Shortly before Christian Pham took his seat in the Caesars Palace Las Vegas Circuit Main Event, he and his friends had a Chinese dinner that ended with a fortune cookie. That fortune cookie read, “All your dreams will come true.”
That cookie sure wasn’t lying.
Just a few days ago, Christian Pham was home in St Paul, Minnesota with no intention of playing poker in Sin City. However, he got a call from a backer offering to put him into the Circuit event and fly him out to boot. On a single day’s notice, Pham hopped a plane to Vegas with dreams of making his poker dreams come true. Today, he did just that, winning the Circuit Main Event here in Las Vegas, earning $214,332, the Circuit ring, and the seat into the 2014 WSOP National Championship in Las Vegas.
To add even more to Pham’s Cinderella story, consider that he won his way into the Main Event via a $200 satellite. While Pham has a track record of results in Minnesota, this was his first big Vegas event and he made the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity at just a fraction of the cost of the buy-in.
With his sponsors and friends cheering him on, Pham played his way through a field that included bracelet winners, Main Event final tablists, and some of the best pros on the Circuit. The final table featured competition in the form of Chris Lindh, the 16th place finisher in last year’s WSOP Main Event, ring winner Ben Keeline, and Jonathan Gaviao, who is just a month removed from his Main Event victory in the Harrah’s Tunica Main Event.
Pham came into the final day of play as the shortest stack of 14 players and certainly one of the least experienced, but that didn’t stop him from chipping up. He doubled thru Chris Lindh during the first hour of play and never looked back, knocking out opponents, picking off bluffs, and pulling off some bluffs of his own.
Even though it was Pham making waves, as the final table field thinned, all eyes focused on Gaviao, who was attempting to become the first player to win two Circuit Main Events in the same season. While Gaviao came up short of the second title, finishing in second place to Pham, he has put together one of the most impressive stretches of Main Event results we’ve seen on the Circuit in a couple of years. First, he took 14th in the Choctaw Main Event, then he won at Harrah’s Tunica, and now he has a second place finish and another six-figure score to add to his career earnings.
It was quite a run for Gaviao, but today belonged to Pham, who played with panache at the table, acting quickly, keeping up the aggression, and throwing in a little theatricality for good measure. As he explained following his victory, he knew he was a good poker player based on his Minnesota results, but this was his chance to prove himself on a larger stage.
Pham did just that, defeating a stacked field of 697 entries in this year’s event, and now he has a national stage at his disposal come May when he takes his seat in the 2014 WSOP National Championship in Atlantic City. When Pham learned he would be playing in front of the ESPN cameras for a gold bracelet and a chance at the lion’s share of a seven-figure prize pool, it sounded to good to be real.
It is though. As the fortune cookie says, it is a poker player’s dream come true.
Here are the final table results from the Caesars Palace Las Vegas Circuit Main Event:
1st: Christian Pham – $214,332
2nd: Jonathan Gaviao – $132,622
3rd: Allen Yu Sheng Lin – $97,273
4th: Michael Ma – $72,338
5th: Andrew Sapiro – $54,523
6th: Nancy Birnbaum – $41,642
7th: Ofer Akerman – $32,222
8th: Jesse Wilke – $25,259
9th: Chris Lindh – $20,053