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Over a year ago, Qing Liu made the final table of the World Poker Tour Gardens Poker Championship. That final table was meant to be played in Las Vegas last March but the coronavirus pandemic put an extended delay on that event. This week, Liu traveled to Las Vegas to play the WPT Venetian event before finally getting to play the Gardens Championship final table on Wednesday. Now he's suddenly in position to win two WPT titles - and more than $1.3 million - in a 24 hour span. On Tuesday night Liu beat 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Joe McKeehen heads up to win the WPT Venetian event for more than $750,000. Before the final table began there was some drama surrounding the player second in chips, Roland Rokita. Fedor Holz, who has worked with Rokita, tweeted that the young Austrian was in medical distress and might not be able to play the final table. Despite Holz subsequently tweeting that he believed Rokita would require surgery, Rokita made it to the Venetian in time to play the final table. It took 36 hands for the first elimination to happen. With blinds at 75,000/150,000, Liu raised to 300,000 with [poker card="qh"][poker card="ts"] on the button. Trace Henderson moved all in from the small blind for 1,525,000 with [poker card="9h"][poker card="9s"] and Liu called. The [poker card="8d"][poker card="3c"][poker card="3d"] flop changed nothing but Liu connected on the [poker card="th"] turn to make top pair. Henderson was unable to catch either one of the two remaining nines as the [poker card="6d"] river and was eliminated in sixth place. That hand moved Liu up the chip counts, but McKeehen did most of the heavy lifting the rest of the way. From the cutoff, McKeehen min-raised to 400,000 with [poker card="8c"][poker card="8h"]. Kou Vang shoved from the big blind for 4,250,000 with [poker card="ac"][poker card="ks"]. The flop came [poker card="td"][poker card="8d"][poker card="2s"] gave McKeehen middle set and left Vang needing runner-runner help. The [poker card="3s"] turn made Vang's fifth place elimination all but official as the [poker card="ad"] river completed the board. McKeehen found another victim just 15 minutes later in a blind against blind spot. Action folded to McKeehen in the small blind and he moved all in with [poker card="ks"][poker card="td"] and Jack Hardcastle called all in from the big blind with [poker card="qh"][poker card="8s"]. The board ran out [poker card="ad"][poker card="ah"][poker card="4s"][poker card="9d"][poker card="4c"] to completed miss Hardcastle and the 2021 WPT Montreal Online champion was eliminated in fourth. That pot gave McKeehen 63% of the chips in play. It took nearly two hours to go from three-handed to heads-up and once again it was McKeehen taking charge and adding to his chip lead. McKeehen moved all in from the small blind with [poker card="jc"][poker card="8d"] and Rokita called from the big blind putting his tournament at risk with [poker card="5c"][poker card="5d"]. McKeehen picked up a gunshot straight draw on the [poker card="as"][poker card="ts"][poker card="7s"] flop and then made that draw on the [poker card="9c"] turn. The river was the meanings [poker card="8c"] and Rokita was done in third place. Heads-up play began with McKeehen holding a nearly 2-1 lead over Liu. It took Liu just five hands to wrestle that lead away from McKeehen. With the board showing [poker card="as"][poker card="kh"][poker card="7h"][poker card="kc"][poker card="kd"] and 12,500,000 in the pot, Liu moved all in for 10,100,000 forcing McKeehen to fold. Liu took a 3-2 chip lead thanks to that pot. Just 30 minutes later, Liu collected every last chip. Down to just 11 big blinds, McKeehen moved all in with [poker card="kh"][poker card="7d"] and Liu called with [poker card="kc"][poker card="4s"]. Liu made second pair on the [poker card="6s"][poker card="4d"][poker card="2h"] flop and McKeehen was unable to improve as the [poker card="9d"] and [poker card="6c"] completed the board to give Liu his first WPT title and a $752,880 payday. Liu, who has had his last 20 cashes come at the Venetian dating back to last September, will spend Tuesday night resting up before making his way to the PokerGO Studio at Aria to play the final table of the Gardens Poker Championship where is fifth in chips. WPT Venetian Final Table Payouts Qing Liu - $752,880 Joe McKeehen - $491,960 Roland Rokita - $363,235 Jack Hardcastle - $271,050 Kou Vang - $204,430 Trace Henderson - $155,865
