Jason Lester has been close to a World Series Bracelet several times, but none as close as 2003 when he finished 4th to three other players now household names in the poker world: Dan Harrington, Sam Farha, and Chris Moneymaker. Lester's wait ended this year as he bested a field of 378 players paying $5k for the Pot Limit Holdem crown. Day 1 ended with 35 players in the money, chip leader Tommy Smith at $224k followed by Stuart Fox
at $112k and Jason Lester at $99k. Erik Seidel left early in Day 2 (34th, $7,016), as did Daniel Alaei
(28th, $7,106). Cyndy Violette (16th, $14,213) made it the final two tables. She moved all-in with pocket 8's only to run into Michael Tedesco's pocket kings. Chau Giang ran out of gas in 12th ($21,319), and Nam Le soon followed to set the final table (10th, $21,319). Alan Sass caught a late rush, bouncing from his last $70k up to $431k and the final table chip lead.
Kirill Gerasimov left first on Day 3, his second final table this year ending earlier than his 3rd place finish at the $5k Omaha H/L event. Tommy Smith had pocket queens against Gerasimov's big slick, and the ladies held up this time, finishing the afternoon before one orbit for Gerasimov (9th, $35,532). Smith moved up to $460k in chips to the $470k of Sass. The chip leaders tangled in a hand probably feared as much as any in poker. Sass raised to $36k, only to be re-raised to $82k by Smith. Sass called, and the flop came . They checked in turn, and the brought action. Sass bet $100k, and then they both kept betting until everything was in the middle. Smith immediately showed his trap of for a flopped set, only to see Sass show the flopped top set with . The river of sent a huge pot to Sass and left Tommy Smith out in 8th ($53,298). Sass had amassed $925k with that pot, Michael Tedesco a distant second in chips with $235k. It would be a race to see who could challenge Sass and who could move up in the money. Emad Tamtouh doubled through Gregg Turk only to triple. Tamtouh ran into Tedesco's two pair (7th, $71,064). Jason Lester's pocket 8's then held up against short stacked Gregg Turk's A-Q (6th, $88,830).
Down to five, Sass had lost a third of his chips down to $615k. It was now a fair fight, with Lester ($425k), Tedesco ($405k), and Tony Hartmann ($355k) all within striking distance of the chip leader. Stuart Fox had $98k and needed some help. Sass made a play at Hartmann with an all-in re-raise. Hartmann called with vs. the of Sass. The flop of had Sass now ahead, and the turn of brought no help but the gave Hartmann the straight and new life. Fox then doubled through Tedesco, pocket aces holding up. Fox then sucked out on the flop against Tedesco, A-8 vs. A-Q catching an 8 on the flop. Michael Tedesco didn't improve, and his night was done (5th, $106,596). Sass had moved back to $810k and the chip lead, and then he grabbed more from Hartmann. Pocket 9's of Sass vs. of Hartmann, and big slick didn't catch up, sending Tony Hartmann for his luggage (4th, $124,362).
Sass had $1.3M in chips to $365k for Fox and Lester's $245k. After Lester and Fox traded chips with two all-in's, doubling through each other, Lester tangled with Sass. Sass had A-J vs. Lester's pocket 7's, a jack hit the flop only to see a 7 on the turn. Lester had a set and the chip lead after a long struggle.
Sass and Lester huddled around $850k each until Fox doubled through Lester. Lester eventually picked off a bluff from Fox, and Stuart Fox from Birmingham, England finished in 3rd ($142,128). Lester gradually built an almost 3:1 chip lead. He finished Fox off, his flopped top pair with holding up on a flop of vs. the gunshot straight draw of . Alan Sass had his second cash of this year's World Series (2nd, $284,256). For Jason Lester (1st, $550,746), it wasn't a career achievement award or an honorary doctorate. It was a well deserved first bracelet, and he's the kind of player who can win more in the years to come.