On Friday, July 1, the 2016 World Series of Poker hosted Event #54: $888 Crazy Eights 8-Handed No Limit Hold'em. With re-entries over four starting flights and a guaranteed $888,888 up top, it proved to be a poker player magnet – attracting 6,761 players. This number was 341 more than the runners in the 2015 Main Event!
According to WSOP Vice President, Seth Palansky, "That concept really came because we wanted to offer another affordable buy-in event, but have it stand out from others.”
From that point on, it was an easy leap to settle on an 8-handed event with an $888 buy-in and the Crazy Eights tournament was born.
Day 1 – Flight A
Flight A kicked off on July 1st at 10am Vegas time with 1,291 players. A unique twist to this tournament format was that players from each flight would make the money. That meant 194 players from Day 1 min-cashed for $1,333 each.
Some famous faces on Day 1a were Antonio Esfandiari and Vanessa Russo. However, both were eliminated shy of the money. A total of 36 players made it to Day 2 from this flight with Daniel Fried as chip leader.
Day 1 – Flight B
Flight B kicked off on July 1st at 4pm Vegas time with 1,525 players. 229 runners made the money with 51 surviving to take their shot at a $888,888 first-place payout on Day 2.
Antonio Esfandiari was back for a second shot with other notable faces, Phil Laak and Matt Affleck. However, it was Buffalo native Andy Spears that came out on top in this flight with 499,000 in chips to do battle on Day 2.
Day 1 – Flight C
Flight C started on July 2nd at 10am PST. Of the 1,715 players, 258 made the money with 58 bagging up chips to take their shot on Day 2. Former 888poker ambassador, JC Tran, cashed along with former Main Event champs, Martin Jacobson and Carlos Mortensen. Notable player making it to Day 2 was WSOP bracelet winner, Noah Schwartz.
This flight also featured several 888poker Crazy Eights package winners along with Team888's Chris Moorman, Kara Scott, Bruno Kawauti and Sofia Lovgren.
Day 1 – Flight D
The fourth and final Flight D kicked off on July 2nd at 4pm Vegas time. The Saturday afternoon start attracted 2,230 players with 335 min-cashing and 62 bagging up chips for Day 2. Other notables making it to Day 2 were bracelet winners, Michael Wang, Sam Stein and Alex Lindop.
This flight also featured several 888poker Crazy Eights package winners along with Team888's Bruno Kawauti - taking another shot. Joining him was fellow Brazilian teammate, Bruno Foster.
Day 2 kicked off on July 4th with a total of 206 runners gunning for a piece of the $5,403,391 prize pool, which was fattened up even further by the 1680 players who entered twice, 643 who entered three times and the 216 who played four times.
Although 206 players made Day 2, that number was quickly whittled down as many of the shorter stacks went out quickly. Andy Spears, who entered Day 2 as chip leader, fell short before the second break. Other notable finishers were:
Tom McCormick - 51st place and 59th WSOP cash of his career
Ted Lawson - 61st place
Allen Kessler - 78th place and his 51st WSOP career cash
Day 3 – The Final Table
Day 3 guaranteed the 12th place finisher a respectable $46,098 and that payout went to Francis Anderson. Play continued 11-handed with Chase Johnson and Hung Le protecting small leads on their respective tables. After David Jackson and Chase (surprisingly) had been eliminated, the final table was set.
Seat 1: Dimitar Danchev - 3,850,000
Seat 2: Hung Le - 4,980,000
Seat 3: Nils Bardsley - 1,420,000
Seat 4: Henry Grunzweig - 4,660,000
Seat 5: Loni Harwood - 4,095,000
Seat 6: Aurelien Guiglini - 6,120,000
Seat 7: Yang Zhang - 2,440,000
Seat 8: Michael Lech - 3,315,000
Seat 9: Rafael Yaraliyev - 2,940,000
The final table went into overdrive! After a mere 46 hands, we were down to 3 players. Danchev fell to Lech after both flopped flushes, but Lech's king-high bested his nine-high.
Lech now took on Hung Le heads-up for the title and $888,888 with a 25 million to 7 million chip edge.
We Have a Champion!
Hung Le had his hands full with Michael Lech, who has a reported $800K in online poker winnings. Le knew that he was the underdog with little experience playing tournaments, admitting that he is a recreational cash game player, but green behind the ears when it comes to tournament play. The $888 Crazy Eights was his first WSOP event.
"It's the only way I can beat that guy, he's too good for me," the excited Le told reporters. "He's very aggressive, and he knows how to play the flop good. If I follow the flop with him, I can't beat him."
So, Le's strategy was to be ultra-aggressive pre-flop, and to his amazement, it worked! He doubled-up quickly, and on the 101st hand of the match he called off his stack on a board: Ad-10c-4d-8d with pocket deuces. Lech had QcJc but came up empty with the river 6d.
Originally from Vietnam, Hung now calls Dayton, Ohio his home. A true Cinderella story in that he has five children, describing his family as lower middle class and has won a life-changing sum of money on America's Independence Day.
Afterwards, Le said, “I came out to Las Vegas to get lucky.”
And, didn't he just! Well played!
Final Table Results
1st: Hung Le - $888,888
2nd: Michael Lech - $401,888
3rd: Dimitar Danchev - $297,888
4th: Rafael Yaraliyev - $222,888
5th: Henry Grunzweig – $167,888
6th: Loni Harwood – $128,888
7th: Aurelien Guiglini - $96,888
8th: Yang Zhang – $74,888