Friday, June 17, 2016 6:39 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee is the newest member of poker’s gold bracelet club.
The 28-year-old high-stakes professional poker player won the $3,000 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em tournament, which was played over four days and three nights and just concluded on the ESPN main stage at the Rio in Las Vegas. An extra playing day was needed given the large field size and the grinding pace of action, which was the most cautious of any final table yet at this year’s series.
The wait was well worth it for Lee, however, who collected a whopping $531,577 in prize money, making this the biggest tournament win of his career. This was only the third time Lee has cashed in a WSOP event, although he admittedly doesn’t play many such events, preferring instead to focus much of his time and attention on some of the biggest games in the world which are often spread in Macau (Asia).
Lee won his victory by prevailing at a final table which included a mix of professional players and amateurs. While several of the finalists had come close to winning a WSOP title in the past, only one player had previously achieved victory. That player was Will Givens, who ended up finishing fourth.
On an unscheduled fourth day that extended into overtime, the ultimate moment of triumph came when Lee scooped the final pot of the tournament, with a pair of sevens and a better kicker. Lee had battled back from a steep chip disadvantage at one point in a zig-zag battle that could have gone either way.
“The way it went, going so long like it did, the blinds were so high that it became like a crap shoot,” Lee said afterward. “We only had about 15 big bets at the end; you would raise, then they’d move all in, and it was a race. It was very stressful. I got very lucky, and feel very fortunate.”
Lee had the chip lead during much of the finale, until Thompson seized the momentum late. However, the player from Costa Rica who was hoping to become only the second WSOP champion in history from that Central American nation (Humberto Brenes remains the only champion, a two-time winner) ended up finishing second. His consolation prize came to $328,487.
Lee was born in Korea and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents. He attended New York University and earned a B.A. in economics. Not exactly the conventional path of an economics graduate, Lee has nonetheless put his talents to good use as a poker pro over the last decade. While he rarely plays in major tournaments, he has been a steady figure in many of the most prestigious cash games in the world, many of which are held in Macau. Lee currently splits his time between the New York City area and his native hometown of Seoul.
“Growing up, I had the same story many people in my age bracket have – when I was in high school watching the World Series on TV on ESPN,” Lee said. “I dreamed that someday maybe I could get here and to have that chance and actually win the bracelet means so much to me.”
This tourney attracted 1,029 entrants which created a prize pool totaling $2,809,170. The top 155 finishers collected prize money. Attendance was up over last year, when this same event attracted 989 entries.
Aside from the winner, here’s a brief report of the other top finishers who made the final table:
Second Place: Steven Thompson, a 36-year-old poker player from San Jose, Costa Rica finished in second place. This was only his second time to cash in a WSOP event, after going deep in the other six-handed event, which was the $1,500 buy-in tourney. He added $328,487 to his poker bankroll for a fine effort.
Third Place: Mark Herm, from Royersford, PA survived three hours into Day Four, but then ran into trouble. He cashed for the 18th time at the series, duplicating his best previous effort which was also a third-place showing in tan event two years ago. Herm did pocket his biggest win in this event, which amounted to $224,805.
Fourth Place: Will Givens, from Centennial, CO and a graduate of Colorado State University, cashed for the 12th time in a WSOP event with this performance. He won a No-Limit Hold’em gold bracelet in 2014 and finished fourth in another. Givens certainly knows how to maneuver through large No-Limit fields given his recent resume. This time, he picked up $156,281 in prize money.
Fifth Place: Martin Kozlov, from Lysterfield, Victoria (Australia) now has 11 cashes at the series, which includes four final table appearances. He’s done well both in the Las Vegas events and the Asia-Pacific version of the series, held in Kozlov’s home country – Australia. This was his best financial score of any WSOP finish, which paid $110,389.
Sixth Place: Alex Queen, from Bethlehem, PA posted his 23rd series cash in this tournament. He collected $79,246 in prize money.
