The World Poker Tour was back at Gardens Casino in Southern California for the second time in Season XVII, this time for the WPT Gardens Poker Championship. Six players remain from the 253-entry field, and it was Frank Stepuchin who bagged the chip lead. Stepuchin was joined at the official final table by Shannon Shorr, Steve Sung, Brent Roberts, Ray Qartomy, and Jonathan Abdellatif.
The $10,000 buy-in event was the first WPT Main Tour event to feature the delayed TV final table format. After playing down to the final six players on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, the tournament was put on ice for what will be nearly two months before play resumes on Tuesday, March 12 – 55 days, to be exact. That is when the final six will compete for the $548,825 top prize at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Stepuchin, who hails from Park City, Utah, and entered this event with $354,625 in live tournament earnings, bagged the chip lead in a very large way, with 4.065 million in chips. The next closest was Shorr with 1.71 million. Belgian player Jonathan Abdellatif, who held nearly $1.7 million in live tournament earnings entering the Season XVII WPT Gardens Poker Championship, finished as the short stack with 555,000.
WPT Gardens Poker Championship Final Table
Seat 1: Shannon Shorr – 1,710,000
Seat 2: Frank Stepuchin – 4,065,000
Seat 3: Brent Roberts – 1,385,000
Seat 4: Jonathan Abdellatif – 555,000
Seat 5: Ray Qartomy – 820,000
Seat 6: Steve Sung – 1,580,000
Road To the Final Table
Stepuchin emerged as a big stack right out of the gate. He finished as the Day 1a chip leader and was second in chips entering Day 2. At the time, he was behind another player that reached the final table, Qartomy. Stepuchin finished sixth in chips after Day 2 when Shorr bagged the chip lead, then Stepuchin led the final 19 players after Day 3 before riding that chip lead into the final table. On Day 4, Stepuchin eliminated Toby Lewis in seventh place and Allen Pock in 15th place.
Eliminating Lewis in seventh set the official WPT final table, and it came just before 10 p.m. PT on Wednesday when the tournament was in Level 24 with the blinds at 15,000-30,000 with a 30,000 big blind ante, according to WPT coverage. Shorr had opened with a raise from the cutoff seat to 60,000, Lewis called from the button, and Stepuchin called from the small blind. The flop was and action checked to Lewis. He bet 75,000 before Stepuchin check-raised to 190,000. Shorr folded, but Lewis made the call to see the land on the turn. Stepuchin fired 360,000 and Lewis called to see the appear on the river. Stepuchin bet all in, having Lewis and his remaining 360,000 covered. Lewis called with the but saw the bad news when his two pair was second best to Stepuchin’s pocket fives – .
For Shorr, Sung, and Roberts, they’re second, third, and fourth in chips, respectively. Shorr ended Day 2 with the chip lead, but it wasn’t without a couple of very eventful hands that saw Shorr with plenty of chips on the line. First, he was all in with pocket kings against the pocket queens of Dan Smith and earned a double up. After that, Shorr took out Mike Eskandari, but did so with an inferior hand when his pocket sevens came from behind against Eskandari’s queens. On that hand, all of the money went in preflop and Shorr flopped a set.
Qartomy reached the final table as the second shortest stack remaining, but he could’ve been knocked out by the lowly in seventh place had his not held up. Qartomy three-bet jammed for 410,000 over a raise to 60,000 from Stepuchin. Stepuchin called, but Qartomy’s hand held strong to give him the double up.
On Day 3 of the WPT Gardens Poker Championship, Qartomy was the player to send everyone into the money, doing so when he knocked out Raul Lozano in 33rd place. Qartomy held the and was behind Lozano’s , but a queen flopped and Lozano couldn’t come back from it.
