Steve "MrSmokey1" Billirakis earned a late birthday present, taking down a tough final table after a long heads-up battle with Greg Mueller (pictured left) to win the Event #1 $5k NLH/LH Mixed Championship. At 21 years 10 days old, his record as the youngest to take down a WSOP Event will be tough to beat.
The Casino Employees Event awarded the first bracelet of the World Series of Poker, but this was the beginning of the big bracelet parade. The ESPN set was surrounded by friends, family, Harrah's executives, and railbirds looking to watch an exciting conclusion to Event #1.
Play started with 30k/60k Limit Hold-Em, with the blinds at 15k/30k. On the first hand, chipleader Fred Berger and John Younger raised until Younger was all-in for his 94k with . Berger's held up, and Younger was quickly out (9th, $33,915).
Greg Mueller snatched the chip lead from Fred Berger, taking down several pots during the limit level. He started the NLH level with 1.0m in chips, with Steven Paul-Ambrose second at 770k and Steve Billirakis third at 680k. Berger lost 300k during the level to drop to 620k. NLH started with blinds of 10k/20k. Play continued to be cautious, with the dealer rarely turning over a flop.
The first big pot came when Kirk Morrison raised to 55k in middle position. Jon Turner moved all-in from the small blind, and Fred Berger deliberated quite awhile before calling. Morrison folded, and Berger's pocket queens were ahead of Turner's . The board came , and Jon Turner was out in 8th ($46,333).
With the level change to 40k/80k LH, the chip count as follows:
Fred Berger (1.1m)
Greg Mueller (1.075m)
Steven Paul-Ambrose (745k)
Steve Billirakis (625k)
Tony George (375k)
Roger McDow (350k)
Kirk Morrison (250k)
Kirk Morrison was arguably the favorite heading into the Final Table, with strong results over the last year including a runner-up finish at the WPT Championships. He'd gradually bled chips at the Final Table, and he got into a final pre-flop betting war with Steve Paul-Ambrose with an initial raise from Berger thrown in for good measure. It was finally a 440k pot when Morrison called Paul-Ambrose's 10k bet in the dark to put him all-in. Morrison had but Paul-Ambrose was way ahead with for a set of queens on a flop of . brought new life to Morrison for a chance to four-flush life back into him, but ended his day in 7th ($63,591).
The last few hands of the level brought a flurry of activity. Steven Paul-Ambrose, Greg Mueller, and Fred Berger ganged up on Roger McDow, which led to his demise. McDow called his last chips off when Berger raised Paul-Ambrose's limp as did Mueller. led Berger to bet 40k, Mueller to call, and Paul-Ambrose to fold. Two black queens were checked down to complete the board, and Berger showed pocket fours which were no good to Mueller's A-9. Roger McDow finished 6th ($84,788).
Five were left as they switched to 15k/30k NLH. It was a level of transition as Steven Paul-Ambrose took over the chip lead at 1.455m with Mueller at 1.3m. Fred Berger had dropped back to fourth in chips with 520k, and his slide continued as they switched back to 60k/120k LH. Steve Billirakis finally knocked him out in 5th ($108,105). With the limit playing at 60k/120k, the swings were wild. Mueller built his stack up to 1.8m only to see Billirakis surge to 1.8m to snatch the chip lead away.
Paul-Ambrose had a horrible level, losing chips, then reaching the felt only to double back to 420k through Mueller. He got involved in a roller-coaster of a hand that sent him to the rail. In a battle of the blinds between Billirakis and Paul-Ambrose, the flop came . Billirakis led out for 60k, then Paul-Ambrose raised only to see Billirakis three-bet. Paul-Ambrose called, and came on the turn. Billirakis bet 120k, and Paul-Ambrose raised his last 20k and was called. Billirakis showed pocket aces, for top set and the nut flush draw, and Paul-Ambrose was down to either , , or to stay alive as he showed . It was the fourth nine that hit the river, the giving him the straight but pushing the pot to Billirakis with the nut flush. Steven Paul-Ambrose left the Amazon Room with in 4th ($146,259).
They headed to the dinner break with Steve Billirakis (2.27m) leading Greg Mueller (1.51m) and Tony George (740k). Mueller had a relaxing dinner at the Rio's Tilted Kilt, and he looked confident and at ease throughout the dinner with his friends. When they returned to 20k/40k NLH, Mueller chased down George to get down to a final two players. Tony George had played a smart final table, staying out of the way of big pots yet making moves when he needed to. He moved all-in with and was instacalled by Mueller with . Pocket fives are a tough hand to play; in fact, I know of one poker blogger from Canada who continually posts fictitious hands where pocket fives win massive pots. At a final table, they get chased down sometimes. sent the crowed into a frenzy as Mueller rivered his straight to take down Tony George (3rd, $218,329).
Mueller held a slight chip lead, 2.35m to Billirakis' 2.17m. It was a long heads-up battle, with both players holding significant chip leads through the 61 hands. They were even at the end of 20k/40k NLH, then Billirikas took a 3:1 chip lead in the 80k/160k LH. Ten hands later, Mueller held a 3:1 chip lead as they transitioned to 25k/50k NLH. Back and forth they went, and when they switched back to 100k/200k LHE, 50k in chips separated these two players.
Billirikas then went on one of these limit hold-em runs that any of us who play regularly have seen. He first pushed Mueller out of a big pot with . Billirikas then snatched another 800k more from Mueller on a . Mueller stared at the 8-7 facing him, giving Billirikas a full house. Finally, Billirakis raised on the button with the next hand and Mueller called. The flop came , and both players checked. came on the turn, and Mueller called Billirakis 200k bet. came on the river, and both players checked. Billirikas showed 10-2 for the lowest full house possible, and Mueller was down to his last few chips.
The pair of boats finished Mueller off as he blindly raised enough times to get his last 325k into the pot with . Billirakis showed , and the sent him into the lead. ended Event #1 with the Poker Peek cards a distant memory.
For Greg Mueller, it was bittersweet. His runner-up finish for $328,554 was his top cash, but he felt like the bracelet was there for him. Steve Billirakis had other ideas though. The quiet young man from Chicago recently won $56,980 by taking down a PokerStars tourney, and MrSmokey1 is a regular at FullTilt and PokerStars events. Now he is part of the fabric of poker as the youngest ever to win a bracelet ($536,287).