The World Poker Tour may no longer partner the Bay 101 Shooting Stars event, but the iconic tournament went ahead, all the same, handing Sandeep Pulusani a rare win in San Jose.
The opportunity to compete alongside some of poker’s most famous faces is one of the reasons people turned up in their droves to compete at the Bay 101 Shooting Stars event, but it also seems the World Poker Tour (WPT) brand had an important role to play.
The WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star event had become poker’s favourite puppet show, making annual headlines after Phil Gordon beat Chris Moneymaker, heads-up, to capture the inaugural crown back in 2004.
Then, in 2018, a single season after Sam Panzica had defeated a record field of 806-entrants to bank $1,373,000, the WPT dropped the iconic event from the roster.
The Bay 101 Shooting Stars didn’t die. Instead, it went ahead, undeterred, keeping itself ship-shape should the North American live tournament powerhouse choose to drop anchor on that shoreline, again.
The $5,200 buy-in event attracted 440-entrants, creating a $2,156,000 prize pool. The 45% YoY drop in attendance may look like a spit in the face, but I am sure it didn’t feel like that at ground zero.
The cream inevitably rose to the top with a cracking final table lineup.
Nobody at the final table had won more money than Dan Shak (and I doubt any of them have more money than Dan Shak). The part-time poker enthusiast came into this one on fire after making the final table of three US Poker Open events in February but had to settle for third.
John Andress has several high roller victories under his belt including a $25k win at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open for $801,450, and Andress finished fifth.
The betting man would have gone with Tosoc who began with a 2:1 chip lead, but Pulusani began heads-up with a 100% record winning his previous two heads-up encounters at this level, with Tosoc only winning two of seven.
The pair agreed upon a deal that left $50,100 in the middle, and it ended up in Pulusani’s bank account after two critical hands saw pocket kings beat fives to take the chip lead, and then pocket aces beating A9 in the final hand of the tournament.
It was Sandeep’s third live tournament victory of a career that has earned him more than $1.6m in gross earnings. Pulusani has an Aussie Millions gold ring for beating a 150-entrant field in an AUD 1,100 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout event for $38,605, and a bracelet for his win at the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em event at the 2013 World Series of Poker (WSOP) beating Niall Farrell to bank the half a million dollar first prize.
Final Table Results
1. Sandeep Pulusani – $354,400*
2. Ryan Tosoc – $336,500*
3. Dan Shak – $200,055
4. Loni Harwood – $142,440
5. John Andress – $103,710
6. Steve Kim – $76,850
7. Hiroaki Harada – $57,980
8. Antonios Roungeris – $57,980
*Indicates a deal.
Dominating acts of poker despotism who ran deep in this one were the 2014 Bay 101 Shooting Star winner, James Carroll (10th), Triple Crown winner Mohsin Charania (24th) and WPT Champions Club member, Brian Altman (25th).
In Bay 101 Shooting Stars side event news, Tuiofu Hunkin conquered a field of 345-entrants to win the $1,100 No-Limit Hold’em for $50,565, and Leo Feinziag defeated a field of 102-entrants, including Shannon Shorr, heads-up, to claim the $100,000 first prize in a $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event.