"Are these my bricks?" screamed John "Sir Scoopalot" Guth as he gripped four stacks of Benjamins after taking down $363,216. It was a raucous heads-up battle with Robert Stevanovski as both players had a posse of friends cheering them on.
To have a nickname like "Sir Scoopalot" is a bit of a tell. Nicknames are earned and insightful, and Guth is a very rare bird. He's an internet player who plays Omaha Hi/Lo exclusively. In Omaha Hi/Lo, the object of the game is to win both the high and low hands without either losing or quartering a pot; i.e., splitting either the high or low with another player.
This was a top pro event, and 280 players paid $5k to enter this event. Omaha is building an audience in the US, but it still is primarily a European game. The fact that Kirill Gerasimov was the chipleader at the end of Day 1 was not a surprise. The young Russian has cashed six times in WSOP Omaha events including a 3rd in this event last year to Sammy Farha and Phil Ivey.
Day 2 was a grueling ordeal as limit hi/lo meant lots of split pots and long hours. The final three tables paid, and getting to a Final Table was an exhaustive process ending around 4:00AM. John Guth went on a late tear as he and Mike Henrich knocked out Mike Matusow (15th $15,134). He then took left Randy Jensen quartered and Todd Brunson busted (14th $15,134) with the nut flush on a paired board and the nut low. With Annie Duke's exit (13th $15,134), it was another Final Table of nine men. Chip counts for the Final Table:
Max Reynaud (529k)
David Flores (450k)
John Guth (387k)
Robert Stevanovski (384k)
Randy Jensen (283k)
Greg Jamison (223k)
Bart Hanson (191k)
Michael Pollowitz (189k)
Jim Grove (163k)
After three hands, blinds moved to 8k/15k with 15k/30k bets. Jim Grove ran into a bad run early to go out in 9th ($23,688). Randy Jensen doubled up through Max Reynard then eliminated Bart Hanson (8th $32,900). I can't bring myself to type Jensen's nickname, but it rhymes with cream-musher. He did end Michael Pollowitz's dreams however as the board read . Pollowitz held to Jensen's A-J-7-4, with Jensen taking the low and the high with two pair. Pollowitz left in 7th ($44,744).
Randy Jensen's dreams of a bracelet ended after a few hands that didn't get there for him including a against Stevanovsk and a flop against Guth. He cashed last year in a PLH event, and he topped that with his 6th place finish ($59,220). With five players, the new chip leader was Stevanovski.
Robert Stevanovski (900k)
John Guth (725k)
David Flores (630k)
Max Reynard (280k)
Greg Jamison (270k)
Jamison got short stacked and gained a couple of reprieves with split pots. Stevanovski caught an ace on the river to finally knock Greg Jamison out in 5th ($75,012). Max Reynard started the Final Table with a nice chip lead, but too many split and missed pots led to his demise. Stevanovski took the last of his chips, and he was gone in 4th ($101,332). It was by far his best cash ever, with only a $2,443 at an Italian tournament to his name. It could have been so much more though.
Stevanovski sat on 1.25m with Guth (845k) and Flores (700k) well within striking distance. Guth pulled chips from Flores and Stevanovski, but it was Flores that took the most collateral damage. Stevanovski finished him off with A-A-K-K, and David Flores was finished in 3rd ($148,708).
Stevanovski and Guth had a strong contingent of friends, and the heads-up battle looked more like West Side Story than a poker tournament. Guth was in his incorrect Michael Jordan Washington Bullets 23 jersey, while Stevanovski sat in a Calgary Flames jersey. Stevanovski took a lead up to 2m to Guth's 820k then misread his hand with a board of . He thought he had a straight, but Guth yelled, "No straight! No Straight!."
That brought them all square, and it was Guth who then marched over 2m and the chip lead. A few hands later, and they were back to 1.4m apiece. Guth scooped a pot with a flush and low with the board's then gave Stevnovski only a quarter when both had A-2 for the low.
Jamie Gold made "Top-Top" a new phrase in poker last year when he knocked out Lee Kort with top pair/top kicker. In a split game, there is an even better phrase to hear, and the blow delivered in essence finished off Stevnovski. The board read , and Guth bet 120k on the river. Stevanovski called the bet, then Guth said, "Nut-nut." He showed for the nut straight and for the nut low.
It was over soon enough, and Guth played the last hand like a master Omaha Hi/Lo player. The flop came , and Guth checked. Stevnovski bet, and Guth check-raised, leaving him no choice but to call. He turned over for a set. sealed the deal, and a riot ensued at the ESPN Feature Table. $218,456 went to Stevnaovski for second.
Guth jumped around like a cross between Eminem and a kangaroo. It was a wild scene. "Are these my bricks? This can't be real!" He picked up four stacks of Benjamins, posed with his posse, kept strutting around the set, then asked all his friends to surround him for the last pictures. "All I've done the last three years is play Omaha Hi/Lo," he told me. "I knew I would win this, and I'll win the next event too. You can write that down." Even splitting the $363,216 with his backer will give him the bankroll that will change his life for the better. "You don't know what I've been through," he said, then jumped back into the arms of his friends, with a new piece of jewelry on his wrist.