Battling through adversity after coming to the final table with the chip lead, veteran poker professional Will “The Thrill” Failla prevailed over a difficult final table to capture the championship of the World Poker Tour’s Legends of Poker event last night at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, California.
For the first time ever, the WPT streamed the final table “plausibly live” with a thirty minute delay and fans around the world could join with the raucous crowd at The Bike to partake in the festivities. Failla came to the final table with a 1.4 million chip lead over Joshua Pollack, with Jeff Vertes, Ken Aldridge, Adam Aronson and 2011 World Series of Poker bracelet winner Owais Ahmed ready for battle. It wouldn’t take long for the chip stacks to tighten up as, within the first round, Failla had relinquished the lead.
Already the two largest chip stacks, Pollock and Failla decided to knock heads with each other rather than attack their lesser stacked opponents. After Pollock made a minimum raise to 200K on the button, Failla checked his option to see a K-9-5 rainbow flop. After Joshua bet out 225K, Will decided to let him know he liked his hand with a check raise to 600K. After a moment of thought, Pollock made the call.
Another King came on the turn, drawing a huge 800K chip bet from Failla and another deliberate call from Pollock. Failla ran up the white flag on the river three and, surprisingly, Pollock checked as well, tabling a K-J for turned trips. Failla deposited his cards into the muck and deposited the chip lead into Pollack’s lap.
Pollock and Failla would continue to knock heads, with Pollock coming out on the winning side on most every occasion. Meanwhile, the remainder of the table attempted to stay out of the way of the carnage save for Owais Ahmed. He would be the first elimination after he moved all in from the small blind with J-7 of spades and was called by Failla. An Ace on the flop only lengthened Will’s lead and a second Ace on the turn clinched the hand, knocking Owais Ahmed out in sixth place.
“The Thrill” continued to provide excitement to the Bike patrons with his activity on the felt. Unfortunately, some of those thrills came at the expense of his chip stack. He doubled up Aronson to fall into the middle of the pack and Aronson used those chips to move into contention. With similar moves by Jeff Vertes, Failla was soon the short stack with five players remaining.
The next big confrontation changed the chip lead once again. On the short stack, Adam Aronson decided to make a stand with his 1.6 million in chips and had to be distressed by the alacrity of Vertes’ call from the big blind. Once the cards were on their backs, Aronson was at a huge disadvantage with his pocket sixes against Vertes’ pocket Aces. The drama was yet to begin in the hand, however.
The flop came 8-6-3 with two hearts, giving Aronson his two outer he was looking for. A third heart came with a seven on the turn, giving Vertes a flush draw with his Ace of hearts. Miraculously, a fourth heart, the nine, came on the river, giving the runner-runner flush to Vertes, garnering him the chip lead and eliminating Adam Aronson in fifth place.
Vertes would continue to apply pressure to the table, taking a two million chip pot pre-flop after four-betting Pollock off his hand. Pollock would continue to fight, but would come up on the wrong end of a hand against a similarly stacked Ken Aldridge. On an A-K-4 (two diamond) flop, Pollock would respond to an Aldridge reraise by moving his stack to the center. Aldridge made the call, tabling A-7 off suit for top pair, while Pollock had staked his tournament on his J-7 of diamonds for a flush draw. After a turn seven and a river ten – with neither a diamond – Joshua Pollock was out in fourth place.
At this point, Vertes was looking at a four million chip disadvantage against Aldridge, while Failla was hanging on by his nails nearly nine million behind the leader. Failla, however, seemed to be on a road to destiny as he began his charge back with a double up through Aldridge first and then Vertes. After 100 hands of play, Failla had drawn within 1.6 million chips of Aldridge and Vertes had fallen to the short stack.
The trio battled for over sixty hands before the next elimination. After a raise from Failla, Vertes reraised the veteran pro. Will decided to make his stand by moving all in and drew a call from Jeff. Failla had chosen the wrong moment; his A-J was behind the A-Q of Vertes, but the flop changed it all. An A-J-10 came down, giving Failla the lead in the hand which he would never relinquish. The final Ace on the river gave Failla the win with a full house and eliminated Jeff Vertes in third place.
After seemingly being out of the tournament at several points, Failla had climbed back into the chip lead after Vertes’ elimination. Although he would once again lose the lead during heads up play, Failla refused to go quietly into the night, battling back to take the lead late in the game. On the final hand, Failla moved all in and Aldridge made the call, tabling only a 6-4 off suit. He was way behind Failla’s J-6 and, after an uneventful board, Failla took down the championship of the WPT’s Legends of Poker.
1st: Will “The Thrill” Failla – $758,085
2nd: Ken “Teach” Aldridge – $365,800
3rd: Jeff Vertes – $186,400
4th: Joshua Pollock – $128,500
5th: Adam Aronson – $102,800
6th: Owais Ahmed – $77,100
Along with the first place prize, Failla also became the first player this year to capture a seat to the Season X WPT Championship come 2012. The $758,085 easily marks Will’s biggest score in his poker career and gives him a major title that has, to this point, eluded him.
With the WPT Legends of Poker done, two tournaments are up next for potential WPT players. First is the Grand Prix de Paris at the Aviation Club in Paris, France, which takes place from September 5-10. The next stateside tournament for the WPT will be the Borgata Poker Open, set to play September 18-23 at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey.