Freddy Deeb outlasted the best field in poker, then dueled Bruno Fitoussi and John Hanson in an epic, 171-hand battle to be crowned the 2007 $50k HORSE champion, arguably the greatest true test in poker.
Last year's HORSE Final Table was marked by the heads-up battle between Andy Bloch and Chip Reese, which lasted a record 7 hours and 6 minutes. That Final Table was played as a NLH event, driven by ESPN desire to have the more television-friendly format than the complexity of HORSE.
After Freddy Deeb caught quads to bust Gabe Kaplan and cripple Thor Hansen, the Final Table was set.
1s Kenny Tran (2.45m)
2s David Singer (1.33m)
3s Bruno Fitoussi (895k)
4s John Hanson (1.99m)
5s Freddy Deeb (3.5m)
6s Thor Hansen (40k)
7s Amnon Filippi (4.02m)
8s Barry Greenstein (750k)
Play started where it left off, in Seven Card Stud Eight or Better, with antes of 10k, a bring-in of 15k, and bets of 50k/100k. Thor Hansen got his few chips in on the first hand, but John Hanson caught queens and jacks for a higher two pair than Hansen's sevens and fives. No triple up for Hansen, and he was out in 8th ($188,256).
The second player out was fan favorite, Barry Greenstein.
He came into the Final Table seventh in chips and needed some help quickly to get enough chips to be around for the long haul. He made if through the first Hold-Em session but couldn't get through Omaha. On a board of , Amnon Filippi used to outkick Greenstein's . No pocket pair, no nine, no more play for Barry Greenstein (7th $259,296).
David Singer had a terrific run to reach the Final Table again, but he had suffered some horrific beats along the way to get there. John Hanson made the 5-4-3-2-A wheel in a huge Razz pot to cripple him. He ended up all-in with his last 160k in chips with Bruno Fitoussi. His 8-4 down made 8-4-10-5-J-5-4, and he just couldn't get lucky enough against Fitoussi's 4-2-8-Q-A-9-7 for an 8-7-4-2-A low. David Singer finished 6th again, this time for $337,440. Through a quirk in the way the prize pool was allocated, that was over $65k less than he received last year in the slightly smaller HORSE event.
At the 6:00 break, it was telling how different this year's HORSE event was from last year's. Where last year's Final Table had Chip Reese, Phil Ivey, and other rock stars of poker, this was a more subdued and anonymous group. Chipleader John Hanson wandered in the hall outside of the Amazon Room, walking one way then the next. He headed into the Poker Kitchen and bought a water and banana, tried to peel the banana but the end broke, pulled the skin away, ate the banana, walked quietly then headed back into the Amazon Room. Freddy Deeb left with a friend, while Amnon Filippi scurried toward the bathroom. No, these were simply five men who quietly played the biggest game of their lives.
The chip counts with five remaining:
John Hanson (3.54m)
Amnon Filippi (3.31m)
Freddy Deeb (2.63m)
Bruno Fitoussi (2.16m)
Kenny Tran (1.36m)
The flurry of departures ground to a halt as the quintet avoided marginal hands and worked to exploit the big ones. That meant scooping the split pot games, multi-way pots, getting extra bets in when ahead. It also meant that player after player got to the felt, ready to leave the table.
In a critical hand of Omaha, Fitoussi raised to 200k. Hanson called in the small blind and Deeb made it 300k from the big blind. They both called, and the flop came . Hanson checked as did Deeb, and Fitoussi fired out 100k. Hanson made it 200k with the check-raise, and both men called. came on the turn, Hanson bet 200k, Deeb called, Fitoussi raised, Hanson called, and Deeb was all-in for his last 140k. came on the river, and Fitoussi bet 200k into the side pot which Hanson called. Fitoussi showed for the flush and the high plus the nut low. Deeb turned over for the nut low as well, and he'd been quartered but stayed alive.
Play moved to Razz with 30k antes, a 30k bring-in, and bets of 120k/240k. Deeb quickly tripled up to get away from the bottom of the barrel.
Tran: (7-3) A-K-8-9
Hanson: (x-x) 3-4-3-10
Deeb (Q-2) 5-A-7-4
Hanson was pushed out on sixth street when Tran bet, and Tran was drawing dead when they flipped over the pot. Deeb then brought Tran to his knees two hands later, as Tran's 8-9-9-8 was angrily hurled into the muck on the last down card. Deeb bet 240k in the dark with A-2-2-A showing, then asked "Did you make a full house?" He showed 9-5-3 for a 9-5-3-2-A. Kenny Tran couldn't recover and was gone on the next hand, out in 5th ($444,000).
