236 players bought into the stud event, and this staple of the biggest mixed games brought a rich field to the event. After all players ante, two cards are dealt down with one up, and the low card has the option of a bring-in or completing the bet. Betting then goes in sequence. The remaining players receive a card up, then the best hand bets first. This happens three more times, then the final card is dealt down. The pot is split between the high hand and the low hand, and the object was to scoop the pot by taking the high and low hand.
An eight-man Final Table sat at the ESPN Feature Table, and it was one of great quality.
Eli Elezra (303k)
Scotty Nguyen (255k)
George Hardie (182k)
David Sklansky (171k)
Dutch Boyd (170k)
Thor Hansen (167k)
John Harkness (141k)
Marhall Ragir (28k)
Play started with antes at 2k, a 2k bring-in, and limits of 8k/16k. Marshall Ragir needed a lot of help to make it far, but his luck ran out before it started (8th $14,981). Scotty Nguyen, David Sklansky, and Eli Elezra each held the chip lead until George Hardie (7th $20,844) and Thor Hansen (6th $27,357). It was Hansen's second final table, but he still searches for his third WSOP bracelet.
As the number of players declined, the pace of the game sped up. Eli Elezra held 523k, and these seasoned players weren't in the mood for Hollywood acting and other theatrics. They made their decisions, with most pots shoved early, and the dealer quickly dealt the next hand.
David Sklansky lost two consecutive pots, one to Nguyen and the final one chopped between Nguyen and Elezra. It was Sklansky's best finish (5th $35,835) since his 3rd place finish for $419k at last year's WPT Foxwoods.
Down to four players, the chips counts looked like this:
Scotty Nguyen (560k)
Eli Elezra (549k)
Dutch Boyd (147k)
John Harkness (125k)
Harkness and Boyd played deliberately as both tried to stay alive and move up in the money. Harkness had the misfortune of being dealt the low card for six of seven hands. Elezra often raised his bring-in, then showed paired aces once and paired jacks as well when Harkness folded. It was fitting that Elezra took the rest of his chips, and he was out in 4th ($47,224).
Hands were dealt in a flurry now, looking more like online poker rather than a WSOP Final Table. Dutch Boyd was cheered on by friends including Scott Fischman, and it looked like he'd done the best he could to get third. Elezra scooped some pots from Nguyen, and suddenly his stack was down to 260k to Boyd's 205k. Both trailed well behind Elezra's 952k. It took a one-two punch from Nguyen and Elezra to finally get rid of Dutch Boyd (3rd $71,650).
It looked like the heads-up battle would be quick with Elezra at 1.1m and Nguyen at 318k. With antes and
bring-in's at 5k and bets of 10k/20k, any full hand would lead to a big pot. Elezra either pushed Nguyen out of the pot or chopped them early. In the chopped pots, Elezra often bet lows aggressively.
After Nguyen took four pots with no lows to square the match, 698k to Elezra's 719k. The duo worked out a deal then settled in for a long, quick HU sitcom. Nguyen eased ahead only to see Elezra make a run that brought him over 1.2m in chips. Both men enjoyed their beers and chatting it up for the spectators and ESPN. They somehow made it through sixty-four hands before Scotty Nguyen had nothing on the felt but his beer (2nd $110,731).
Eli Elezra (photo courtesy of PokerNews) doesn't need a WSOP bracelet to prove he can play. He won the WPT Mirage in 2004 ($1,024,574) and regularly can be found in Bobby's Room at the Bellagio in the biggest cash games in the world. Compared to being injured in the 1982 Lebanon War as an Israeli Army commando then building businesses in and around Las Vegas, this Final Table was a cakewalk. From now on though, people will have to name someone else as the best player never to have won a WSOP bracelet (1st $198,984).