The tournament started on Saturday, June 14th, when 2,706 players turned out to play the $1,500 NLHE event. It was a packed house and spilled over into a new ballroom until the WSOP staff capped the number of registrants at 2,700. Though six rogue players managed to get in, there were many more who weren’t able to sign up.
Even with the massive field, only 224 players made it through Day 1 to play again. They were all in the money, though, as the 270 top finishers were paid. But since each money jump made a difference, and the final table was only a day away, play slowed on Day 2. And in the wee hours of the morning, when the final table had still not been set, a collective decision was made to stop with 17 players.
Players returned at 2pm on Day 3 to fight for the nine places available at the official final table, with Vitaly Lunkin sitting with the most chips, followed closely by Kenneth Terrell and Barry Schultz.
Not long after play began with players fresh from sleep and time away from the tables, the eliminations began.
17th place – Deric Fitzgerald eliminated by Brett Kimes ($21,972)
16th place – Frank Simpson eliminated by Carl Jerome ($21,972)
15th place – Deb Blair eliminated by Philip Yeh ($29,180)
14th place – Robert Brown eliminated by Brett Kimes ($29,180)
13th place – Carl Jerome eliminated by Barry Schultz ($36,567)
12th place – Bashar Ramahi eliminated by Brett Kimes ($36,567)
11th place – Jordan Smith eliminated by Bobby Firestone ($36,567)
Once players were relocated to one 10-handed table, play slowed dramatically. Perhaps it was because the official final table didn’t begin until one more player was eliminated, but for more than an hour, action was extremely slow. Finally, well into the second hour of 10-handed play, Tony Gargano was eliminated by Vitaly Lunkin and had to settle for a 10th place finish and $36,567 in cash.
Technically, the final table was then in progress. Not long after it began, Philip Yeh took a hit from Kenneth Terrell, and Yeh was down to 435K. Subsequently, he moved all-in pre-flop when he picked up , and Lunkin called with . The dealer gave them , and Yeh was eliminated in 9th place for $57,990.
Trevor Donaldson hadn’t been very active on Day 3 of this tournament, until he was down to 300K and doubled through Kenneth Terrell. Things then took a turn for Donaldson. After Robert Brown moved his short stack of 250K into the pot after an initial raise from Donaldson, the latter called with . Brown had , and the board came . Robert Brown was the casualty of Donaldson’s good fortune and took 8th place for $84,954.
Richard Alm had also been making some headway. Previously, he doubled up through Kimes, who incidentally became the short stack, and a bit later he doubled through Kimes again.
But it was two of the other players who got involved next. Schultz raised, Firestone moved all-in having Schultz covered, and Schultz called for his last 750K with . Firestone showed , and the dealer showed . Barry Schultz was sent away in 7th place with $112,657.
By the time the players returned from dinner break, the remaining six players were led – again – by Vitaly Lunkin, who rarely got involved in huge pots but kept his presence known enough to accumulate chips and stay at the top. Firestone sat in second position, with Kimes trailing in third. Terrell, Alm, and Donaldson rounded out the list respectively.
Richard Alm was down to 660K shortly after dinner, and he pushed with . Firestone called from the small blind with . The board came , and the pocket pair was good. Alm was kicked to the curb in 6th place for $149,594.
Despite Donaldson’s attempts to rise up the chart, he was still short. After a raise from Kimes, Donaldson reraised all-in on the button. Firestone reraised all-in himself to get Kimes to fold, which is what happened. Donaldson showed , and Firestone turned over . The board came , and Donaldson was gone in 5th place with a nice little payday of $190,225.
The next short stack was up for auction. Lunkin was the initial raiser, Terrell moved all-in from the small blind with , and Lunkin called with . The cards that were dealt were , and Terrell was finished in the tournament in 4th place for $232,702.
Lunkin held the chip lead that belonged to him for so much of Day 3, but lost it in a pot in which Kimes doubled through him. Kimes then took the chip lead, while Lunkin was a distant second. Firestone was then on the chopping block but literally chopped the next pot with Lunkin to stay alive.
The two tangled again. Lunkin limped in the small blind, and Firestone checked in the big blind. After the flop came , Lunkin checked, Firestone bet out, Lunkin raised all-in, and Firestone called. Lunkin had , and Firestone showed . The turn and river were and , and Lunkin made his straight. Firestone was booted in 3rd place with $277,026.
Heads-up play started with the following chip counts:
Several uneventful hands went by before the two got involved in anything major. Lunkin took it down with an all-in bet that wasn’t called by Kimes after the flop, and more than one million chips went to Lunkin, who became the chip leader.
Another big hand was brewing when Kimes limped in, Lunkin raised, and Kimes called. The flop came , and both checked. When the turn brought an , Lunkin bet 1 million, Kimes raised all-in, and Lunkin called. Kines showed for a pair, but Lunkin had for top pair. The river was a , and it was over. Kimes took 2nd place and $387,837 for his efforts.
Vitaly Lunkin won Event #27 of the 2008 WSOP! He was awarded a WSOP gold bracelet and $628,417 for his victory. Congratulations!