Los Angeles continued to prove it is a haven for poker players even in tough economic times with 696 players turning out for Commerce Casino’s Los Angeles Poker Classic. The largest event of the season thus far saw attendance up 5% over last year’s 665-person field. The event ended in a tough final table that lasted over 300 hands before Romanian Cornel Andrew Cimpan emerged as the champion, a title that earned him $1,686,760.
Less than 1% of this year’s field outlasted the opposition to make it to the final table and the six survivors were evenly split between familiar faces and relative unknowns. Headlining the final table was Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, making his WPT final table debut. Some might recall that Ferguson was one of a group of players who boycotted WPT events for nearly two years in protest of the tour’s media release for players. The law suit players filed against the WPT was settled last year and, after playing only a few tournaments, Ferguson found himself at a final table.
Joining him at were two other notable players: Chris Karagulleyan and Mike “SowersUNCC” Sowers. Karagulleyan is best known for winning the 2002 Legends of Poker WPT event in Season One, a victory that earned him $258,000. Online pro Mike Sowers made his televised table debut during the 2008 WSOP coverage when he finished 8th at the star-studded final table of the $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event for $99,264. The other three players at the final table were all making their televised poker debuts. Cimpan, Pat Walsh and Binh Nguyen lacked the fame and notoriety of the other players at the table, but all three have cashed in smaller buy-in preliminary events and their play over the course of the event showed that they could keep up with some of the biggest names in the game.
Karagulleyan came into the final day of play with just over 4 million chips, over 1.5 million more than his next closest competitor, Sowers, who sat with 2.4 million. Ferguson and Cimpan started out as the short stacks and after a valiant effort by Ferguson, he was knocked out by Cimpan in 6th for $240,538. Walsh was eliminated in 5th place shortly thereafter. Karagulleyan had trouble getting anything going at the final table and went from chip leader to short stack to out in 4th place over the course of the first hundred hands.
Sowers and Nguyen battled back and forth for the chip lead before Sowers found himself on the wrong end of a race situation against Cimpan shortly after Karagulleyan’s elimination. Two hands later he found himself all-in with pocket fours against Cimpan’s pocket queens and Sowers was out in 3rd place.
The heads-up battle between Nguyen and Cimpan lasted for nearly five hours. Nguyen, a cash game regular at the Bellagio, found himself all-in with the best of it on several occasions only to have Cimpan draw out to win the pot. Cimpan was not the only one to get lucky though. Late in play Nguyen caught a three-outer on the river to avoid elimination and double up. As play wound down, Cimpan began to pull away from Nguyen in the chip counts and Nguyen needed to double up more than once to stay in contention for the title. Nguyen found himself all-in with A-9 against Cimpan’s K-5, but after Cimpan spiked a five on the flop, Nguyen failed to improve and he had to settle for second place.
In his post-victory interviews Cimpan seemed more exhausted than excited about his victory, which is understandable considering he had to survive 10 and a half hours of play today before emerging as the winner and $1.7 million dollars richer.
Here are the complete results from the final table:
1st – Cornel Andrew Cimpan – $1,686,760
2nd – Binh Nguyen – $935,424
3rd – Mike “SowersUNCC” Sowers – $654,797
4th – Chris Karagulleyan – $430,963
5th – Pat Walsh – $310,694
6th – Chris “Jesus” Ferguson – $240,538

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