On the eve of the start of the $10,000 Championship Event, the Amazon Room was the place to be for potential WSOP history. The $50K Poker Players Championship concluded its play – with an outlandish finish – two Canadian players were at the final table of the $1000 NLHE tournament and Guelph’s Gavin Smith surged to the lead of Event #56, the $1500 NLHE event.
Event #54 – $1000 No Limit Hold’em – Final Day
Russia’s Max Lykov came to the final table with a sizeable chip advantage, but the attention of Canadian fans was on two men, Quebec’s Sebastien Roy in fourth and Edmonton’s Ren Ho Zhang in ninth. By the time the tournament had ended, these two men would basically flip-flop their positions.
Sebastien saw his stack knocked down in the early going via a hand against Dror Michaelo, the second place stack at the table. After making a 125K bet on the river moments into final table play, Michaelo moved all in over Sebastien’s bet. Sebastien decided to wait for a better moment and mucked his hand, dropping him down the leaderboard.
After getting beat by Warren Woodbridge’s A-5 when holding pocket Kings, Sebastien found himself on life support. It would be Lykov who would finish him off, however, when Sebastien moved all in with pocket eights and was called by Lykov’s K-Q in hearts. The 10-5-2 flop was innocent enough but, when an Ace peeled on the turn, Lykov was drawing at ten outs to defeat Sebastien. Stunningly, a Jack came on the river to give Lykov a runner-runner straight and eliminate Sebastien Roy in ninth place ($53,333).
Ren, on the other hand, was able to move steadily up the ladder. He used the elimination of Stanislav Alekhin in sixth place to move into fourth place with five players remaining. That would be as far as Ren would be able to go as it was Lykov again who eliminated a Canadian player.
On an 8-7-4-K-8 (three club) board, Ren moved all in and was dismayed to see Lykov make the call. The Russian turned up the K-6 of clubs for the second nut flush and Ren was on a stone bluff with his 10-9 off suit. Although eliminated in fourth place ($213,539), Ren had to be pleased with his recovery from the short stack at the start of the final table.
After eliminating both Canadians at the final table, Lykov was never seriously challenged. He held almost half of the chips in play when play reached three handed and expanded on that lead by eliminating Woodbridge in third place. With only Michaelo standing between him and the bracelet, Lykov took little time in eliminating his opponent to claim the championship.
Lykov, who won the only European Poker Tour event ever held in Kiev, the Ukraine, back in 2010, has now added the second leg of poker’s mythical “Triple Crown” to his poker resume by winning the WSOP bracelet. Although that is a significant achievement, Max could be more pleased with the $648,880 addition to his bankroll!
Event #55 – $50,000 Poker Players Championship – Final Day
There was plenty of star power at the final table of the $50K Poker Players Championship as well as underlying drama. Eleven time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth was in the hunt for #12 as he sat in the middle of the pack and two men – Ben Lamb and Brian Rast – were looking to claim their second bracelet of the 2011 WSOP. By the end of the night, one of these storylines would conclude with success.
First up for the nine men who came to the felt on Wednesday was to determine the “official” eight handed final table. Jason Lester would prove to be the odd man out as chip leader Minh Ly eliminated him in ninth place. After that elimination, Ly would hold an approximate 600K lead over Rast and about 1.6 million over third place George Lind.
With Lester’s elimination, the eight game format was ditched for the more television-friendly No Limit Hold’em. Hellmuth made his move after this, doubling up through Rast to become the new chip leader. The jousting of this duo would continue through much of the night of play.
By the time the dinner break arrived, Hellmuth was ahead of Ly, Rast and Owais Ahmed, although only 4.5 million chips separated the competitors. Lamb’s dreams of a second WSOP bracelet were dashed by Scott Seiver, with Lamb leaving in eighth place. Still, the potential history with a win by either Hellmuth or Rast kept the fans swarming the Main Stage raptly watching the proceedings.
Hellmuth, Ly and Rast would rotate the lead amongst themselves, but Ahmed was not so fortunate. He battled with the well-decorated pros for much of the post dinner action, but was unable to ever work himself out of fourth place. Ly would eventually be eliminated by Hellmuth in third, setting up for a showdown for the ages between Rast and Hellmuth.
Hellmuth started heads up play with a slight lead over Rast and, over the span of forty-plus hands, gradually worked his way out to an 8-1 lead over Rast. Facing a huge disadvantage, Rast refused to concede to the former World Champion, setting up for one of the most stunning finales to a final table at this – or potentially any – WSOP event in history.
