The $10,000 World Championship Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em event is one of the most anticipated of the World Series of Poker tournaments. With the ever-growing popularity of heads-up poker, this event’s seats were not tough to fill. Due to restrictions inherent in the heads-up format, the event was capped at 256 players, but the field was a stellar one and delivered exciting play throughout the initial rounds.
At the end of the first three rounds played on Day 1, only 32 competitors returned on Day 2. The fourth round saw the eliminations of the following players: Jason Rosenkrantz, Michael Banducci, Sam Farha, Erick Lindgren, Thomas Lutz, Alexander Kostritsyn, Andy Black, Alex Jacob, Brian Roberts, Isaac Haxton, Daniel Stern, David Podgurski, Jean Moussa, Evan Sofer, Cliff Cantor, and Matt Giannetti. All were awarded $21,657 for their finishes.
The fifth round consisted of an exciting set of matches and resulted in the following players being eliminated in the $36,096 money position: Michael Mizrachi, Jonas Entin, John Patgorski, Michael McNeil, Scott Montgomery, David Williams, Emil Patel, and Roman Paradiso. It should be noted that Williams was not eliminated until well into the fifth hour of heads-up play with Lyle Berman. The next round was started quite a while before that last match-up was over.
In the quarterfinal round, Kenny Tran won over Brandon Adams, Jonathan Jaffe took out Gavin Griffin, and Vanessa Selbst eliminated Robert Mizrachi. Once the match finally began between Alec Torelli and Lyle Berman, it was another semi-marathon until Torelli finally defeated Berman. Each departing player received $54,144 for their efforts.
Day 3 started on Sunday, June 15th with the final four players in the semi-final round. The drawing for duels resulted in the following:
Vanessa Selbst vs. Alec Torelli
Kenny Tran vs. Jonathan Jaffe
The Tran/Jaffe match played out first, and Jaffe came on strong. He took the first seven hands, two that went to the river, before Tran took a stand. He worked his way through the next 15-20 hands and finally took the lead for the first time since the match began. The chip lead went back and forth, though Jaffe had it most of the way…until approximately 50 hands had been played. Tran took his place back on top by a slim margin.
On hand #60, Jaffe made an initial raise, Tran reraised it, and Jaffe moved all-in for 1,180,000. After much consideration, Tran called with , and Jaffe showed . The board came . Jonathan Jaffe was eliminated and awarded $108,288 for advancing so far in the tournament. Kenny Tran moved on to the finals.
The Selbst/Torelli match had a delayed start of about 15 minutes while Torelli made his way to the Rio from the spa at the Wynn. (That is not a joke.) Once it got going, Selbst began as the aggressor but was soon ousted from that role as Torelli made his moves. He took a sizable pot from Selbst with pocket 9’s against her unknown hand, and though she made a solid attempt at a comeback, she was never able to gain the chip advantage.
On the 35th hand of the match, Selbst raised, Torelli reraised, and Selbst called. After the dealer brought the flop of , Torelli led out with a bet, and Selbst hesitatingly called. Upon the turn of a , Torelli bet big, Selbst raised all-in, and Torelli called. Selbst had the for the good pair, and Torelli had the . The river, however, was a to give Torelli the straight. Vanessa Selbst took away $108,288 and a second-year-in-a-row semi-final elimination.
At that point, the finals were set. After a break for the players, Kenny Tran and Alec Torelli returned to compete for the bracelet in the best of three matches. Each player started with 2.56 million in chips.
Game 1: Torelli jumped out to an early chip lead and seemed to be using his wit and animated character to throw Tran off his game. Slowly but surely, however, Tran put his years of experience at the tables into play and took the lead back by the time they had played 50 hands. His momentum built, and the majority of hands were in his control from then on.
After 90 hands, Tran had nearly a 3-1 chip lead over Torelli. On the 93rd hand of the game, Tran made the first raise, Torelli reraised, and Tran called. The flop came , and Torelli quickly moved all-in with . Tran called just as fast with . The turn and river came and in that order, and Tran rivered his two pair to take it. Kenny Tran won the first game.
Game 2: The early hands were fairly evenly distributed, but Tran maintained a slight chip lead until Torelli took a big pot on the 24th hand to jump out in front. As in the previous game, Tran slowly chipped up to grab the lead again. And similarly, both players were very careful to pick their spots, watch the other like the keenest of players, and take this game seriously.
On the 80th hand of the second game, Tran again led out with a bet, and Torelli made the call. When the flop showed , Torelli checked, but Tran came out betting. Torelli raised, Tran came over the top, and Torelli moved all-in. Tran was frustrated but made the call with , and Torelli showed Q-10. An came on the turn, but it was the on the river that gave Tran the flush for the win.
Alec Torelli fought a tough battle but finished in 2nd place for $336,896.
Kenny Tran, a cash game expert and Full Tilt pro, won the $10K World Championship Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em tournament at the 2008 WSOP to claim the $539,056 first prize and his first ever WSOP gold bracelet. Congratulations!