The structure of this event was unusual in this year’s mega-field tourneys, more like a normal WSOP event of old. Day 1 worked down to three tables, and Day 2 would determine a winner. The higher buy-in tourneys bring players of pedigree deep in the tourney, and members of Day 2’s 27 - who didn’t reach the final table - looked like a Poker All-Star team: Andy Black (25th), Andy Bloch (23rd), Gavin Smith (22nd), Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (17th), and Mike Caro (14th) all fell by the wayside.
When nine players moved to the final table, Mike Wattel ($270k) had the chip lead over Phil Ivey ($192k) and Sam Farha ($190k). Kiril Gerasimov sat in 6th chip position ($120k). Gerasimov was runner up at the 2004 WPT Championship, as well as cashing nine times with four final tables in the last three World Series. He combines solid play with fearlessness, a lethal combination. Sam Farha needs no introduction to poker fans. In addition to his co-starring role as 2004 Main Event runner-up to Chris Moneymaker, he has been a big hit in High Stakes Poker on the Game Show Network. And where was every eye fixed? On, arguably the best living poker player, Phil Ivey. Holder of five bracelets, there is no other player who has as good a chance as Ivey of surpassing the Chan/Brunson/Hellmuth jewelry cartel.
Everyone hoped for an Ivey-Farha final or maybe even Wattel-Gerasimov thrown into a final four to add some intrigue to the duo. Ivey almost didn’t cooperate. After Ryan Hughes (9th, $24,910), Jim Ferrel (8th, $37,365), and Jeff King (7th, $49,820), Gerasimov crippled Ivey. Ivey raised to $10k and was reraised by Gerasimov to $30k. Ivey called, and the flop came . Ivey made a small $10k bet and was called. Ivey checked the on the turn, and Gerasimov bet $20k. The on the river prevented any low split of the pot. Gerasimov bet $20k, and Ivey grudgingly called. Ivey needed something little to split the pot. Gerasimov’s for a flopped boat scooped the pot. Ivey was down to $60k, and then BOOM-BANG, Ivey doubled up twice and was sitting on $210k, all in a blink of an eye. Add quad kings to drag a pot from Farha, and Ivey had the chip lead at $385k.
Brian Nadell (6th, $62,275) went out in a four-way pot, then the one-time chip leader Mike Wattel ran into a brutal run. First Gerasimov scooped a pot with the nut low and a rivered four for a pair of fours for the high. Then Mike Henrich doubled through him for a scooped pot. The final flow was from Farha in a blow only Omaha Hi/Lo can dish out, the counterfeited low. It comes when your low card shows up on the river, negating your hand and pushing the pot elsewhere. The gave Farha the low, along with his two pair for the high, and Wattel was out in 5th ($74,730). Mike Henrich followed (4th, $87,185), and three great players were left.
Blinds were up to $10k/20k with limits of $20k/40k, and Gerasimov held the chip lead with $650k with the other two holding the other half of the chips (Farha at 480k and Ivey at $140k). Ivey wouldn’t be able to wait too long, and he didn’t have long to wait. He got down to his last $70k but scooped a pot from each player to get up to $220k. Gerasimov had entered this trio so strong, but a tough hour of scooped pots left him on life support. A baby club on the river gave Farha the flush and low, and Kiril Gerasimov mucked his hand, out in 3rd ($219,208).
The World Series of Poker is really supposed to be like this, Sam Farha vs. Phil Ivey, even in chips. The only other variable that would make it perfect would be fairly low blinds, allowing these two to tangle all night. They were heads-up for an hour, trading blinds and searching for the time to pounce. A couple of scooped pots with $25k/50k limits put Ivey to the felt; he doubled up once to provide some hope. In the end, it was like Raisin Bran: two scoops in every box. How sweet this bowl tasted to Sam Farha, as Phil Ivey finished runner-up for only the second time in the World Series ($219,208). Farha walked away with his second bracelet and the admiration of the poker world at taking this event against the very best ($398,560).