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WPT Championship Leaders: Sternberg and Kelly

Pair of Poker Pros Went Heads Up for WPT Title in March

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Alan Sternberg(5:30 p.m. PST) — Level 14 just started here at the Bellagio in the $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship and the two biggest stacks in the room are Alan Sternberg (875,000) and Steven Kelly (860,000).

Despite being at two different tables, the pair of poker pros have some serious history together. Back in March, Kelly and Sternberg went heads up for the WPT Bay 101 title, with Sternberg coming out on top for more than $1 million.

“I have a ton of respect for [Kelly’s] game,” Sternberg said during a break here at the $25,000 WPT event. “He is impossible to play against. He just doesn’t stop raising, ever. I think he got pretty card dead when I beat him heads up in March. That was the only time in the 12 hours I played with him when he wasn’t raising every single hand.”

On day 3 of the WPT Championship, Kelly has been able to take advantage of a solid table draw. “I actually think I have one of the best table draws with seat position right now,” said Kelly, who has Scott Clements, Steve O’Dwyer, and Jon Turner at his table. “No one else has a big stack at my table. I’ve been picking my spots, and overall been playing pretty tight. We’ll see what happens through the rest of the day.”

Kelly had Phil Hellmuth on his immediate left, before he busted shortly into level 14, and had given the 11-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner two walks during the day. “I never thought I would give those to Hellmuth, considering how tight he plays, especially with a short stack. Overall, he had respected my raises.”

Steven KellyKelly said that he hasn’t gone to showdown too much on day 3, and won’t say what he had in the pots that helped give him a mountain of chips. “I haven’t had to show a lot of my big hands, which is always good for a table image.”

A few tables over, Kelly’s former final table foe is also amassing a stack to make a run for another WPT final table. Sternberg got most of his chips thanks to flopping a set in a three-bet pot early in the day, and recently eliminated Phil Laak. Laak hit the rail after shoving for about 15 big blinds over a Sternberg cut-off raise. Sternberg tanked for a while before calling with A-3, and ended up being way ahead of Laak’s 5-2 off suited. “I had seen him squeeze all in for 30 big blinds earlier in the day with 10-8 off suit, so I am never going to fold A-3 there,” Sternberg said.

Despite having the top stack in the room and admitting that there were a few soft spots at his table that he could take advantage of, Sternberg, like Kelly, said he was generally staying out of the way of tricky situations and gradually chipping up.