For the first time during the 2011 World Series of Poker, the noticeable action occurred on the tables rather than away from the felt. Two tournaments reached their conclusions, with the plan on Saturday for two more bracelets to be awarded.
Event #2 – $25,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold’em Championship – Final Day
The four men who would determine the victor of the $25,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold’em Championship – 2010 WSOP Europe Heads Up champion Gus Hansen, former WPT Championship winner Yevgeny “JovialGent” Timoshenko, 2010 EPT and WPT champion Jake Cody and two time WSOP bracelet winner Eric Froehlich – headed back to the felt on Friday afternoon with the prestigious Heads Up WSOP bracelet on the line. With such accomplished players in the running, the crowds in the Rio focused much of their attention on the three battles that would determine a winner.
The fight between Timoshenko and Froehlich was pretty much a one sided affair, as Yevgeny controlled the match almost from the get-go. Over the span of almost an hour, it seemed that Timoshenko took every major pot, building a sizeable 3-1 chip lead. Even after a break to collect his thoughts, Froehlich could never muster much of an offense against the Ukranian born professional and, after a mere two hours of play, Yevgeny Timoshenko was able to vanquish Eric Froehlich to move on to the final match.
In what was a much more entertaining match – if not for the play on the table, but for the railbirds surrounding it – Gus Hansen and Jake Cody stepped up next to determine Timoshenko’s opponent. Over the first hour of play, the duo jousted with each other, neither seemingly able to seize any momentum in the match. Over the second hour, however, Cody was able to get the better of “The Great Dane” and, with a raucous crowd of British countrymen supporting him, was able to take the victory against Hansen and take his shot at poker’s Triple Crown.
Cody’s supporters were perhaps the only drama of the day at the WSOP. Using the stalwart tactics of football (or, as Americans would say, soccer) fans, Jake’s backers sang songs, chanted and generally brought a vibrant air to a normally staid event. Fueled by several libations, the shenanigans seemed to bring out the ire of WSOP officials, however, as they asked the Cody supporters to control their more rowdy members and to attempt to maintain some form of decorum.
With each player set with 4.8 million in chips (three bullets of 1.6 million), the final match figured to be a marathon rather than a sprint. Timoshenko moved out to an early lead amid the din from still active Cody’s supporters, which prompted Yevgeny to comment, “I’ve been to soccer matches less rowdy than this.” By the time the first level of play had ended, however, Jake had pulled into a slight lead.
Following the next uneventful level, it seemed that Timoshenko wanted to bring his fans into the match. After over two hours of play, a coalition of Timoshenko fans began to bring their own chants, songs and spirit to the rail. In a strange way, the Timoshenko/Cody match began to resemble a battle between European football giants, rather than a poker tournament.
Cody seized control of the matchup over the last hour of the three hour battle. He ground Timoshenko down over the span of thirty minutes and, over the next thirty, proceeded to end the event. Down to his final bullet and with the blinds climbing, after an all-in move from Jake, Yevgeny attempted to get some chips back on the final hand by pushing with an A-5, a good starting hand in heads up play. He held the lead against Cody’s K-9, but a King on the flop ended the tournament. After no Ace came on the turn or river, Jake Cody won his first WSOP bracelet.
Although the $851,192 first place prize certainly felt good in his pocket, Jake Cody also has become only the third man to win poker’s Triple Crown. The achievement of winning tournaments on the EPT, WPT and WSOP stages has only been done twice previously, by Gavin Griffin and Roland De Wolfe. If you didn’t already know his name, Jake Cody should be familiar to all quite soon and a force in the game for some time.
25 players returned for the final day of Event #3 with the WSOP bracelet and the first place prize of $262,282 up for grabs. Francesco Barbaro held a slim 1000 chip lead over Matthew Waxman at the start of play and one Canadian – Day One chip leader Guillaume Rivet – holding out for a chance at picking up the country’s first bracelet of 2011.
Rivet played extremely well over the span of the three day event, but was unable to make it to the final table. In what eventually turned out to be a double knockout, Rivet put the remainder of his chips in the center with two pair (A-K-3-2, two hearts) against John Mccaffrey (Q-Q-9-4, two hearts) and Vladimir Shchmelev (K-7-6-3) on a K-10-3 (two heart) flop. Mccaffrey would be all in following a nine on the turn and, once the players turned up their hands, Rivet held the lead against his opponents. Befitting the nature of Omaha, however, a seven fell on the river and gave the hand to Shchmelev with a better two pair, knocking Rivet out in 15th place and Mccaffrey out in 14th.
Waxman and Barbaro maintained their top two positioning as the final table was reached, with Waxman in the lead. Barbaro would waste little time in reversing this, taking a big hand against Waxman less than fifteen minutes into final table play. Both Waxman and Barbaro continued to battle against each other throughout the final table, eventually working down to three way play along with Kostas Kalathakis.
