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Will Failla wins WPT Legends of Poker

It's been nearly two decades in the making, but finally, professional poker player Will "The Thrill" Failla earned his first major title with a victory at the World Poker Tour's Legends of Poker main event. The $3,500 re-entry event featured 757 entries and offered up a prize pool of $2.5 million. Failla's share was $758,085, the largest tournament score of his career, and for the first time ever, fans around the world were able to watch the crowning of a champion live on the World Poker Tour website.

Failla entered the six-handed final table with the chip lead and more WPT events under his belt than all of his opponents combined … times nine. That experience and perseverance was immediately put to the test as he'd relinquish the lead on the sixth hand. His downward trend continued on the 14th hand, where Failla lost the minimum in a spot where many others would've lost most of their stack. After calling a preflop raise by Jeff Vertes, Failla fired out a third-pot bet with K-Q on a board of A-Q-Q. Ken Aldridge folded and Vertes made the call. The turn brought a 6 and both players checked. A river 2 didn't appear to change anything, but Vertes led out for a third-pot sized bet of his own. Failla said that something didn't feel right and reluctantly made the call with his trips. Vertes showed A-Q for a flopped full house.

Two hands later, Failla regained some of those chips with the elimination of 2011 WSOP bracelet winner Owais Ahmed. About 20 minutes later, the new short stack, Adam Aronson, moved all-in from the button with A-K. Failla called out of the small blind with K-Q and failed to improve, giving Aronson a much-needed double.

Aronson's conservative final table play may have resulted in his downfall. For a second time during the final table, Aronson blinded down to under 10 big blinds and eventually moved in with 6-6. He was called by Vertes' A-A, but managed to flop a set on a board of 8h-6h-3s. Seeming visibly relieved for a moment, that comfortable feeling dissipated immediately as the 7h hit the turn, giving Vertes a flush draw in addition to his two ace outs. As both players watched the felt with intensity, the river 9h completed Vertes' flush and Aronson was knocked out in fifth place.

It seemed to be a three-horse race with four players to go as Failla, with 3.3 million in chips, was on the outside looking up at three stacks nearly twice his own. To Failla's approval, two of those stacks collided in a strange hand involving retired teacher Ken "Teach" Aldridge (6.8 million in chips) and Joshua Pollack (5.3 million). After a raise by Pollack and a call by Aldridge preflop, the two saw a flop of Ad-Kc-4d. After a Aldridge check, Pollack bet 500,000, Aldridge raised to 1.2 million, Pollack moved all-in and Aldridge called! Both player's holdings were slightly surprising: Aldridge held A-7 for top pair and Pollack showed Jd-7d for a flush draw. Pollack missed his flush and was eliminated as Aldridge won the biggest pot of the night to move into the chip lead.

With nine big blinds, Failla began his run with a little luck on his side. First he doubled through Aldridge, winning a race with 6-6 to Aldridge's 9-10. After blinding back down to 12 big blinds, Failla was all-in and behind with A-5 against Vertes' A-9. A five flopped and Failla was now second in chips behind Aldridge.

For 87 hands, the three-handed battle ensued with wild chip swings for each player. Aldridge, with 10 million in chips, maintained control for the most part as Failla (7.7 million) and Vertes (5.1 million) battled for position. After such a grind, Vertes' found himself all-in and well ahead against Failla, playing for a 13 million chip pot and the chip lead with the blinds at 200,000/400,000 and a 50,000 ante. Vertes' A-Q dominated Failla' A-J until the flop of A-J-10 and without finding a king or queen on the turn or river, Vertes' was eliminated in third place.

Aldridge regained the lead a few hands later and picking up A-A during heads-up play, it seemed that he'd have the trophy in his hands momentarily. Aldridge raised preflop with the aces and Failla called. The flop came Jc-5d-2h and Aldridge continued with a small bet. Holding only 8h-6h, Failla made the call, perhaps hoping to take the pot away with a bluff on the turn or river. A turn 9h changed Failla's position dramatically. Now with flush and straight draws, Failla had the potential to make a real hand and after Aldridge made a nearly 3/4-bet, Failla called. The river 7h completed everything for Failla and he bet out more than half of his remaining stack. Aldridge moved all-in and with the flush, Failla called immediately to win the pot. Three hands later, with Failla moving all-in to put his opponent to the test, his J-6 held over Aldridge's 6-4 to become the newest WPT champion.

