With Ryan Leng battling Connor Drinan heads-up in the $1,500 eight-game six-max event Wednesday night at the 2021 _World Series of Poker, someone was guaranteed to win their third career WSOP title.
After a two-hour heads-up battle between the pair of two-time bracelet winners, it was Leng who came out on top to secure his third piece of WSOP gold. The Illinois native and Las Vegas resident defeated a field of 484 entries to win $137,969.
It’s his first major career victory in a true mixed games format. Leng won an eight-game event for $18,185 at the Wynn Winter Classic just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, but all of his other six-figure scores, including his two other bracelet wins, came in no-limit hold’em events.
Over the last few years, however, Leng has begun looking into other games and seeing him at mixed game final tables could be a trend of the future.
“I’ve been studying mixed games lately,” said Leng to WSOP live reporters after the win. “I definitely think the final table, the final two tables, I was certainly nowhere near the best player left in the field. I ran really hot.”
Aside from his final opponent, Leng bested a final table that featured well-rounded high-stakes pros Dan Zack and Ryan Hughes. Both of which have bracelets in non-hold’em events. Facing Drinan, who was fresh off his second career bracelet win in the $1,500 Omaha eight-or-better event, was a daunting task for Leng in and of itself.
“He’s the best,” said Leng about Drinan. “I used to play low-stakes online and I would pull up his tables on PokerStars and just sweat him. Playing him heads-up was just a freeroll for me. If I lost, I lost to one of the best. And if I ran well and won, then great.”
Along with the money and hardware, Leng picked up 720 Card Player Player of the Year points. The victory was the first cash of Leng’s 2021 that counted in the race and he sits in 320th place.
The third and final day started with just 10 players, and it was down to the final six in less than 90 minutes of play. While the day started off with chips flying and players rapidly hitting the rail, it still took another nearly seven hours to crown a champion.
After Brandon Bergin busted in seventh, Drinan started the official final table with the chip lead, while Schuyler Thornton and Leng were rounded out the top half of the leaderboard.
Drinan found himself losing pots and slipped to the middle of the pack, while Brett Shaffer chipped up and sat atop the chip counts. Zack ended up at the top of the heap after he eliminated Hughes in sixth in a hand of no-limit hold’em.
Zack raised from the cutoff and Hughes defended his big blind. Zack bet the flop, checked back the turn and shoved the river on a board of AJ910K. Hughes check-called the flop bet and eventually called off his stack on the river and mucked when Zack tabled K6.
When five-handed play started, it was when Drinan went on a tear and reasserted himself as the chip leader. He won a massive pot against Thornton in Razz when he made a 7-6-5-3-2 and a medium sized-pot from Zack in a non-showdown hand of pot-limit Omaha.
He then knocked out Thornton in fifth in pot-limit Omaha. The two got all the chips in the middle on a flop of Q96 with Drinan showing A5K3 and Thornton tabling AQ106.
The turn was the 8, keeping Thornton in the lead, but the river was the 10, which gave Drinan the nut flush and eliminated Thornton.
Drinan kept the pressure on as he eliminated Zack in fourth about 90 minutes later. Zack was short and got the last of his chips into the middle in limit hold’em with Q7 and couldn’t overcome Drinan’s A7.
That left Drinan with about half of the chips in play with three players remaining, and it was looking more and more like he was going to win his second bracelet of the series and third of the year.
But Leng won a sizable pot off Drinan in stud hi-lo 8-or-better and then eliminated Shaffer in third when Leng made an 8-7-6-3-2 in 2-7 triple draw to pull nearly even with Drinan.
Drinan pulled out to a more than 2-to-1 chip lead in the early portion of the heads-up match and eventually extended that to nearly 10-to-1. But Leng never was out of chips and doubled up in no-limit hold’em before proceeding to win most of the pots from there on, taking the chip lead about 45 minutes after he was on the brink of elimination.
He never gave that chip lead back and grinded Drinan down to just a few bets. Those bets made all made their way into the middle after the second draw in 2-7 triple draw. Heading into the third draw, Drinan stood pat and Leng drew one card.
Drinan showed 10-9-7-5-2, but Leng made his draw and turned over the 7-6-5-4-2 to eliminate Drinan just shy of yet another title.
Final Table Results:
Photo Credit: WSOP/Danny Maxwell