It all started innocently enough, as Rast doubled up with A-K after Hellmuth couldn’t complete his heart flush with his 9-6. Three hands later, the situation duplicated itself as Rast, holding K-7 off suit on a J-4-K (two club) board against Hellmuth’s 10-8 of clubs, faded a second flush draw to draw even in chips. The tournament would be decided three hands later.
After Rast made his own flush to take the lead in the event, the final hand would prove to be as exciting as the rest of the tournament. After raising it up to 400K and being called by Rast, Hellmuth saw a J-9-10 (two diamond) flop and moved all in. Rast made the call, commenting, “I’m sorry, Phil, I have the nuts,” and turning up a K-Q for the straight. Hellmuth mustered another flush draw with his 8-4 of diamonds but couldn’t coax another diamond on the turn or river, with Rast’s straight holding up to win the championship.
For the third time this WSOP, Hellmuth would finish as the runner up in a tournament. Although he earned his first-ever seven figure cash for his finish, the sting of not getting Bracelet #12 has to hurt the former World Champion. With his second place in the $50K, however, Hellmuth moves into the lead for the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year race.
Rast, having amazingly faded three flush draws to come back from the dead, earns his biggest payday ever of $1,720,328 and will more than likely be the only multiple bracelet winner of the 2011 WSOP. Along with the bracelet and cash, however, is the glory of earning the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy, one of the most revered awards in the game of poker.
Event #56 – $1500 No Limit Hold’em – Day 2
With all the commotion over the Hellmuth/Rast battle for the Poker Players Championship, Event #56 was quietly being contested in the Amazon Room. By the end of the evening, 42 players would be left standing from the 3389 players who started on Tuesday, with several Canadian players in the mix.
Leading the field to the line on Thursday is Guelph’s Gavin Smith, who is on the hunt for his second WSOP bracelet in as many years. Gavin is the only man who has cracked the one million chip mark and he is being pursued by Bryn Kenney in second place. Thornhill’s Mark Zajdner and Toronto’s Yoon Jun Park (33rd) and Dave Anderson (35th) join Gavin as the only Canadians remaining in the field.
As the $10,000 Championship Event begins its first Day 1 today, the remaining 42 players will face the audacious task of determining a champion. Up for grabs is $777,928 for the first place finisher and one of the final bracelets of the 2011 WSOP.
Event #57 – $5000 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo – Day 2
Only 25 players remain from the 352 who started in this event on Tuesday and none of the players remaining are Canadian. In fact, with only 36 places paying out, no Canadian cashed in this event, the first time that has happened at the 2011 WSOP.
Nick Shulman leads the final day field with 772,000 in chips, but there are several prominent pros looking to take him down. Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, Phil “The Unabomber” Laak, former $50K champ David Bach and Nick Binger are all arranged in the Top Ten should Shulman stumble. For the victor of Event #57, $397,073 and the WSOP bracelet are awaiting them by the end of tonight.
STARTING TODAY: Event #58 – $10,000 Championship Event
The finale of the 2011 WSOP, the $10,000 Championship Event (the “Main Event” is a moniker created for television) begins the first of four Day Ones at noon today. After much hand wringing only slightly more than a month ago (this writer included), the 2011 WSOP has proven to be eternally durable, as witnessed by the record fields for events throughout this year’s schedule. With this said, it is not out of the question for this year’s Championship Event field to approach the 7319 players from 2010 and maybe even reach the 8000 player mark, which would make it the second largest Championship Event ever.
The weekend will be occupied with the three other Day Ones, running on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and Days 1A and 1C will come back on Monday for the first of two Day Twos. Days 1B and 1D will combine for Day 2B on Tuesday and Wednesday marks an off day of play. The entirety of the WSOP Championship Event field will not be in the same location at the same time until one week from today for Day 3.
Of course, we all know the conclusion of last year’s Championship Event. Two Canadians – Surrey’s Matt Jarvis and Boucherville’s Jonathan Duhamel – made the final table, with Duhamel the chip leader, and Jonathan stormed his way to the World Championship. The victory marked the first ever Canadian World Champion and Jonathan will be back to defend his crown.
Can Jonathan defend his crown, or will another Canadian join the rolls of the nation’s best players? Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll follow the drama of the Championship Event as the 2011 World Series of Poker has reached the beginning of its final tournament.