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This Week in Poker: Poker Tournament News May 16 -- 22

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Check out CardPlayer.com every Friday for a weekly wrap-up of the news from the live poker tournament trail.

Card Player Player of the Year Update

1: Poorya Nazari — 3,000
2: Jude Ainsworth — 2,840
3: Cornel Cimpan — 2,730
4: Anthony Gregg — 2,500
5: Yevgeniy Timoshenko — 2,448
6: Pieter de Korver — 2,400
6: Constant Rijkenberg — 2,400
8: Steve Brecher — 2,340
9: Stewart Scott — 2,336
10: Chris Moore — 2,110

POY Movement:

The Great Nazari Chase

The first half of the 2009 Card Player Player of the Year race has been a contest to catch PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion Poorya Nazari. Nazari won the PCA on January 10 and he took home 3,000 points for the $3 million win. Since that time everyone in the chase has set their sights on taking down Nazari, but no one has been able to catch him. Many players have scored big wins to find themselves close, most notably Jude Ainsworth (PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker champion) who sits in second place with 2,840 points and Cornel Cimpan (L.A. Poker Classic champion) who is in third place with 2,730 points. Not even the WPT Championship winner Yevgeniy Timoshenko (fifth place), or the EPT Grand Final champion, Pieter de Korver (tied for sixth place) scored enough points to catch Nazari.

The World Series of Poker begins on May 28 and with the multitude of points up for grabs this summer in Las Vegas someone else is bound to join the 3,000 club and pass Nazari for the lead. Dangerous opponents lurking near the top of the leader board include Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier (11th place – 2,102 points) who is looking for his first gold bracelet this summer, and veteran Kathy Liebert (12th place – 2,100 points) who will be looking to add a second gold bracelet. Be sure to follow all of the WSOP action this summer on CardPlayer.com and see how the WSOP affects the POY race.

U.S. Events Coast-to-Coast Award POY Points

The period leading up to the WSOP has historically been a quiet one in the course of a tournament year, but as more events pop up all across the country there were a couple of tournaments of note as players got their last warm up in before the summer. The final WSOP Circuit event of the 2008-2009 season took place at Harrah’s New Orleans, and the $5,000 no-limit hold’em championship attracted 167 players. Jean “Prince” Gaspard took home 816 points for the win. Runner-up Billy Kopp took home 680 points, and although this only puts him in 229th place in the POY race, it proved that Kopp is a double threat; Kopp is in 21st place in the Online POY race with 3,538 points. The Borgata $500,000 Guaranteed Deep Stack event attracted 696 players that bought in for $1,500. Lawrence Rao emerged as the champion and took home 960 points for the win.

This Week in Poker

Vitaly Lunkin Wins RPT Moscow Main Event

The PokerStars Russian Poker Tour Moscow main event, which took place over the weekend, was won by Russian poker player Vitaly Lunkin. Lunkin first emerged on the poker scene when he won a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event at the 2008 World Series of Poker and took home $628,417 in prize money along with his first gold bracelet. Lunkin was dominant at the final table that featured nine Russian players, and he took a large chip lead of 2,790,000 into the heads-up final against Vyacheslav Gorjachev, who held just 310,000. On the final hand, Lunkin held pocket tens and Gorjachev found his tournament life on the line with ADiamond Suit 6Club Suit. The board ran out QDiamond Suit 8Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit 4Club Suit 8Spade Suit, and Lunkin was the champion of the event.

Lunkin took home 14,230,000 roubles ($443,731) for the win, and Gorjachev was awarded 7,877,000 roubles ($245,627) for second place. The third day of play began with 36 players, and they had a long march down to the final nine players. When the final table was reached, another day was added to the schedule due to the late hour. Along with Lunkin, the final table featured well-known Russian professionals and Team PokerStars pros Ivan Demidov (sixth place) and Alexander Kravchenko (eighth place). The top 27 players all walked away with prize money in the event. The total number of players who participated in the Moscow event was 206.

Here is a look at the full final-table results:

1: Vitaly Lunkin — 14,323,000
2: Vyacheslav Gorjachev — 7,877,000
3: Alexander Haustov — 4,028,000
4: Oleg Shamordin — 3,133,000
5: Sergey Artamonov — 2,685,000
6: Ivan Demidov — 2,238,000
7: Dmitry Vitkind — 1,790,000
8: Alexander Kravchenko — 1,342,000
9: Evgenie Onishchuk — 895,000

Benjamin Leblond Wins Canadian Poker Open Heads-Up Championship

The Canadian Open Poker Championship $5,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em main event attracted 93 players this past weekend to the Stampede Casino in Calgary, Alberta. The tournament featured a total prize pool worth $425,000 and a best two-out-of-three format to decide the winner of the event. Amateur Benjamin Leblond from Hull, Quebec, beat Jeff Madsen 2-1 in the finals of the event to take home $100,000 in prize money. Madsen was awarded $50,000 for his runner-up finish.

