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Following up on courtiebee’s report on the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star event, here is the final table report, fresh off of the finish yesterday evening.

A lot of times in tournaments, the time leading up to the final table, ripe with bubble aggression and big stacks putting pressure on the short stacks, it’s not all that uncommon to see chip leads change place often, and incredible changes of fortune amongst the remaining players.

However, in Brandon Cantu’s case, he simply steamrolled the competition on his way to the final table. Collecting an amazing five bounties during the tournament, and as the Day 1A chipleader, he had already made $35k, before even getting his final table payday. Cantu, not a stranger to a big payday, had his first huge cash in 2006 when he won the second event of the World Series of Poker for over $757k, but since then, he only took down one more six figure cash while at a Bellagio tournament series. Other than that, Cantu hasn’t made much of a splash the past few years, never even coming close to the success he attained when he got his bracelet in the summer of 2006. Despite his struggles, with his meteoric rise throughout this tournament, one might believe that this may have been destiny for Cantu. However, despite his ridiculous run, he still had some extremely formidable talent to work his way through. Jennifer Harman needs no introduction, as she is arguably the best female player in the poker world, if not one of the best players altogether. Steve Sung is a well-known cash game grinder, who has begun to crush tournaments recently. John Phan is another well-known tournament pro, with nearly 3 million in cashes to his name. Would Cantu finish what he started? Here were the stacks going into the final table.

Brandon Cantu – 3,323,000
Mike Baker – 1,964,000
Noah Jefferson – 842,000
Jennifer Harman – 541,000
Steve Sung – 474,000
John Phan – 374,000

Sometimes WPT final tables are categorized as crapshoots, with huge blinds, and short stacks. However, this tournament has a structure that is beloved by players, with slow rising blinds, and ample time to play poker. This is proven by the fact that the blinds were starting at 4k/8k, 1k ante, which means the shortest stack had nearly 46 big blinds, which is amazing. Even further, the chip leader, Cantu, had over 400 big blinds going into the final table. This one could literally have gone forever.

The most decorated player at the final table was the one to put the first dent in Brandon Cantu’s armor. After making a raise to 30k preflop, Cantu was called by Harman, and Baker. After a 964 flop with two clubs, the action was checked to Cantu, who bet 100k. Harman took sometime before shoving all in for 448k total. Cantu decided to call and gamble with the T2 of clubs, for an overcard and a flush draw. However, he was dismayed when Harman rolled over pocket sixes for a set, killing his overcard. The turn was a T, no help and the river was a 9, giving Harman the boat, and 1 million in chips. Cantu was knocked down to still a huge 3.15 million.

The shortstack coming into the final table, Phan’s stack eroded away rather fast, down to 70k within 18 hands. On the 19th, he shoved his remaining chips in, and was called by Noah Jefferson in the big blind. Jefferson held 66, in the lead against Phan’s Q8 of diamonds. The flop helped no one, but the turn brought a six, which sealed the deal. Phan went home in 6th place, banking $135k.

Three hands later, perhaps one of the strangest, most unpredictable hands ever, occurred. With the blinds still at 4k/8k, Mike Baker came in for 25k under the gun. Cantu reraised from the button to 75k, Baker reraised to 200k, and Cantu reraised again to 500k!     Baker thought for some time, calling the extra 300k, leaving 1.2 million behind. Before the flop, the pot was already 1 million; putting over 120 big blinds in play already. The flop came down Queen of spades, Ten of diamonds, 2 of diamonds. Cantu put Baker in for his remaining 1.2 million or so, and after a short time, he called all-in. Cantu flipped over pocket aces, with the ace of diamonds. Baker flipped over…K3 of diamonds, which befuddled everyone. Despite his extremely loose play preflop, and postflop, he still had a good chance to win the hand with his questionable play. The turn was the five of spades, and the river was the five of clubs, effectively ending Michael Baker’s run. After that unbelievable hand, he was eliminated in 5th, earning $200k. Cantu won an enormous pot and became the overwhelming chip leader. Here were the stack sizes four handed at this point in time.

Brandon Cantu – 5,044,000
Noah Jefferson – 956,000
Jennifer Harman  – 936,000
Steve Sung  –  582,000

Going into four handed play, he had two times the chip count of the rest of the table combined. Could the chip lead be wrestled away from Cantu? It would be nearly three hours until the next player was sent home from their quest for the title. With the blinds up to 8k/16k, Noah Jefferson got all of his chips in with AK of diamonds, against the pocket sevens of Steve Sung. Jefferson hit absolutely nothing, and Sung hit an unnecessary 7 on the river as well. Jefferson busted in 4th, earning $265k.

Here were the stack sizes after Noah’s bust out.

Brandon Cantu  – 5,761,000
Steve Sung  – 1,515,000
Jennifer Harman  – 242,000

Clearly Harman needed to make a move at this point as her stack was getting very close to being miniscule. She got all of her chips in, wasting no time, getting it in with A8 vs. Cantu’s JT. The Q87 flop gave her a pair, but gave Cantu extra outs in the form of a nine for a gutshot straight. The 6 on the turn was no help to Cantu, and the river 4 cinched it up for Harman, as she doubled to over 400k.

Just a few hands later, Harman shoved again from the button, for about 300k. Cantu moved all in over the top from the small blind, and Sung folded. Harman showed AK, while Cantu was holding a slim lead with 99. The flop came down KJ9 to put Harman in a precarious position. The turn was a four, ending her run in the Shooting Star tournament, with Cantu collecting another bounty. Harman took down $330k for her finish.

Here were the stacks going into heads-up play.

Brandon Cantu – 6,133,000
Steve Sung – 1,385,000

Sung had a huge deficit, but was in no means hurting for chips. With the blinds up to 10k/20k, with a 3k ante, he still had a lot of time. He did need to get to work however.

Cantu grounded Sung down to 550k or so, before Sung doubled up with K3 vs. Cantu’s J9.

Just a few hands later, they got it in again. Cantu raised to 80k on the button, and Sung moved all in. Cantu snap called, flipping over 44, which was dominating Sung’s 33. The flop came down A97, which gave Sung no backdoor draws. The turn came down a 6, and the river an 8, finishing off Sung’s hopes. He collected $585k for his second place finish.

Cantu dominated this final table from start to finish, finally collecting a huge cash, and earning the prestigious honor of winning both a WPT Championship and a WSOP bracelet. He took down $1,000,000 for first place. On top of that, he took 6 bounties down for $30k, and took down the award for being chip leader on Day 1A for $10k.