Jia Liu (Brooklyn, NY) was dead and buried twice at the final table, but each time he kept his composure and survived to win the Borgata Spring Poker Open Championship. Liu defeated Larry Abrams (Mahwah, NJ) heads up, holding K♣ 4♦ on the final hand, to win the title, the trophy and the $312,483 first prize.
"It's still not sinking in," said the 25-year-old, who out flopped Abrams' A♠ J♣ to complete the comeback from a 3 to 1 chip deficit. "I'm numb right now, this is sick."
Liu was feeling ill in a different way when he stared across the table at Russ Dykshteyn (Brooklyn, NY), who had 12 million of the 15 million chips in play while three-handed. But despite holding less than 2 million and being down 6 to 1 in chips, Liu hung around.
"I was looking at second or third," said Liu, but Abrams had a different mindset.
"I was never intimidated by his (Dykshteyn's) stack," said Abrams, who earned $175,700 as runner-up. "You're deep enough (with chips) to keep playing. I knew a couple of double-ups and I'd be right there."
Dykshteyn, not only doubled-up each of his opponents, but his collapse resulted in a third place finish. "It happens," he said on his way to the cage to collect $112,950.
Abrams had a 2 to 1 chip lead when heads up play began and extended it to 3 to 1, but Liu stayed focus and had three key hands that led to the title.
First Liu flopped a straight against Abrams top pair, top kicker to double-up and pull even in chips. He followed that by not going broke with pocket aces.
Liu then flopped a flush when Abrams slow played pocket kings and won a big pot that gave him all but 750k of the chips, setting up the final hand.
It was a roller coaster day for Liu who began the final table as the chip leader with 4.2 million.
The field was quickly thinned with the eliminations of Mike Meskin, Mike Borovetz and Matt Woodward in 10th, 9th and 8th places respectfully.
The most recognizable names at the final table were next to go. Cliff "Johnnybax" Josephy, a WSOP bracelet holder, finished 7th, followed by WSOP circuit championship Chad Batista in 6th place.
At that point Dykshteyn had half the chips in play.
After Cameron Cornell was eliminated in 5th place by 4th place finisher Robert Pardo, Dykshteyn knocked out Pardo to continue his march to the 12 million chip mark.
The tournament began with 520 entries for a total buy-in of $1.3 million. The field featured 13 WSOP bracelet holders and multiple WPT title holders. In addition to Josephy, the bracelet holders included 3 time winner "Miami" John Cernuto, and two time winners Matt Matros, "Rep" Porter and Brock Parker*
The well decorated field also included 2010 WPT Borgata Poker Open Champion Dwyte Pilgrim, two time WPT winner Cornel Cimpan and 2005 WSOP Main Event runner-up Steve Dannenmann.
The five days of poker (two Day 1s) started with Woodward (1A) and Steve Saklad (1B) earning a $3,000 bonus as chip leaders at the end of their respective starting days.
Woodward worked his big stack to the final table, while Saklad cashed in 19th place for ($6,903).
By the end of Day 2 the field was trimmed to 54 players as everyone returning for Day 3 was in the money. Those who cashed included WSOP bracelet holder and WPT titlist Paul Darden, Event 8 Champion Mike Dentale, Ian Palomo, Vinny Pahuja, John Lakatosh and Dave Inselberg.
Four woman made the money. Grace Sun (22nd) was the last woman standing and was joined at the pay window by Stephanie Hubbard, Joanne Monteavaro and Cathy Dever.
The last player to cash on Day 3 was Ofir Mor (in 11th place). Mor was the third place finisher in the 2010 WPT Borgata Poker Open (he won $267,000 in that event). Mor's elimination sent the final 10 players into Day 4 and the final table.
Liu's thrilling day concluded with his largest poker payday -- which is nearly double his previous career tournament earnings of $182,000.
"This is my biggest accomplishment," says Liu, who joins Russel Crane (2011) and Alex Queen (2010) as Borgata Spring Poker Open Champions.
Final Table Results
1st Jia Liu (Broolyn, NY) $312,483
2nd Larry Abrams (Mahwah, NJ)$175,700
3rd Russ Dykshteyn (Brooklyn, NY) $112,950
4th Robert Pardo (Mount Vernon, NY) $89,733
5th Cameron Cornell (Asbury Park, NY) $70,280
6th Chad Batista (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) $57,730
7th Cliff Josephy (Syosset, NY) $45,808
8th Matt Woodward (Las Vegas, NV) $35,768
9th Michael Borovetz (Pittsburgh, PA) $25,100
10th Mike Meskin (Belmont, MA) $16,315
Miami John Cernuto - 3 WSOP bracelets
Matt Matros - 2 WSOP bracelets
Ralph "REP" Porter - 2 WSOP bracelets
Brock Parker - 2 WSOP bracelets
Mike 'Little Man' Sica - 1 WSOP bracelets
Ken 'Teach' Aldridge - 1 WSOP bracelet
Kathy Liebert - 1 WSOP bracelet
Gavin Smith - 1 WSOP bracelet, 1 WPT title
Freddy Rouhani - 1 WSOP bracelet
Chris Bell - 1 WSOP bracelet
Jeff Papola - 1 WSOP bracelet
Brian Lemke - 1 WSOP bracelet