Play on Friday was highlighted by Canada’s first WSOP bracelet won by Regina’s Tyler Bonkowski, the performance of Terrebonne, Quebec’s Erik Cajelais, who earned Canada’s second final table finish of the 2011 World Series of Poker, the awarding of two more bracelets and the determination of a field for the World Championship of Lowball’s final day on Saturday that will be stocked with star players.
Canada’s much awaited first 2011 WSOP bracelet was secured in Event #14 by Tyler Bonkowski, a 26 year old poker player from Regina getting through a field of 337 players in the $3,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em Event to win $220,817. Last year by this time, Canadian poker players had already won 3 bracelet.
Bonkowski, who was down by about a 12 to 1 margin at one point in the tournament was never rattled. He stuck to his game plan and waited for the cards to turn in his favor.
Bonkowski cashed three times at last year’s WSOP. With each tournament played, he steadily improved his skills and stamina. The investment and experience paid off this year, as Bonkowski endured a wide array of strategic situations being the chip leader at one point and also being desperately low on chips when playing heads-up.
Prior to his WSOP win, Bonkowski’s best tournament finished was a 14th-place showing at the 2011 Aussie Millions. He also took 19th-place in the 2010 Irish Open.
Bonkowski has 1 WSOP win, 1 final table appearance and 4 in the money finishes and his total career WSOP earnings amount to $241,627.
Event #13 – $1500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout – Final Day
The sixteen survivors of the 1440 player field gathered on Friday afternoon after defeating two different “sit and go” tables. The men had to first make their way through a nine handed table (in most cases) on Wednesday, then played through a ten handed final table on Thursday to reach the Sweet Sixteen. At task on Friday was a two table (eight players each) sit and go, with each player beginning with 450,000.
Carrying the Canadian flag to the two table sit and go was Erik Cajelais, who was the only Canadian player remaining in the field. After dropping as low as 85,000 in chips at one point in the early proceedings, Erik grinded his stack back up. After a double up through Dan Kelly, Cajelais was able to make the final table in the middle of the pack with 677,000 in chips.
Two hands into the final table, David “The Dragon” Pham was eliminated from the event in ninth place, while Erik looked to gain more traction at the final table. By the time the dinner bell rang, Erik had moved up the leader board into the third position (1.187 million) behind only Jonathan Spinks and Andrew Badecker. Following the dinner stoppage, Erik watched as another top challenger at the final table, two time WSOP bracelet winner Vitaly Lunkin, was dispatched in seventh place by Badecker.
Despite playing some excellent poker, Cajelais couldn’t derail Badecker at the final table. On a J-J-K-5-3 (three diamonds) board, Badecker bet every street, with Erik calling, before all his chips were in the center. Badecker turned up K-J for the flopped full house, while Erick could only muster a flush with his 10-5 of diamonds. A short time later, Badecker would deliver the final blow, turning the nut flush against Erik’s two pair and, once none of Erik’s four outs arrived on the river, Erik Cajelais was out of the Shootout in fifth place ($79,315).
From that point on, Badecker ramrodded the table, eliminating every remaining player in his path. Down to heads up play against Robbie Verspui, Badecker made a move with K-2 of hearts, forcing Verspui to commit the remainder of his chips holding “just” an A-J. A deuce on the flop turned the tables for Badecker and, once no Ace or Jack appeared on the turn or river, Andrew Badecker emerged from the $1500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout with the WSOP bracelet and $369,371.
Event #14 – $3000 Limit Hold’em – Final Day
Coming to the felt on Friday afternoon, noted online and live professional Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi and Tyler Bonkowski were the only Canadians to have a shot at the Event #14 bracelet. With a short chip stack, however, Sorel was never able to muster much of an offensive. Within thirty minutes of the beginning of play, Mizzi was bounced from the tournament in sixteenth place by Leo Labbe, taking home a $8,850 payday but left wondering what could have been.
Two hours after Mizzi’s departure, Labbe would be the final table “bubble boy,” and the remaining nine men took up the task of determining a champion. Shawn Keller – the brother of WSOP bracelet holder Thomas Keller (the siblings are charmingly nicknamed “Thunder” (Thomas) and “Lightning” (Shawn) – held a sizeable chip advantage over Tyler Bonkowski from Regina and Mitch Schock, but from the start, “Lightning” was short circuiting. He would give up the chip lead to Brandon Demes and end the tournament in fourth place.
