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Recap: Kevin Saul Wins Bellagio Cup III

Mike Matusow Is the Runner-Up


Kevin "BeLOWaBOVe" Saul came into the World Poker Tour final table with almost half the chips in play and almost blew it.

"I tried to give it away," said Saul. It was easy to joke after the victory, but early on at the final table, this young Internet legend almost did just that.

Click here to watch Card Player TV's post-match interview with Saul.

Coming into the final table, Saul had led wire-to-wire, amassing $4,210,000. Following behind him were Mike Matusow ($1,872,000), Shane Schleger ($1,838,000), Danny Wong ($1,022,000), Konstantin Puchkov ($1,005,000), and Eric Panayioyou ($759,000), respectively.

It was a rough start for the chip leader, who was playing too fast and too loose for the unusually slow blind structure. On hand eight, Saul raised to $77,000 and Danny Wong made the call. The flop came 8 7 4 and Wong bet $135,000. Saul made the call and the turn card was the 10. Wong bet out $225,000 and Saul moved all in. Wong immediately called all in for his last $729,000 showing A A and Saul was in trouble with K J for a gutshot straight draw. The river was the 6 and Wong was able to double up back into contention. Just two hands later, Saul shipped $800,000 chips over to Mike Matusow, who flopped a set of nines. After starting off with a dominating stack, the chip leader was now in danger of going out in sixth place.

Saul credits his comeback to a timely break in the action. After starting the final table with his cell phone off, Saul turned it back on during the first break and was greeted with dozens of messages and nonstop calls of encouragement. This was the boost he needed to focus his mind and begin the long trek back up the leader board.

It wouldn't take long to lose the first player. On a flop of Q 6 4, Mike Matusow bet $35,000. Konstantin Puchkov called and the turn was the 3. Matusow now bet $225,000 and Puchkov decided to move all in. Matusow had to call the additional $198,000 and he showed Q-9. Puchkov showed Q-5 for top pair with an open-ended straight draw and Matusow was surprised he was ahead. The 8 hit on the river and Puchkov was the sixth-place finisher, walking away with $103,280.

About 20 hands later, it was down to fourhanded play. Eric Panayioyou moved all in for $315,000 and Kevin Saul made the call. Saul showed A K and Panayioyou showed J 10. The board came 10 9 4 5, putting Panayioyou ahead. But the river was the A, knocking Panayioyou out in fifth place. Panayioyou went home with $154,920.

The remaining four players were clearly the fan favorites going into the last day and now the crowd was torn. Well-known Internet professional Shane "Shaniac" Schleger wasn't shy about battling with Saul all night long and the crowd appreciated it. On Schleger's final hand, Kevin Saul raised to $175,000 and Schleger moved all in for $1,539,000. Saul called and showed A J while a dominated Schleger showed A 6. The dramatic flop came J 10 6 pairing both their kickers. The turn was the K, giving outs to the chop. But the river was the 4, making Schleger the fourth-place finisher and earning $232,690.

This was Danny Wong's second consecutive final table on the World Poker Tour, after finishing in sixth place at the Mandalay Bay championship event. But a win was not in the cards for Wong as a tough cooler crippled him threehanded. On a flop of 7 6 3, Saul bet $150,000 and Wong raised to $350,000. Saul called and the turn was the J. Saul now bet $100,000 and Wong quickly raised to $700,000. Saul reraised all in and Wong thought for a few minutes before calling. Saul had J 3 for top and bottom pair with a flush draw while Wong had 7 6 for middle two pair. Wong needed a 6 or a 7 to stay alive, but the river was the 9 and Kevin Saul doubled up to a massive chip lead. After the hand, Wong was crippled down to roughly $800,000. Five hands later, Wong was eliminated with A 3 against Matusow's K J. Wong pocketed $361,480 for his third place finish.

With the slow-moving blind structure, which the WPT experimented with here after enduring several years of complaints by players, heads-up play could've lasted for hours. But on the 21st hand of heads-up play, Saul raised to $220,000 and Matusow called. The flop was 10 6 5 and Saul bet $385,000. Matusow moved all in and Saul immediately called. Saul showed Q Q and Mike Matusow had 8 7 for an open-ended straight flush draw. Matusow needed any club, 9, or 4, to double up, making him a slight favorite in the hand. The turn card was the 3 and the river was the K, giving Kevin Saul the Bellagio Cup III title. Matusow took the consolation prize of $671,320, while Saul took home $1,342,320, the gold bracelet, and a $25,000 seat into the WPT championship.