Three years ago, Taylor Black doubled his career winnings with a big score north of the border in Canada when he shipped the 2018 partypoker LIVE MILLIONS North America Main Event Championship in Montreal, Quebec, Canada for a score worth $1.2 million CAD. Over 3.5 years later, Black boosted his earnings once again with a seven-figure score and his first WPT crown.
The Bellagio and the World Poker Tour have a long-standing history dating back to the earliest days of the WPT. The Bellagio always held their annual series in December -- The Five Diamond Classic -- with a series of tournaments to cap off the final month of the year. The Main Event has been a part of the WPT for as long as I can recall. In an upside-down world, the WPT still made a stop in Las Vegas for what could be the last major live tournament in North America for a couple of months due to COVID.
The Bellagio played host to the 2021 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. The $10,400 buy-in event attracted 716 runners and a prize pool worth $6,945,200. Only the top 90 places paid out with $1.24 million set aside to the champion and the final six winning at least a quarter-mil.
Bryn Kenney bubbled the final table when he busted in seventh place. The final table of six at the Bellagio included Taylor Black, Vik Shegal, Gianluca Speranza, Lorenzo Lavis, Mohsin Charania, and David Kim. Black held a massive lead with 17M and a big stack that was more than half the final chips in play. Speranza was his closest competitor with 4.6M. Lavis, Charania, and Kim all held short stacks between 1.1M and 1.4M.
Sometimes the short stack hits road early at a final table, but in this instance, it took 41 hands before we saw the first player say goodbye at the final table. David Kim hit the bricks in sixth place, which paid out $261,235.
Kim was involved in a three-way pot with Gianluca Speranza and Taylor Black. Kim made a final stand with . Kim turned a pair of Kings, but Black flopped a set of fives, which held up. Black won the main pot and side pot, while Kim was the first player to exit.
With five players to go, they played five-handed for a lengthy amount of time. It took 53 hands before the next player was picked off on Hand #94. Short-stacked Mohsin Charania made a valiant final stand with , but Black called from the big blind with . Black flopped a straight flush gutter-ball draw on a board of . Black filled in his flush on the turn with the , which held up. The fell on the river, which improved Charania to trip treys, but they were no good. Charania banked $342,645 for fifth place. With four to go, Black held 18.8M in chips, followed by Lavis (4M0, Speranza (3.1M), and Shegal (2.7M).
Four-handed played nearly 90 hands before the next player busted on Hand #181. Lavis got it all-in with a clubs flush draw with against Black's pair of Aces and . Black dragged the pot when Lavis whiffed on his flush draw. Lavis hit the rail in fourth place, which paid out $454,590. With three remaining in the hunt for the title and Mike Sexton Cup, Black led with 18.6M and had a sizable lead, but Shegal was gaining on him with 7.5M and Speranza was the shorty with 2.4M.
Two hands later, we saw fireworks. Yup, three-handed action lasted two hands before we saw another elimination on Hand #183. Speranza took into battle against Shegal's . Shegal's pocket ochos held up and he sent Speranza to the rail in third place.
With two players remaining, Shegal chipped up to 9.5M, but he still trailed Black's big stack worth 19.1M. The two would spar for just a dozen hands before Black finally finished off Shegal.
On Hand #195, Shegal shipped it with , but Black woke up with . The board ran out Kc. Shegal turned a Broadway straight draw but whiffed on his gutshot on the river. Black flopped a pair of Kings for his Big Slick, which held up.
Vik Shegal's remarkable run ended in second place. For a runner-up finish, Shegal earned $827,620. Not too shabby, eh?
Taylor Black banked a first-place payday worth $1,241,430. It marked his first WPT crown, his biggest score to date, and the second seven-figure payout of his young career. The pro from Santa Cruz now has $3.8 million in career earnings.
Notable players who went deep and cashed in the 2021 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic included Bryn Kenney, Pat Lyons, Dylan Linde, Elio Fox, Markus Gonsalves, Sam Panzica, Ray Qartomy, Aaron Massey, Brek Schutten, Matt Berkey, Larry Greenberg, Andrew Lichtenberger, Bradley Berman, Matt Affleck, Erik Seidel, Ralph Perry, Steve Z, Nacho Barbero, Nick Schulman, Ben Hamnett, Anthony Zinno, Vanessa Kade, Steve Karp, Joe Cheong, Darren Elias, Mitchell Halverson, Landon Tice, Will Berry, James Calderaro, David ODB Baker, Felipe Ramos, Justin Bonomo, Chris Moorman, Tom Marchese, Pavlo Veklser, Jeremy Ausmus, Nate Silver, and Alex Foxen.