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Buy-In: $5,000
Prize Pool: $1,750,850
Entrants: 361

No-Limit Hold'em Championship

  • Mar 28, '05 - Apr 01, '05


Updates on Final Day (Apr 01, 05)


Arnold Spee is the WPT Winner at the 2005 World Poker Challenge

Arnold Spee won this tournament, and he felt that it was meant to be. He was playing in one of the weekly tournaments at the Bellagio late last year, and made a bold prediction at the table -- he would win a WPT event. Even though he plays all the major events, he went further to say that it would be the World Poker Challenge in Reno. And now he has made it happen.

Was there ever any doubt in his mind? Well, at one point during this four-day tournament, he was all-in with pocket jacks against someone else's pocket queens, and he was the short stack. When the flop came with three rags, he thought to himself, "This can't happen. I'm supposed to win this tournament, so I'll have to catch a jack." Sure enough, a jack appeared on the turn to double him up rather than sending him home.

According to one poker expert (none other than Mike Sexton), Arnold Spee played very solid poker at the final table, avoiding risks and crazy plays, but making the right moves at the right times. The only time at the Final Table that he really needed to catch a card was on the last hand, and even then he had enough chips to absorb the damage if his card didn't come.

Blair Rodman deserves congratulations for second place, as he is a highly respected tournament player who just hasn't been featured on TV to date, and he played great poker throughout the tournament. He certainly would like to have won, but his second-place finish here should give him the respect of the public, to match the respect he already receives from his poker-playing peers.

Remember to check back with for an event report and plenty of great photos of all the Final Table action.


The First Pot of Consequence is Also the Last

With the blinds so high, every hand is a big one. But there still wasn't much action heads up. Until Arnold Spee and Blair Rodman see a flop of 9s-7s-3c, and Spee bets out for $270,000. Rodman pushes all in, and Spee calls. Rodman shows Kd-7s for middle pair, and Spee shows 4s-3s for bottom pair and a flush draw. The turn card is a blank (2d), so it all comes down to the river. Spee needs a 3, 4, or any spade to win the tournament. Spee catches the 4d on the river to win the tournament.

Blair Rodman is eliminated in second place, and he earns $327,815.

Arnold Spee wins the 2005 World Poker Challenge at the Reno Hilton, winning $638,380, and a $25,000 seat in the WPT World Championship later this month at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.


Not Much Action Early; Updated Chip Counts; Blinds Increase

6:50 pm - The early heads-up action is fairly quiet, seeing lots of flops, but followed by lots of folds. Here are the new approximate chip counts:

1. Arnold Spee - $2,600,000

2. Blair Rodman - $1,000,000

6:56 pm - The blinds increase to $40,000-$80,000, with a $10,000 ante. That should speed things up a bit, putting $140,000 into each pot before anybody calls, and when both players limp, it's $180,000 in the pot.


A Very Impressive Money Presentation

Once it's down to head-up action, the World Poker Tour tradition is to bring out the first prize money in an elaborate presentation that plays very well for the TV cameras. The Reno Hilton did not disappoint.

The black curtains behind the stage spread open like barn doors, and a horse-drawn stagecoach marches out into the arena, marching right up to a cowgirl who reigns in the horses. Shana Hiatt approaches the carriage, and out steps a cowboy with a shotgun, guarding the prize money. He is quickly followed by two gorgeous cowgirls dressed in outfits that weren't around back in the 1800s. When Mike Sexton comments about how hard it must be to get horses in the studio, Vince Van Patten says, "Who's looking at the horses?"

The two cowgirls carry saddlebags filled with money to the final table, and pour $638,380 out onto the table. There are a few hoots and hollers from the men in the crowd as the girls strut back to the horse-drawn stagecoach, and the entire stagecoach exits the arena. You'll definitely want to return to tomorrow for pictures of this money presentation.

But now it's back to poker, as this tournament is heads up between Blair Rodman and Arnold Spee.


Phil Ivey Eliminated in 3rd Place (Earning $163,908)

Arnold Spee raised the big blind to $120,000, and Phil Ivey pushed all in. Spee quickly called, and Ivey's pocket nines were dominated by Spee's pocket kings. Once again, Ivey would need some help. The board came J-8-4-10-10, and Phil Ivey was eliminated in third place, earning $163,908.

As we go to heads-up action with Blair Rodman against Arnold Spee, here are the chip counts:

1. Arnold Spee - $2,220,000

2. Blair Rodman - $1,390,000


Some Major Chip Movement, But the Last 3 Players Are Still Close in Chips

6:00 pm - The Blinds have recently increased to $25,000-$50,000, with a $5,000 ante.

6:09 pm - A Tough Laydown for Phil Ivey

Arnold Spee makes the minimum raise, doubling the big blind to $50,000, and Phil Ivey calls. The flop comes 10-6-4, and both players check. The turn card is an 8, and Spee bets $150,000, and Ivey calls. The river card is a queen, and Spee pushes all in. Ivey thinks for a very long time, before folding. As Spee waits for the pot to be pushed to him, the crowd starts chanting "Show it! Show it!" Spee complies, revealing pocket aces. Ivey says he was beat.

6:17 pm - Approximate Chip Counts

1. Phil Ivey - $1,540,000 (seat 6)

2. Arnold Spee - $1,300,000 (seat 3)

3. Blair Rodman - $770,000 (seat 2)

6:20 pm - Blair Rodman v. Phil Ivey

Blair Rodman raises the big blind to $150,000, and Phil Ivey pushes all in. Rodman calls so quickly that Ivey knows he is in trouble when he shows his pocket sixes. Rodman flips over pocket queens, and Ivey needs help from the board. The flop comes J-9-4 rainbow, so Ivey is down to two outs. The turn and river fall 2-Q, making Rodman an unnecessary set, and he doubles up through Phil Ivey.

