Japan finally has a World Series of Poker champ after Naoya Kihara pocketed $512,029 for winning the $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha Six-Handed event #34 in Las Vegas.
It took three action-packed days for the Tokyo native to bag his nation’s first gold bracelet, but the start-of-day chip leader displayed great skill and aggressiveness to secure the title by defeating American Chris De Maci in their heads-up battle at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
A total of 419 players started this event – creating a prize pool of $1,969,300 – but it seemed Kihara was destined to win the bracelet from about halfway through Day 2 as he eliminated several big-name pros on what was surely among the hottest streaks ever seen at the WSOP.
Tokyo Player Blasts Way to Glory
With Kihara knocking out American Daniel Hindin in third place, the Japanese player held 4,575,000 chips to De Maci’s 1,715,000 – and the former was never really troubled as he charged to glory in 45 minutes of heads-up play that left the runner-up with $316,308 as a consolation.
The final hand of the tournament saw Kihara, on the button, raise and big blind De Maci call. The flop came 2♥ A♠ J♥ and De Maci check-raised to 550,000 after Kihara had made a 160,000 continuation bet. Kihara then shoved and De Maci called for his last 450,000 chips. Kihara showed K♥ J♠ 6♣ Q♥ for a pair of jacks, while De Maci revealed 5♣ 4♠ 3♣ 2♠ for bottom pair and a straight wrap. However, the 6♦ turn and 7♣ river were no help to the American and Kihara – with two pair – was announced as the latest champion.
Kevin MacPhee Suffers Two Crashes
Poor Kevin MacPhee had a bad day all round, crashing his vehicle in the Rio’s car park before then also crashing out of the tournament in 11th place for $26,349. The Idaho pro was already late when he joined the action as the short stack, but was soon leaving after Joseph Cheong displayed no sympathy by eliminating him from the tournament within the first quarter-of-an-hour.
MacPhee made a minimum raise under the gun, while Cheong – in the cut-off seat – raised the pot to put his opponent all-in. MacPhee called to show A♥ K♠ 7♣ 7♦ while California’s Cheong revealed A♣ K♦ 10♣ 5♦ to see a board of K♣ 5♠ 2♦ 10♥ 3♠ that gave the latter a better two pair, his second double-up and the knockout.
Hindin was the man who provided Cheong with his first double-up on the first hand of the day that left the Connecticut player with just 86,000 chips. However, Hindin – through intelligent play and persistence – bounced back into contention by increasing his stack to 740,000 just before the end of level 20, partly due to his elimination of Bulgarian Dimitar Danchev in 10th place for $34,620.
Dimitar Danchev Out in 10th
Hindin had previously doubled-up through Danchev, but was more than happy to do so again when his Q♦ 10♥ 9♥ 9♦ made trip nines on a 10♦ 5♥ K♥ 9♠ 2♦ board to eliminate the Plovdiv native, who showed A♦ K♠ 5♦ 3♦ for just two pair.
Cheong was the next to hit the rail in ninth place for $34,620 – not long after doubling-up through MacPhee. Big blind Cheong and small blind Davidi Kitai had all the chips in the middle as the action folded before them to see a board of 8♠ 9♦ A♥ 5♦ 7♦.
Cheong had shown A♠ A♠ 2♠ 6♠ for trip aces, but lost out to Belgian Kitai’s Q♦ 4♦ 7♣ 5♣ when those runner-runner diamonds on the board gave him the winning flush.
Jason Dewitt Exits in Eighth
The elimination of Georgia’s Jason Dewitt in eighth place for $46,692 by Hans Winzeler prompted the movement of the final seven players to a new table for a redraw.
Under the gun, Dewitt opened for 32,000 and then called when big blind Winzeler decided to three-bet to 104,000. The flop came 3♦ 8♠ 5♥ and Winzeler bet the pot and then called after Dewitt shoved all-in for 323,000.
Winzeler showed A♠ A♥ 6♠ 4♦ while Dewitt tabled 7♥ 10♦ 9♦ 8♣ ahead of the 2♠ turn and J♥ river, meaning the former scored the knockout with a straight.
