Coming into the final table of the 2015 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Classic, Taylor Paur had just over $1.5 million in lifetime live tournament earnings, which placed him fifth out of the six players at that final table.
There was little question as to his abilities by the end of play Friday night at Bay 101 as Paur put on a dominant performance in the face of one of the most accomplished final tables in recent memory.
For his efforts, Paur earned $1,214,200 and the second major title of his young career. It did not come easy, though, as Paur contended with Faraz Jaka, Sorel Mizzi, Isaac Baron and Jake Bazeley – four other accomplished pros who were each seeking a first career WPT title of their own.
“I’m feeling like a million bucks,” joked Paur just after his victory. “I feel good – it’s the biggest poker accomplishment of my life, and beating a bunch of good players makes it that much sweeter.”
The chiplead belonged to Paur for much of the final table, and no matter which way the all ins turned out he almost exclusively got it in ahead all night. The final hand was something of a different story, but it was a matter of a cooler no matter which way the most pivotal pot of the tournament would have falled.
Paur raised to 400,000, Baron three-bet to 1,050,000 and Paur considered his options briefly before electing to call. The flop fell 9 7 2 – a boon for both players, as Paur held T 9 for top pair and a flush draw and Baron had the lead with A 9 for nines with a better kicker.
Baron bet 1,050,000 again and Paur just called, building the pot to over 4 million – over 20 percent of the chips in play. On a 3 turn, Baron bet 1,650,000 and again Paur paused briefly, before ultimately deciding just to call. With more than half of his chips invested in this pot, Baron’s tournament would drastically change no matter what the river card and subsequent action turned out to be.
The 5 made Paur’s flush, and when Baron shoved for just over 3 million Paur quickly called, tabled his hand, and while the crowd momentarily struggled to see the result Paur’s smile and reaction left little doubt.
After finishing out his obligations on the TV set and letting it soak in, it was clear that Paur had experienced a sweet victory indeed.
The early pace was predictably slow and deliberate as the final six got their bearings, but Paur wasted little time in making the most significant push towards Baron and his early chiplead. After inching progressively closer, Paur surged into the top stack in the first truly significant moment of the final table.
On Hand 21, Paur raised to 100,000 and got calls from Ravee Mathi on the button and Mizzi in the big blind. The flop was J 6 5, Mizzi checked, Paur bet 120,000 and both players called, bringing the 6 on the turn. All three checked, the river was the 5, Paur bet 385,000, Mathi shoved for 1,345,000, Mizzi folded and Paur started to think it over.
He eventually tossed chips in to call and tabled 8 5 for a full house, fives-full, and Mathi could only produce A 8 for two-pair, ace kicker. Mathi, the lone amateur in this group, afforded himself well in his first career major tournament cash but sixth place and a $168,260 payout would be as far as he’d go.
Paur continued to build while Mizzi and Jaka fell to the bottom of the counts, and one hand in particular between Mizzi and Jaka left the latter dangerously short.
With just over 15 big blinds left, Jaka soon made a stand with an under the gun all in for 995,000. It folded around to Bazeley in the small blind, who shoved for 3.2 million and drove Paur away in a hurry. Bazeley’s T T dwarfed Jaka’s 4 4, and Jaka was in need of some serious help if he wanted to avoid handing over his $2,500 Shooting Star bounty.
The 7 3 2 flop provided just a glimmer of hope, but the 5 gave Jaka an open-ended straight draw and 10 clean outs going into the river. The J was a brick, however, and Jaka signed his Shooting Star t-shirt as Matt Savage walked onto the set to instantly pay Bazeley out for $2,500 in cash.
This left Mizzi as both the last Shooting Star standing and the shortest stack. He fought his way off of that short stack on a couple of different occasions over the course of more than 70 hands of four-handed play, only to fall back again.
