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Ashton wins WSOP Poker Players Championship

5 July 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Matthew Ashton beat Don Nguyen heads up to win the $50,000 Players Championship early Friday morning and become the youngest player to lift the David "Chip" Reese Memorial Trophy. Ashton won $1,774,089 for finishing first. Nguyen won $1,096,254 for finishing second. Heads-up play lasted about 10 minutes. Ashton began final table play Thursday second in chips with 2.996 million. Nguyen started final play first in chips with 5.068 million.

This summer's World Series had been both successful and frustrating for Ashton prior to winning The Players Championship. He had reached three other final tables, but didn't win any of them.

"This is the tournament I really wanted to win, because it's the mixed-games one," the 25-year-old Ashton said after his victory. "It actually means more to me than the Main Event."

John Hennigan finished third to win $686,568. Hennigan busted out after about three hours of three-handed play. The final blow for the 43-year-old Hennigan came in Pot-Limit Omaha when his queens ran into Ashton's two pair.

The Players Championship at the World Series of Poker had the distinct feeling of a generational battle Thursday. On one side were Minh Ly, David Benyamine, Mike Wattel and Hennigan -- grizzled cash and live game veterans who have been making their living for decades in poker rooms and high-stakes cash games of all varieties all over the world. On the other side were Nguyen, Ashton, Jonathan Duhamel and George Danzer -- the young poker guns who cut their teeth in online poker and Texas Hold'em before branching out to conquer the world.

At the age of 25, Matthew Ashton is the youngest winner of the $50,000 Players Championship at the World Series of Poker.

At the age of 25, Matthew Ashton is the youngest winner of the $50,000 Players Championship at the World Series of Poker. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Ashton, unlike many players his age, felt comfortable playing all of the games against the mixed-games veterans he faced in this tournament. "I was bored with Hold'em for a while and started playing low stakes H.O.R.S.E. games online," Ashton explained after his victory. "Then mixed games became more popular and I kept playing them."

Ashton also noted the tournament format provides its own unique set of challenges.

"It's tougher to pick up reads on people because the games keep switching," Ashton said.

Nguyen, 29, wasn't nearly as comfortable with the format.

"The hardest thing about this tournament is I only knew how to play seven of the eight games," Nguyen said. "I knew how to play PLO. But I'll take second," he added with a big grin on his face.

Duhamel, the 2010 WSOP Main Event champion, entered final table play trying to become the second person to win The Players Championship and the Main Event. Scotty Nguyen is the only other to complete the double, having won the 1998 Main Event and the 2008 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament (which became The Players Championship).

The 25-year-old Duhamel was sixth in chips when final table play began Thursday afternoon. But he was the first player eliminated after missing on a draw in Pot-Limit Omaha against George Danzer. Danzer, holding Jd-6c-2h-5d on a flop of 6d-Jc-10s, bet enough to push Duhamel all in. Duhamel had Kd-Kc-Qs-2d, but he received no help from the dealer and exited the tournament. He won $207,630 for finishing in eighth place.

Wattel was the next to go. Wattel, whose 810,000 in chips represented the shortest stack at the table when play began, never found any traction at the final table. He was slowly bleeding chips, and with around 630,000 remaining, he was dealt Ad-Jh in No-Limit Hold'em. Wattel pushed all in and Nguyen called with Ac-Qs. Nguyen picked up a queen on the flop and Wattel couldn't catch up. Wattel won $251,602 for finishing seventh.

One of the players with high hopes entering final table was Ly. The 46-year-old veteran finished third in the 2011 WSOP Players Championship after beginning final table play as the chip leader. That year, the tournament changed structures and went to a No-Limit Hold'em only final table. This year, the final table kept its mixed-game format, and Ly was hoping to move from fifth in chips (2.307 million) to champion. But two big hands did him in.

In a No-Limit Hold'em hand, Ly lost about 1.3 million to Benyamine when his two pair (kings and tens) were no good against Benyamine's two pair (kings and queens). His day ended in Seven-Card Stud, when his two pair ran into Benyamine's ace-high flush. Ly won $309,830 for finishing in sixth.

Just before 5 p.m. (play began just after 2 p.m.), Danzer exited the tournament on a tough bet. With the board reading 8c-8d-3h, Danzer and Nguyen engaged in a raising war that eventually put Danzer all in. Nguyen called Danzer's all-in wager and showed Kd-Js-10d-8h for three eights. Danzer showed Ad-Kh-9s-8s for three eights and a better kicker. Unfortunately for Danzer, a jack hit on the river giving Nguyen a full house. Danzer won $388,523 for finishing in fifth.

And three hours into final table play, the tournament had four players remaining.

After about four hours of four-handed play, Benyamine busted out in fourth place when he couldn't beat Nguyen's full house in Seven-Card Stud. Benyamine, who won $497,122 for finishing in fourth, waxed philosophical after his elimination.

"The (cards) didn't come my way," the 40-year-old Benyamine said. "They did at some point and they didn't afterwards. That's the way of the game."
Ashton wins WSOP Poker Players Championship is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.