Poker tournaments are so unpredictable. In a 493-player field that included many top pros, an unknown local, Dennis Blieden, took down the $10,000 buy-in 2018 WPT LA Poker Classic at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles for a cool $1 million.
Calm Under Pressure
It wasn’t a Jerry Yang-like performance where the winner played like a complete donkey and continually got lucky. Blieden earned it by confusing his opponents and mixing in some well-timed aggression.
Even PokerGO commentator Andy Frankenberger, who finished 36th in this event, was amazed at how well an inexperienced tournament player such as Blieden handled the pressure of playing for so much money with cameras watching his every move.
“I give him all the credit in the world for coming in and beating a final table with four professionals,” the commentator said on livestream. “He had a lot less experience and a lot of heart. He was very brave.”
That’s high praise coming from a skilled player. Frankenberger has more than $3.4 million in lifetime live tournament winnings, so he knows a thing or two about the pressure of playing in a major poker event.
Racing Toby Lewis
After Derek Wolters was eliminated in 3rd place, Blieden had a 4-1 chip advantage, and it took him all of two hands to finish off the deal, thanks to a lucky turn card.
On the final hand, Toby Lewis, who was chasing his second seven-figure payday of the year after winning the Aussie Millions Main Event in January, picked up 10♠10♣ and doubled the big blind to 120,000. Blieden, holding A♠Q♦, went for a three-bet to 300,000.
Lewis thought for a moment before firing out a four-bet to 750,000 and got a call. The flop ran out 6♦6♠3♠. Toby, now a 3-1 favorite to win the hand, continued his aggression, betting 400,000 and received a call.
But when the Q♥ hit on the turn, it all but ended Lewis’ shot at winning the hand and tournament. Blieden bait-checked the turn, and the soon-to-be runner-up moved all-in for his remaining 2.2 million and got snap-called.
Only two outs could save Lewis but the 6♥ wasn’t one of them. After shaking Blieden’s hand, he walked over to hug his friends before exiting the room. But he won’t be going home empty handed as 2nd place paid $600,630.
Lewis now has nearly $1.8 million in tournament cashes this year, and it’s only March.
WPT LAPC Final Table Results
1 Dennis Blieden ($1,000,000)*
2 Toby Lewis ($600,630)
3 Derek Wolters ($430,210)
4 Marc Macdonnell ($319,310)
5 Peter Hengsakul ($244,430)
6 Manuel Martinez ($186,235)
*Also receives $15,000 entry into WPT Tournament of Champions, WPT Champions Trophy, Commerce Casino Remington Trophy, and Hublot Big Band Steel Watch.
Congrats to the champ.