With the trio separated by 1 million in chips, Barbaro continued to apply the pressure to his opponents. The decision was made to play the tournament out, instead of stopping after the WSOP mandated 10 level rule, and Barbaro (3.1 million) eventually had both Waxman (600K) and Kalathakis (550K) on the ropes. Barbaro made it quick for his valiant opponents, first eliminating Waxman, then Kalathakis, as he steamrolled his way to his first WSOP bracelet and the $262,282 first place prize.
Event #4 – $5000 No Limit Hold’em – Day 2
42 players remain after the action of Day 2 in the $5000 No Limit Hold’em tournament, with the 2009 winner of this event, Brian Lemke, sitting atop the leader board with 960,000 in chips. There are a host of notable names, including Allen Bari, Jonathan Little, Matt Glantz and Carlos Mortensen, among those chasing for this WSOP championship.
Two Canadians are making a deep run in this tournament. Ontario’s Simon Charette is currently sitting in ninth position and will be looking to drive to the final table of Event #4. A little more difficult path exists for fellow Ontarian Sean LeFort, who is sitting in the middle of the pack in 24th place and will need some help to get into the mix.
The plan for Saturday is to play down to the final table of the tournament and come back on Sunday. There is a chance, depending on the speed of play today, that they may play it out and award the WSOP bracelet and the $874,116 first place bounty late Saturday/early Sunday morning.
Event #5 – $1500 Seven Card Stud – Day 2
Event #5 was unable to work its way to a final table on Friday, as 12 players will return on Saturday to determine the champion. It is an all-American field amongst the survivors, as only the chip leader, Italy’s Allesio Isaia, hails from outside the U. S. Such players as Eric Buchman (looking for his second WSOP bracelet) and Eugene Katchalov will pose the most serious threat.
Alexander Wice was the only Canadian to walk away from the Rio with something to show for his efforts in the $1500 Seven Card Stud event. Finishing in 27th place, Wice was able to grab $3113 from the $481,950 prize pool, his second ever cash in WSOP play. The finish adds to what has been an excellent 2011 for Alexander, following his third place finish at the EPT Deauville in January.
Event #6 – $1500 Limit Hold’em – Day 1
675 players turned out for the first day of action in the $1500 Limit Hold’em tournament, outpacing last year’s field by 50 runners. By the end of the day, only 135 hardy souls remained in the fight over the $911,250 prize pool, which will be divided up between the top 63 players. Edward Nassif holds 92,000 in chips, good for the lead, while 2009 WSOP bracelet winner Jerrod Ankenman sits way back in second with his 61,900 in chips.
Three Canadians are still in the mix in the event, although all of them have some heavy lifting to do to make it into the money. Ontario’s James Meek and BC’s Daniel Idema hold down the 86th and 87th places, respectively, while Albert Ngi is on life support with 6200 chips and will be looking to “double or die” in the early action on Saturday.
Event #7 – $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em World Championship – Day 1
The $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em World Championship drew a smallish field of 249 runners for its Day 1 action, slightly lower than the 268 that turned out in 2010. Binh Nguyen has been able to hold the chip lead overnight with his 159,000 in chips, but several Canadian pros are on the attack and making an impact on the tournament.
The runner up in this event in 2010, Matt Marafioti is currently stacked with 110,700 in chips, good for 13th among the remaining 129 players. Owen Crowe is also making another good run at the WSOP, sitting in ninth place with 123,500 in chips. Pat Pezzin, Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi, Mike “SirWatts” Watson and actress and former WSOP Ladies Champion Jennifer Tilly are all in the Top 50, while Matthew Wood, Shawn Buchanan, Jean François Talbot, Nenad Medic, Carter Swidler and Jean Phillipe Matte all have work to do to move up the leader board.
STARTING TODAY – Event #8 – $1000 No Limit Hold’em and Event #9 – $1500 No Limit Deuce To Seven Lowball
Two events enter into the action on Saturday at the WSOP, with one expected to draw huge numbers and the second, more specialized discipline of poker sure to draw a star-studded field.
The first of two Day 1’s in the $1000 No Limit Hold’em event should draw a huge field, as the small buy in allows for the “everyman” to potentially achieve his glory for a minimal expenditure. These events were introduced on the weekend during last year’s WSOP and were instant successes, drawing anywhere between 3042 and 4345 players over the six events run last year. These fields mark the largest non-Main Event fields in WSOP history.
Deuce To Seven Lowball is one of the most difficult brands of poker and, as such, draws specialists to the tables. 250 players showed up in 2010 for the event, with Yan Chen taking down the title over Mike Wattel. No Canadians were in the money in this tournament in 2010, although seven different nations were represented among the 28 players paid.
With the start of Events #8 and #9, six tournaments will be in action simultaneously over the span of Saturday’s play, stretching the boundaries of the Rio to the max. It’s only the beginning, however, as this is just the first weekend of play at the 2011 World Series of Poker.