Coming from the second lowest stack to start the final table, Guo Liang Chen battled through a difficult final table to capture his largest tournament score of his career, the championship of the 2017 World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open.
Chen had his work cut out for him from the start of action on Friday afternoon. The only player who had fewer chips than he did was arguably the most accomplished player left, 2016 “November Niner” Cliff Josephy, and the players ahead of Chen were no slouches either. Leading the way was Matt Parry, sitting on 9.11 million in chips, while Gregory Weber (6.99 million), Thomas Paul (6.1 million) and Jia Liu (4.81 million) rounded out the final table.
It would take some time for the players to find their footing as they played through the first 49 hands with little fanfare. That changed with the departure of the first player, however. After giving up a sizeable stack of his chips in doubling up Chen, Paul was the new short stack. On Hand 50, he and Chen would clash again on a 7-4-2 flop, with Paul check-calling an all-in from Chen. Paul had caught with his Q-7 for top pair, but Chen had a wealth of outs with his Big Slick. Although the paint on the turn was a Jack, the river paint came through for Chen with the King. With that river card, Chen was able to knock out Paul in sixth place and take over the chip lead.
That lead would be short lived. Weber was active on the final table and, only six hands after Paul was eliminated, Weber would add to the rail. In a ‘blind versus blind’ battle, Weber moved all in and Josephy made his final stand. His A-3 was in the lead pre-flop against Weber’s O-J off suit, but a Jack on the flop changed the situation. Another Jack on the turn left Josephy drawing dead and, after the formality of the river was dealt, Josephy was on the rail in fifth place.
Down to four players, Weber and Chen were at the top but Parry wasn’t ready to relinquish his claim to the title just yet. He doubled through Chen to get back into the mix, but it wasn’t enough to get him any further on the leaderboard. On his final hand, Parry popped up the betting to 450K off the button and Weber three-bet the action to 1.2 million. Parry moved all in and Weber immediately made the call, showing an A-K to dominate Parry’s A-Q. A King in the window all but sealed the hand and, after no Queen came on the turn, Parry was drawing dead and out of the tournament in fourth place.
Now holding almost half of the chips in play, it looked as though it was Weber’s tournament to win. But both Chen and Liu still had their hopes for winning the title. The trio would battle it out for more than 50 hands until Liu and Chen clashed. After Liu moved all in off the button, Chen got a count of his stack and made the call. It turned out to be the right decision as Chen’s K-Q had Liu’s Q-J dominated. After the nine-high board ran out, Chen’s cards reigned supreme as Liu headed to the cage in third place.
Chen had fought through everyone at the final table save Weber, which would prove to be his greatest challenge. Weber’s 21.425 million stack was in the lead at the start of heads up against Chen’s 12.45 million and he even held the edge with the “time chips” (the 30-second chips that gave the players another bit of time beyond the 30 seconds to make a decision), one to zero. With the deck stacked against him, Chen’s chances were slim and none and slim was looking for the door. Chen refused to give up, however, as the battle raged into the Jersey night.
Over the span of 20 hands, Chen gradually worked the chip stacks closer and, on Hand 170, he doubled up through Weber to take over the lead. Chen kept the pressure on and would never let Weber back into the match. On Hand 182, Weber would move all in and, after a brief pause (the only one he had with a 30 second clock), Chen went with a call. The pause was curious as Chen’s Big Slick was dominating the K-9 of Weber and was still in that position after the board ran out 7-5-4-3-Q to give him the title.
1. Guo Liang Chen, $789,058
2. Gregory Weber, $471,059
3. Jia Liu, $288,071
4. Matt Parry, $240,965
5. Cliff Josephy, $199,294
6. Thomas Paul, $161,247
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