October 24, 2022
The illustrious history of the World Poker Tour (WPT)’s flagship tournament, the Five Diamond World Poker Classic added one of its most epic chapters Sunday. The $10,400 buy-in tournament attracted 569 entries, which surpassed the $5 million guarantee by offering up a $5,519,300 prize pool.
After a record-breaking 399 hands at the official final table, Chad Eveslage defeated Steve “Cuz” Buckner heads-up to win his second plaque on the Mike Sexton Champions Cup and a $1,042,300 top prize.
Play began at noon local time and lasted until almost midnight before Eveslage finally finished off his pesky opponent after a back-and-forth heads-up match that lasted just under four hours, despite accelerated 30-minute blind levels once heads-up play began.
Eveslage defeated a tough final table that also included Belgian star Michael Gathy, who had come back from under four big blinds on Day 4 to eventually finish in third place, and Day 2 and 3 chip leader Brian Kim, who finished fourth. The champion was quick to praise those two opponents in particular when asked about how it felt to win a second WPT title.
“It feels very good. I feel very fortunate. I had never played with (Gathy). I was so impressed. I haven’t been that impressed with another poker player in a while. He was really, really tough,” said Eveslage. “And then Brian, I had never heard of him really, but he was like… (Eveslage gave a look of amazement). It’s crazy that there’s so many good players out there, and to win two (WPT titles), I’m pretty sure I’m not that much or any better than either of them, so I just feel super blessed.”
Eveslage previously topped a 1,199-entry field to win the $5,000 WPT Venetian in July 2021 for $910,370. He also claimed his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet this past summer in Event #8: $25,000 High Roller for $1,415,610.
2022 Five Diamond World Poker Classic Final Day Results
Action of the Day: Donovan is First Elimination to Set Official Final Table
Zach Donovan entered the final table with 960,000 chips, the second-shortest stack remaining, but on the tenth hand of the day, he was the first player sent to the rail, finishing short of the official six-handed WPT final table.
In level 25, with blinds of 30,000/60,000 with a 60,000 big blind ante, Donovan moved all in for 790,000 from the hijack. Brian Kim called from the big blind to put Donovan at risk.
Donovan held but was in terrible shape against Kim’s .
After a runout of , Donovan was eliminated in 7th place for $166,000.
From there, the tournament shifted back to 60-minute levels, with each player receiving a fresh stack of eight 30-second time extension chips.
David Kim Eliminated in 6th Place
The next elimination wouldn’t come until midway through level 27 at blinds of 50,000/100,000/100,000 when David Kim, who entered the day as the short stack was sent home in sixth place.
Kim raised under the gun to 200,000 and was called by Gathy in the big blind. After Gathy checked the flop, Kim bet 150,000 and got check-raised by Gathy to 375,000.
Kim, called, then on the turn, Gathy moved all in for a bit over a million effective. After over a minute in the tank, Kim called off to put himself at risk holding for top pair with a jack kicker.
Gathy however turned over for a flopped two pair. The river couldn’t save Kim and he was sent home with $216,000.
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Calderon Out in 5th Place, Buckner Takes Over Top Spot in POY Race
Shortly after Kim’s elimination, the field was thinned to four as the chip leader to start the day, Albert Calderon was busted by Eveslage.
The action came on the 100th hand of the official final table with Eveslage raising to 225,000 on the button and Calderon calling in the big blind.
On the flop, Eveslage continued in position for 225,000 and was check-raised to 500,000 by Calderon. Eveslage called to see the on the turn.
Calderon then jammed for 3,150,000, which was more than two times the size of the pot. Eveslage called, revealing for top two pair. Calderon could only show for a pair of aces with a flush draw.
The on the river gave Calderon two pair as well, but his were inferior to Eveslage who raked in the huge pot moving him into second place in chips behind only Gathy who now held over ten million.
Calderon took home $283,000 for his fifth-place finish, but a major side note to the hand was the ascension of Buckner into the 2022 WPT Player of the Year lead. Now with at least 650 POY points locked up, Buckner passed Ray Qartomy for top spot in the race by 50 points. He now had the opportunity to extend his lead if he could get even deeper in the tournament.
