Season XII of the World Poker Tour kicked off at the Bicycle Casino in California this week for the prestigious Legends of Poker. A total of 593 entries created a prize pool of $2,172,999 with $576,369 going to the eventual winner. After five days of play that honor went to Harry Arutyunyan, who bested hometown favorite Mike Eskandari in a back-and-forth heads-up match to claim his first WPT title.
The day began with Eskandari holding a sizable chip advantage — nearly double the amount of his closest competitor — and his lead increased when he busted Jeremy Kottler in sixth place. According to the WPT Live Updates, Kottler min-raised to 160,000 from the cutoff and Eskandari (small blind) and Tyler Cornell (big blind) called. The three players took a flop of and Eskandari led out for 225,000. Cornell folded, but Kottler responded with a raise to 460,000. Eskandari called.
The turn was the and Eskandari moved all in. Kottler called and tabled the for a pair of kings and the nut flush draw, but he still needed to come from behind against his opponent's . The pair the board on the river and Kottler's run ended in sixth place.
That hand took place on Hand #43 of the final table, and 23 hands later a massive three-way all in resulted in a double knockout. Cornell moved all in for 1,000,000, Arutyunyan called from the button and Taylor McFarland moved all in over the top for 1,310,000. Arutyunyan quickly called.
McFarland found himself in a good spot to triple up, but it wasn't meant to be as the board gave Arutyunyan a winning pair of aces to send the other two players to the rail.
Eskandari still had a big lead at that point and he continued to chip up at the hands of Tyler Kenney on Hand #104. Kenney min-raised to 240,000 from the button and Eskandari three-bet to 760,000 from the small blind. Kenney paused for about a minute before moving all in, and the chip leader snap-called.
Kenney needed to improve to stay alive, but he whiffed on the board to exit in third place for $213,600.
Eskandari held more than a four-to-one chip lead when heads-up play began, but Arutyunyan grinded his way back over the course of a 90-hand match. He doubled up on the fourth hand of the duel with a king-high flush against Eskandari's wheel to cut the lead to 11.9 million to 7 million, and then on Hand #132 he doubled again to take a huge lead.
With the blinds at 100,000/200,000/25,000, Eskandari raised to 475,000 and Arutyunyan called to see a flop. Arutyunyan bet 525,000, Eskandari quickly min-raised to 1,100,000, and Arutyunyan re-raised to 3,100,000. Eskandari asked for a count on his opponent's remaining stack (it was about 3,400,000 more) before moving all in. Arutyunyan called.
Arutyunyan was in front with his two pair, and the turn and river secured his double to 14 million in chips, while Eskandari dipped to just under 5 million.
The match was far from over, though. A short while later Eskandari doubled back to take a slight lead, and then the two traded the chip lead numerous times before Arutyunyan finally closed it out on Hand #194 of the final table.
Arutyunyan raised to 1,200,000 and Eskandari moved all in for 7,850,000. Arutyunyan called and was in dominating position.
Eskandari still had high hopes of a chop even if he didn't connect with his seven, but the river kept Arutyunyan's eight kicker in front to give him the title and the $576,369 in prize money. Eskandari pocketed more than $330,000 for his efforts.
The World Poker Tour hits the road again next month for the partypoker WPT Merit Classic North Cyprus, and the PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be there for bring you up-to-the-minute coverage beginning on Sept. 5. We'll see you then!
*Data courtesy of the WPT