Editor's note: A replay of this final table can be found on demand at ESPN3.com.
In 2009, Steve Sung outlasted the 6,012-player field in the $1,000 buy-in Stimulus Special event to win his first bracelet and $771,338. His victory was heralded, as one of the game's top pros navigated through the amateur-laden field to earn one of the biggest WSOP cashes to date. On Monday, Sung found gold again, but instead of beating the masses, Sung's victory in the $25,000 six-handed no-limit hold 'em came against 175 of the game's elite. After a lengthy third day of play, Sung defeated Phil Galfond heads-up for the title and $1.2 million. He now has $2.6 million in lifetime WSOP earnings.
"I just feel a lot of gratitude," said Sung after the win. "I went through a lot in the past four of five years, so this is like a dream come true. It's amazing."
That "a lot" he mentions includes losing and a downward spiral that ultimately forced him to turn to a backer. Interestingly enough, Sung's backer was playing on the One Drop High Roller and Sung needed him to bust out in the money in order for him to get the buy-in for this event. The waiting paid off and it turned out to be quite the investment.
"If I go into what I have been through, it would be a crazy blockbuster movie," he said. "Before that all happened, I believed I was the best poker player in the world. I played the biggest limits and was killing it. Then, I lost a lot of money playing blackjack. I still felt poker-wise I didn't get a chance to show what I had [back then]. Mixing with drugs and all, that really messed me up. But now that I'm back, that's all that matters."
After a lengthy final table bubble that concluded with Shannon Shorr's elimination in seventh, Galfond had a substantial chip lead and was in good shape to earn his second bracelet. From the very start of six-handed action, aggressive play dictated the pace and one ill-timed bet by Galfond provided a small opening for Stephen Chidwick, who moved into second with a double-up holding K-K to Galfond's 8-9. Sung essentially caught up to Galfond by knocking out Richard Lyndaker (A-Q over A-8) and took the lead with a big pot against Dani Stern, but Galfond eliminated Max Lehmanski in fifth and was in the top spot again by the time Stern knocked out Chidwick in fourth (6-6 over 5-5).
Three-handed play seemed to be all Sung, and he entered heads-up with the lead after Galfond ended Stern's night (Q-Q over A-5). While the result was undesirable for Stern, he added to an impressive resume that includes seven career WSOP cashes, three of which have been worth at least six figures. This was his third cash of the 2013 Series.
Galfond and Sung traded pots and the chip lead during early heads-up action. After a nearly-flawless effort by Galfond to that point, Sung found his opening. After the turn of a Q-10-9-8 board, Sung picked off Galfond's bluff holding K-10 and earned the lead for good. As seen on the ESPN3 stream, Galfond held only 4-3, and that move would ultimately result in his downfall. Four hands later, Sung extended his lead to 5:1, and four hands after that, Galfond's rail left in disappointment as his K-Q couldn't hold against Sung's J-10 all-in preflop.
Sung, 28, has two bracelets, 23 WSOP cashes and nine final table appearances. He also has made three televised WPT final tables.
Other notable finishers include Todd Terry (10th), Jeff Gross (12th) and Marvin Rettenmaier (16th). David Baker,15th, is currently second in the 2013 WSOP Player of the Year race with eight cashes and four final tables.
Below are the complete results of Event 52 at the 2013 World Series of Poker:
Event 52: Six-handed no-limit hold 'em
Prize pool: $4,156,250
Players in the money: 18
1. Steve Sung ($1,205,324)
2. Phil Galfond ($744,841)
3. Dani Stern ($509,473)
4. Stephen Chidwick ($353,780)
5. Max Lehmanski ($249,291)
6. Richard Lyndaker ($178,261)
7. Shannon Shorr ($129,342)
8. Keith Lehr ($129,342)
9. Kevin Eyster ($95,884)
10. Todd Terry ($95,884)
11. Igor Kurganov ($71,071)
12. Jeff Gross ($71,071)
13. Ognjen Sekularac ($53,781)
14. David Benyamine ($53,781)
15. David Baker ($53,781)
16. Marvin Rettenmaier ($53,781)
17. Fabian Quoss ($53,781)
18. Christian Harder ($53,781)