A field of 1,390 is surely an intimidating one. At the beginning of this $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament, that is what every player faced. The task of working one’s way through so many tables, filled with the best in the business and amateurs whose play is unpredictable, can be a daunting one. But nine players, most of them relatively unknown on the tournament circuit, did just that and found themselves at a 2008 WSOP final table.
The final nine players who would play for the gold bracelet and hundreds of thousands in prize money were as follows:
The action got underway almost immediately. In a no-limit tournament, it was bound to happen that the shorter stacks pushed and lost their races.
Nicolas Levi did just that and pushed all-in, with Steve Merrifield calling behind. Levi showed pocket 7’s, and Merrifield showed A-10. The classic race situation ensued, and the board brought 10-6-6-8-10 to give Merrifield the full house. Levi was ousted from the final table in 9th place before he even got comfortable but was given $59,442 for his troubles.
A few hands later, after a raise by Duncan Bell, Brent Ditzik made his all-in move with , and Bell called with . The board came and an irrelevant river card to end Ditzik’s run at a WSOP bracelet. He was awarded $83,541 for his 8th place finish.
Not long after, it was in response to a raise by Bell again that Ariel Soffer reraised all-in for his short stack of 74K with . Bell called and turned over . The flop and turn cards said all that needed to be said with to give Bell the straight. Soffer was sent to the cashier cage in 7th place to collect his $107,639 prize.
As compared to the limit hold’em tournament from the night before, this no-limit event was cruising at a high speed. While more players could have used double-ups to stay in the game, the cards were falling as fate would have it.
Speaking of double-ups, Jason Sanders fell victim to another’s attempt. Brent Hanks took his pocket Kings into battle with Sanders, who was chasing a straight draw. But a King on the flop and another on the turn gave Hanks quads and left Sanders with a little more than 50K. Sanders pushed that on the very next hand with , and chip leader Bell called with . The board couldn’t help the underdog, especially with a on the turn, and Sanders was out in 6th place with $139,770.
Merrifield was trying to gain some lost ground and did that by doubling through Hanks with a flush versus the two pair of Hanks. Shortly thereafter, Merrifield wanted to twist the knife a bit, and when Hanks moved all-in with , Merrifield called with . The board couldn’t bring help for Hanks, as it showed , and Hanks was gone in 5th place with a $178,327 booby (yes, I said it) prize.
Internet pro Shawn Buchanan was holding his own until he became involved in a hand with Nathan Doudney. Buchanan’s A-K lost a race with Doudney’s pocket J’s when nothing hit the board, and Doudney doubled through. But only a few hands later, Buchanan had to push all-in after an initial raise by Merrifield. Buchanan showed a solid , but Merrifield had . The board bricked for Buchanan with , and he was sent back to online poker with $218,491 for his bankroll.
Merrifield was on a solid roll. In the midst of his aggressiveness, he raised, and Doudney came over the top all-in with . Merrifield showed a dominating . The board produced , and Merrifield won the pot with a higher two pair. Doudney was the unfortunate heads-up bubble boy, leaving in 3rd place with $260,261.
Merrifield continued on a tear. During heads-up play, he took down some significant pots, including the 62nd hand of the night in which he took nearly 2 million from his opponent. Bell came back to double through the chip leader when he needed it the most, and subsequent hands found Bell in the chip lead..
Oh hand #73, Merrifield came out with a raise pre-flop, and Bell called. The flop showed them an combo, which prompted a bet from Bell, a raise from Merrifield, a reraise of Bell with all of his chips, and a call from Merrifield. Merrifield confidently showed his , but Bell had him dominated with . The turn and river were and , and Merrifield was gone in 2nd place with $428,949.
Duncan Bell won Event #13 at the 2008 WSOP, a shiny gold bracelet, and $666,697 to boot. Congrats!