Some days a player just can't help but win. This was that day for Joe Tehan. If he took a coinflip, he won. If he got in behind against two players, he found the winning combination of cards. There was simply no stopping the man, and that's why he is the NAPT's newest champion.
After scoring a crucial early double-up versus Chris DeMaci, Joe Tehan went on to eliminate every player at the final table. It was a performance that at once looked both effortless and impossible. In the end, the reality was impossible to deny and evidenced with the NAPT Los Angeles trophy and a check for $725,000.
There was a lot that Jake Toole couldn't control about the final table, not the least of which was Joe Tehan's early double up against DeMaci with king versus ace-king. While that hand had no impact on Toole's stack, the indirect consequences became clear within just a few minutes.
Toole had been relatively quiet in the early going and so everyone took note when he opened for 115,000. Tehan, fresh off his huge double-up, three-bet Toole to 300,000. When play folded back to Toole, he immediately moved all in for more than 1.4 million. Tehan didn't seem excited about the situation. While he never looked as if he might fold, one was left to wonder if his decision would've been different if he hadn't doubled up. In any case, Tehan made the call with A♣Q♥. Toole turned over two red jacks. It took just a few seconds for the dealer to ruin Toole's day. The 8♠T♣A♦ flop was all Toole really needed to see. Though the 9♥ gave him some more outs, he missed them all on the 2♦ river. For eighth place, Toole earned $60,000.
While Tehan stacked Toole's chips and play wound through an uneventful hour of raising and folding, the only thing that was sure was that Jason Mercier was going to win the tournament. Why? Because that's what he does and even Tehan was sure it was going to happen. So, when Mercier got more than 3.5 million in the middle with ace-king versus Joe Tehan's pocket jacks, the only question was whether the river was going to be an ace or a king. That's when the universe hiccuped. A seam opened in the cosmos and sucked all the aces and kings out of the Crystal Casino. Somehow Jason Mercier lost a flip. And all his chips. He finished in seventh place. Even at this late hour, we're still not sure what happened. Mercier left the room not even knowing how much he won for seventh place. We'll just hope he reads here to discover he won $84,857. As for Tehan, it was that moment that made him believe. "People tell me Jason is a really good coin flipper. After I won that I thought this could be my day," he said.
With Mercier inexplicably gone, the fates had to be shaken from their slumber. The king was dead and the main event needed a winner. The man who took over Mercier's title as All Flips Winner was Joe Tehan. Having won two big flips already, Tehan was ready to play with any pair or any ace-paint combination. Michael Binger was his next victim after deciding to play tens against Tehan's A♣J♥. Just for fun, the dealer waited until the turn to put out the ace. In any case, Binger was free to go after the irrelevant river. He pocketed $114,000.
By this point, Tehan had put on such a show that he was forced to find a new way to entertain the audience. He did it by getting in behind against both Anh Van Nguyen and Ray Henson. The three-way all in put Tehan's K♥5♥ up against Nguyen's ace-queen and Henson's ace-jack. Whatever puppeteers were controlling the show thought it would be fun to put out a 9♦9♣4♦ flop, one that gave Nguyen hopes of survival. Then the gods in the machine did their stuff and dropped the K♣ on the turn. With no ace on the river, both players were gone. Henson had the smallest stack and finished in fifth place for $145,000. Nguyen took third for $195,000.
That left Al Grimes as the shortest stack at the table. He'd barely gotten involved at the final table and as a result made every pay jump with nearly no effort. Of course, it fell to Tehan to do the dirty work. He opened from the button for 165,000. Grimes, sensing he had to double up sometime, moved in for a little more than 500,000. DeMaci got out of the way, but Tehan called with J♥9♣. Grimes smiled and turned over 7♠8♠. He flopped his eight, but Tehan pulled a nine on the turn, and that was that. Grimes' patience earned him $250,000.
And so to heads-up play between the start-of-day chip leader and the man who couldn't lose. Tehan had DeMaci out-chipped 14,595,000 to 6,350,000. Everyone knew DeMaci had the game to come back. One double up and he was going to be dangerous.
It never happened. Both he and Tehan played small ball for nearly two hours. During that time, Tehan chipped away at DeMaci's stack. It finally came down to a kicker battle. Both men flopped top-pair on a king-high board. When DeMaci moved in, Tehan called him quickly. Tehan had a ten kicker, well enough to get over DeMaci's four.
In the end, Tehan recognized how good his day had been. "I ran really, really good today. I won a lot of coin flips," he said. "I won all the hands that were 50-50. It feels great. I'm happy with the way I played."
Due to be married in February, Tehan now has $725,000 to spend on the festivities.
"I had some money set aside for the wedding. Hopefully I can perk it up a little bit now," he said.
Congratulations to Joe Tehan on both the victory and his upcoming nuptials. May he run as well in marriage as he did today.
Thanks for joining us during the main event. We'll be right back here at 2pm PST Thursday for the final table of the NAPT Los Angeles Bounty Shootout. Come back then for our lasts gasps from California.
Until then, goodnight.
All photographs © Joe Giron/Joe Giron Photography