Monday, May 22, 2017 1:37 AM Local Time
Traveling pro returns to the States, takes down WSOPC High Roller at Harrah’s
Michael Lech won the biggest-buy-in tournament at the WSOP Circuit Harrah’s New Orleans on Friday evening. He outlasted a field of 197 entries in the $2,200 High Roller, winning his second gold ring and the top prize of $106,377.
Lech is a 27-year-old professional poker player originally from Alma, Alabama, a tiny, unincorporated town in the proverbial middle of nowhere. Population? Call it 600 people, though the town is so small that even the census data is hard to come by. His mail still goes to his family’s house there, but Lech is seldom found in Alabama — or in the United States at all, for that matter.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Arkansas with a degree in International Business, Lech finished in sixth place in a tournament in Colorado, earning a career-best live score of $22,310. Having saved up a little money through college, too — he’s been a successful online player since the age of 18 — he made a big decision for his future self.
Lech had studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica while in college, and he decided to embark on a life-experience trip to Latin America. He sold off most of what he owned and booked a one-way ticket to Bolivia.
In the time since, Lech has spent his days doing… whatever, essentially. He hops from one South American country to the next on a whim. “Three months here and there,” he said. “Most of my time in Bolivia. A lot of time in Argentina and Ecuador. Little bit of time in Brazil.” He volunteers when he finds a spot to do so. He’s become a pretty passable Spanish speaker, too. Even a little Portuguese. He learned to dance the samba. He’s hiked Maccu Piccu, kayaked in Anguilla, and snorkeled in Costa Rica. And, of course, he still plays poker when the opportunity presents itself.
Last summer, Lech set a new career-best, finishing as the runner up in the WSOP Crazy Eights event for a huge score of more than $400,000. “That was a life-changing thing for me,” he said. “It was a breakthrough.” That big payday gave Lech the freedom to continue to live the life he’d chosen without having to worry too much about finances. So, basically, it didn’t change too much.
A couple months later, Lech’s travels took him to Punta Cana where he won a $900-buy-in event for another $30,000 or so. Then it was straight to St. Maarten where he won his first WSOP Circuit ring in the $365 six-max event. Then on to Panama for another four cashes, including a ninth-place finish in a big $5,300-buy-in Championship event.
Most recently, Lech’s world tour brought him to New Orleans to visit his cousins, and the WSOP Circuit just happened to be in town while he was. He entered the $2,200 High Roller event along with 196 others, and by the end of the next day, he was clutching one of the season’s final gold rings and a check for more than $100,000. His total career live earnings have now moved across the $800,000 mark.
As expected from an event that carries this sort of buy-in, the field standing between Lech and the win was an especially tough one. He entered the eight-handed final table in eighth place, well behind the likes of Ryan Dunn, Ray Qartomy, Marshall White, and Maurice Hawkins, the Circuit’s all-time leader in victories.
Hawkins fell in fourth place, though, and Lech eventually worked his way into a heads-up match against three-time ring winner Marshall White. The pro from North Carolina is running as hot as anyone on tour right now, fresh off a win and a runner-up finish in separate events over the previous three days.
Lech defeated White, though, storming back from a 4:1 chip deficit to claim the title. The victory was a bit of vindication for the new two-time winner. “It was fun to win a tough heads-up match,” he said. “Especially since I lost heads-up last year for a bracelet. I’m ecstatic.”
As he continues to pursue life-enhancing experiences, Lech is growing less and less interested in living the life of a professional poker player. “Long-term, I’d like poker to be my hobby,” he said. “I’m definitely trying to evolve into other things. I love poker, but…,” he trailed off.
Despite his nomadic ways, Lech still takes the opportunity to return home every few months, and there was no hesitation when asked about his favorite place in the world. “Oh, the United States,” he said. “We have the most diverse county. We have a lot of great things. I appreciate it more every time I come back.”
Saturday, May 20, 2017 12:20 AM Local Time
Event #9 Champion - Michael Lech
After 10 hours of play on Day 2 Michael Lech walked away as the champion of Event #9: $2,200 No-Limit Hold'em High Roller. Lech locks up his second Circuit ring, after earning his first in Event #10: $365 No-Limit Hold'em Six-Max last year at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in the Caribbean.
Lech began the day 6th in chips and mostly stayed quiet, picking his spots here and there. He didn't hold the chip lead until he eliminated Ray Qartomy during three-handed play. From there, he and Marshall White traded blows heads up until Lech took a huge chunk of White's stack then won the next hand.
For most of the day the chip lead was exchanged between Ray Qartomy and Maurice Hawkins. The two bounced back and forth as the leader, but eventually, both fell short. Hawkins fell in fourth to Qartomy when his ace high, couldn't outrun king high. Qartomy fell next when he found himself in a similar situation and couldn't catch up.
Thirty-one players began the day, with many of them falling short of the money, most notably bracelet winners Ben Keeline and Phillip Hui, who were eliminated very early in the day. And it was Jeremy Moore who became the bubble boy when he couldn't ride his short stack into the money.
After the bubble burst, players started falling left and right, with several notables cashing, but not going much further. Johnathan Hilton finished in 15th ($4,957), Nadya Magnus finished ($7,242) and last years main event winner from Harrah's New Orleans, David Hubbard, made it to the final table but finished in 5th ($25,165).
While White was able to put a stranglehold on the Casino Champion points race (looking to take his second of the Circuit season), it was Lech who walked away as Champion. For his victory, he takes down $106,377 and his second Circuit ring.
