It was always going to be tough to beat Canadian Mike Leah.
He had a monster chip lead coming into the $25,000 High Roller final table at the 2014 WSOP APAC in Melbourne, Australia. It was so large in fact, that the combined chips of his five opponents on the final day was less than his stack
Leah did what he had to do with his giant pile of chips too. He bullied when he needed to bully, he changed gears when the time was right and he ultimately claimed the $600,000 top prize and his first WSOP gold bracelet.
It was a long time coming for Leah. You see, over the last eight years he has amassed a very impressive poker resume. He has posted more than $3 million in live results and has won numerous major online tournaments.
However, the one thing that had eluded him thus far was the WSOP gold bracelet.
Leah had a single word to describe how he was feeling after the win.
“Relieved,” he laughed.
He took a few moments to think about the answer.
“I’m obviously very happy. I don’t know if it has sunk in yet. I’ve been trying to accomplish this goal for so long. There is just relief that I’ve finally done it.”
Coming into a final table with such a big chip lead always bares the danger of making a player complacent. But not Mike Leah.
“I just tried to stay focused on every single hand. I didn’t want to think too far ahead. I wanted to bully the table around, but was trying to find a balance between using my chips and not being reckless.”
That just about summed up Leah’s performance in what has been a massive year of results.
“This has been a great year for me. The first nine events here I felt I really played awful. I punted a bunch of events and wasn’t happy with how I played.”
“It just seems once I can get into a tournament and off to a good start, getting a lot of chips, I really zone in. All the tournaments I have done well in this year have been like that.”
For Leah, his first bracelet is just the beginning of a journey towards many more and while it may seem that poker is being dominated by 21 year olds, Leah’s career is getting better with age.
“I hope the second one isn’t as hard to get as the first one! I’ve only been 40 for two days.”
“Maybe my forties is where it’s at.”
The $25K High Roller, as expected, began with a star-studded field of some of the best players in the world. There were 63 entrants on Day 1 of the event, though with registration open until the start of Day 2, that number ultimately increased to 68 total runners.
That field created a $1,632,000 prize pool, which was set to be shared amongst the top eight, with $600,000 the hefty first-place prize.
Australian gold bracelet winner Andrew Hinrichsen was the chip leader at the end of Day 1, bagging up 346,000. Mike Leah and Kiwi David Yan bagged up the next largest stacks and in the end, all three of these players would make it into the money.
One player who did not make it into the money, but got closer than 59 other players, was none other than 13-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.
It was late on Day 2 when the final nine combined into the ‘unofficial’ final table. This was also the money bubble. It would take two hours for the bubble to burst and it was Hellmuth who hit the rail when he moved all in with top pair and the nut flush draw against Mike Leah with a set. Hellmuth didn’t catch the cards he needed and so was eliminated short of the money and lamenting his chances at a 14th bracelet.
Following the elimination of Hellmuth, two more players needed to hit the rail before the final six was set. Hinrichsen ended up busting in eighth, while recent Australian bracelet winner Sam Higgs hit the rail in seventh.
Having dominated during the last few levels of Day 2, Leah had bagged up more than double his nearest opponent in Yan and actually had more chips than his five competitors combined.
The final table started with Brian Roberts, of ‘2 Months 2 Millions’ fame hitting the rail in sixth. He sent his chips to David Yan when he was all in preflop with ace-jack and couldn’t stay ahead of Yan’s queen-jack.
Following Yan’s elimination, the shorts stacks Sam Khouiss and Jonathan Duhamel both doubled up, but not too long later they were eliminated in a double knock-out.
It was 2012 November Niner Jesse Sylvia who was the main benefactor as he held pocket queens and had Khouiss all in preflop with ace-eight and Duhamel all in with pocket nines. Khouiss spiked an ace in the window, but a painful queen on the river gave Sylvia the goods to send Khouiss home in fifth place and Duhamel home in sixth.
Leah still had a big chip lead when three-handed play began as his stack was more than double that of Sylvia’s and even further ahead of Yan’s. Eventually Yan won a few pots, while Sylvia was the short stack and he wasn’t able to rebuild as he hit the rail in third.
When heads-up began, Leah was once again holding a handy lead and would chip at away at Yan until he captured his first WSOP gold bracelet.
Here are the full results from the $25,000 High Roller:
1st: Mike Leah - $600,000
2nd: David Yan- $360,025
3rd: Jesse Sylvia - $216,811
4th: Jonathan Duhamel - $145,003
5th: Sam Khouiss - $110,078
6th: Brian Roberts $85,027
7th: Sam Higgs - $65,035
8th: Andrew Hinrichsen - $50,021