Scott Bohlman Eliminated in Seventh
Scott Bohlman, of Illinois, was the next to go about 75 minutes later when he exited in seventh place for $46,692 – thus creating the official six-handed final table.
Winzeler – who picked up $383,075 when runner-up in this event last year to Jason Mercier – was the man to knock out Bohlman and so confirm his final table place in this tournament for a second successive summer.
Bohlman raised to 70,000 to only be called by Winzeler for the 10♠ 9♥ 8♥ flop. Winzeler check-bet the pot after Bohlman had already bet the pot, ensuring that the latter shoved all-in. Winzeler made the call to show 6♥ 9♥ J♠ 7♠ for a flopped straight, as well as a redraw to a hearts flush.
Bohlman had only K♥ J♦ K♦ 6♠ to be in really bad shape and failed to improve on the 3♣ turn and 9♠ river.
Tommy Le Takes Sixth
Sixth place and $64,671 went to California’s Tommy Le as he lost a battle of the blinds with De Maci. Action folded to small blind De Maci, who limp-called big blind Le’s pot-sized raise. The flop came 2♣ K♣ 9♥ and Le bet 144,000 and called all-in after Di Maci shoved.
De Maci showed K♠ 2♠ 4♣ 5♥ for top and bottom pair while Le tabled A♦ 9♦ Q♣ J♣ for a flush draw and an inside straight draw. The Q♥ turn changed little but the 2♥ river gave De Maci a full house and the elimination.
Kitai, of Brussels, hit the rail in fifth place for $92,064, so disappointing the many people who considered him favourite for the title.
Under the gun, Kitai opened to 60,000 and Kihara three-bet to 210,000. But Kitai then raised the pot for 660,000, with Kihara simply calling to see a flop of 9♥ 8♠ 4♦. Kihara shoved all-in for 750,000 with his 10♠ 9♣ Q♦ J♠, while Kitai snap-called for his last 645,000 to show A♦ A♣ 10♦ J♦.
The 7♥ turn gave both the same straight, although Kihara was also on for a better straight – and that’s exactly what happened when the 10c arrived in the river.
Hans Winzeler Just Misses Out Again
Winzeler again came close without bagging his first bracelet when exiting in fourth this time for $134,857.
Miami’s Winzeler, on the button, raised to 140,000 and big blind Kihara called to see a flop of 3♠ 3♣ 10♥. Winzeler popped his final 80,000 chips into the middle with his A♠ K♠ 9♠ 2♦ and Kihara made the call to reveal 4♥ 2♥ 6♦ 3♥ for trio threes. The 5♦ turn and 7♣ river confirmed Winzeler’s exit.
Daniel Hindin Knocked Out in Third
Hindin’s charge to glory ended with a third place finish and $203,369 to set our heads-up match for the title. Hindin three-bet for 320,000 after button Kihara raised to 100,000. The Japanese player made the call and the flop came 6♠ 10♣ A♣, prompting Hindin to quickly make a pot-sized bet of 640,000. However, Kihara shoved and Hindin called off his last 265,000 to show K♠ K♥ Q♥ 5♦ for a pair of kings.
However, Kihara tabled the A♦ 4♠ 5♠ 7♣ for a pair of aces that stayed in front when the 8♠ arrived on the turn and the Q♦ landed on the river.
It was all down to Kihara and De Maci for the title now – and that heads-up clash was quickly ended by the Japanese player.
WSOP 2012 Event #34 Top 10 Payouts
- Naoya Kihara (Japan) – $512,029
- Chris De Maci (USA) – $316,308
- Daniel Hindin (USA) – $203,369
- Hans Winzeler (USA) – $134,857
- Davidi Kitai (Belgium) – $92,064
- Tommy Le (USA) – $64,671
- Scott Bohlman (USA) – $46,692
- Jason DeWitt (USA) – $46,692
- Joseph Cheong (USA) – $34,620
- Dimitar Danchev (Bulgaria) – $34,620