It was the last of the 2008 World Series of Poker events prior to the main event. The $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout was the final one on the schedule of tournaments leading up to the one everyone has been waiting for, and it was the last chance for a player to win a bracelet without having to maneuver through a field of 6,000 to 8,000 players.
A total of 823 players registered for Event #53 at the Rio in Las Vegas, but those who survived Day 1 had a special challenge in store – finish the event in two days. Every other event thus far had been three days in length, but due to timing and having to be done before the throngs of people showed up for the main event, it was set for two. The 72 competitors who showed up for Day 2 were all hoping, in fact, for a long day, as a seat at the final table might not happen until late in the day. That was certainly the case.
As this was a shootout, the winner of each table moved on to the next phase of the tournament, and when it was all playing down, the following players secured their spots at the final table:
Joe De Niro
Play began at approximately 11pm on Wednesday, July 2, and the players were prepared, as much as could be, for a long night.
Jean-Robert Bellande was the initial aggressor of the bunch and chipped up rather quickly, but overall, play was quite measured and slow. And though Danny Wong looked strong in the beginning, he soon got short-stacked and had to double through John Kranyak to get back to 100K.
Finally, several hours after play began, it was a pot that started out as a group activity that would determine the first elimination. Michael Kachan made an initial raise that was called by Bellande, Brandon Wong, Danny Wong, and Spencer Lawrence. The flop came for the four players, and Danny Wong bet, Lawrence folded, Kachan raised all-in, and Brandon Wong folded. Bellande reraised, and Danny Wong called to develop a side pot. The turn of a brought checks from Wong and Bellande. The rivered induced a check from Wong and fold from Bellande. Wong showed , and Kachan mucked before leaving the tournament in 9th place with $7,526 for his work.
It seemed that around the 3am mark, the exhaustion began setting in for some players, and it was time for some of them to go. Andrew Prock tried to stay in with a double-up through Brandon Wong, which was successful, but shortly thereafter, Prock moved all-in against Joe De Niro. Prock showed , and De Niro turned over . The board came , and it was over for Prock, who was gone in 8th place with $10,335.
Next, it was John Kranyak and Joe De Niro capping the betting preflop to see the first three cards come . Kranyak bet, and De Niro called. The on the turn brought more betting with Kranyak putting his tournament life on the line with and De Niro showing . The river was a , and Kranyak was out in 7th place with $13,480.
In relatively quick succession, there was another. Spencer Lawrence had moved all-in pre-flop with against the of Bellande. The board came , and Lawrence was gone in 6th place with $20,221.
Danny Wong had been crippled in a hand against De Niro, but he took his 50K in chips and tripled up not long after. But a few hands later, after a pre-flop raise by Bellande, Wong called. The flop came , and Bellande checked, Wong bet, and Bellande called. The on the turn brought the same action, and when the came on the river, Bellande bet, and Wong called all-in. Bellande won the hand with , and Danny Wong was out in 5th place with $33,701.
And just like that, another Wong was at wisk. (Sorry.) De Niro made a pre-flop bet, Matt Graham called, and Brandon Wong called all-in. After seeing the on the flop, Graham bet, and De Niro folded. Graham showed , and Wong had . The turn and river were , and Wong was gone in 4th with some take-home pay of $69,088. With both Wongs gone from the tournament, it’s safe to say that two Wongs don’t make a right. (Sorry again.)
Despite some of De Niro’s successes, he was in a spot to move all-in with after a flop of , and Bellande called with . The turn and river were and respectively, and De Niro was done in 3rd place with $107,845.
Heads-up began with Bellande at 1.9 million and Graham with 800K. But that didn’t turn out to be as cut-and-dry as it looked. Though Graham initially dipped all the way down to 300K, he worked his way back up, eventually, to even with Bellande. Finally, Graham took the lead and began to seriously hurt Bellande. On one particular hand, Bellande lost a pot to Graham’s top pair and was left with only 25K.
The next hand was a natural decision, and Bellande was all-in pre-flop with . Graham made a no-brainer call with , and the board brought to seal the deal. Bellande was forced to take 2nd place and the $173,564 prize that went with it.
Matt Graham snagged the last bracelet before the WSOP main event! He won the Limit Hold’em Shootout and the $278,180 cash prize. Congrats!