The final table is set for the World Poker Tour stop in Los Angeles at the Legends of Poker, with a stacked field that includes Canada’s Greg “FBT” Mueller in prime position to make a run at the championship.
The final 18 men came to the felt yesterday at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, the survivors from the 622 entry field that came out last week (the tournament featured a “re-entry” option for players who busted from Day 1A to re-enter on Day 1B). Mueller started the day as the second largest stack with 2.396 million in chips (behind only Cyrus Farzad’s 2.6 million) and with a host of tough competition facing him. On his patch of felt, fellow pros Ali Eslami and Jeff Madsen held down chairs, while on the other nine-handed table, Max Steinberg, Sam Barnhart, Joseph Cheong and Farzad would do battle.
The opening moments of the tournament were a bit rough for “FBT.” After raising pre-flop, Mueller saw Alan Myerson call and Antonios Roungeris moving all in for 238K in chips. After Mueller called and Myerson folded, Roungeris found he was slightly behind with his A-Q against Mueller’s pocket sixes. The Q-5-5 flop kept Mueller in the lead, but an Ace on the turn changed fortunes. Once the river didn’t bring a six for Greg, he was cut down to just over two million in chips while Roungeris was back in the game with 705K.
After the eliminations of Cheong and Efren Abustan in 18th and 17th places (respectively), Mueller found himself moved to the table with chip leader Farzad and promptly gave up two more double ups to Josh Hale and David Marshall to see his stack plummet to 850K. Undaunted, Mueller began to make a comeback, pushing his stack back up to a respectable 1.5 million as the tournament clock showed fifteen players remaining.
Although he was active in the early going, Mueller decided to play a waiting game as the afternoon moved into the evening hours of play. When the players had reached the final ten combatants, Mueller was in the middle of a tightly bunched pack in pursuit of Hale and Jim Willerson. At this unofficial final table, Mueller would begin a surge that would push him to the WPT Legends of Poker final table.
Down to nine players after the elimination of Art Alaniz in tenth place, Mueller found what he was looking for in a double up against one of his fellow poker pros. Mueller would raise pre-flop, only to see Eslami try to push him off with a three bet to 250K. Mueller pushed in his remaining stack and, once Eslami made the call, saw he was way behind with his A-J against Eslami’s A-Q.
As many players have learned about the game of poker, there is nothing that is a “sure thing” in the game. A Jack came on the flop for Mueller, flipping the fortunes of the two pros, and once the board failed to bring a Queen, Mueller saw his chip stack rocket back up over the two million mark and Eslami plunge to just over a million.
With that influx of chips, Mueller could get back to playing his normal aggressive style. After the dinner break, he gradually increased his stack to over three million and was responsible for one of the last eliminations of the night. He went to battle with Stephen Graner on a 10-6-3 flop and, after Graner moved all in, made the call and tabled A-10. Graner was leading pre-flop with his pocket nines but saw his tournament life on the line with two cards to come. An Ace on the river improved Mueller to Aces up and, once the river came with a King, Graner was out in eighth and Mueller was up to 3.45 million in chips.
Once Willerson was eliminated on the television bubble by Max Steinberg, the final table of the WPT Legends of Poker was set:
Seat 1: Max Steinberg, 1.02 million
Seat 2: Jeff Madsen, 1.03 million
Seat 3: Raouf Malek, 3.13 million
Seat 4: Greg Mueller, 3.49 million
Seat 5: Josh Hale, 7.325 million
Seat 6: Ali Eslami, 2.9 million
Mueller will be facing some stout opposition if he is to take the WPT Legends of Poker title, let alone beat his best ever finish on the WPT stage (fourth place in 2006 at the WPT World Poker Challenge in Reno). Eslami and Madsen are both difficult opponents and, even though he is on the short stack, Steinberg could be a “thorn in the side” of everyone. Mueller also has the tough task of having the chip leader, Hale, on his left, which could thwart him if he is over-aggressive.
The final table of the WPT Legends of Poker begins this afternoon at 4PM (Pacific Time) and live streaming of the action can be found beginning at 4:30PM on “Live at the Bike” (www.liveatthebike.com), the heralded online outlet of the Bicycle Casino. It should be an exciting event as Canada watches one of its favorite sons, Greg Mueller, go for the gold in one of the biggest events on the WPT schedule.