Daniel Strelitz Wins First Major Title at WPT L.A. Poker Classic

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Daniel Strelitz had come close to a major title before, twice finishing in the top three at World Series of Poker events.

This time, at the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic, he left no doubt, finishing as the chip leader on each of the final three days leading up to the final table and then capturing the trophy and $1,001,110. He topped a field of 521 players in the $10,000 freezeout for his biggest score.

“I feel amazing, it’s really unbelievable,” he told tournament reporters after the win. “Me making this run just feels so good, especially since I’ve been living in SoCal my whole life. This is the biggest tournament you can win in SoCal and to just win it is unbelievable.”
Strelitz admitted he felt some pressure to close things out because he had such a dominating run as the chip leader. Indeed, Strelitz went into the TV final table with a monstrous stack of more than 216 big blinds, more than double second-place stack Simeon Naydenov.

It took just seven hands for the first player to bow out. Short stack Richard Tuhrim snuck into the final table with just 23 big blinds and he got down to about 14 after an early blind jump. He got them in there ahead with {a-Spades}{7-Spades} against Strelitz’s {k-Clubs}{q-Clubs}, and a friendly board of {7-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}{9-Hearts} developed for Tuhrim. Unfortunately for him, the {k-Hearts} arrived on the river to doom him.

WPT commentator and poker legend Mike Sexton was seeking his second WPT title in just a few months after winning WPT Montreal. He very nearly went out fifth when he got {a-Hearts}{6-Hearts} in against the {a-Clubs}{10-Spades} of Strelitz, but a paired board with a king and a queen saved Sexton with a chop.

Instead, noted mixed-game player Jesse Martin, present at a rare no-limit hold’em final table, ended up going out fifth after he moved up to second in the counts early on. He lost a huge chunk of his stack when he walked into a big hand blind-versus-blind, shoving from the small for 1,220,000 at 25,000/50,000/5,000 and having Jared Griener wake up with {a-Clubs}{q-Hearts}. Martin had {j-Hearts}{9-Diamonds} and was flopped essentially dead when a couple of aces hit the felt.

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Right after Sexton got his lucky chops, Martin hit the rail in fifth. Again, he walked into a blind-versus-blind monster when he shoved 15 big blinds with {q-Hearts}{6-Clubs} and Griener woke up with eights. The board ran out clean for Griener and Martin headed for payouts.

Sexton dwindled down to 10 big blinds but found a good spot when he got it in with kings. Strelitz called his button shove with ace-seven and found an ace on the flop to put Sexton down in fourth.

Strelitz had his remaining two opponents outchipped combined, but Bulgarian bracelet winner Naydenov found some traction and pulled nearly even when he doubled all in preflop with sevens against Strelitz’s {a-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}.

Naydenov and Strelitz exchanged the lead a number of times before they finally eliminated Griener on Hand #143. Naydenov was the executioner, winning a race by flopping a set of eights against {a-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds} all in preflop. He had a slight lead on Strelitz going heads up, but both players had over 70 big blinds.

That lead flipped to Strelitz almost right away. On the second hand of heads-up, Naydenov defended his big blind and check-called three streets on a {q-Hearts}{q-Diamonds}{5-Spades}{3-Spades}{a-Spades} runout, showing down {j-Spades}{8-Spades} for a backdoor flush. Strelitz had it beat though, as he had turned a boat with pocket threes, and he took a 3-2 lead.

It was a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. The two sparred for about an hour without a ton of chips changing hands. Then, on Hand #183, Strelitz raised on the button to 260,000 at 60,000/120,000/20,000 and Naydenov called. Naydenov checked a {q-Spades}{7-Clubs}{6-Spades} flop, and Strelitz bet 325,000.

Naydenov made it 975,000 and Strelitz called. Naydenov again checked when an {8-Hearts} arrived and Strelitz bet 1,350,000. Naydenov shoved for 3,860,000 and Strelitz snap-called with {5-Hearts}{4-Spades} for a straight. The Bulgarian was drawing dead with {k-Clubs}{q-Diamonds}, so Strelitz didn’t even have to sweat the river, knowing he’d already secured the LAPC title.