After more than a year away from one of the world’s premier poker destinations, the World Poker Tour’s live Main Tour returns to Las Vegas from March 5-9 for the $5,000 buy-in, $1.5 million guaranteed WPT Venetian Main Event. For the WPT, the event in Sin City represents the next step in the company's recovery when it comes to resuming its live event operations. The WPT had not held a Main Event in Las Vegas since the 2019 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic, a tournament that set a record for the organization for the largest $10,000 buy-in tournament prize pool in its history. It was shortly thereafter that live poker events nearly came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in postponements and cancellations of much of the WPT’s live schedule, including a 2020 stop at the Venetian and a number of live final tables that were set to take place in Las Vegas. Now, the WPT hopes to bring the momentum from an incredibly successful Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida to their 2021 Main Tour tournament at the Venetian. The Main Event features everything players remember from a classic WPT event. Two starting flights of eight-handed play with players receiving 40,000 in chips (200 bbs). Day 1A, 1B, and Day 2 levels are all 60 minutes with the big blind ante helping speed up play. Levels get extended to 90 minutes when the field reaches 24 players and returns to 60 minutes for the six-handed final table. The eventual winner of WPT Venetian will not only take home what is likely to be a healthy six-figure first-place prize money but will also receive a ticket into the 2021 WPT Tournament of Champions and have their name engraved on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup. Also worth noting about the Main Event is that both starting flights feature unlimited re-entry as well as late registration through the start of Level 9. The last time the World Poker Tour stopped at the Venetian was also the first time they ever held a tournament there. In 2019, Ben Palmer topped a field of 734 runners in the $3,500 Main Event to capture the $335,397 first-place prize. The WPT and Venetian have stressed the safety of their players as the pandemic continues. According to the World Poker Tour, the Venetian is operating under their own "Venetian Clean Commitment" which has "more than 800 initiatives to enhance safety and minimize risk for guests, players, and team members." Sanitization is a big key for a major event like the WPT Venetian to go off without a hitch. Players will be required to sanitize their hands and wear a mask at the table at all times. The staff will focus on keeping the transparent dividers, cards, chips, and the like sanitized. "We are excited for the return of the World Poker Tour to The Venetian," said Tommy LaRosa, tournament director for The Venetian Poker Room back in December when the event was originally announced. "We strive to provide our players with as many options as possible and have been working throughout the last year to deliver the great poker experience our players have come to expect, but in a Venetian Clean way." The Venetian has been at the forefront of keeping large poker tournaments alive in Las Vegas during the pandemic. For example, the Mid-States Poker Tour held three Main Events at the Venetian in the past four months. All three tournaments saw massive turnouts with the smallest of the three, the $1,100 event in January 2021, brining out a total of 1,009 entries. The largest, the MSPT Venetian $1,600 Main Event drew a field of 1,239 players and created a prize pool of over $1.7 million in November 2020. At the end of January, WPTDeepstacks held its first live event of 2021 at the Venetian when 812 players participated in the $1,600 Main Event. The World Poker Tour resuming operations in Las Vegas may also be a sign that the company is closer to settling some unfinished business. In late March/early April 2020, three WPT final tables - the 2020 WPT Gardens Poker Championship, the 2020 WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open, and the 2020 WPT L.A. Poker Classic - were slated to be filmed for TV at the Hyper X Esports Arena. All three were postponed for obvious safety reasons. Nearly one year after the conclusion of the 2020 LAPC those final tables have yet to be rescheduled. Another successful live event under the WPT's belt may bring those players waiting to play out their final tables closer to determining a winner. In the meantime, the WPT Venetian will crown a new champion on March 9. “The World Poker Tour returns to live WPT Main Tour events in Las Vegas at The Venetian and to add another member to the WPT Champions Club,” said Angelica Hael, VP of Global Tour Management for the World Poker Tour. “All parties expect a strong turnout…We look forward to a safe playing environment thanks to the hard work from the Venetian team.”