The final table was decided in the $50k H.O.R.S.E. event nineteen hours after it began. There are a few final tables in the history of the World Series which may have rivaled this one. Juan Carlos Mortensen’s Main Event table in 2001 was loaded, as was the 2003 WPT Championship. Alan Goehring bested Kiril Gerasimov, Layne Flack, Chau Giang, Ted Forrest, Doyle Brunson, and Phil Ivey.
Robert Williamson III, one of the best Omaha players in the world, exited in 10th ($205,920) to end the morning, and those gathering at 9:00 p.m. Friday evening were a collection of terrific players. Patrik Antonius limped into the evening with $13k in chips, hoping the switch to NLHE would give him a fighting chance. Andy Bloch, a member of FullTilt’s gang, has won several titles but was looking for his first bracelet. David Singer has five WSOP final tables but also was yet to catch a title. These were the easy guys. Jim Bechtel has a WSOP Main Event bracelet in 1993. Dewey Tomko has made twenty final tables at the World Series, winning three and runner-up to Juan Carlos Mortensen in the 2001 Main Event. T.J. Cloutier has six bracelets plus some great Main Event finishes: runner-up to Bill Smith in 1985, fifth to Johnny Chan in 1988, third to Scotty Nguyen in 1998, and a runner-up to Chris “Jesus” Ferguson in 2000. The remaining three are on the short list of the best players in the world. Chip Reese has only two bracelets, but he is considered possibly the best overall cash game player around. Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson: there’s no need to say anything about these two.
The game switched to No-Limit Holdem, with Reese and Brunson in the chip lead. Patrik Antonius left fairly early (9th, $205,920), and then the chips started flying. Singer took a big pot off Brunson, Tomko doubled through Ivey, Bechtel doubled through Bloch, Tomko doubled through Singer, and Cloutier doubled through Brunson, all in the first six orbits. Brunson was crippled and knocked out by Singer two hands later (8th, $274,560). Tomko (7th, $343,200), Singer (6th, $411,840), Cloutier (5th, $480,480) and Bechtel (4th, $549,120) left during the next hour.
Bloch knocked out both Cloutier and Bechtel, giving him $2.9M in chips to Ivey’s $885k and Reese’s $3.4M. Four hands later, Ivey and Bloch battled. The flop came Q, Ivey bet $100k and Bloch raised to $500k, Ivey moved in for the last of his chips and was called. Ivey had middle pair with to Bloch’s gut shot and flush draw with the , virtually a race. The on the turn put Ivey way behind – he needed a seven or an ace to continue. The river came , and Ivey was gone (3rd, $617,760).
It was 2:00AM on Saturday, and these two played for seven hours, the longest heads-up battle in the history of the World Series. The modest blind structure provided this opportunity, combined with the patience, skill, and stamina of these two excellent players.
With an M (a Harrington move) of over 60, it would take awhile before either player would be forced - by the blinds - to play recklessly. Bloch made an early move, building his stack to over $5M to Reese’s $1.9M.
The first big test came in an unlikely situation. After a small raise from Bloch, the flop came . Reese checked, Bloch bet $100k into the $180k pot, and Reese moved in for another $1.4M. Bloch stood up to look at the board and decide if his cards would mean victory. He called and showed ‘the Hammer’, and top pair to Reese’s . This left Reese drawing to a gut shot or a ten. The turn ended the drama quickly with , and Reese doubled up. Bloch again worked his chip stack to a dominant situation, this time up to $6M to Reese’s $1M. Bloch moved all-in with and Reese called with . The flop hit Bloch hard but gave Reese a ton of outs: . Bloch had top two pair with Reese drawing to a flush or gut shot straight. The turned brought Reese the flush, but kept Bloch alive for a full house. The river doubled Reese up again. Around 7:00AM, Reese doubled up a third time, this time his pocket kings well ahead of Bloch’s nines.
For the next two hours, they embarked on a tug of war with very little to show for it. More than half the hands never saw the river card. Reese built a $2M chip lead only to see Bloch snatch the same advantage back. Each hand brought focus from each player, neither ready to leave due to a mistake. Most raises took the pot, some saw a flop, and occasionally a few led to a re-raise. By 9:00AM, Bloch was ahead by $450k. Bloch bet at a flop only to see Reese move all-in. Bloch mucked, then raised the next hand and took the blinds. Reese took a nice pot with a flush on the next hand only to see Bloch win two small pots afterwards. Then on a flop of , Reese checked, Bloch bet $120k, and Reese moved all-in. Bloch barely had Reese covered and made the tough call with top pair, to Reese’s flush draw of . The turn gave the pivotal pot to Reese with the . Reese doubled up and left Andy Bloch with $300k in chips. Bloch survived nine more hands but was done in by Reese who held vs. his own . Andy Bloch, the valiant protector of players’ rights to start the tournament with the marked card debacle, was runner-up ($1,029,600). Chip Reese laid claim to being the best player in poker after this win (1st, $1,716,000), and for many, he held that title before this year’s World Series started.