For all the accolades and acclaim that Andrew Lichtenberger received in his poker career, there was something missing from his resume – a signature, major tour victory.
Sure, the man best known as ‘luckychewy’ had multiple cashes of $500,000 or more, deep runs in bracelet events and even the WSOP Main Event; numerous online titles, and even a WSOP Circuit Main Event victory. But until Saturday at the Bellagio, a million dollar score and a major title had eluded him.
Lichtenberger put that all to rest, though, winning WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas and taking home its $2,104,245 first place prize. He beat Tom Marchese heads-up after a marathon final table that neared 250 hands before its conclusion.
“I’m feeling really good, feeling a lot of love,” said Lichtenberger of his victory, and the support he’s received. “I was able to trust myself and make the right decisions the whole way through.”
Marchese himself nearly pulled off a major come-from-behind victory, spending most of the day as a short stack before mounting a comeback and even taking the lead during his heads-up battle with Lichtenberger before the final hand simply went the wrong way.
“A lot of tough competition,” said Lichtenberger about his path to the title. “The heads-up match was really swingy, [and] Tom’s obviously incredibly experienced. It just came down to that flip at the end.”
On that fateful hand, Marchese opened to 300,000 and Lichtenberger three-bet to 900,000. Marchese thought and then four-bet it to 1.9 million – to which Lichtenberger responded with a five-bet all in, having Marchese covered.
He quickly called with 8 8, while Lichtenberger’s Q 9 was as live as could be. The J 4 4 flop gave Lichtenberger the flush draw, and the K made it – leaving Marchese four outs to a full house going into the river. The 5 would not be that card, and WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas came to a swift and exciting conclusion.
Brian Rast had been the chipleader coming into this final table, but it would only take 10 hands for him to cede that position to Lichtenberger in a 2 million chip pot. Rast was the aggressor on every street of a T 9 5 3 6 board, but after Lichtenberger snap-called the river and showed pocket fives Rast could only muster a busted heart flush draw.
Lichtenberger would take two more big pots in the next three hands – one each from Rast and Jason Les – and he suddenly found himself with over 6.5 million and 40 percent of the chips in play.
Phil Laak was the short stack by a pretty wide margin, and though he was able to steal blinds several times at 15,000/30,000 his stack wasn’t big enough to dissuade action from one of the big stacks once they went up to 20,000/40,000. Laak shoved for 435,000 and it folded around to Rast in the big blind, who eventually called with J 9. Laak was racing with 6 6 and looked to be in good shape for a double through the A 5 5 flop and T turn. The J river was a heartbreaker, though, and Laak was sent home two shy of the money empty-handed.
With one spot to go to reach the money, a $323,730 bubble hung ominously over the head of short stacks Noah Schwartz, Bryn Kenney and Brandon Steven. In Steven’s case, it was like a dark cloud that seems to perpetually find him in this kind of situation. He finished 10th in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, missing out on the November Nine by one spot, and also went out three spots from the money and two away from the money the 2012 and 2014 editions of the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop event, respectively.
Steven filled the role of bubble boy in a massive spot yet again at WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas, as his A Q could not touch an 8 2 2 6 7 board to best Rast’s T T. He went out in seventh, and the six remaining players – especially the shorter stacks – were happily guaranteed to leave the Bellagio with a nice payday.
Things got quiet for a few orbits, but two of the short stacks would eventually go to battle. Lichtenberger raised to 100,000 from under the gun and Kenney three-bet all in for 845,000. Schwartz called all in for 840,000 – just 5,000 less than Kenney – and Lichtenberger got out of the way. Schwartz’s Q Q were in a dominant position against Kenney’s J J, and though the A K 6 opened up some possibility of a draw for Kenney the 7 turn left him with two outs going into river.
The A sealed a big double for Schwartz, and left Kenney with a single ante for the next hand. Marchese called in the small blind, Lichtenberger checked the big blind and the flop came down A J 6. Marchese bet Lichtenberger out and showed A 4, while Kenney was in need of a runner-runner miracle holding Q 7. The T gave him four clean outs, but the 4 river officially sealed his exit in sixth.
It took 44 hands to go from eight players to five, but it would take nearly as many to go from five to four. Les eventually found himself on the short stack and shoved for (18 big blinds) from the button. Rast reshoved from the small blind and Marchese folded his big blind. Les was behind with A 6 to Rast’s 8 8, but he picked up two more outs on the 7 6 3 flop. The 8 turn brought all doubt to an end, however, as he made an unbeatable set, and the J river was an afterthought as Les headed to the rail in fifth.
After the final four players traded punches for a few orbits, Schwartz completed his run from short stack to serious contender at Rast’s expense. Schwartz opened with a raise to 150,000, Rast three-bet to 415,000 and Schwartz responded by four-betting it to 910,000. Rast five-bet all in and Schwartz quickly called, tabling A A to Rast’s A Q, and the board ran out clean to seal Schwartz’s double.
Rast returned the favor 20 hands later, as Schwartz four-bet all in only for Rast to call with J J. Schwartz’s A 5 was well behind, and though Rast had a lot more to sweat after a Q T 9 flop he held as the 2 and K completed the board.
The stacks grew closer as they approached Hand 150; Marchese grinded up from a short stack, Rast made a brief flirtation with retaking the chiplead before falling back as he and Schwartz were virtually even and Lichtenberger kept cruising along. As they hit their 30 minute dinner break, Lichtenberger had nearly half of the chips in play.
The four-handed deadlock was finally broken shortly after they returned from dinner. Nearly 100 hands after Les went out in fifth, Lichtenberger raised to 225,000 and Schwartz three-bet all in for 2.1 million. Lichtenberger called with T T and had Schwartz in rough shape with his 5 5. No part of the Q Q 8 J 3 runout was of any assistance to Schwartz, who was eliminated in fourth.
After laying low for seemingly the entire day, Marchese made his most significant move to that point soon thereafter. Rast opened to 230,000, Marchese three-bet to 590,000 and Rast four-bet all in. Marchese nearly beat him into the pot, and with good reason once the cards were turned up – his A J had Rast and his A 7 in trouble. The K 8 6 flop hinted at a possible straight draw for Rast, and the K brought some chop outs into play – but the 5 sealed the pot and a full double for Marchese.
He took a significant pot off of Lichtenberger, and after a few smaller ones Marchese was suddenly within a hair’s breadth of Lichtenberger and the chiplead. Rast held out for a little while, but just after the final table crossed the 200 hand mark the former chipleader met his fate. It happened when Rast open-shoved from the button for 1.15 million and Lichtenberger opted to call with J T.
Rast was behind, but had live outs with 7 6 going into the 9 5 2 flop. He had a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush draw, but Rast was reduced to just four outs as the T turn paired Lichtenbeger. The river was the J, and Rast was out in third.
Lichtenberer had the lead going into heads-up play with Marchese, but it wasn’t an insurmountable lead by any means at 9.3 million to 7.2 million. Their heads-up match was relatively brief – 28 hands – compared to other parts of this final table, but they traded the lead back and forth a couple of times in their brief encounter.
The 246th and final hand went Lichtenberger’s way, and the flush he made sealed a signature victory seemingly years in the making. That wraps things up from the Bellagio, but there’s another Alpha8 event coming in the near future; the next stop takes the tour down to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino down in Hollywood, Florida starting January 17.
WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas – Final Table Payouts
- Andrew Lichtenberger – $2,104,245
- Tom Marchese – $1,240,965
- Brian Rast – $755,370
- Noah Schwartz – $539,550
- Jason Les – $431,640
- Bryn Kenney – $323,730
- Brandon Steven – $0
- Phil Laak – $0
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