Bonkowski and Demes, on the other hand, steadily moved up the leader board to reach heads up play nearly dead even in chips. The duo see-sawed the lead, with Demes at one point building a huge advantage, only to watch Bonkowski climb back into the tournament and take the lead himself. After playing heads up for nearly two and a half hours, Tyler Bonkowski was finally able to finish off Brandon Demes for the WSOP bracelet and the $220,817 payday and win the first 2011 WSOP title for Canada.
Event #15 – $1500 Pot Limit Hold’em – Day 2
88 players returned on Friday for the $3000 Pot Limit Hold’em action, with the audacious task of working down to a final table before the 3AM WSOP “witching hour,” or curfew. Stunning most in attendance, the players were able to get very close to that goal, with ten men set to return on Saturday to determine the champion.
The defending champion of the tournament, the U. K.’s James “Flushy” Dempsey, was the bubble boy of the 72 players who cashed in the tournament. Several Canadian players were able to pick up a bankroll boost but were short of the final table, including David Mercer (18th), Michael Leah (58th), Evan Lamprea (61st), Jeff Hakim (67th) and Simon Charette (69th, his third cash of the 2011 WSOP).
When action takes to the baize on Saturday, Brian Rast will be the chip leader and the only player with more than one million in chips (1.081 million). There are dangers lurking around every corner, however, as professionals Ted Lawson, 2011 WSOP Circuit Western Regional Champion Ali Eslami and Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler are mustered in the middle of the pack looking to charge. The champion of the tournament this evening will take home the prized WSOP bracelet and the $227,232 in cash that goes along with being a WSOP champion.
Event #16 – $10,000 No Limit Deuce To Seven Draw Lowball World Championship – Day 2
In what will be one of the most watched events today at the 2011 WSOP, nine men will return for the final day of play in the Deuce To Seven Lowball World Championship, with each player sporting resumes noting their achievements in the game.
88 players started the action on Friday and had some heavy lifting if they were going to even get within sniffing distance of a final table before the WSOP curfew hit. Surprisingly, the players were all business during the tournament, getting down to nine players and making it likely that there will be a bracelet awarded in this event on Saturday. From the players who are remaining, it will not be a stranger who takes home the gold.
Leading the tournament is Richard “Chufty” Ashby, who won his first bracelet just last year, holding 700,000 in chips. He is followed by Joe Cassidy, whom Daniel Negreanu once called one of the best players under the age of 25, and the defending champion of this tournament, David Baker. The men following this triumvirate, however, might strike fear in the hearts of lesser players.
Two World Champions, 2005 Main Event winner Greg Raymer and eleven time bracelet winner and 1989 World Champion Phil Hellmuth, are in the middle of the pack for today’s action. Hellmuth, whose 11 WSOP wins are a record and all in Texas Hold’em events, continues to extend lifetime records he already owns (final tables and cashes), while Raymer reminds people (if that were necessary) that his skills in poker touch all disciplines. Steve Sung, Hasan Habib, Nick Schulman (2009 champion in this event) and John Juanda round out the final nine.
At stake for these veterans of the game on Saturday is a $367,170 addition to their bank accounts and, for some, another piece of WSOP gold for the jewelry box.
Event #17 – $1500 H.O.R.S.E. – Day 1
Players came out in droves for this tournament, with the 963 players falling just short of this writer’s prediction of a 1000 player field. The demands of the mixed game format showed no mercy to the competitors, however, as the field would be reduced to only 196 survivors by the end of action on Friday.
This afternoon, noted pro Eli Elezra will sit atop the mountain when play begins with 92,100 in chips. Of the Canadian contingent, only two players – Samuel Ngai (4th) and Pat Pezzin (36th) – are in the Top 50. It will be a long day in the Rio for the “H.O.R.S.E. men and women” (2008 WSOP Ladies Champion Svetlana Gromenkova is in fifth), as the plans are to bust the money bubble at 96 players, then get as close as possible to a final table for Sunday’s play.
STARTING TODAY: Event #18 – $1500 No Limit Hold’em and Event #19 – $2500 Six Handed Limit Hold’em
The two events in play today both feature a lower buy in, which should make for especially large fields for both tournaments. There were several $1500 NLHE events in 2010, with each drawing well over 2000 players for every tournament, and the $2500 event in 2010 was won by Dutch Boyd, who picked up his second bracelet by defeating Brian Meinders after the duo went heads up from the 384 player field.
Although there is plenty of action around the Amazon Room in the Rio, most eyes of the railbirds will be focused on the otherwise sedentary Lowball final day, with the potential – with a win by the “Poker Brat” – for history to be made at the 2011 World Series of Poker.