A Literal Chicken Wing and a Prayer: Frank Stepuchin Wins WPT Gardens Poker Championship for $548,825
On Tuesday, the World Poker Tour Gardens Poker Championship final table played at the HyperX Esports Arena inside the Luxor in Las Vegas. It was the second of three WPT final tables over three days to play to a winner.
A day prior, 59-year-old Frank “The Tank” Stepuchin called his shot with PokerNews.
“I’m not boasting; I’m just being positive, I’m going to win,” he said. “Win or lose, it’s gonna be fun.”
With a chicken wing on a fork in hand – he literally held a fork with a “lucky” chicken wing on the end for most of the final table while throwing back Coors Lights – Stepuchin navigated a stacked final table to etch his name on the WPT Champions Cup and claim a $548,825 first-place prize. He was also awarded a Hublot Big Bang Steel Watch and a $15,000 seat into the season-ending Baccarat Crystal WPT Tournament of Champions.
“People oftentimes think I’m a guy passed middle age who’s hammering beers, and doesn’t look like he’s ever paying attention so they assume the wrong thing,” Stepuchin told WPT officials after the win. “Two and a half years ago, I started playing bigger tournaments instead of a $125 daily at the ARIA. I’ll start out trying not to have cold beverages, but if I’m card dead, which seems to happen too often, it’s amazing that the poker gods want me to have lots of cold beverages."
Final Table Results
|1||Frank Stepuchin||United States||$548,825|
|2||Shannon Shorr||United States||$355,885|
|3||Steve Sung||South Korea||$259,880|
|4||Brent Roberts||United States||$192,465|
|5||Ray Qartomy||United States||$144,595|
Final Table Action
The $10,000 buy-in tournament began with 243 runners but played down to the final six back in January. According to live updates, Stepuchin began the final table with a more than 2:1 chip lead over his next closest competition and it took him just 72 hands to seal the deal.
The first elimination came on Hand #23 when the short-stacked Jonathan Abdellatif jammed holding Big Slick and Stepuchin, who had chips to spare, called from the big blind with eight-six. Stepuchin made a boat and Abdellatif exited in sixth place for $110,225.
On Hand #39, Ray Qartomy moved all in with pocket sevens only to run them smack dab into Stepuchin’s jacks, and 17 hands later Brent Roberts followed him out the door in fourth place after running tens into the kings of Shannon Shorr.
“I’ll admit there are players with much more knowledge and skill."
On Hand #62, Steve Sung called off with sevens after Stepuchin had raised with king-queen. The flop gave Stepuchin an open-ended straight draw and he hit it on the turn. Sung’s bustout in third place for $259,880 set up a heads-up match between Stepuchin and Shorr with the former holding a more than 5:1 chip lead.
In the final hand of the tournament, Shorr raised to 160,000 holding the and Stepuchin called with his , which brought about a flop of . Stepuchin check-called a bet of 210,000 and paired his ace on the turn. Stepuchin checked and Shorr bet 650,000.
Stepuchin responded by moving all in and Shorr called off for 2.15 million. The dealer then burned and put out the to give Stepuchin a bigger two pair and the win. Shorr had to settle for second place and $355,885 in prize money.
“You can’t learn unless you play against better players,” Stepuchin said. “I’ll admit there are players with much more knowledge and skill. I’ve read one poker book 17 years ago. I kind of just play by the seat of my pants. [Since I] started playing more substantial tournaments, I started learning because I was playing against a lot of good players and I watched what they do.”
The win marked a new career-high score for Stepuchin surpassing the $149,220 he won last year for topping a 2,070-entry field in the 2018 Larry Flynt Grand Slam of Poker Quantum #7: $375 NLH. Other highlights on his poker resumé include 12th in the 2016 World Series of Poker Event #52: $3,000 NLH for $32,320, 16th in the 2018 WPT Borgata Poker Open Championship for $29,996, and $20,000 for placing sixth in the 2016 Venetian DeepStack Extravaganza II Event #5: $600 NLH.
The next WPT final table to play out will be the Borgata Winter Poker Open at 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday. The winner of that event will take home a $728,430 first-place prize, and of course PokerNews will bring you a recap of all the action.
Images courtesy of WPT/Joe Giron/PokerPhotoArchive.