HORSE tournaments typically produce final tables that include recognizable faces, as there are not many players in the game who are able to navigate such tough fields while mastering five very difficult games. And the HORSE final table at the World Series of Poker Europe stood up to that trend, producing a stellar line-up from a field of the same caliber.
The WSOPE HORSE event that began on September 22nd was a £2,500 buy-in tournament, the second of the four events scheduled for the 2008 WSOPE. Set again at the Casino at the Empire in Leicester Square in London, the tournament drew 110 players, which included names like Brunson, Ivey, Lindgren, Greenstein, Negreanu, Juanda, Matusow, and Hellmuth. Also in the field were Bruno Fitoussi, Joe Beevers, Thor Hansen, Chad Brown, Kelly Kim, Jean-Robert Bellande, Robert Williamson III, Andy Black, Layne Flack, David Williams, John Phan, Max Pescatori, Michael Binger, Chris Ferguson, David Benyamine, Mark Gregorich, and 2007 HORSE champion Thomas Bihl .
HORSE is a mixed-game format that includes five games played in order of limit hold’em, Omaha hi/lo, razz, stud, and stud hi/lo. Each game would be played for eight hands, then rotated to the next, and so on. The level of difficulty in such a game is reflected in a smaller field than most other tournaments, but one that generally produces a final table with some of the most well-respected and well-rounded players in the world.
Day 1 began slowly, as often happens in a HORSE tournament. Chad Brown was one of the first eliminations when Bellande and Williamson split the pot, leaving Brown to simply muck and walk away. Layne Flack, Andy Black, and Mori Eskandani also departed in the early part of the day. Later bustouts included Binger, Ferguson, Benyamine, and Bihl.
When play ended for the day, only 56 players remained with one familiar name atop the leaderboard - Phil Ivey. Hellmuth maintained the second spot in the chip counts, with Woody Deck, Bruce Yamron, and Erik Albinsson rounding out the top five. Also in the top ten were Yuval Bronshtein, Joe Beevers, and Isaac Haxton.
The intent of Day 2 was to play to the final eight who would comprise the final table, but as the day wore on, that seemed less and less likely to happen in the three-day event. Early in the action, however, names like Greenstein, Bellande, Cantu, Matusow, and Fitoussi exited the field. Phan departed shortly thereafter, followed by Kelly Kim.
As the money bubble approached, there were still many notables in the running, and one of them turned into the bubble boy. Max Pescatori was eliminated by Sherkhan Farnood in a stud hi/lo hand when all of Pescatori’s chips went in on sixth street. Farnood made the low and the straight to scoop the pot and send Pescatori to the rail in 17th place with no payout to show for it.
Once the money was reached, it was well into the late evening, and David Williams was the first to cash in the HORSE event with a 16th place finish worth £4,812. Marc Goodwin followed in 15th place for the same payout. Then it was Daniel Negreanu, who got involved with Phil Ivey in an Omaha hi/lo pot. With no qualifying low, Ivey scooped the pot and sent Negreanu out in 14th place for his second cash in the second tournament of the WSOPE. Shortly after, Isaac Haxton left in 13th place. Haxton and Negreanu both claimed £5,500 for their respectable finishes.
As the night wore on, tension was running high among some players, but most notably with Phil Hellmuth. He began a rant that continued after nearly each hand and started with the berating of his opponents, moved to the tournament staff who were instructed to make sure the cards were properly handled and shuffled, and finished with a tirade directed at the dealer that was so vicious that it made her cry. Though Hellmuth was given a warning about his abusive behavior, he was not reprimanded with any sort of penalty.
The penalty of sorts - in the form of elimination - came at Hellmuth’s own hands after he found himself short-stacked. He allowed Mark Gregorich to double through him twice, then pushed the remainder of his chips preflop in a hold’em hand against Farnood. Hellmuth showed against the pocket threes of Farnood, and the board came . The hope that came on the flop for Hellmuth faded when the three hit on the river, and Hellmuth was forced out in 12th place for a £6,188 payday.
Play had lasted more than 14 hours on Day 2, and after some discussions between the players and tournament staff, it was determined that the final eleven players would return the following day to play to victory.
Day 3 began with Howard Lederer holding a significant chip lead over his opponents with 208,500. Second in line was Farnood with 141,500, followed by Bronshtein, Ivey, and Duvall. The remaining players held less than 100,000 in their stacks, with Raul Paez sitting with a very short stack of 17,500.
It was Paez who moved quickly on the first hand of the third day. In Omaha 8, all of the chips went in after the turn on a board against Lederer who showed . Paez turned over . The river came the , and though there was no low hand, Lederer had the high and scooped the pot. Paez left in 11th place with £6,188.
Yuval Bronshtein fell from third place on the leaderboard to a short stack by the time the stud 8 round began. He moved most of his chips in right away and the rest on fifth street against Ivey. Bronshtein’s hand was with , but Phil had with and an unreported final card. The pair of kings was good to take the pot, though, and Bronshtein was out in 10th place with £6,875.
And in the same round, Erik Albinsson found himself up against Jeff Lisandro with Gregorich bowing out early and Albinsson all-in on fourth street. Lisandro had with , and Albinsson showed with . Lisandro took the entire pot with two pair, and Albinsson became the final table bubble boy with a £6,875 consolation prize.
And the final table was set. With all players seated together and ready to begin, it looked like this:
Seat 1: Sherkhan Farnood 88,000Seat 2: Phil Ivey 139,000Seat 3: Spencer Lawrence 113,500Seat 4: Jeffrey Lisandro 165,000Seat 5: Ivo Donev 65,000Seat 6: Jeff Duval 136,000Seat 7: Howard Lederer 283,500Seat 8: Mark Gregorich 104,000
The final table was a star-studded one with Lederer still maintaining the lead that he brought into the third day of the tournament.
(Thanks to PokerNews for its detailed hand recounts and tournament action updates.)