World Poker Open Main Event - Final Table
2006, Jason Kirk  

When Day Four of the World Poker Open Main Event ended, there were only six players remaining with a chance to make history. Two of the finalists already had WPT titles to heir credit - Michael Mizrachi won the LA Poker Classic during Season 3, and Gavin Smith claimed the Mirage Poker Showdown title at the start of Season 4. Two other players had never claimed a WPT title, but did have WSOP bracelets to their credit - Scotty Nguyen won the 1998 WSOP Main Event, and An Tran took down a Pot Limit Omaha tournament at the 1991 WSOP. To offset all this major event experience were two accomplished but widely unrecognized players: Raul Paez of Barcelona, Spain, and Bau Le of Atlantic City, NJ. The contrasts made for plenty of excitement and drama, keeping the audience involved throughout the duration of the final table.

The final table action kicked off with blinds at $15,000-$30,000 with a $5,000 ante. On the second flop of the day Scotty Nguyen and Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi had the first of many confrontations while both players were in the blinds. Nguyen simply called from the small blind and Mizrachi checked his option to see the flop. The flop came K-T-7 with two spades, Nguyen checked, and Mizrachi made a bet of $35,000. Nguyen called fairly quickly, and the turn card was the 4 of clubs. Nguyen checked, and Mizrachi checked behind him. The river card was the 3 of hearts, and this time when Nguyen checked Mizrachi led out for $170,000. Nguyen began thinking over the hand and said, "I can't believe I'm just going to call you, baby." He then announced a raise, prompting the floor to make a decision that his first action would be binding. Nguyen showed 4-4 for a turned set, but Mizrachi turned up 6-5 for the straight and took down the first big pot of the day.

When the blinds went up to $20,000-$40,000 and a $5,000 ante, the only big change in the chip standings from the beginning of the day was Raul Paez's advance to $1.4 million, thanks to his knockout of Bau Le. Le had raised to $84,000 before the flop, prompting Paez to re-raise to $300,000. When Le immediately moved all-in, Paez quickly called with A-J of hearts. He outflopped Le's pocket tens and his hand held up from there to send Le home in 6th place with $88,099.

Mizrachi and Nguyen tangled in the blinds for a big pot once again on the $20,000-$40,000 level. This time Nguyen raised to $100,000 from the small blind and Mizrachi called. On a T-7-3 flop Nguyen led out for $70,000 and Mizrachi called. The turn brought the 3 of spades, a bet of $140,000 by Nguyen, and a call from Mizrachi. The 5 of spades hit the river, and when Nguyen checked Mizrachi bet $400,000. Nguyen eventually made the call and Mizrachi turned up 3-2 of diamonds for three of a kind, propelling him into the chip lead. Mizrachi combined with Paez fifteen minutes later to send veteran player An Tran to the rail. Mizrachi limped from middle position and Tran moved his last $215,000 in the pot. Paez called from small blind and Mizrachi called as well. Both players checked down the J-8-5-3-3 board, and Mizrachi claimed the pot when he turned over 8-7 for second pair. Tran took home $125,856 for his 5th place finish.

Former Day Four chip leader (and likely WPT Player Of The Year) Gavin Smith managed to make a big move shortly after Tran's exit. Mizrachi had raised to $115,000 when Smith moved in for another $335,000. Mizrachi went into the tank and eventually made the call, showing K-T and discovering he was behind Smith's A-Q. Both players paired their low cards on the flop and caught no more help, putting Smith back into playable-stack territory. After the blinds rose to $30,000-$60,000 with a $10,000 ante, Smith again doubled through Mizrachi. He got his money in the middle with A-J, and Mizrachi called with Q-9 of clubs. The A-5-2 flop put Smith ahead, though the two clubs on the board were a threat to give Mizrachi the win and the chip lead. No more help came for the Grinder, however, and Smith suddenly found himself sitting on $1.5 million.

