first match went to Rajkumar after a long fight, which meant that no player was undefeated any longer. The final match also ran long, and didn't conclude until after 5 a.m. Rajkumar's pair of nines held up against Moore's pair of sevens to take down the tournament and $350,000 for first place. Moore took home $190,000 for his runner-up finish.