After Katja Thater's abrupt departure, Sally Boyer rode a wave of late aggression win the $1k Ladies Event. Her victory came against the largest field ever assembled at women's poker tournament with 1,286 players.
Vanessa Selbst seemed to be in a league of her own as the Ladies Event progressed through Day 2. She is often the most aggressive player in any tournament she enters; she looked like a wolf to a lamb with only women in the field. She became a lightning rod at the table. While players didn't have the skill or experience to play back at her, they did regularly snipe at her and send evil glares toward her.
Her prospects changed because of one woman: Katja Thater. The top German player and member of Team PokerStars was the only remaining player who had the game required to handle a player like Selbst. When Thater was moved into the 9s and Selbst was in the 8s with two tables left, the tournament changed. Selbst had raised almost at will from any position and called raisers she wanted to outplay and re-popped others she felt would lay down hands.
Thater showed that position can work both ways. Most players don't want an aggressive player to their right, but Thater picked spots regularly to make 3x re-raises when Selbst raised pre-flop. And Selbst never moved in on Thater the entire time they sat next to each other.
The new chipleader as Day 2 ended was Frauke Ritter Von Sporschill. The German had earned her chips the hard way, preventing a repeat winner in the process. Von Sporschill raised 30k then defending champ Mary Jones moved all-in. Short stacked, Jennifer Shahade took her shot to get lucky and called with . Von Sporschill called reluctantly with then saw Jones flip over . Von Sporschill walked thirty yards away from the table as the dealer dealt the board: . All three players were alive until the river, but only Von Sporschill moved on.
When the ten players were combined to play down to the Final Table, the Floor gave Selbst the 1s and Thater the 2s. "Are we going to redraw for the Final Table?" asked Selbst. When the answer came back no, her displeasure could be read by anyone watching. With Fran Lieberman's departure (10th, $10,766), the Final Table was set. The chip counts heading into Day 3:
Frauke Ritter Von Sporschill (523k)
Mindy Trinidad (444k)
Vanessa Selbst (354k)
Katja Thater (340k)
Sally Boyer (326k)
Anne Heft (277k)
Kathy Gliva (147k)
Randi Calabro (110k)
Julie Dang (48k)
The event was webcast on an hour delay as ESPN had not planned on filming the Final Table. The big question heading into the event was could Selbst handle Thater, and would either player be stopped. The answer became clear soon enough, and it was set up by a monster hand.
Gliva raised UTG and Von Sporschill re-raised from CO+1. Gliva then moved all-in, and after several minutes Von Sporschill called. They both showed suited big slick, with Gliva's up against Von Sporschill's . There normally is nervous laughter when identical hands are shown, but it disappeared when came on the flop. sealed the flush for Gliva, and she doubled through Von Sporschill. It sent Von Sporschill into a chill, and the table froze up save for Selbst and Thater.
Selbst raised frequently early, but Thater re-raised with any decent hand. The first player left the shrouded table early. Julie Dang moved all-in and Thater re-raised. Gliva then looked down and saw two black jacks in the big blind, and struggled before laying down the hand. Dang showed and Thater turned over . Thater was never behind in the hand, with Dang drawing to a king for a straight after the ace hit on the river. No such luck, and Julie Dang was out in 9th ($14,628).
Selbst could not figure out Thater and showed the glaring weakness in her game: her inability to change gears and adjust. With the table incredibly passive, Selbst ceded table leadership to Thater, and her stack increased as the hands progressed. The rest of the field only made plays with big cards, yet Selbst played them as if they were standard tourney pros. Randi Calabro raised for one of the two or three times since starting, and Selbst re-raised with A-7o. Calabro moved all-in, and Selbst was pot committed. Calabro showed A-Ko to double up.
Mindy Trinidad then used to double through Thater with pocket sixes. It seemed inconsequential, but these pots proved important down the road. Selbst picked up and moved all-in, and Thater looked at the kind of hand she had planned to go to war with, . She moved all-in to sit alone with her neighbor. Everyone folded, and the board of sent Vanessa Selbst out in 8th ($20,480). She felt she was the strongest player at the table, but today she wasn't.
The dynamics of the table were bizarre when Selbst left: Katja Thater was a monster chip leader, Mindy Trinidad was shortstacked, and no one else cared to play. Trinidad moved all-in all the time, taking blinds or pots to double up, building a stack, then getting knocked back down Kathleen Gliva picked up pocket aces then Frauke Ritter Von Sporschill four-flushed her with the lowly . Thater then made a Dan Harrington-type call of Trinidad's all-in with vs. Trinidad's . Thater then doubled up Anne Heft when she raised with vs Heft's . Now Thater had lost her patience as no one played any hands.
After the dinner break, Trinidad tried her all-in luck one more time with , but Randi Calabro's pocket jacks ended the day for Mindy Trinidad (7th $28,086). By then, Von Sporschill's stack had grown small, and Anne Heft used pocket jacks to end the day for Frauke Ritter Von Sporschill (6th $37,448). It was a stream of players who made their way to the cashier from the draped final table.
Thater went all-in UTG with , and she planned to take the blinds and antes. Heft made the call with and had her covered. Thater's head was spinning as she looked down at the board of . Players had folded around to the big blind all day, and the actual hands were few and far between. Now, the best player at the table, Katja Thater, was gone (5th $49,151).
As Thater finished her exit interview, another player took her place in front of the camera. Sally Anne Boyer moved all-in with pocket fours and Kathleen Gliva called all-in with . The fours held up, and Gliva was gone (4th $70,216). Boyer then moved all-in from the small blind with two black sixes. Randi Calabro, who came near hyperventilation each time she had a big decision to make, moved all-in quickly with . stopped her breathing, and Calabro was gone in 3rd ($106,177). She was fired from her job for not being back in Orlando, and the money she won will help her transition to a new career somewhere.
Anne Heft held the chip lead with 1.6m to Sally Anne Boyer's 985k, but clearly Boyer knew how to play heads-up. She relentlessly attacked the blinds of Heft to take the chip lead, but gave it back when she moved all-in with pocket sevens and Heft called with . She hit an ace to double up to 1.7m to Boyer's 875k. Boyer returned the favor with K-8 and caught two eights on the flop.
Boyer then moved all-in with and Heft called with . left Heft with thirty-seven cards to double up with. It was one of the remaining cards, , that ended the tourney. For Anne Heft, it was the second Ladies Event she'd final tabled after the 2006 US Poker Championship. Runner-up here was for $166,177, a hefty payday for any poker pro.
Sally Anne Boyer (photo courtesy of PokerNews) took the top prize of $262,077, the second largest cash win for a woman in WSOP history after Tiffany Williamson's $400,000 in the 2004 Main Event. She now has a WSOP bracelet to defend a year from now.