Just after Paur became the first to crack the 10 million chip mark, Mizzi found himself in need of a big suckout during his first all in at this final table. He open-shoved from under the gun and Bazeley reshoved from the small blind, setting up a heads-up showdown between his A Q and Mizzi’s A T. Bazeley had a chance to grab his second bounty of the final table but the T on the flop spared Mizzi and kept things four-handed for an additional 34 hands.
Paur’s tight grip on the chiplead was briefly broken as Baron took a couple of big pots and that lead away from him, albeit for a brief stretch. He’d soon get it all and then some by breaking the long four-handed stalemate.
Bazeley raised to 240,000 in the cutoff, Paur three-bet to 600,000 and Mizzi cold four-bet all in for 1,925,000 from the small blind. Bazeley folded, Paur called with 5 5 and Mizzi showed A J. The Q 3 2 flop offered small hopes of runner-runner straights or flushes for Mizzi, but the Q left him needing one of just six outs going into the river.
The 5 was an exclamation point, giving Paur a second full house, fives-full at this final table – and it also earned him the bonus of Mizzi’s $2,500 bounty as he dispatched the last Shooting Star in the field.
Paur again exerted some force against his two shorter stacked opponents, and it appeared as if he’d run away with the title as Baron and Bazeley battled it out for second. That all changed in dramatic fashion in a crazy 10-hand sequence that saw three all ins that each caused a dramatic shift in the chip counts and how the rest of the final table would play out.
At the start, Paur had 14.4 million to 6.9 million total for both Bazeley and Baron, and Baron was the first to hit the potential chopping block. Paur raised to 400,000, Baron shoved from the small blind for 3.7 million and Paur called with K K. Baron was in trouble with A 6and Bazeley had a good chance of getting heads-up for the title just by sitting on the sidelines.
Baron flopped four more outs on an 8 7 4 board, but it was the A turn that saved his tournament. Bazeley was left on the short stack, and with just shy of 12 big blinds he shoved with A 5 on the button, only to run into Baron’s Q Q in the big blind. An A in the turn card gave Baron a bit of his own medicine, and with no queen on the turn or river things pulled a little tighter three-handed.
That’s about as close as it would get. Just two hands later, Bazeley limped in the small blind, Paur raised to 525,000 in the big blind and Bazeley shoved for 4,625,000. After getting a count from the dealer, Paur called with A T. Bazeley was live with K 7, but as the dealer slowly revealed an A 2 2 flop his chances of another double and the chiplead vanished in an instant. The 9 turn sealed his fate, while the A river gave Paur a full house for an extra little flourish on top of it all.
With Bazeley out in third place, Paur and Baron started a heads-up battle that was seemingly brewing throughout all of the key hands they played at this final table. Paur’s lead of 14.45 million to 6.8 million put him at an advantage of just over 2-to-1 at the start, but Baron chipped away early and wouldn’t go quietly into the night.
Were it not for the fall of one river card in particular, it might have been Baron’s night to win, but it turned out rather differently. Paur’s dramatic victory adds a WPT title to a 2013 WSOP bracelet win, and stands as far and away his largest career result to date.
This wraps up BLUFF’s coverage of the 2015 Bay 101 Shooting Star Classic, but stay tuned as there’ll be a recap from Thunder Valley in a few short days as the WPT wraps up its California Swing.
2015 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Classic – Final Results
- Taylor Paur – $1,214,200
- Isaac Baron – $704,200
- Jake Bazeley – $461,470
- Sorel Mizzi – $310,060
- Faraz Jaka – $216,260
- Ravee Mathi – $168,260
Tim Fiorvanti graduated from St. John's University with a B.S. in Journalism in 2008. After several years in the industry, he started working for BLUFF in the summer of 2010. He worked his way up at BLUFF and joined full time as a Senior Writer in April of 2012. Fiorvanti now serves as the Managing Editor of BLUFF. He's a tortured Mets and Jets fan, along with several other frustrating allegiances, but he's also a two-time defending BLUFF Fantasy Football Champion.
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