He came into the final table with the chip lead and ended the evening with all the chips in the tournament. Fittingly, it took about twelve hours for Sami Bechahed to win the championship with his large stack of chips on Saturday evening at the North American Poker Tour’s first event in twelve years. At the NAPT Las Vegas final table at Resorts World Casino in Sin City, Bechahed defeated Jonathan Borenstein in heads-up play to claim first place for $268,545.
Moments of terror…LONG periods of calm
When Bechahed came to the table on Saturday, he was the only player with over ten million chips – 10.57 million to be exact. At the bottom of the leaderboard, he faced some serious threats that could pose a problem if they managed to pile up some chips. Both Sergio Aido (6.67 million) and Nick Schulman (4.39 million) were right behind Bechahed, followed by Sandeep Pallampati (4.3 million), Ping Liu (3.095 million), Borenstein (2.2 million) and David Coleman (1.61 million). Final table. At the beginning it looked like these players had a plane to catch, but then a significant period of play went without elimination.
In the first hand, Aido opened the bet to 200,000 and Liu called on the button with a QJ. Pallampati was in the big blind, defending with a J-4, and the flop hit him hard when he reached J-10-4. Pallampati checked his jacks while Aido fired a continuation bet of 300,000. Liu got a piece of the action and called, but he let go of his hand after Pallampati check-raised to 900K.
However, Aido wasn’t going anywhere. He had pocket tens in early position and had flopped a set, making the three-bet to 1.6 million chips. Pallampati didn’t believe he had what he represented and went all in, with Aido only too happy to call. Looking for a jack or a four to give him a better boat, Pallampati instead saw an eight and a seven complete the board, sending him out of the tournament in seventh place.
After Pallampati collected his things (after barely taking them out of his bag), the remaining six players saw a new leader in Aido and prepared for a LONG battle. For the next three hours, the sextet exchanged chips among…well, everyone except Nick Schulman. Never able to find cards when he needed them, Schulman ended up getting his last chips with pocket fours against Bechahed’s K-7. A king on the flop gave Bechahed the lead, and after fading the turn and the river without a four, Bechahed eliminated Schulman in sixth place.
The five players went into lunch this way, but there was one hand that stood out. Borenstein and Liu were the parties involved after they put their chips in the middle and Liu was in danger. Borenstein had caught Liu, his Pocket Jacks was a formidable leader over Liu’s A-3, but the “poker gods” had other ideas. A 3-3-9 flop gave Liu an immediate lead, and an ace on the turn almost secured his hand. Looking for a jack to turn the tables, Borenstein was stunned to see the case trey come on the river, giving Liu improbable quads and a double-up in the tournament.
After dinner we set off…
The dinner break must have energized the players because they finished the action within two hours of eating. Bechahed, who had regained the chip lead at this point, was responsible for decimating the rest of the final table. After Borenstein defeated short-stack Aido in fifth place, Bechahed prevailed through Liu and Coleman in fourth and third place to take a nearly 5-1 lead heads-up against Borenstein.
On the fourth hand of the bout between Bechahed and Borenstein, Borenstein held his own with a suited 10-9, only to see Bechahed wake up with an A-10 that brought a call. The 3-10 K flop gave every player a pair, but with Bechahed’s ace-kicker he had a huge advantage. That lead only grew when an ace came on the turn, solidifying the hand in Bechahed’s favor. After the harmless river card (a 7♣) was dealt, Bechahed secured his first major title by winning the NAPT Las Vegas 2023.
1. Sami Bechahed, $268,545
2. Jonathan Borenstein, $168,175
3. David Coleman, $120,130
4. Ping Liu, $92,410
5. Sergio Aido, $71,080
6. Nick Schulman, $54,680
7. Sandeep Pallampati, $42,060
Bechahed joins an illustrious list of players who have won NAPT titles (the original tour existed from 2010 to 2011). Vanessa Selbst (twice), Jason Mercier and Ashton Griffin (among others) are just some of the celebrities who have picked up a NAPT trophy and there will be more chances for players to join the club. It will be PokerStars, who not only put on an excellent festival but also brought an exemplary live stream will soon announce an expanded NAPT schedule This will continue the legacy of the tour. Keep your eyes peeled, the North American Poker Tour may soon be upon you!