Buckner Needs a Miracle to Survive
Midway through level 28, Buckner’s run for the Five Diamond title and any further Player of the Year points were in deep jeopardy as he was all in and dominated versus Gathy.
Buckner had moved all in preflop from the button for 1,825,000 with and was called by Gathy in the big blind with .
The flop gave Gathy an even bigger lead in the hand, as the board paired Gathy’s ace and left Bucker needing runner-runner to survive.
Runner number one came on the turn with the , giving Buckner a gutshot draw to Broadway.
Runner number two then slid in on the river with the , giving Buckner his straight.
Buckner’s familiar call of “LETS GOOOOOO” echoed throughout the Bellagio poker room as the pot was pushed to him, doubling him up to just under four million chips.
Eveslage Wins Massive Pot to Eliminate Kim in 4th Place
Buckner’s survival skills would prove fruitful, as late in level 29 with blinds of 75,000/150,000/150,000 he laddered up with the stunning elimination of Brian Kim in 3rd place.
After Eveslage opened to 300,000 from the cutoff and Buckner called on the button, Kim moved all in for 4,525,000 from the big blind. Eveslage then moved in for more and Buckner folded.
Kim showed versus Eveslage’s and a nine million chip coinflip was underway.
The board came , giving Eveslage top two pair on the flop, and sending Kim to the rail in fourth place. The sudden finish had to be disappointing, but it’s another great result for Kim, who’s had an outstanding year.
His fourth-place payout of $377,000 marked his best-ever live cash, surpassing the $323,000 he earned for his 23rd place finish in the 2022 WSOP Main Event. Kim also took down a $5,300 WSOP online High Roller just last week for a bracelet and $119,000.
Buckner Makes Gathy the Short Stack
With play now three-handed and Buckner with new life, the difference among the stacks began to close in level 30 with Buckner continuing to rebuild and then passing Gathy.
In a limped blind versus blind pot, Buckner led out from the small blind for 350,000 on a flop. Gathy called in the big blind, then on the flop, called a 1,000,000 chip bet from Buckner.
The river brought the and Buckner now moved all in for just over four million. This time, Gathy folded and Buckner proudly showed for a flopped jack-high straight.
The pot gave Buckner 7,325,000 in chips to Gathy’s 6,300,000, while Eveslage had both his opponents covered with 14,800,000.
Gathy Falls in 3rd Place
Gathy said at the end of Day 4 that he felt like he was freerolling after coming back from under four big blinds to make it to the final day with the third biggest stack. He took that freeroll deep into the final table but after dropping to the short stack three-handed, he couldn’t quite recover.
In Gathy’s final hand, he raised to 500,000 on the button, then faced an all-in from Eveslage in the small blind for 6,300,000 effective. Gathy called to put himself at risk and was pipped.
Eveslage held to Gathy’s , and after the board came , bringing no help to Gathy, the Belgian’s day was done in third place for $505,000, leaving Eveslage and Buckner to duel for the title.
River Déjà Vu for Buckner
Steve Buckner vs. Chad Eveslage
In his runner-up finish to Chance Kornuth at WPT Choctaw, Buckner got his queen-ten in against Kornuth’s queen-nine in a pot that if he’d held, would have won him that tournament.
Kornuth would however river a flush on Buckner, leaving him with crumbs, then winning the title shortly after.
Sunday, Buckner got it in good again for the win, but once more was denied on the river.
With blinds now a massive 500,000/1,000,000/1,000,000 in Level 37, Eveslage moved all in for just over 12 million with and was snap-called by Buckner with .
The board ran clean through the turn for Buckner and he was again one card away from the win. But the on the river had other ideas, giving Eveslage a pair of aces and a massive pot that all but sealed Buckner’s fate again.
Buckner would get his last 3,100,000 chips in on the next hand with against Eveslage’s and again fortune favored Eveslage who flopped a pair of fives on the board to win the tournament.
The World Poker Tour (WPT) will return to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida this November for the WPT Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open (RRPO), which will culminate with the $3,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Main Event taking place from November 25-30.
*Images courtesy of WPT/Joe Giron.