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Alex Foxen Wins 2019 WPT Five Diamond Poker Classic For $1.6 Million

High-Stakes Poker Pro Topped A Record Field of 1,035 Entries To Earn His First WPT Main Event Title

by Erik Fast |  Published: Jan 29, 2020

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The main event of the Five Diamond World Poker Classic series at the Bellagio was the very first stop ever on the World Poker Tour. The event ran from late May through early June in 2002, with Gus Hansen emerging as the inaugural champion after defeating a field of 146 entries. Seventeen years later, the event remains one of the flagship events of the WPT and it has proven to be one of the largest and richest stops on the tour in recent years.

The 2019 running of the $10,400 buy-in WPT Five Diamond main event ran from Dec. 16 – 21. A total of 1,035 total entries were made in the event, beating the previous best turnout of 1,001 entries made in 2018 to set the new record for the largest field in this event’s storied history. The massive turnout meant that the prize pool soared to $10,039,500.

After six days of action, the sea of players was narrowed down to a champion, 28-year-old Alex Foxen. The poker pro from Cold Spring Harbor, New York earned $1,694,995 for the win after having finished as the runner-up in this same event in 2017. He managed to battle his way back to heads-up play just two years later, and this time around emerged victorious with his first WPT main event title.

“This win is definitely special for me,” Foxen told Card Player after coming out on top. “As a poker player, I try to look at my body of work and my overall game more than any single tournament win to measure my success, because you can only control your results to such an extent. You could, in theory, be the very best player ever and never win a single event in your life. It’s not likely, but it could happen, and because of that idea I do my best to separate myself from the results when it comes to evaluating my game. That being said, winning a tournament like this does mean a lot to me. To win the main event at the Five Diamond, which is probably the biggest and toughest WPT main event, makes this title feel extra special.”

“There definitely was extra pressure this time around,” admitted Foxen, who played Tight End for Boston College before turning to poker following a series of football-related injuries. When he was asked about getting back to heads-up play just two years after finishing second in 2017, he said, “I find the pressure to be a helpful motivator, more so than something I fear. I was just excited to have the opportunity again. Also, I’m just excited that I feel better about how I played this time around, regardless of the outcome, because there are absolutely some hands that I would want back from that last heads-up. I was glad to have a chance to rectify past mistakes.”

The seven-figure payout that came along with the title in this event brought Foxen’s career earnings total to $15.2 million. In addition to the title and the money, Foxen was also awarded 2,400 Card Player Player of the Year points for securing the title in this event. This was his second title and 19th final-table finish of 2019. The win was enough to see Foxen climb into second place in the 2019 Player of the Year race standings, which are sponsored by Global Poker. With 7,134 total points and $5,687,955 in year-to-date earnings, Foxen brought himself within just 210 points of POY front-runner Stephen Chidwick.

Thinning The Record Field

Registration and re-entry were available in this event through the start of the 12th level, which arrived in the evening on day 2 of the event. By the time the second day of action came to a close, the record-setting field had already been narrowed down to just 224 players with a shot at the title. Floridian poker pro T.K. Miles bagged up the chip lead, while Foxen sat in 60th place when play was halted for the evening.

The money bubble burst on day 3, with Byron Kaverman losing a coin flip with ace-king up against the pocket eights of Roland Rokita. Kaverman failed to improve and was sent home empty-handed as the 131st place-finisher. With that, the remaining 130 competitors guaranteed themselves at least an $18,530 payday in this event. T.K. Miles remained in the lead when day 3 came to a close, but Foxen had managed a major surge up the leaderboard to end in fifth chip position heading into day 4.

The field was narrowed down to less than three full tables by the end of day 4, with World Poker Tour champion Seth Davies overtaking the lead by the time chips were bagged up for the night. Foxen remained inside the top five on the chip counts, just edging out the WPT’s leading title winner Darren Elias to finish the day in fourth place. With just 22 players left heading into day 5, the plan was to play until only six competitors remained for the sixth and final day.

A number of big names made deep runs in this event, only to fall just short of the final table, including three-time WPT champion Chino Rheem (22nd – $60,435), three-time WSOP bracelet winner Brian Yoon, (20th – $72,450), European Poker Tour and two-time bracelet winner Kevin MacPhee (18th – $72,450), 2018 Poker Masters purple jacket winner Ali Imsirovic (16th – $87,885), two-time bracelet winner Keith Lehr (15th – $87,885), and four-time WPT champion Darren Elias (14th – $107,840).

T.K. Miles led for much of the early going of this tournament, but his run came to an end in 11th place ($133,845). While two-time WPT champion Eric Afriat ($168,005) and former WPT Player of the Year Joe Serock ($213,225) both made the official final table, they finished in ninth and eighth places respectively to miss out on the final day. Timo Kamphues took home $273,695 as the seventh-place finisher, with his elimination marking the end of the penultimate day’s action.

Deciding A Champion

The final day of this event began with Foxen sitting in second chip position behind Danny Park, but he was able to win a big hand against Park early on to supplant him atop the leaderboard. Foxen then furthered his advantage by scoring the first knockout of the day, with his pocket nines beating out the KClub Suit QSpade Suit of Jonathan Jaffe on a 10Diamond Suit 10Club Suit 2Spade Suit 8Spade Suit JSpade Suit runout. The WPT champion was sent to the rail in sixth place, earning $355,125 for his deep run in this event.