Failla has earned $1.2 million in 2011 with 14 cashes, five at the 2011 WSOP, and two wins.

Below are the complete results of the first World Poker Tour stop of Season 10:

2011 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker
Buy-in: $3,500 re-entry
Entries: 757
Prize pool: $2,570,015
Players in the money: 80

1. Will Failla ($758,085)
2. Ken Aldridge ($365,800)
3. Jeff Vertes ($186,400)
4. Joshua Pollock ($128,500)
5. Adam Aronson ($102,800)
6. Owais Ahmed ($77,100)
7. Ray Henson ($64,250)
8. James Carroll ($51,400)
9. David Daneshgar ($38,550)
10. Matt Kay ($29,555)
11. Tyler Cornell ($29,555)
12. Richard McGee ($29,555)
13. Shawn Buchanan ($24,415)
14. Mike Eskandari ($24,415)
15. Christina Lindley ($24,415)
16. Brent Hanks ($19,275)
17. Billy Bey ($19,275)
18. David Tuthill ($19,275)
19. Derek Palmer ($14,135)
20. Dan Heimiller ($14,135)
21. Zachary Fahmie ($14,135)
22. Dan Natarelli ($14,135)
23. Keith Kozar ($14,135)
24. Tuan Nguyen ($14,135)
25. Jamie Shaevel ($14,135)
26. Randy Holland ($14,135)
27. Allen Kessler ($10,280)
28. Ben Arnold ($10,280)
29. Matt Berkey ($10,280)
30. William Vo ($10,280)
31. Rod Clarida ($10,280)
32. Dwyte Pilgrim ($10,280)
33. Sameer Aljanedi ($10,280)
34. Cody Slaubaugh ($10,280)
35. Isaac Kirchner ($10,280)
36. John Hall ($9,250)
37. Jonathan Little ($9,250)
38. JC Tran ($9,250)
39. Corey Hochman ($9,250)
40. Amnon Filippi ($9,250)
41. Matthew Salsberg ($9,250)
42. Jameson Painter ($9,250)
43. Marek Uharcek ($9,250)
44. Tom McLaughlin ($9,250)
45. Dean Syrjanen ($8,480)
46. Andrew Taylor ($8,480)
47. Alec Torelli ($8,480)
48. Vahan Sudzhyan ($8,480)
49. David Paredes ($8,480)
50. Andy Tsai ($8,480)
51. Robert Thompson ($8,480)
52. Renae Garcia ($8,480)
53. Allen Cunningham ($8,480)
54. Saifuddin Ahmad ($7,710)
55. Paul Lieu ($7,710)
56. Gavin Smith ($7,710)
57. Ken Lawson ($7,710)
58. Ahmad Raza ($7,710)
59. Kevin Jonna ($7,710)
60. Zach Clark ($7,710)
61. Grant Hillman ($7,710)
62. Seth Fischer ($7,710)
63. Aaron Overton ($7,300)
64. Armen Zadoyan ($7,300)
65. Steven Garfinkle ($7,300)
66. Jamie Gold ($7,300)
67. Harold Wasson ($7,300)
68. Dan O'Brien ($7,300)
69. Soi Nguyen ($7,300)
70. Doug Messner ($7,300)
71. Blake Kelso ($7,300)
72. Frank Lin ($7,000)
73. Chance Kornuth ($7,000)
74. Ayed Shweihat ($7,000)
75. Dmitrii Valouev ($7,000)
76. Owen Crowe ($7,000)
77. Greg Mueller ($7,000)
78. Paul Lee ($7,000)
79. Shahen Martirosian ($7,000)
80. Robert McVeigh ($7,000)