Friday was Luis Velador's day at the 2008 World Series of Poker. The 44-year-old came to the final table with a monster chip lead and cruised all the way to his first WSOP bracelet and the $574,734 first place prize.
Velador has been earning his living playing cards in California for the last 11 years and was the eldest and most experienced player when he sat down at the final table of Event #32 ($1,500 No Limit Hold 'em). Velador was holding a dominant chip lead with more than twice his nearest competitor, the result of being "hit by deck" on Day 2, he said. As players were quickly eliminated, some at the hands at Velador, his lead grew to an astounding 65% of chips in play when the table was down to five handed. Velador was holding 4.5 million while the rest of the table had between 438,000 and 768,000, making him the only player above the average chip stack.
With play three handed Velador's opponents, Osmin Dardon and Tony Signore, had each surpassed 1 million but were far out of reach of Velador, who's stack was close to 5 million. Velador then won a race with pocket queens against A-K to eliminate Osmin, a 35-year-old poker pro who is well known at the Commerce Casino as "Oddie".
With Osmin on his way to collect his $243,734 third place prize, Velador hoped to use his 6:1 chip lead to quickly put away his last opponent. Signore, an AT&T manager from Boynton Beach, Florida, had never played in poker tournament before Event #32 but the inexperienced 32-year-old turned out to be Velador's most imposing obstacle on his way to the bracelet. Signore doubled up early in the heads-up match with A-9 over Velador's pocket sevens and continued to win pots until the two were almost even in chips. But Signore gave most of it back on the following hand, from the official WSOP updates:
"Luis Velador has the button in Seat 3 and he raises to 125,000. Signore makes the call and they head to the flop. The flop comes As-Jc-9s. Signore pushes out a bet of 200,000. Velador quickly calls. The turn brings the 7d. Signore checks and Velador bets 400,000. Signore mumbles something to himself and then double checks his hand. He eventually makes the call. The Qc hits the river and Signore slowly counts out a bet of 600,000 before pushing it out. Velador instantly says "all in." Signore gives a concerned look and then throws his hand away. Luis Velador wins a pot worth over 2,600,000 without a showdown."
Signore later alluded that he was bluffing while Velador said he had Aces up. Not long afterwards Signore moved all-in with A-6 and Velador called with A-7. Some of Signore's supporters called for a six, others for a chop, but the flop came A-10-7 and Velador flopped two pair. The board ran out dry and Signore was eliminated as the runner-up in his first tournament, banking $366,387, some of which he said he will use to buy a Lexus.
Velador collects his first WSOP bracelet and $573,374 for first place.
"[Winning the bracelet] means a lot," Velador said. "Finally one of my dreams came true."
Velador adds the big payday and WSOP bracelet to an impressive career record that already includes two consecutive Main Event cashes in '06 and '07 and "Best All-Around Player" honors at the 2006 L.A. Poker Classic.
For full results from Event #32 head over to the WSOP results page.