Despite starting the day with the largest stack, WSOP bracelet winner Danny Park was the next to be eliminated. During five-handed action, he lost a preflop race with pocket threes against Toby Joyce’s A-K to fall to the bottom of the chip counts. Not long after that, he got all-in with pocket tens against the AHeart Suit QDiamond Suit of Joyce. Park remained ahead through the flop and turn, but the QHeart Suit on the river gave Joyce the superior pair and the pot. Park took home $465,780 as the fifth-place finisher.

Four-handed action lasted for around ten orbits. Peter Neff had begun the day as the clear short stack but managed to stay afloat long enough to secure two pay jumps.
Neff’s run came to an end when he shoved all-in from under-the-gun with KDiamond Suit QClub Suit and got looked up by Seth Davies, who had picked up AClub Suit JSpade Suit on the button. The board came down ace high to eliminate Neff in fourth place ($617,480).

With just three players remaining, Foxen had already begun to pull away from the pack. Following Neff’s elimination, he sat with more than 120 big blinds, while Seth Davies and Joyce each had around 35-40 big blinds.

Foxen told Card Player about the many advantages of being this biggest stack, and how it informed his approach at this final table, saying, “After I got out in front, I knew that everyone at the table was pretty aware of ICM (Independent Chip Model) implications, so that gave me a really good opportunity to be really aggressive against the middling stacks. It also informed my approach against the short stacks, who I had to play against a bit more passively because they are the ones that are more incentivized to take risks.”

Davies and Joyce managed to find a few double-ups through Foxen, but he still was the clear leader by the time the next knockout took place. Davies got his last chips in with AClub Suit 5Club Suit, only to run into the AHeart Suit QHeart Suit of Foxen. Davies was unable to come from behind and was sent to the rail with $877,285. This was the second-largest score of Davies’ career, and it brought his lifetime earnings to $7,693,891.

With that Foxen took more than a 2.5:1 chip lead into heads-up play against Joyce, who was looking to become the first-ever Irish WPT main event champion. He quickly built that advantage to more than 4:1 by the time the final cards were dealt. On the ninth hand of heads-up play, Foxen limped in from the button with AClub Suit JSpade Suit and Joyce checked his option holding JHeart Suit 9Club Suit.

The flop came down JClub Suit 5Spade Suit 3Spade Suit and Joyce checked. Foxen bet 400,000, only to have Joyce check-raise to 1,100,000. Foxen three-bet to 2,000,000 and Joyce made the call. The KClub Suit on the turn prompted Joyce to check. Foxen moved all-in, having Joyce well covered. Joyce made the call, only to find he was in rough shape. The 4Club Suit on the river secured the pot and the title for Foxen. Joyce earned $1,120,040 as the runner-up finisher.

The Champion Reflects On His Victory

Foxen’s three largest scores have now all come in the month of December, with his runner-up finish in this event in 2017 ($1.1 million), his second-place showing in the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl ($2.1 million), and now this win ($1.6 million) all coming in the final month of the year. Foxen offered some thoughts about how this interesting trend might have come to pass.

“It’s largely random, of course, but I do think there are a few things that have happened to coalesce at the same time each year over that span that lead to those results. This year I was pushing myself a bit too hard, not respecting the fact that I need to take time off. It left me a bit burnt out, but I took some steps towards ensuring that I had properly rested and was in the correct mindset later in the year, which led right into this event. The first year that I final tabled this event came right after a period of me putting extra effort into working on my game, and it was in a way a culmination of a lot of that work. In 2018, the Super High Roller Bowl was the culmination of a year of confidence-building and getting comfortable playing at the very highest stakes. So while this trend is likely largely coincidence, these scores all did come at what felt like pivotal moments for me in my career.”

While Foxen has managed to play his way into the highest stakes tournaments in the world, he doesn’t foresee himself ever leaving behind the big-field main events like this $10,400 tournament at the Five Diamond series.

“I have a lot of fun playing the main events. High rollers are where you see the beauty in the game of poker. All of the players are bound by each other’s abilities to play, and are almost constrained to a set of rules. You see a lot of elements of game theory and poker equilibrium being the ruling factors,” said Foxen. “In the main events, it can be more of a lawless land, for lack of a better term. Very frequently there are players making significant deviations from standard equilibrium. That forces you to see the game as a puzzle, rather than just trying to play hands the way they ‘should be played’, and I personally find that to be the most fun.”

After coming out on top in this event, Foxen took to social media to thank all of his supporters. His message specifically noted the importance of his relationship with two-time WSOP bracelet winner Kristen Bicknell, who he has been dating for around two years now.

“It’s been amazing. We keep each other steady, not allowing either one of us to get too down or high during the natural swings of being a tournament player,” said Foxen. “To have someone who is equally passionate about the game, it’s just incredible.”

Foxen closed out 2019 with what is arguably the marquee win of his career, but he isn’t stopping too long to smell the roses. With 2020 just around the corner, he had already booked flights to his first few events of the new year, and while he plans to prioritize resting a bit more moving forward, the grind never truly stops.

“I’ll be traveling to London and Australia early in 2020. I’m starting to implement some more planned breaks in order to take my foot off of the gas at some points, but overall it will be business as usual: I’m going to play all of the good stops and just keep trying to improve every day.”

Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:

Place Player Payout POY Points
1 Alex Foxen $1,694,995 2,400
2 Toby Joyce $1,120,040 2,000
3 Seth Davies $877,285 1,600
4 Peter Neff $617,480 1,200
5 Daniel Park $465,780 1,000
6 Jonathan Jaffe $355,125 800
7 Timo Kamphues $273,695 600
8 Joseph Serock $213,225 400
9 Eric Afriat $168,005 200