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WPT Maryland 2018: Indian-Origin Shankar Pillai Finishes Runner-Up in Main Event, Tony Ruberto Wins Title For $344,755

Shankar Pillai
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  • PG News September 26, 2018
  • 6 Mins Read

The Season XVII World Poker Tour (WPT) Maryland $3,500 Main Event collected an impressive $1.7 Million in prize money through a strong field of 554 entries. Topping the massive player pool was Tony Ruberto (cover image) who won his second WPT title and a paycheck of $344,755, which included a complimentary seat into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions and moved into the top spot of the Hublot WPT Player of the Year standings.

Ruberto battled against the likes of Jeremy Ausmus, Will Givens and Aaron Pinson at the final table, but it was Indian-origin player Shankar Pillai (cover image) who gave him a run for his money in the heads-up match.

Pillai, who is a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner, entered the event through the second starting flight and ended Day 1B with a stack of 69,500. He was among the top 20 stacks on Day 2 with 740,000 and improved his position by the end of Day 3 as he entered the final table third in chips with 4,465,000.

Pillai trailed Ruberto by a 4.5-1 margin when heads-up play started and despite his best efforts, could not mount a winning comeback, as Ruberto went on to claim the title.

Day 1A Recap

The opening day of the Main Event kicked off with the first starting flight Day 1A that gathered a crowd of 203 runners. After 10 levels of action, only 69 players remained with California resident Ping Liu topping the survivors with 422,000 in chips.

Day 1B Recap

The second and final starting flight, i.e. Day 1B, welcomed 331 entries into the fray and the overall field size reached 534 entries. By the end of the day, 135 players made the cut for Day 2 with Paul Chang leading the way with a stack of 311,000.

Day 2 Recap

The 204 total survivors from Day 1A and 1B converged on Day 2. After the registrations were officially closed, the prize pool of $1,757,800 was announced from the 554-entry field, with the top 70 players assured a min-cash of $5,801.

Several notables were railed on Day 2 including Michael Lind (34th for $9,141), Maria Ho (36th for $9,141), Erkut Yilmaz (41st for $7,910), Paul Chang (43rd for $7,910), Kelly Minkin (44th for $7,910), Indian origin player Chaitanya Vallabhaneni (53rd for $7,031), Joey Weissman (59th for $6,328) and Kenny Nguyen (66th for $5,801).

Andrew Crookston emerged as the chip leader and bagged 1,415,000 in chips.

Day 3 Recap

27 more eliminations took place before the six-handed final table convened, starting with Brock Parker (8th for $41,836), Day 2 chip leader Andrew Crookston (9th for $33,047), Indian-origin player Hiren Dharani (10th for $33,047), Ryan McKnight (12th for $26,543), David Stefanski (14th for $21,445), Aaron Overton (16th for $17,578), Gloria Jackson (19th for $14,590), Paul Volpe (22nd for $12,305), Day 1A chip leader Ping Liu (26th for $10,547) and Matt Sesso (33rd for $9,141).

Miki Murzi (7th for $53,613) bubbled the final table.

Colorado-based pro Will Givens (6,215,000) led the six finalists to the final table for a final showdown for the title.

Final Table Chip Counts

1. Will Givens – 6,215,000

2. Tony Ruberto – 5,230,000

3. Shankar Pillai – 4,465,000

4. Jeremy Ausmus – 3,730,000

5. Mark Sandness – 1,805,000

6. Aaron Pinson – 805,000

Final Table Recap

Early on the final table, Tony Ruberto opened from under-the-gun to 125,000 and Mark Sandness 3-bet jammed for 1,355,000 from the cutoff. As the action folded back to Ruberto, he called and both players tabled their cards.

Mark Sandness card 2card 2

Tony Ruberto card 3card 2

The runout card 1card 3card 3card 1card 1 missed both players but Ruberto’s king high kicker was good enough to eliminate Sandness in sixth place.

On the 43rd hand of the final table, Jeremy Ausmus raised from the cutoff to 125,000 and Ruberto 3-bet to 300,000 from the button. Aaron Pinson jumped into the mix from the big blind by moving all-in for 1,240,000. Ausmus folded and Ruberto called with card 1card 3. Pinson turned over card 3card 2. The board ran card 3card 3card 2card 2card 2 and Ruberto’s stronger pair of jacks knocked out Pinson in fifth place.

20 hands later, Shankar Pillai raised to 150,000 from the cutoff and Ruberto called from the small blind. Will Givens 3-bet to 600,000 and Pillai 4-bet to 1,100,000. Ruberto folded, while Givens called, effectively putting himself all-in for his last 980,000.

Shankar Pillai card 3card 1

Will Givens card 3card 3

The dealer put out the card 2card 3card 1card 3card 3 on the board and Pillai’s pair of eights sent Givens packing in fourth place.

Down to three-handed play, Jeremy Ausmus, Ruberto and Pillai battled each other for another hour before Ausmus ended his run in third place. He limped in from the small blind and Ruberto checked from the big blind. The flop fell card 3card 3card 2 and Ruberto bet 100,000. Ausmus check-called to see the turn card 2. Ruberto bet 225,000 and Ausmus check-raised all-in for approximately 750,000. Ruberto called and showed card 1card 3, as Ausmus revealed card 1card 2. While Ausmus held a pair of nines, Ruberto had picked up two pairs of eights and fives on the turn. Ausmus was at risk and was looking for a king, nine, seven, or six on the river to double-up. Sadly, the last street was card 3, confirming Ausmus’ exit from the event.

The heads-up confrontation between Tony Ruberto (18,125,000) and Shankar Pillai (4,050,000) began with Ruberto in the lead. Pillai played exceptionally well and tried to bridge the gap but was unable to get the job done. On the 166th hand, he lost a huge pot to come down to 610,000 in chips but by the 176th hand, he had chipped his way up to 9,400,000.

Shankar Pillai
Shankar Pillai

After almost two hours of play, on the 179th hand of the final table, Pillai raised to 300,000 from the button and Ruberto called from the big blind. The flop spread out card 2card 3card 2 and Pillai continued for 400,000. Ruberto check-raised to 1,600,000 and Pillai used a time-extension and thereafter re-raised all-in for roughly 5,800,000. Ruberto called after tanking for a few minutes.

Shankar Pillai card 1card 3

Tony Ruberto card 2card 2

Pillai was in the lead with a pair of aces and Ruberto was gunning for a flush draw. The turn card 1 gave Ruberto outs for a straight draw as well and with the card 2 river, Ruberto completed his diamond flush to win his second WPT title and top prize of $344,755, while Pillai took home $220,780 for his runner-up finish.

Tony Ruberto
Tony Ruberto

Final Table Results (USD)

1. Tony Ruberto – $344,755*

2. Shankar Pillai – $220,780

3. Jeremy Ausmus – $162,597

4. Will Givens – $121,112

5. Aaron Pinson – $91,230

6. Mark Sandness – $69,609

*includes a $15,000 seat into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions

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