Breaking Down the Action:
  • A Chance to Make History Beckons
  • Liu Topples McKeehen Heads-Up to Become Champion
  • Qing Liu Proved Right Immediately
  • Kornuth Busts, Gonsalves Wins Epic Heads-Up

Trying to win a World Poker Tour final table is no mean feat under any circumstances, but a year after reaching it? That was the mid-pandemic challenge facing Qing Liu and five others as the WPT Garden final table took place last night in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If there was one player who hoped to make an impression, it was Qing Liu, who just the day before had won the WPT Venetian tournament for a massive $752,880. Could he go back-to-back? Read on and you’ll find out.

A Chance to Make History Beckons

No-one has ever won back-to-back WPT Main Events in consecutive days before and with the world looking like it might soon return to pre-pandemic levels of organization, it might be argued that this was a unique chance for Qing Liu to create poker history.

That Liu came so close to doing so is to his unending credit. The popular poker pro took down the WPT Venetian final table in Las Vegas on Tuesday night after the tournament itself ran from 5th – 9th March . Liu got no rest, because on the 10th, he would be at the WPT Gardens Poker Championship final table in an attempt to win two Main Events in a little over 24 hours.

Liu Topples McKeehen Heads-Up to Become Champion

Making the final table at the Venetian event was a truly impressive achievement in itself. With a $5,000 buy-in and 937 runners, Liu was in very familiar surroundings as The American won a 1,187-entry event at the Venetian just a fortnight earlier. That cost just $600 to play and earned Liu a $110,890 victory, but this time around, he had a huge opponent to beat heads-up int the shape of a former WSOP Main Event Champion.

Every World Poker Tour final table plays out with just six players and it was Trace Henderson who would bust first in sixth place after Liu’s queen-ten outran pocket nines for a score of $155,865.

With Kou Vang busting in fifth place for $204,430, next to go was Jack Hardcastle for $271,050. A friend of Irish Unibet Pro Dara O’Kearney, ‘Doke’ celebrated Hardcastle’s result in his own inimitable fashion on Twitter:

“Tomorrow I won’t be so lucky.”

Once Roland Rokita was busted in third place for $363,235, McKeehen went into the heads-up with a 2:1 chip lead, but Liu got off to a flying start and turned that advantage round inside five hands. The entire heads-up clash lasted just 23 hands and Liu won all but five of them. Eventually, he took it down when his king-four outdrew McKeehen’s king-seven on the flop. While McKeehen had to be satisfied with a $491,960 payday for finishing as runner-up, it was Liu who took home the mammoth top prize.

“I waited a year, so I just moved here to play a lot more,” Liu told WPT after the event.  officials. “I’ve been coming here to Venetian every day.”

Liu was asked whether he could follow up his win by winning the next day’s WPT Gardens Poker Championship.

“I used up all my luck today,” he said. “Tomorrow I won’t be so lucky.”

WPT Venetian Final Table Results:

Place Player

Prize

1st Qing Liu $752,880
2nd Joe McKeehen $491,960
3rd Roland Rokita $363,235
4th Jack Hardcastle $271,050
5th Kou Vang $204,430
6th Trace Henderson $155,865

Qing Liu Proved Right Immediately

If Liu was trying to reverse any kind of prophecy, he clearly has no line to the Poker Gods. The WPT Venetian event may have moved swiftly from Day 1 to Liu being crowned champion just three days later, but the same could not be said for the WPT Gardens Poker Championship. A full year had passed between the scheduled date for the final and the eventual playout, with all six finalists finally able to attend the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas. The venue had been a replacement to the previously hyped HyperX Esports Arena.

The $10,000-entry Main Event saw Markus Gonsalves the winner as the favourite, Chance Kornuth, crashed out early on the day. Not as early as Liu, however, who must surely go down in history as the only player to win a tournament with one hand of poker and the very next time he sat down to play, busted first at the final table.

Defending his big blind with five-three, the Q-5-3 flop saw all the chips go into the middle and Liu’s bottom two pair was leading against American Tuan Phan’s pocket kings. The turn passed without impact, but a queen on the river counterfeited Liu’s hand and gave Phan the winning two pair.

Kornuth Busts, Gonsalves Wins Epic Heads-Up

After Straton Wilhelm departed in the next hand, Chance Kornuth lost a succession of hands to push his final 20 big blinds into the middle with pocket sixes to call Markus Gonsalves’ shove with ace-five. An ace on the flop sent Kornuth crashing out instead of doubling back into contention and Gonsalves had an advantage he would never sacrifice.

“Maybe I’ll start playing a little more. It feels good to win.”

After Jonathan Cohen busted in third place with nines against Gonsalves’ pocket tens, Gonsalves got the better of Phan in the heads-up clash after an epic three-hour grind that had his friend Phil Hellmuth celebrating on the rail ahead of his mouthwatering heads-up clash with Daniel Negreanu, which we spoke to The Poker Brat about exclusively right here.

Gonsalves himself was delighted to win the $554,495 top prize and get his name on the WPT Mike Sexton Champions Cup.

“I’ve come close once or twice before, so it feels nice to finally win one,” he said. “I honestly don’t play that many tournaments compared to these other guys, I play mostly cash games. But I’ll come out for the bigger ones. Maybe I’ll start playing a little more. It feels good to win.”

There are many great heads-up duels happening right now in poker, with Fedor Holz drawing first blood against Wiktor Malinowski for one. With Pascal Lefrancois winning the MILLIONS Super High Roller and Ludovic Geilich doing likewise as he described to us exclusively this week on Gamble Online, the most crucial stage of tournament poker is under the microscope.

As World Poker Tour announced their latest winner, Gonsalves could celebrate long into the night with Phil Hellmuth and others as he won the WPT Gardens Poker Championship one year on from reaching its final table.

WPT Gardens Poker Championship Final Table Results:

Place Player

Prize

1 Markus Gonsalves $554,495
2 Tuan Phan $359,650
3 Jonathan Cohen $263,090
4 Chance Kornuth $195,085
5 Straton Wilhelm $146,655
6 Qing Liu $111,795

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Paul Seaton

Paul Seaton has written about poker for many years, travelling the world to report live from such poker events as the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour. As well as reporting live from the felt, Paul was Editor of BLUFF Europe magazine and has written for major poker brands including PokerStars, 888poker and partypoker where he was Head of Media. Paul has interviewed many of the world’s greatest poker players, such as Sam Trickett, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Bryn Kenney, the current all-time money list leader.

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