Final Table Payouts:
Michael Lech - $106,377
Marshall White - $65,723
Ray Qartomy - $46,866
Maurice Hawkins - $34,042
David Hubbard - $25,165
Steven Rash - $18,940
Jason Fitzpatrick - $14,507
Ryan Dunn - $11,312
A full list of prizes and payouts can be found under the prizepool tab.
Saturday, May 20, 2017 12:01 AM Local Time
Marshall White will collect $65,723 for his second place finish.
After taking a monster blow to his stack, Marshall White moves all in for his last 700,000. Lech calls and the two are off to the races.
The board rolls out giving Lech a full house and locking up the tournament for him Marshall White collects $65,723 for second place and puts a strangle hold on the casino champion points race.
For his victory, Michael Lech collects $106,377. A full recap of the event will be posted shortly.
Friday, May 19, 2017 11:57 PM Local Time
Michael Lech opens to 175,000 preflop. Marshall White calls.
The flop is . White checks to Lech who bets 270,000. White calls.
The turn is the and White checks a second time. Lech bets 150,000. White calls.
The river is the . White checks a third time. Lech fires 865,000 and after at least a minute in the tank, White calls. Lech shows and his two pair is good to take down the pot and a massive chip advantage in the match.
Michael Lech - 4,000,000
Marshall White - 700,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 11:47 PM Local Time
Friday, May 19, 2017 11:35 PM Local Time
Players are now on a short break and will be back momentarily.
Friday, May 19, 2017 11:13 PM Local Time
Marshall White opens with a raise to 130,000. Michael Lech calls.
On the flop, Lech checks to White who bets 80,000. Lech calls.
The turn with the and Lech check calls again, this time for 130,000.
On the river, Lech checks a third time, then calls when White bets 215,000.
White shows and it's no good because Lech shows , for just king high. Lech scoops the pot and hops back into the lead.
Michael Lech - 2,900,000
Marshall White - 1,800,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 11:01 PM Local Time
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:59 PM Local Time
From the button, Michael Lech raises to 125,000. Marshall White calls.
The flop is and White check calls a bet of 100,000 from Lech. On the turn, White leads with a bet of 160,000. Lech calls. The river is the and White continues with a bet of 330,000. Lech calls. White shows for a rivered straight and he takes down the pot.
On the next hand with the board reading , White bets 135,000 into Lech. Lech raises to 325,000 which White calls.
The river is the and White leads for 500,000. Lech moves all in and White folds.
After the exchange of blows, Lech takes the back the lead.
Michael Lech - 2,800,000
Marshall White - 1,900,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:46 PM Local Time
Marshal White - 2,220,000
Michael Lech - 2,510,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:44 PM Local Time
Ray Qartomy will take home $46,866 for his third place finish.
First to act, Ray Qartomy moves all in for roughly 500,000. Michael Lech looks at his cards, then calls.
The board runs out and that gives Lech a straight to eliminate Qartomy.
Michael Lech - 2,510,000
Ray Qartomy - Eliminated
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:22 PM Local Time
Marshall White moves all in from the small blind. Michael Lech calls immediately.
The board somes and Lech doubles through Marshall White once more.
Michael Lech - 1,500,000
Marshall White - 2,600,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:14 PM Local Time
From the small blind, Marshall White moves all in. Michael Lech calls.
The board runs out granting Lech a full double with his pair.
Michael Lech - 1,300,000
Marshall White - 2,700,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:11 PM Local Time
Ray Qartomy limps from the small blind. Marshall White checks his option.
On the flop, Qartomy leads with a bet of 50,000. White calls.
"Nice call, I like it," Qartomy says.
The turn is the . Qartomy leads with a bet of 90,000. White calls.
"Nice call, I like it," Qartomy says again.
The river is the . Qartomy checks, then calls a bet of 205,000 from White.
White shows for a rivered top pair and that's good to take the pot when Qartomy mucks, but only after shouting some expletives.
"I hate you!" Qartomy says.
Marshall White - 3,400,000
Ray Qartomy - 650,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:10 PM Local Time
Friday, May 19, 2017 9:59 PM Local Time
Maurice Hawkins takes home $34,042 for fourth place.
First to act Maurice Hawkins shoves all in. Action folds to Ray Qartomy who calls.
"I'm gonna win," Hawkins says upon seeing the cards.
The board runs out giving Qartomy trips. Hawkins is eliminated in 4th place and will have to wait for another day to add to his collection of rings.
Ray Qartomy - 1,050,000
Maurice Hawkins - Eliminated
Friday, May 19, 2017 9:35 PM Local Time
Ray Qartomy shoves the first three hands after returning from break. He shows once and once. He takes down all three pots and increases his stack.
Ray Qartomy - 1,100,000
Friday, May 19, 2017 9:31 PM Local Time
Friday, May 19, 2017 9:17 PM Local Time
Play will resume in 15 minutes.
Friday, May 19, 2017 9:16 PM Local Time
Maurice Hawkins opens with a raise to 90,000 from the small blind. Marshall White calls from the big blind.
The flop comes and after a check, White bets 110,000. Hawkins calls.
The turn is the and again Hawkins checks. White bets 190,000. Hawkins calls.
On the river, Hawkins leads out with a bet of 238,000. White reraises to 535,000. After muttering some obscenities, Hawkins calls, showing for two pair, but it's no good as White shows for a flopped straight.
Maurice Hawkins - 560,000
Marshall White - 2,650,000