There are a few things that go into making a poker tournament an "annual classic." You need a good prizepool; you need some familiar faces and well-known regulars; you need a good location. The World Poker Tour (WPT) Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament in San Jose, California hits all those points.
The unique format that attaches bounties to 80 "Shooting Stars" — well-known professional players — saw 708 people register for a shot at the prizes. After three days of grueling play, it came down to six players who had more than $35 million in winnings between them, but not a single WPT title. That would change for one player before the end of the day on Friday.
The final table included veterans like Faraz Jaka and Canadian Sorel Mizzi, who were both Shooting Stars, as well as some very talented young players. Isaac Baron came to the final table as the chipleader, with Taylor Paur and Jacob Bazeley in second and third.
Small-stack Ravee Mathi was active early on, trying to increase his stack, but ultimately was the first to bust. In a hand against Mizzi and Paur, Mathi shoved over Paur's substantial river bet on a board for an extra million chips. When Mizzi got out of the way, Paur tanked before finally calling with . Mathi showed and finished the tournament in sixth place for $162,260.
Jaka was the next to exit, looking down at and shoving his stack of less than a million chips under the gun, only to run into Bazeley's . Neither hand improved on the board and Jaka collected $216,320 for fifth place. In addition to moving up the pay scale, Bazeley also earned Jaka's $2,500 Shooting Star Bounty, an autographed t-shirt, and a Bounty medallion. The elimination left Mizzi as the only Shooting Star remaining in the tournament.
With only four players remaining, the bustouts slowed somewhat, with the players playing 75 hands before Mizzi finally had to give up his Bounty medallion. When Bazeley min-raised from the cutoff, Paur three-bet from the button before Mizzi moved all in for 1,925,000 in the small blind. Baron folded his big blind and Bazeley also got out of the way before Paur called with . Mizzi showed overcards with and needed to improve to stay alive. When Paur rivered a full house, Mizzi was out in fourth, winning $310,060. For eliminating the final Shooting Star, Paur earned an extra $2,500, as well as the signed t-shirt and the medallion. With Mizzi's elimination, the streak remains that no Shooting Star has ever won the tournament.
That left Bazeley, Baron, and Paur three-handed. Paur had the massive chiplead and, while he continued to dominate the chip counts, it proved difficult to finish the job. It would take more than 60 more hands to finally get heads up, when Paur eliminated Bazeley in blind-on-blind action. When Bazeley completed from the small blind, Paur raised from the big blind to 525,000. Bazeley shoved with , but was called by Paur's . Bazeley failed to improve, collecting $461,470 for third place.
Going into heads-up play, Paur had nearly a three-to-one chiplead over Baron. Unlike third and fourth, first and second place were decided quite quickly. Less than 10 hands into heads-up play, Baron found himself all in on the river with a flopped top pair against Paur's flush on the river. Baron collected $704,200 for his second-place finish while Paur pocketed $1,214,200, became a Shooting Star for next year's event, as well as all the perks that come with being a WPT Champions Club member.
Details and photo courtesy of the WPT Live Blog.