WPT Awards Billionth Dollar in Prize Money at Legends of Poker Main Event

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When Southern California amateur TJ Shepherd got his pocket aces cracked by Marvin Rettenmaier’s pocket 10s in the WPT Legends of Poker main event on Tuesday, what otherwise might seem like a ho-hum 47th place finish (for $10,405) was cause for major celebration.

California amateur TJ Shepherd stands with sign holders to celebrate his lucky bad beat
TJ Shepherd was the man in the middle of a maelstrom of excitement at the WPT Legends of Poker at the Bike, having received the World Poker Tour’s billionth dollar in prize money for having his aces cracked. (Image: World Poker Tour)

The fanfare around Shepherd’s bustout at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles marked a significant milestone for the World Poker Tour, now in its 16th season. Though he’s no Chris Moneymaker or even Gus Hansen, Shepherd will forever be a footnote in poker lore after being awarded the billionth dollar in WPT prize-money history.

There were 763 entries in the Legends of Poker main event, and Shepherd won his way in to the $4,000 buy-in tournament on a $460 satellite. He supposedly almost didn’t play as his mother had suffered an injury the week prior, but she encouraged him to go to the Bike.

“I’m dedicating this to my mom, Cathy, who broke some ribs and punctured a lung last week,” Shepherd excitedly told WPT.com. “She made me come. I told her I wanted to stay with her, but she told me ‘You’d better go play,’ and this is what happened.”

The event certainly was memorable for Shepherd, who says he has seen every episode of the WPT on TV. On Day One, he enjoyed the “bittersweet” pleasure of knocking out Mike Sexton. (Shepherd’s AQ held up against the longtime face of the WPT’s AJ.)

In addition to the 47th place prize money, Shepherd received a free entry into next year’s Legends of Poker main event, along with hotel accommodations at the Bicycle Hotel and Casino.

JC Tran Leads Legends

The $4,000 buy-in tournament reached its money bubble early in the day on Tuesday, with 81 players from 763 entries getting paid.

JC Tran, one of the most dominant players in WPT history, finished Day Three as the chip leader with 24 players remaining.

Tran began Tuesday’s action in 2nd place, behind Oddie Dardon who made it to Day Four with a sizeable stack (1,116,000).

Tran, a WPT regular and two-time winner with more than $4 million in earnings on tour, will start Wednesday’s action with 3,061,000 chips. He’ll be one of three previous WPT champions still alive in the tournament, joined on Day Four by fellow Champions Club members Tuan Le and Marvin Rettenmaier.

Le has an above-average stack (1,200,000) and Rettenmaier, fresh from his billion-dollar suckout, will come back to The start with the ninth smallest stack (628,000).

The first player to bust on Day Four will receive $17,430. The tournament winner takes home $668,692.

Action Clock in Action

All WPT Main Tour events are now deploying an “action clock” once the money bubble has burst. That means players get 30 seconds to act before having their hand declared dead.

Seeing its use will be something to watch as the field whittles down. Each player is given four “time chips” that allow them to extend their tanking for another 30 seconds.

Many top pros come out for the WPT Legends of Poker each year. That includes Phil Hellmuth, fresh off his victory in the Poker Night in America ‘King of the Hill’ heads-up challenge. The Poker Brat made it to Day Four with an average stack (790,000) and he is satisfied with his play, claiming his “reads are strong,” on Twitter.

Wednesday’s action at the Bike will resume at noon PT. The tournament will play down to a final table of six, which will of course be televised at a later date, as WPT events have been for 16 seasons and a billion dollars now.

Notable Players on Day Four (and their chip count)

JC Tran (3,061,000)
David “ODB” Baker (1,675,000)
Tuan Le (1,200,000)
David “Doc” Sands (814,000)
Phil Hellmuth (790,000)
Marvin Rettenmaier (628,000)
Jason Les (360,000)

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