2009 Festa al Lago Recap
October 27, 2021
The $15,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Festa al Lago Championship began October 21st with 140 players signing up to... no wait 174 players…hold it 222…okay 244, lets go with 244.

In an unusual switch, organizers of this year’s WPT Festa al Lago Championship - in lieu of offering two starting days - chose instead to have a single Day 1, but kept registration open for eight levels, conceivably allowing players to register as late as mid-day Day 2.

Given the ever escalating blinds in tournament poker, most players would probably never consider entering an event so late after the official start (with the possible exception of Phil Hellmuth), however, as this year’s Festa al Lago started players off with immense 60,000 chip starting stacks, entering this event late may not have been that poor of a choice, and could have even potentially offered a slight tactical advantage.

30 new players opted to join the event on the second day to test that hypothesis, including (the before mentioned) Hellmuth, Andy Bloch, Kenny Tran, Howard Lederer and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, creating a total field size for the Festa al Lago Championship of 275 players; almost 100 less than last year, but still a fairly good turnout given the overall state of both the poker and real world economy.

Numerous well known players had already been eliminated by the time those 30 players bought in, including Michael Mizrachi, Amit Makhija, Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, J.C. Tran and PokerRoad’s Joe Sebok, who after a disappointing Day 1 was forced to wait yet again to surpass his ninth place Festa al Lago 2008 finish.

Many of the 30 late-arriving players, given their instant chip deficits, joined this list of casualties almost as quickly as they came, but some, most notably Kassem “Freddy” Deeb, thrived instead and ended up close to, or in, the money..

Indeed, Freddy went the farthest of all the Day 2 starters, making it not only all the way to the final table, but all the way into fourth place, just three players away from tying Gus Hansen’s remarkable record of three WPT titles.

The player that outlasted Freddy - and all others for that matter - was Tommy Vedes; fresh from numerous deep cashes in recent major events ranging from the European Poker Tour London (54th) to the World Series of Poker 2009 Main Event (18th).

After so many close calls Vedes certainly seemed due a major tournament victory, and once the highly experienced Freddy Deeb was out of the way, it soon became clear that victory would finally be Vedes’ at the Festa al Lago Championship, where he earned not only his first major title, but the biggest cash of his tournament career - $1,218,225.

The final table finishes for the 2009 WPT Festa al Lago at the Bellagio were as follows:

1. Tommy Vedes $1,218,225  
2. Jason Lavallee $795,150  
3. Craig Crivello $477,090  
4. Freddy Deeb $278,300  
5. Jason Burt $208,725  
6. Shawn Cunix $168,970
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