As the TV table of the 2009 Legends of Poker Main Event began last night, all eyes were on November Niner Kevin Schaffel. Still on hiatus from the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event, the semi-retired Floridian entered the night with the chip lead and a chance to add a WPT title to his resume before making a run at the biggest tournament title in poker.
Despite having the biggest chip stack, Schaffel’s path was certain from the beginning to be a difficult one. Standing between him and the title were five professional players with combined live tournament earnings of $5.89 million, including two WSOP bracelets from the days before they showed hole cards on television. With such a skilled lineup at the final table, a win would be as much about good timing as poker chops.
The TV table began with a bang when Sam “KingKobeMVP” Stein, the youngest player at the table at 21, doubled through veteran pro Mike Krescanko. Stein moved all-in holding A K for ace-high on a Q 8 5 flop, and Krescanko snap-called with Q T for top pair. The kid caught a break when the turn and river came diamonds to give him a flush and the 1.51-million-chip pot, while Krescanko dropped to last position with 466,000. A few hands later Krescanko’s A Q would fall to Prahlad Friedman‘s K K, sending him home in sixth place ($89,220).
After the quick start, things would slow down for another 57 hands as Schaffel and Friedman slowly chipped away at their opponents. Stein was unable to get anything going despite chipping up so early, though, and he would find himself in a coin flip for his tournament life once the blinds reached 30K-60K. After an opening raise to 150K by Schaffel, Stein shipped his stack holding K Q; Schaffel considered and finally called holding 7 7. The 8 7 3 flop left Stein drawing dead, and he finished in fifth place ($116,225).
Four-handed play would last for another 30 hands or so, with Schaffel and Friedman again dominating the proceedings. Toto Leonidas would eventually bow out in fourth place ($144,600), missing the nut flush draw against Friedman’s top pair and giving Friedman the chip lead for the first time. Friedman then extended his advantage 11 hands later by taking out Todd Terry in third place ($231,300) with A Q to Terry’s 4 4.
Friedman began the heads-up match with a chip lead of better than 3-to-1 and all the momentum, but Schaffel brought things back very close to even just five hands in. He shoved on a A Q 3 flop holding Q 3 for two pair, and Friedman called with J 4; with no flush card on the turn or river, Friedman was suddenly ahead by less than seven big blinds. But the veteran held his composure. After pulling a little further ahead, Friedman played back-and-forth with Schaffel before getting the opportunity he’d been waiting for.
With the big blind at 120K, Schaffel opened on the button for 300K and Friedman reraised to 800K. Schaffel then moved all-in for about 3.5 million total and put Friedman to a decision. He eventually found a call with AQ and was ahead of Schaffel’s K J. The board ran out T 3 2 4 9 to crown Friedman the champion after 127 hands.
The win, Friedman’s first on the WPT, was worth $1,009,000. Meanwhile Schaffel adds $471,670 to his retirement fund, enough to keep him busy playing major tournaments until his shot at the WSOP Main Event title rolls around in November.
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