Matt Wakeman has had a few close encounters with a major victory in his poker career, but he was finally able to close one out and take home a WSOPC ring after conquering a field of 205 in the $5,000 Challenge at The Star Sydney. This victory represents Wakeman's largest lifetime score and puts him close to $1 million in career winnings as well.
"I feel good," Wakeman said. "I almost feel relieved in a lot of ways. I've been around for a long time and it's kind of a monkey off my back. It's probably more relief than excitement or anything like that. It's a strange feeling. I'm not used to winning."
For Wakeman, he tried his best not to get too ahead of himself despite holding the chip lead for the better part of the tournament. A few huge pots put Wakeman in the lead at the end of Day 1 and he held on to that lead almost the entire way.
"I ran really good," Wakeman said, laughing. "It was pretty smooth, more or less just because I did run really good.
WSOP International Circuit The Star Sydney $5,000 Challenge Final Table Results
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"I tried not to get ahead of myself," Wakeman said after amassing the big lead on Day 1. "The way I approached things was just one hand at a time and to just play whatever is in front of me. I don't think I ever really thought about winning or got too far ahead of myself at any point in time. I've been in this position before and it hasn't gone that well. You don't set yourself up for disappointment if you just play what's in front of you."
Despite, Wakeman seemed to cruise to a victory, never putting himself in spots too tough or bad situations. He actually fired two bullets in this event, busting the first in the middle of day one, but for him, he didn't make any changes to his game plan. He just wanted to make the correct decision. Those decisions would lead him to a massive chip lead by the end of Day 1 and at the start of the day, Wakeman had nearly twice as many chips as his nearest competitor, Robert Spano.
WSOP International Circuit The Star Sydney $5,000 Challenge Final Day Action
The first to fall on Day 2 was Simon Chahine who was eliminated by Gautam Dhingra when his ace-five was outflopped by Dhingra's ten-nine. Dhingra would eliminate Shivan Abdine as well next with pocket kings against queen ten. These two pots helped Dhingra build a healthy stack that would eventually carry him to 3rd place.
The first player that Wakeman would eliminate was Mladen Vukovic, in 13th place. Wakeman opened with a raise then quickly called a shove from Vukovic. Wakeman's ace-jack would turn Vukovic's king-queen dead and that pushed him to roughly 1,500,000 chips, roughly a third of the chips in play. Wakeman would then eliminate Hannah Lee in 12th place with ace-queen against king-ten, and Sean Dunwoodie in 10th place with king-queen against king-eight. This would bring players to the final table, where Wakeman would be leading with just under half of the chips in play.
"YOU DON'T SET YOURSELF UP FOR DISAPPOINTMENT IF YOU JUST PLAY WHAT'S IN FRONT OF YOU."
Wakeman actually took a backseat at the final table, staying out of big pots and letting the shorter stacked players duel it out. The first to fall would be Hauman Darbani. Darbani got it in good with ace-king suited, but he was outflopped by Isaac Lau's ace-jack. Next to go would be Billy Argyros who lost a flip to Josh McCully, then was eliminated shortly after by Sam Khoueis. Khoueis fell next to Lau when his queens were outflopped by Lau's king-jack.
Despite eliminating a multitude of players, Isaac Lau would fall in sixth place. With the blinds moving up, a short stacked Lau four-bet shoved blind versus blind against Dejan Boskovic holding ace-jack. Unfortunately for him, Boskovic was holding ace-queen suited and called. Lau failed to catch up and he hit the rail in sixth place.
Next to go was Robert Spano who shoved ten-nine into Dhingra's king-ten and failed to catch up. McCully, who laddered up with his short stack, fell quickly after than in fourth place. Dingrha moved all in over the top with ace-queen and flopped a queen and made trips on the river to send McCully to the rail.
Dhingra had a good run of eliminating players but he dropped in third place after failing to get much traction in three-handed play. Dhingra tried to make a hero call against Boskovic but his call was wrong as Boskovic held the nut straight and he hit the rail shortly after, losing a flip with ace-jack suited against Boskovic's pocket tens.
Wakeman didn't actually eliminate a single player at the final table until Boskovic. The two battled for quite some time, but Wakeman seemed to have control of the match the entire time. A few crucial hands would send Boskovic lower and lower down the counts, paying off several of Wakeman's value bets. Then, in the final hand, Boskovic four-bet shoved all in with ace-deuce off. Wakeman called with ace-nine off and held to close out the tournament.
With that, Wakeman locked up the first place prize of $255,311, the biggest prize of this series so far as well as his biggest lifetime cash. Wakeman plans to play the Main Event after this and will continue to play events on the schedule until the end of the series.