By Brett Collson for POKER NEWS DAILY |
Phil Laak defeated defending champion J.C. Tran in heads-up play to win the opening heat of the PartyPoker.com Premier League IV Friday evening. Laak earned 16 league points as he trounced a strong field that included Tran, Daniel Negreanu, Ian Frazer, Roland De Wolfe, Luke "Full_Flush" Schwartz, Vanessa Rousso, and Yevgeniy "Jovial Gent" Timoshenko.
Laak, who won the PartyPoker.com World Open in October, continued his torrid run Friday, admittedly getting a lot of help from the deck during the first heat. He first got the best of Negreanu, who held 6-5 on a 10-6-5 board, but was drawing virtually dead against Laak's set of sixes. Negreanu was eliminated in eighth place, failing to collect a point in the first heat.
Laak made Frazer his next victim shortly after Negreanu's exit. Laak raised pre-flop with pocket eights and Frazer re-raised to 51,000 with pocket kings. Laak pushed all-in and Frazer put his remaining 295,000 into the middle, only to watch Laak flop a set of eights to send Frazer out in the seventh spot, picking up two league points.
After Timoshenko eliminated De Wolfe in sixth place with pocket aces, Laak took a hefty portion of chips from Schwartz. The two saw a flop of K-K-7, Schwartz holding pocket queens and Laak with K-7 for a flopped full house. Schwartz bet 40,000 on the flop and Laak called. Both players checked the eight on the turn and Schwartz led out for 130,000 when the deuce of hearts came on the river. Laak moved all-in and a disgusted Schwartz tossed his hand into the muck. Schwartz was later eliminated in fifth place when his K-10 couldn't improve against Tran's pocket queens. He earned four league points.
Vanessa Rousso was the next victim of the scorching Phil Laak. With the blinds at 15/30K, Laak raised the button with K-6 and Rousso moved all-in for 220k with pocket fives. Laak called and made a pair of Kings on the flop to send Vanessa out in fourth place with six points.
With three players left and sitting on most of the chips in play, Laak again handled the dirty work. At the 20,000/40,000 level, Timoshenko moved all-in for 375,000 from the small blind with Q-3 and Laak called instantly with K-10. Laak flopped a pair of Kings and made trips on the turn to take a big chip lead into the heads-up encounter with Tran (1.8 million to 520,000).
On the final hand, Tran raised with A-5, Laak re-raised all-in with K-7, and Tran called. Laak spiked a seven on the flop and avoided an ace on the turn and river to clinch the first heat.
“That was so surreal. I felt like I was floating out there, it’s an awesome start to the tournament,” said Laak, who collected $32,000 for the victory. “J.C. is a genius at the poker table and was one of the players I was most wary of, along with Daniel Negreanu, who will love this points system with his math brain.”
The second heat takes place on Saturday at 12:00pm PT at the M Resort in Las Vegas. Laak, along with Tran, Timoshenko, and De Wolfe, will return, while Phil Hellmuth, David Benyamine, Tony G, and online qualifier Giovanni Safina will make their first PartyPoker Premier League IV appearance.