It would be another hour and a half before any more fireworks erupted, but once they did the pace of the game became torrid. With blinds at $50,000-$100,000 and a $10,000 ante, Mizrachi made a standard raise and Smith moved all-in for $950,000. The Grinder quickly called and his Q-Q held up against Smith's 7-7 to eliminate the Canadian in 4th place, earning him a $173,052 payday and almost certainly cementing his WPT Player Of The Year award. Less than 10 minutes later, it was the Spaniard Paez who moved all-in before the flop - and this time it was Nguyen who made the call. Paez's Q-T of clubs was dominated by Nguyen's A-Q, and the best hand held up to send Paez home in 3rd place with $298,908 for his efforts. His performance capped off an impressive run throughout the World Poker Open, and he richly deserved his reward.

With Nguyen and Mizrachi standing nearly even in chips, heads-up play was set to begin. After the standard WPT money presentation, the first hand of heads-up was dealt. Mizrachi made a raise to $1.2 million, and Nguyen immediately put himself all-in. Without any hesitation, Mizrachi made the call. Nguyen turned up A-Q of spades, and Mizrachi showed A-J. The flop came K-9-2 rainbow, and the turn card was a ten of spades, giving Nguyen four cards to a flush. Before the last card was dealt, Nguyen stopped the action to make a statement. "This man, I have to give him credit," Nguyen said. "He can play. The last couple years, he's shown the world." He shook Mizrachi's hand and wished him luck. When the 8 of spades hit the river it was all over, and Nguyen, the 1998 WSOP Main Event champion, had finally claimed his first WPT title.

Scotty Nguyen and Michael Mizrachi shake hands when down to final 2 players

Throughout the day the six finalists showed why they made it through a tough field of over 300 players. They played with heart and determination, but also managed to maintain a light-hearted atmosphere free of any animosity. It was clear that these players all respected one another's game - something that a lot of other players could use as an example - and the eventual champion was the perfect embodiment of that respect. Easy-going, jovial, and above all a skilled player, Scotty Nguyen added to his reputation with his performance at the World Poker Open.

Scotty Nguyen shows his winning hand at the 2006 Gold Strike WPO

1. Scotty Nguyen $969,421
2. Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi $566,352
3. Raul Paez $298,908
4. Gavin Smith $173,052
5. An Tran $125,856
6. Bau Le $88,099
7. Johnny Donaldson $62,928
8. Rodeen Talebi $50,342
9. Matt Keikoan $44,050
10. Gary Gibbs $34,611
11. Karlo Lopez $34,611
12. Chris Bell $31,464
13. Josh Arieh $31,464
14. Josh Tieman $31,464
15. Allie Prescott $31,464
16. Fred Ferrington $25,171
17. Eric Cloutier $25,171
18. Farzad Rouhani $25,171
19. Franklin Caldwell $25,171
20. Dwight Derringer $25,171
21. Casey Kastle $18,878
22. James Haley $18,878
23. Dale Morrow $18,878
24. Liz Lieu $18,878
25. Zac Reynolds $18,878
26. Howard Perry $18,878
27. Dwayne Moyers $18,878
28. Robert Brind $18,878
29. Ray Babb $18,878
30. Thomas Schreiber $18,878
31. Mark Kroon $15,732
32. Michael Stamboly $15,732
33. Galen Kester $15,732
34. Chris Gildone $15,732
35. Allen Kessler $15,732
36. Darrell Dicken $15,732
37. Chad Brown $15,732
38. Bob Stupak $15,732
39. John Spadavecchia $15,732
40. Richard Hensarling $15,732
41. Vassilos Maniotis $12,586
42. Doug Carli $12,586
43. Padraig Parkinson $12,586
44. Mark Napolitano $12,586
45. Jerri Thomas $12,586
46. Bill Seber $12,586
47. Mark Cole $12,586
48. Mark Mulloy $12,586
49. Dan Alspach $12,586
50. Andy Miller $6,293
50. Barry Shulman $6,293


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