6:21 pm - Approximate Chip Counts

1. Blair Rodman - $1,500,000 (seat 2)

2. Arnold Spee - $1,200,000 (seat 3)

3. Phil Ivey - $800,000 (seat 6)


Players Take a Short Break; Chip Counts

5:40 pm - Players take a short break (it lasts about 15 minutes)

5:50 pm - Chip Counts After the Break

1. Phil Ivey - $1,401,000 (seat 6)

2. Arnold Spee - $1,282,000

3. Blair Rodman - $1,060,000


Michael Yoshino Eliminated in 4th Place (Earning $103,521)

Blair Rodman raises the blinds to $100,000, and Arnold Spee reraises him. Michael Yoshino calls for all of his chips, and Rodman folds. Yoshino shows 5-4 of spades, and Spee has A-K offsuit. The flop comes As-6s-3c, which is actually a great flop for Yoshino, giving him an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw. He picks up some outs on when the turn card is the 5d, so he can catch a 2, 4, 5, 7 or any spade to win the hand and double up. Looking for a low, black card, the crowd momentarily reacts to the 6 of clubs before realizing that it's no help, and Michael Yoshino is eliminated in 4th place, earning $103,521.

Action Heats Up With the Final Four

4:37 pm - Phil Ivey raises to $60,000, and Arnold Spee calls. The flop comes 9-6-4, and Spee pushes all in. Ivey folds. The next hand, Spee raises to $70,000, and Ivey raises that to $190,000. Spee folds.

There's more post-flop play with only four players left, and the audience is starting to really get into it. Phil Ivey is still the clear fan favorite, with cheers for his every move, and big cheers for every pot he takes down.

4:42 pm - Michael Yoshino and Phil Ivey see a flop of Jc-10s-4s, and Yoshino bets $40,000, and Ivey calls. The turn pairs the board with the 4d, and both players check. The river card double pairs the board with the 10h, and Yoshino bets out for $100,000. Ivey folds.

4:46 pm - Three players see a flop of Ad-5c-2h, but a $100,000 bet by Michael Yoshino narrows it down to two as only Blair Rodman calls. The turn card is the Jh, putting two hearts on the board, and Rodman bets out this time, and Yoshino calls. The river card is the 5h, putting a possible runner-runner flush out there, and Yoshino bets $300,000 after Rodman checks. Rodman folds and Yoshino takes down a very large pot.

4:50 pm - Approximate Chip Counts

1. Michael Yoshino - $1,500,000 (seat 4)

2. Arnold Spee - $850,000 (seat 3)

3. Blair Rodman - $600,000 (seat 2)

4. Phil Ivey - $570,000 (seat 6)

4:57 pm - Phil Ivey v. Michael Yoshino

After a flop of 8d-4d-2h, Phil Ivey bets $80,000, and Michael Yoshino raises that $100,000 more. Ivey thinks for a while before pushing all in for $254,000 more, and Yoshino reluctantly calls. Ivey shows 8s-6d for top pair, and Yoshino shows Ah-2d for bottom pair. The turn and river come 4c-10s, and Phil Ivey doubles up through Michael Yoshino. Ivey is perfectly calm as the river card falls, but the crowd erupts into the loudest cheer of the night.

5:06 pm - After a flop of 9-6-3, Blair Rodman checks, Michael Yoshino bets $100,000, and Rodman raises it $140,000 more. Yoshino folds.

5:10 pm - A 4-Way Family Pot

All four players limp in to see a flop of Q-6-5. Blair Rodman checks, Arnold Spee checks, and Michael Yoshino checks. Phil Ivey thinks a while before betting $150,000, and after Rodman folds, Spee raises it $300,000 more. Yoshino folds, and Ivey mucks his cards. Arnold Spee takes down the pot.

5:11 pm - Blinds Increase to $15,000-$30,000, with a $3,000 ante

5:17 pm - Blair Rodman v. Michael Yoshino

Blair Rodman pushes all in preflop, and he's quickly called by Michael Yoshino. Yoshino shows pocket kings, and Rodman flips over A-Q of hearts. The flop offers no help, falling 10c-6c-4s, but the turn card is a queen. Rodman needs to catch a queen or an ace to avoid elimination, and the crowd reacts loudly as a queen falls on the river, taking a few moments to build up to thunderous applause. Blair Rodman doubles up through Michael Yoshino to about $1,500,000.


Two Eliminations on One Hand -- Mark Chapic in 6th Place; Russ Carlson in 5th Place

Still short-stacked, Mark Chapic pushes all in. Russ Carlson thinks a bit, then says, "Well, I came to gamble," and pushes all in over the top. Blair Rodman asks for a chip count (Carlson's bet was $236,000), and Chapic asks if Rodman is willing to triple him up. Rodman says he is, and pushes his chips into the pot as well.

Chapic shows A-J, but isn't happy when Rodman shows A-K, dominating him. Carlson is feeling pretty good with his pocket sevens, especially after a flop of Q-9-6. But the turn card is a king, putting Rodman way out in front. The river is a queen, and two players are eliminated on the same hand by Blair Rodman.

Because Mark Chapic had fewer chips at the start of the hand, he finishes in 6th place, earning $60,387. Russ Carlson finishes in 5th place, earning $77,641.

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