Phil Laak grabbed all the attention during the preliminary rounds of the Party Poker Premier League IV by winning three of his four heats, but it was David Benyamine who grabbed the $400,000 first prize Thursday night, beating Laak and four other competitors.
Before the six-handed final table could commence, though, the fifth and sixth players had to be determined.  Laak, Benyamine, PartyPoker.com online qualifier Giovanni Safina, and online poker bad boy Luke “FullFlush” Schwartz were the top four points earners in the preliminary heats, so they automatically qualified for the final table.  The next four points earners – Daniel Negreanu, Team Party pro Ian Frazer, Roland De Wolfe, and defending champ JC Tran – had to battle it out in heads-up contests to see who would get the final two spots.  In the first match, Negreanu lost his first game to Tran, but came back to win the next two and claim his seat at the final table.  The second match also went the full three games, with De Wolfe winning the first, Frazer knotting it up at one a piece, and then De Wolfe taking the third and deciding game to advance.
With the final table set, the chip stacks could be distributed.  One unique feature of the Party Poker Premier League is that the final table starting chip counts are based on the points earned in the preliminary heats, 10,000 chips for every point.  Therefore, Laak’s impressive performance gave him a significant edge to begin final table play.  Here were the starting stacks:
1. Phil Laak – 480,000
2. David Benyamine — 380,000
3. Giovanni Safina — 290,000
4. Luke Schwartz – 290,000
5. Daniel Negreanu – 260,000
6. Roland De Wolfe – 220,000
While $600,000 was doled out during the preliminary heats, there was still $900,000 left to be awarded at the final table.  All six competitors were guaranteed prize money, broken down as follows:
1st place — $400,000
2nd place — $200,000
3rd place — $100,000
4th place — $80,000
5th place — $70,000
6th place — $50,000
It took more than three hours to see the first player eliminated, and surprisingly, it was Phil Laak, who had been so dominant in the preliminary heats and started with a 100,000 chip head start at the final table.  One wonders whether things would have been different had he played more carefully in his final heat, when he already had a final table seat sewn up.  He placed eighth in that heat, earning zero points and therefore no extra starting chips.  At the final table, it looked like he just couldn’t get any traction, bleeding chips and eventually losing an all-in race (10-10 versus A-K) to Benyamine when an Ace hit on the turn.
Just a few minutes later, De Wolfe bowed out, shoving pre-flop with A-J, only to see the lone caller, Negreanu, flop a set of nines.
Negreanu had the chip lead at that point, but it didn’t last long, as he made a bad read on Schwartz.  Schwartz raised pre-flop with pocket Kings and Negreanu pushed with pocket sevens, probably believing it was going to be a tough decision for Schwartz to call.  Of course, it wasn’t, the Kings held up, and Negreanu was in trouble.  It wasn’t much longer until Negreanu was eliminated in fourth place.
The dream run came to an end for Safina next, as Schwartz knocked him out in third place.  Safina had to be thrilled, though, as he went from online qualifier to six-figure dollar winner, beating some of the best pros in the world in the process.
Going into heads-up play, Schwartz had more than double Benyamine’s chip stack, 1,320,000 to 580,000.  Benyamine hit two big hands to take control, though.  First, he called Schwartz’s K-7 all-in with a dominating K-10 hand, which held up.  Then he held 8-9 on a board of 6-10-5-7-3 while Schwartz had 10-4, giving Benyamine the higher straight and tough beat for his brash, young opponent.
On the final hand, Benyamine had Q-8 and Schwartz had Q-2.  The flop was fantastic for Benyamine: 5-3-Q.  Benyamine check-raised Schwartz, who in turn moved all-in.  Benyamine actually thought for a bit before calling, likely wondering if he might be outkicked.  But call he did, a decision that won him the hand and the Party Poker Premier League.

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