Down to four, Bruno Fitoussi was the commanding chipleader (6.91m), with Freddy Deeb (3.19m) and John Hanson (3.08m) well back. Amnon Filippi had the short stack with 1.7m.
Official Chip Counts
Seat 3 - Bruno Fitoussi - 6,905,000
Seat 4 - John Hanson - 3,075,000
Seat 5 - Freddy Deeb - 3,190,000
Seat 7 - Amnon Filippi - 1,700,000
Filippi gradually fell below 1m then was forced to the felt, scooping a Seven Card Stud Eight or Better pot with Hanson to gain a reprieve. It was short-lived.
Fitoussi raised Filippi all-in on sixth street, and Deeb folded before Filippi called. Fitoussi showed for a flush and a 7-5-4-3 low draw. Filippi has for a higher flush draw, two pair for a full house draw, and no low draw. He didn't connect, dealt to end his evening and his chance at the HORSE bracelet. Amnon Filippi finished 4th ($586,080).
It looked like Fitoussi with his commanding 10.275m in chips would force Hanson (2.255m) and Deeb (2.270m) to simply play for second. Neither player would finish second, and these three played more hands together than had been played at the Final Table before them. Antes were 30k with 30k completes and 120k/240k bets at the beginning, and climbed to 50k antes, 70k completes, and 250k/500k bets by the end of the three-way war.
Neither Deeb nor Hanson felt pressured to make up the deficit quickly. As the trio played, big runs and swings were broken up by some huge hands. Hanson doubled through Deeb in a Seven Card Stud Eight or Better Hand. Deeb raised Hanson's complete to 360k, and Hanson called.
Deeb bet 180k on fourth street and was called, then on fifth street he three-bet to 1.08m after Hanson raised him. Deeb raised him again on sixth to put him all-in and showed for kings and sevens. Hanson had for tens and eights and an open-ended straight draw. He needed some help to survive and got it with for the straight. Deeb could still get his boat, but left him out of 4m pot.
Hanson used that pot and its momentum to take the chip lead as Fitoussi came back to the pack. Each man took turns with the chip lead while each also drifted south from time to time. After 162 hands of three-way action, the chip counts were incredibly close:
One player would leave less than a dozen hands later, and fittingly it was the quirky Razz that would bring it to heads-up. John Hanson got involved deep in a few hands with Freddy Deeb to drop under 3m. He continued to drift away until the final hand against Deeb.
John Hanson: 8-7-3-5
Freddy Deeb: 6-A-J-4
Hanson completed to 250k, then Deeb raised. Fitoussi dropped out with a ten, and Hanson called. On fourth street, Deeb bet 250k and was called. Fifth street brought the lead to Hanson, and he bet it and was called. On sixth street, Hanson bet 500k, and Deeb raised confidently. Hanson only had 600k left, and as he studied the board, he realized he might be drawing dead already. He had to call, and then he checked in the dark. Deeb bet, and Hanson reluctantly put his last 100k into the pot. Deeb showed the 5-2 for a 6-5-4-2-A low, and John Hanson was out in 3rd place ($852,480).
Deeb was up to 10.8m to Fitoussi's 4.07m, and in the wee hours of the Vegas night, only Isabelle Mercier was there to represent the fellow pros. She cheered on the Frenchman as he valiantly tried to overcome not only Deeb's stack but his skill as well. It was too much to overcome. In a Stud Hi/Lo hand that brought Fitoussi to the end:
Fitoussi completed to 250k and Deeb called. On fourth street, Deeb three-bet after Fitoussi's raise, and he called. Fitoussi check/called the 500k bet of Deeb on both fifth and sixth streets. The last down card was dealt, and again Fitoussi checked. Deeb bet 500k, and Fitoussi sat there, fatigued and hopeless. Deeb asked, "Is that you have, the deuces?" Fitoussi looked at Mercier, she looked back sympathetically, and he folded. Deeb showed his two pair, and it was almost over.
On the next hand, Fitoussi got his last 210k with showing to Deeb's .
So many, many cards could have come to keep Fitoussi alive, but with no low and only ace high, it was over. Bruno Fitoussi had taken Andy Bloch's place as runner-up in the $50k HORSE event, and the $1,278,720 was more than twice what he'd earned in tournaments throughout his career before this week.
For Kassem "Freddy" Deeb, reveling in his second bracelet in the aftermath of arguably the greatest test in all of poker is a far cry from his days in his native Lebanon during the wars of the 1970's. As the dawn approached, he stood short in stature but tall and proud among his peers, just like the beloved Cedar tree of his homeland. He is the reigning king of all poker.