It’s a tale of two Lebrons: one super famous, one not so much. But both are winners this week.
Last Sunday, NBA superstar LeBron James captured his third world championship. And on Friday, lesser-known poker player Rafael Lebron captured his first.
Poker’s Lebron, of Puyallup, Washington, overcame a short-handed final table at Event # 38, the $3000 Six-Handed Limit Hold’em. That table full of talent included 2015 Main Event champion Joe McKeehen, and top pro Matt Matros. Lebron won $169,337 for just his third cash ever at a major live event, as he beat out Greece’s Georgios Zisimopoulos, who earned $104,646. It was Zisimopoulos third cash of this year’s series.
Ironically, though, the payday for Lebron wasn’t even his biggest. That happened six days earlier in Event # 30, the $3000 Pot-Limit Ohama Six-Handed, when he just missed the coveted gold bracelet and had to settle for second place.
A $212,779 cash that day helped ease the pain, however, and set the stage for a grand moment of redemption less than a week later.
Besides the bling and the money, Lebron will always be able to say he knocked out last year’s Main Event champ to boot. His pre-flop ladies bested McKeehen’s K8 offsuit, and held up right to the river to send Joe to the rails.
In all, 245 players made up the field and the final table rounded out like this:
3rd Brad Lisbon/Maryland $68,896
4th Joe McKeehen/Pennsylvania $46,489
5th Matt Matros/Brooklyn, NY $32,172
6th Alex Queen of Pennsylvania $22,848
Koray Aldemir, with five cashes to his name at this year’s WSOP, is having a pretty darn good series. But alas, he’s going to have to wait for his first bracelet.
Aldemir, of Austria, lost his 2-to-1 chip lead late in the head’s-up battle with Spain’s Adrian Mateos on Day Five on Friday of Event #33, the $1500 Summer Solstice NL Hold’em, and he never recovered.
Mateos went on to win his second career bracelet, the first coming in 2013 in the WSOPE Main Event in Paris.
The victory, however, did more than just line Mateos’ pocket with $409,171 and bring his career earnings to just over $1.8 million at the tender age of 22. It also made him one of only three players from Spain to ever win WSOP titles.
One of those was Carlos Mortensen, for whom it’s now been 15 years since his Main Event takedown in 2001. Believe it or not, the field was only 613 players back then, and his first-place cash was just $1.5 million, which would hardly be considered impressive now for the same event.
The other is Cesar Garcia, who earlier in the summer took first for $447,739 in Event #23, the #2K No Limit Hold’em.
“Carlos and Cesar: they are such great players,” Mateos told WSOP.com. “I had Cesar here with me and I know he was cheering for me also. So, to have them and be part of them for Spain is very thrilling for me.”
Second-place Aldemir pocketed $252,805 for his efforts, bringing his total earnings to almost $300,000 for the series. He also just missed out on another final table in Event 17, the $1000 NL Hold’em, finishing 12th.
It’s going to be hard to call Maryland’s Jiaqi Xu an “amateur” anymore after Friday’s performance.
Xu, who’s been playing live events (including cashing in seven WSOP tournaments) since 2009, finally broke through for a career-defining victory in Event #37, the $1500 Pot Limit Omaha. To do so, he had to overcome a moderate final table chip stack to pocket $212,128 and a first-ever WSOP bracelet.
Xu’s previous biggest career cash was $15,664 in the $1,500 PLO Hi-Lo WSOP event in 2009.
England’s James Duvall brought $1.3 in career earnings and three WSOP final tables into head’s up play. But Duvall ($131,073) was no match for Xu, who said he felt he would be “champion” by the end of the day. Maybe the Brit was too distracted by all the Brexit hysteria, who knows.
“I listened to [“We Are The Champions” by Queen] on the way to the final day when I was driving in,” Xu told WSOP.com. “I was pumped up and determined to win.”
If that’s all it takes, we’re getting our headsets on now.
Tommy Le, the big chip lead when it got down to two tables, finished in fifth place for $46,452, while Pallas Aidinian ($91,369) was third and Joshua Pham ($64,654) was fourth.
Rounding out the final table was Richard Austin (6th/$33,895), Jon Ho Christensen (7th/$25,123), Thibaut Klinghammer (8th/$18,922), and Bryce Eckhart (9th/14,484).
Day Two of Event # 39, the $10,000 Six-Handed No Limit Hold ’em, saw the field trimmed from 123 players down to just 21 as former bracelet winners Nick Petrangelo (1,946,000) and Vanessa Selbst (1,942,000) sat more than 700,000 ahead of third place.
But hot on the leaders’ heels are two more bracelet winners in Justin Bonomo (3rd/1,278,000) and Jonathan Little (4th/963,000). Don’t try this at home, kids, these are professionals.
Other notables left in the field when play resumes on Saturday will be Scott Seiver (860,000), Paul Volpe (371,000), Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (283,000), and Daniel Strelitz (113,000). If Ferguson takes this one down, the riot police may need to be on standby. It’s his first year back at the Series since the debacle of 2011 and Black Friday.
Play will resume at noon toda and play down to a winner.
Day Two of Event #40, the$2500 Mixed Triple Draw, played down to seven players Friday night, as David Gee paced the field that started with 236 players.
With 13 career WSOP cashes, Gee hasn’t made the money at a series event since 2014. He’ll kick off play with a sizeable chip lead (803,000), compared to that of second place Damjan Radanov, who bagged up 514,000 last night.
Play resumes at 2 pm Pacific today.
Day 1 of the five-day Event #41, the $1500 Monster Stack No Limit Hold’em, saw Greg Alexander race out to a lead in Flight A with 253,300 in chips. Poker legends T.J. Cloutier (4th/180,800) and Erik Seidel (16th/140,700) were two notables up on the leaderboard after the opening flight.
Day 1B begins today, and then all the remaining players will be combined Sunday for the remaining three days.
The opening day of Event #42, the $3K Shootout No Limit Hold’em, saw loads of big names move up.
After the field topped out at 400 entrants, just 40 players advanced after conquering their tables. Some of the stars included Antonio Esfandiari, who beat 2009 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Cada heads up, as well as the likes of Tom Marchese, Maria Ho, Michael Mizrachi, Andrew Lichtenberger, Faraz Jaka, and Andy Frankenberger.
Play picks back up at 2 pm today at the Rio in Las Vegas.