There are a few things we can always expect from the L.A. Poker Classic. The Matt Savage-run tournament series is one of the longest operations during the year (Jan. 15-Feb. 28) and typically offers a testing ground for unique events that pave the way for other innovations on the tournament scene each year.
The 2013 edition featured 68 events, including an Open Face Chinese poker tournament; a 30-second shot clock tournament; the "Escalator" (blind levels start at five minutes long, and increase by five minutes each level); the "Eternment" (two-hour levels); and an "All-in or Fold" event.
You can also always expect a stronger-than-standard WPT main event, and bolstered by a ton of satellites, the $10,000 LAPC finale attracted a strong field of 517 entrants.
It was a final table that told the true story of poker with familiar faces looking for stardom and others who were simply trying to emerge onto the public's radar. There was EPT champ Toby Lewis, freshly signed to Team Ivey and owner of millions on the live and online felt. There was Paul Volpe, the former No. 1 online poker player in the world who nearly became the 2012 WSOP main event champion; Jesse Yaginuma, owner of two Borgata titles and 13 WSOP cashes; and Danny Fuhs, who was making his third cash at the LAPC in five years. On the other side of the coin was David Fong, a cash game pro playing in his first World Poker Tour event, and five-year poker veteran Paul Klann, who had a previous top cash of $16,498.
According to the World Poker Tour, Volpe began the final table, and heads-up play, with the chip lead, but it was Klann who added his name to the Champions Club and earned the $1 million top prize with a memorable victory.
Fuhs jumped out to a quick start, halting Lewis' quest for a second leg of poker's triple crown by eliminating him in sixth (A-9>A-10). A few orbits later, Fuhs moved into first by flopping a set and turning a full house against Volpe's two pair. Fuhs extended his lead and eliminated Fong in fifth (A-K>Q-Q) to own nearly half the chips in play. It seemed everything was falling into place and a seven-figure win was in sight for the pro whose previous best WPT finish was a 15th-place finish at the Bellagio during Season VIII ... then the cards turned cold.
For the second time in five hands, Fuhs held A-K and called the all-in of his opponent who held Q-Q. This time, Yaginuma's pair was enough and with the double, moved Klann to the top of the chip counts. For nearly the next 70 hands, the four players simply traded smaller pots until a unexpected blind-versus-blind confrontation left Fuhs essentially felted. Fuhs moved all-in from the small blind with As-7s for 3.7 million in chips (25 big blinds) and Volpe, with a 23-big-blind stack, called for his tournament life holding Ac-Qc. The flop came 10h-9d-7c, giving Fuhs the lead, but Volpe caught runner-runner clubs to win the pot. Fuhs was eliminated by Volpe four hands later.
Volpe eliminated Yaginuma and began heads-up play with nearly a 2:1 edge. Klann was clearly the underdog, already in the hole against someone who had been in this situation plenty of times before online ... then he played the match of his life. After some back-and-forth that left Klann slightly ahead, Volpe doubled up by moving all-in after turning trips with 3-2 against Klann's A-Q on an A-7-2-2 board. Klann doubled back on the next hand (A-J > 10-9), but was still down 2:1 and went back to work. His aggression in small pots was successful and he managed to trail by only two big blinds before doubling up again (K-10 > J-9) and finally eliminating Volpe with Q-5 over 10-9.
"It's amazing. It feels great. It's surreal," Klann said to the WPT after his victory. "My game plan was to be a lot more aggressive heads-up, so that worked out and that's exactly what I did."
Here are the results of the final table:
1. Paul Klann ($1,004,090)
2. Paul Volpe ($651,170)
3. Jesse Yaginuma ($429,810)
4. Daniel Fuhs ($316,650)
5. David Fong ($236,250)
6. Toby Lewis ($193,560 )
The next stop on the World Poker Tour is the Bay 101 Shooting Star, which begins March 4.
Small blinds: With Gov. Chris Christie's signing on Tuesday, New Jersey has officially legalized online gambling. A firm timetable of when games will be available has not yet been released. ... On a similar note, last week Gov. Brian Sandoval in Nevada signed a bill authorizing online poker in the state with the ability to sign compacts with other states to share player pools. I expect the first online sites will be up by this summer in the state. If the sites are smart, they'll try to capitalize on the influx of players during the WSOP. ... It's Team PokerStars versus FTP's Professionals as Daniel Negreanu, Isaac Haxton and Betrand Grospellier will take on Gus Hansen, Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom in a series of heads-up matches for $300,000. ... The Chicago Poker Classic has been attracting some huge fields including a 5,165-entrant $350 buy-in opening event, won by Craig Casino for $169,304. Aaron Massey won the $5,000 heads-up event. ... Congrats to Jonathan Tamayo, who won the latest WSOP Circuit title. You can watch a replay of his victory here. ... A judge in Virginia decided not to rule if poker is skill or luck. ... Chris Moneymaker can still draw a crowd. ... The WPT paid tribute to the late Jerry Buss.