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WPT Legends of Poker Final Table Preview

Two Veterans of the Game and One of the Hottest Players in Poker Star at the Final Table

Season VI of the World Poker Tour has featured some fantastic final tables, and the 2007 Legends of Poker is no exception. Here are the players with their official chip counts, headed to the final table:

Seat 1 - Shi jia "Jack" Liu: $1,305,000
Seat 2 - Dan Harrington: $2,230,000
Seat 3 - Tom Schneider: $3,495,000
Seat 4 - Thu Nguyen: $1,475,000
Seat 5 - David "The Dragon" Pham : $70,000
Seat 6 - Michael McClain: $725,000

Combined, they already have six WPT final tables, six WSOP bracelets, and career earnings of more than $12 million. This final table also has big implications for Card Player's 2007 Player of the Year race, as not one, but two of these players can take the lead with a strong finish here.

Before going further, here are the payouts that they'll be playing for:

1st place - $1,600,365
2nd place - $800,185
3rd place - $388,660
4th place - $228,625
5th place - $182,900
6th place - $137,175

Now let's take a few minutes to introduce the final tablists. Who will you be rooting for?

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Seat 1
Shi jia "Jack" Liu
$1,305,000 in chips

Born in China and living in San Diego, Shi jia Liu (you can call him "Jack") is a recent college graduate with a management science degree from the University of California, San Diego.

This is just the second WPT event that Liu has entered, and he already finds himself at the televised final table, with only one tournament cash on his record, a 22nd-place finish here at the Bicycle Casino about two weeks ago, worth $1,235. He parlayed that prize into an entry to this event through a $1,000 satellite. He's already guaranteed at least $137,175, which is a fantastic rate of return. Not bad for his first year out of college.

In a video interview with the WPT's Kimberly Lansing, Liu mentioned that he would like to make a name for himself in poker. He definitely has the opportunity here, playing against some of the best players in the world with the WPT cameras rolling.

Speaking of the best players in the world ...

Seat 2
Dan Harrington
$2,230,000 in chips

Dan Harrington is one of the top tournament players in the world, winning more than $4.9 million throughout his poker career. This final table guarantees that he will cross the $5 million mark, making him just the 31st player in history to earn that much in live poker tournaments.

Harrington is perhaps most recognized by fans for reaching the final table of the WSOP main event in back-to-back years amidst huge fields (839 players in 2003 and 2,576 players in 2004), finishing in the top four both times. It's ironic because many fans forget that he actually won the WSOP main event back in 1995. (He won two bracelets that year.)

If that's not enough, Harrington has written a series of poker strategy books that are arguably the best of the past decade, Harrington on Hold'em, Volumes I, II, and III.

Harrington is sometimes called "Action Dan," but don't let the nickname fool you; it's sarcastic in nature (like calling a fat person "Slim" or a tall person "Shorty"). He is not known for gambling and taking risks, and he plays solid, mistake-free poker.

While Harrington has six cashes in WPT events (including a second-place finish in the 2005 Doyle Brunson North American Championship), he has yet to win a WPT title. Now that he's headed to the final table with the second-most chips, he's in good position to fill that one hole in his poker resume.

Seat 3
Tom Schneider
$3,495,000 in chips

Tom Schneider is probably the hottest player in the poker world right now. At this summer's World Series of Poker, he made three final tables, won two bracelets, and took home WSOP Player of the Year honors. Now, in the first major event after the WSOP, he finds himself with a big chip lead (36 percent of all the chips in play) headed to the final table.

In addition to his recent success at the WSOP, Schneider should be familiar to fans of the World Poker Tour, as he finished third in the 2006 World Poker Challenge in Reno, Nevada. He earned $256,115 on that day, still the biggest payday of his poker career.

Schneider has over $880,000 in career tournament winnings, and regardless of his finish at this final table, he will cross the $1 million mark (and if he wins, the $2 million mark).

In addition to his tournament success, Schneider is the author of the book Oops! I Won Too Much Money: Winning Wisdom from the Boardroom to the Poker Table, which combines his knowledge of poker with his knowledge of the business world. (Schneider was a certified public accountant and chief financial officer before turning to poker as a career in 2002.) Schneider can also be heard regularly on the poker podcast "Beyond the Table," which he cohosts with Dan Michalski and Karridy Askenasy.