Some of the notable players to cash in the event but fall short of the final table were Garrett Greer (8th – $66,955), WPT Champions Club member Marvin Rettenmaier (11th – $43,220), Ricky ‘RatedGTO’ Guan (13th – $35,550), and Nicole Schwartz (20th – $25,225). Schwartz won her way into the event by winning a $100 charity event. She fired an additional $100 bullet in that event, so her $10,000 seat cost her $200, but she then turned that into more than $25,000 in prize money.
Can Shorr, Sung, and Roberts Finally Break Into the WPT Champions Club?
Shorr, Sung, and Roberts are no strangers to tournament poker. They’ve been around the game for a long time and have impressive career résumés. Entering this event, Shorr had nearly $6.7 million in live tournament earnings, Sung had more than $5.5 million, and Roberts was just over $2 million. All three have experienced podium finishes in WPT events, but none have won a WPT title.
Shorr’s best WPT finish was a second-place result in the Season XII WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open. In a field of 415 entries, Shorr finished runner-up to James Calderaro and took home $190,039.
“I’m on cloud nine after reaching the Gardens final table,” Shorr told PocketFives. “I’ve been putting a ton of work into my poker game and my mind and body lately, so to have a big result like this in a major tournament is really special, personally.”
Shorr also placed fourth in the Season IX WPT Southern Poker Championship and fifth in the Season VII WPT World Championship for $144,985 and $408,550, respectively.
“Winning a WPT title would be incredible,” Shorr added. “I’ve had tons of final tables in big events worldwide but haven’t won a ‘major.’ Maybe this is the one.”
Sung has three official WPT final tables on record, with his best result coming in the Season VI WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star event when he took second to Brandon Cantu and won $585,000.
“It feels amazing to have reached the Gardens final table, to be able to enjoy the next couple months knowing that the final table will always be there,” Sung said. “I always wanted to experience making the ‘November Nine,’ and this is the next best thing, the ‘March Six!'”
Sung also has a pair of fourth-place finishes on the World Poker Tour, first in the Season VI WPT Spanish Championship for €117,400 ($164,943) and then in the Season VII WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $396,205.
“Winning a WPT title means that my goal has been finally accomplished,” Sung said when asked what a winning a WPT title would mean to him. “I’ve expected to win one over a decade ago and had to come back from self-inflicted setbacks in multiple aspects of my being.”
Roberts does have a WPTDeepStacks title from back in 2016, but a WPT Main Tour title has eluded him. His best WPT Main Tour finish was in the Season XIV WPT Legends of Poker when he took third in a field of 786 entries to win $251,035.
Hublot WPT Player of the Year Implications
The final six have locked up 600 points in the Season XVII Hublot WPT Player of the Year race, currently led by Tony Ruberto with 1,850 points, and there are 1,200 points up top. The points could mean the most to Qartomy, who already has 650 points on the season and is in 40th place on the leaderboard. A win would vault him to the same 1,850 points as Ruberto, but Qartomy would hold the tiebreaker of most money won as he’d have $652,474 to Ruberto’s $530,692.
Sung also stands to benefit well from the Hublot WPT Player of the Year points earned at this final table. Entering the event, Sung has 450 points and was in 57th place. He’s guaranteed to move to 1,050 points, which would put him in the top 15, and has upside to move into second place in the Hublot WPT Player of the Year race with a victory. Sung now has five WPT Main Tour cashes in Season XVII, including a ninth-place finish in the WPT Gardens Poker Festival that kicked off the season.
Stepuchin entered this event with 100 points, Shorr 100 points, Roberts 175 points, and Abdellatif 50 points.
Champion To Be Crowned on March 12
The final six competitors have locked up $110,225 for reaching the final table and will be back in action on March 12 in Las Vegas to compete for the $548,825 top prize. First place includes a $15,000 buy-in into the season-ending Baccarat Crystal WPT Tournament of Champions.
“It’s a bizarre feeling traveling to LA for five days, playing nonstop in a tournament, and to not know my result upon leaving,” Shorr said. “I really like the format, though, and am all for anything that helps grow the game.”
“I’m going to enjoy the next 55 days like no other!” Sung said.