This was the 21st event on this year’s schedule. This leaves 48 gold bracelet events still to go in what promises to be the biggest and most exciting WSOP ever.
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:18 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee limps from the button and Steven Thompson checks from the big blind.
The flop is and Thompson bets 300,000. Lee raises all in and Thompson tanks for about 45 seconds before he calls all in for about 3,500,000.
Both players have a pair of sevens, but Lee holds the better kicker.
The turn is the , giving Thompson a few extra outs to chop, but the river is no help. Thompson earns $328,487 for his runner-up finish.
Calvin Lee wins the $3,000 6-Handed No-Limit Hold'em for $531,577!
Steven Thompson finishes as runner-up
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:10 PM Local Time
Steven Thompson limps from the button and Calvin Lee checks his option.
They check to the river of a board where Lee bets 300,000. Thompson folds.
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:08 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee limps from the button and Steven Thompson checks his option.
They check to the river of a board where Thompson bets 340,000. Lee calls.
"I play the board," says Thompson.
Lee shows for eights and threes to win the pot.
Calvin Lee - 11,295,000 (37 bb)
Steven Thompson - 4,150,000 (14 bb)
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:07 PM Local Time
Steven Thompson raises to 750,000 on the button and Calvin Lee calls from the big blind. Both players check the flop and the turn.
The river is the and Lee bets 800,000. Thompson folds and Lee takes the pot.
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:05 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee raises to 600,000 on the button and Steven Thompson folds his big blind. Lee takes the pot.
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:04 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee gets a walk.
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:04 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee completes the small blind and Steven Thompson raises to 975,000 total out of the big blind. Lee calls and the two go heads-up to a flop of . Thompson bets 765,000, Lee folds, and Thompson wins his third pot in a row.
Steven Thompson - 6,350,000 (21 bb)
Calvin Lee - 9,100,000 (30 bb)
Friday, June 17, 2016 5:00 PM Local Time
Steven Thompson completes the small blind and Calvin Lee checks his option in the big blind. The flop comes king-high and Lee checks. Thompson bets, Lee folds, and Thompson takes the pot.
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:59 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee completes the small blind and Steven Thompson checks his option in the big blind.
The flop comes . Thompson checks, Lee bets 300,000 and Thompson calls.
The turn is the and both players check. The river brings the . Thompson bets 445,000, Lee folds, and Thompson takes the pot.
Steven Thompson - 4,850,000 (16 bb)
Calvin Lee - 10,600,000 (35 bb)
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:52 PM Local Time
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:45 PM Local Time
The players are in the midst of a 15-minute break. The blinds will be 150,000/300,000 with a 50,000 ante when play resumes
Calvin Lee - 11,255,000 (37 bb)
Steven Thompson - 4,190,000 (14 bb)
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:44 PM Local Time
Steven Thompson raises to 620,000 from the button and Calvin Lee calls from the big blind.
They check to the turn of a board, where Lee bets 775,000. Thompson calls.
The river is the and Lee bets 600,000. Thompson agonizes for about two minutes before he drops in the chips to call, but mucks when Lee tables for two pair.
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:42 PM Local Time
Steven Thompson gets a walk.
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:41 PM Local Time
Steven Thompson raises to 620,000 from the button, Calvin Lee reraises all in from the big blind, and Thompson folds face-up.
Calvin Lee - 9,645,000 (40 bb)
Steven Thompson - 5,800,000 (21 bb)
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:39 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee raises to 480,000 from the button and Steven Thompson folds.
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:38 PM Local Time
Steven Thompson limps the button and Calvin Lee checks his option.
They check down the board of and Thompson wins with for a pair of sixes.
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:36 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee limps the button, Steven Thompson raises to 750,000 from the big blind, and Lee folds.
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:36 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee gets another walk.
Friday, June 17, 2016 4:35 PM Local Time
Calvin Lee raises to 480,000 from the button, Steven Thompson three-bets to 1,500,000 from the big blind, and Lee folds.