Schneider is currently 12th in Card Player's Player of the Year standings, and a first-place finish here would catapult him into first place there. Even a second-place finish at this final table would give Schneider 4,432 points - just 26 points behind POY leader J.C. Tran (4,458 points).

Schneider is definitely on a hot streak in 2007, and with a big chip lead at the final table, and he has an excellent chance of adding a WPT title to his resume and taking the lead in the Player of the Year race. If Schneider was on fire before this tournament, he's about to go nuclear.

Seat 4
Thu Nguyen
$1,475,000 in chips

If you search the major poker databases for "Thu Nguyen," you'll find about $260,000 in winnings from a variety of low-buy-in tournaments around Los Angeles. However, some of those results are suspect, because they include a 19th-place finish in the 2005 WSOP ladies event - and this Thu Nguyen is a man.

I have confirmed that Nguyen's biggest tournament cash was $109,970, which he earned by winning a $330 rebuy event in late 2004 at the Commerce Casino. Nguyen calls this WPT final table the highlight of this poker career.

Thu Nguyen was a chemical technician who turned to a career as a professional poker player about four years ago. Originally from Vietnam, he now lives in Orange County, and he is married with four children. He satellited into this event for $1,000, and he lists David "The Dragon" Pham as his favorite player. Speaking of David Pham ...

Seat 5
David Pham
$470,000 in chips

David "The Dragon" Pham isn't the most famous player at this final table (that would be Dan Harrington), nor is he the hottest player at the final table (that would be Tom Schneider). He isn't even a real dragon -- that's just a nickname. But one thing is certain: Pham is definitely the most aggressive player at the final table.

Pham is one of the most aggressive pros in the game, the one that other aggressive players fear. He is capable of playing any cards from any position, and he can play them well. Of course, this style leads to some big chip swings, but you can't argue with Pham's results: five WPT final tables, two WSOP bracelets, and Card Player's 2000 Player of the Year award. He is 23rd on the all-time money list with $5.4 million in career earnings, and a victory here would move him into the top 14.

The only thing protecting the other players from Pham's aggression at the start of play is the fact that Pham is the short stack with $470,000 - about 12 big blinds. But if he doubles up early, the other players could be in trouble.

While Schneider is on a hotter streak at the moment, Pham is having another great year, and he is currently ranked second in Card Player's Player of the Year standings. If he finishes fifth or higher in this event, he will pass J.C. Tran for the No. 1 spot. Even if Pham finishes in sixth place, he would have 4,450 points, just 8 points behind Tran (4,458 points).

Of course, if both Pham and Schneider go deep, the math gets a bit more interesting. But with 978 points more than Schneider, David Pham is in the driver's seat.

Seat 6
Michael McClain
725,000 in chips

Michael McClain is relatively unknown to most poker fans, even though he made one of the biggest televised final tables in poker history, the 2004 WSOP main event. McClain started that table eighth in chips, and moved all in with pocket aces in the first 15 minutes, looking to double his way up the leaderboard. But Greg "Fossilman" Raymer called with pocket tens - and promptly flopped a set. McClain cashed out for $470,000, but if his aces had held up, it could have been much, much more.

McClain can't complain too much. A former engineer, he actually got his start in poker after he was fired from AT&T, and he has won more than $650,000 in the last three and a half years.

While this is McClain's first WPT final table, he has come very close twice in the last 18 months. He finished ninth at the 2006 WPT L.A. Poker Classic and 11th here at the Bicycle Casino in the 2006 WPT Legends of Poker.

As you'd expect, McClain listed the 2004 WSOP final table as the highlight of his poker career, but it's probably a bittersweet memory. Now the World Poker Tour gives him a chance to redeem himself with a sweet victory. Once again, he's second-to-last in chips headed to the final table, so he'll have his work cut out for him. But if he happens to give somebody a bad beat in front of the cameras, cut him a little slack - the poker gods are just paying him back.

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If you'd like to learn more about the players in their own words, check out the quick video interviews that Kimberly Lansing did with all six final tablists. Then return to and at 5 p.m. PDT on Thursday to catch all the final table action with our live hand-for-hand coverage.