Madsen won the first game in their finals match, but Leblond rallied to win the next two games and take home his first tournament title. In the final hand, Leblond held pocket fours and Madsen held A-10. Leblond hit a four on the flop, and Madsen made trip tens when a second 10 hit the board on the river, but those tens also made a full house for Leblond, and he won the tournament.

The biggest test of the tournament for Leblond came when he played a six-hour match against Phil Hellmuth in the quarter-finals of the event. Leblond emerged with the win when he made a set of sixes on the river of a hand where Hellmuth was in the lead with pocket nines. Leblond then beat Canadian professional Brad Booth in the semi-finals to advance to the final match against Madsen.

Leblond attributed his success to the many hours of heads-up play he has booked online, and he plans to play in the main event at the 2009 World Series of Poker this summer. Perhaps the most surprising upset of the entire event came when 2008 defending champion Huck Seed lost in the first round on Thursday, May 14.

Jean Gaspard Wins WSOP Circuit New Orleans Main Event

The final World Series of Poker Circuit $5,000 championship event of the 2008-09 season crowned a champion on Wednesday, May 20 at Harrah’s New Orleans. Jean Gaspard emerged with the win and $161,175 in prize money, along with a championship ring and a $10,000 seat in the upcoming WSOP main event in Las Vegas. The championship event in New Orleans attracted a field of 167 players that created a total prize pool worth $798,950. The top 18 players received prize money and notable cashes included Chris McCormack (11th), Matt Brady (13th), Shaun Deeb (14th), and Dwyte Pilgrim (18th). Here is a look at the chip counts heading into the final table:

Seat 1: Kenny Milam — 389,000
Seat 2: Kurt Scheer — 115,000
Seat 3: Justin Allen — 303,000
Seat 4: Anita Vasquez — 118,000
Seat 5: Jean Gaspard — 804,000
Seat 6: Ken Christopher — 232,000
Seat 7: Daniel Walsh — 553,000
Seat 8: Billy Kopp — 644,000
Seat 9: Steven McKoy — 182,000

It took an hour for things to heat up and when they did the first player to fall was Kurt Scheer in ninth place ($21,971), when he ran his A-K into the pocket tens of the chip leader Jean Gaspard. Kenny Milam fell a minute later when his A-7 paled in comparison to the pocket aces of Billy Kopp. Milam was eliminated in eighth place and he took home $25,966 in prize money.

Action slowed back down to a relaxed tone after this flurry of activity, and when chips started flying again over a half hour later the eliminations came quickly. Gaspard claimed his second victim when his pocket fours held to knock out Justin Allen in seventh place ($31,958). Ten minutes later Anita Vasquez saw her A-4 fall to the queens full of kings held by Ken Christopher and she was eliminated in sixth place ($39,948).

It took Christopher just another ten minutes after that to claim his second elimination at the final table. His pocket aces held up against the pocket tens of Daniel Walsh and Walsh was eliminated in fifth place ($49,934). The next stretch saw three hours of fluctuating chip stacks and slow play take place to decide who went home in fourth place. Steven McKoy moved all in with 9Club Suit8Club Suit preflop and Christopher called him down with ASpade SuitJHeart Suit. The board ran out AHeart SuitADiamond Suit10Diamond Suit3Heart SuitQClub Suit and McKoy took home $63,916 in prize money.

The final three players then took a break and decided to make a deal on the tail end of the long four-handed battle. All three players received third-place prize money worth $81,892 and the remaining $175,770 was divided. Gaspard was declared the champion between the final three after holding the chip lead the entire way at the final table and he took home $161,175. Kopp took home $123,837 in second place, and Christopher was awarded $111,097 in third place.

This was the final WSOP Circuit event before the 40th annual WSOP in Las Vegas. The 2009-2010 WSOP Circuit schedule will be released later this summer.

Selected Tournament Results

Borgata $500,000 Guaranteed Deep Stack

Buy-in: $1,500
Number of Entries: 626
Total Prize Pool: $939,000
First-Place Prize: $260,478
Places Paid: 63

Final-Table Results:

1: Lawrence Rao — $260,478
2: Micah Raskin — $140,850
3: Eric Doerr — $72,772
4: Josh Brikis — $63,382
5: Daniel Smethurst — $53,992
6: Steven Cho — $44,603
7: Jeremy Schofer — $35,213
8: Drew Johnson — $25,823
9: Antonio Cavezza — $18,780

Looking Ahead

40th Annual World Series of Poker

Event Schedule

California State Poker Championship

Event Schedule

Binion’s Poker Classic

Event Schedule
Event Preview

Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza III

Event Schedule

Caesars Mega Stack Series

Event Schedule

PokerStars ANZPT –- Melbourne

Event Schedule