The World Series of Poker Europe final table has earned the attention of poker players and fans around the world by its lineup alone. After Annette Obrestad won the inaugural main event in 2007, it seemed that it would be hard to top that excitement, but the star-studded lead-up to the 2008 main event final table brought names like Juanda, Negreanu, Fischman, and Demidov to the felt for the big showdown.
At the Empire at the Casino in London’s Leicester Square, the WSOPE final table not only contained an international group but one of popularity and status…and the possibility of history being made. John Juanda led the pack after having already been the chip leader at the end of Day 3. Daniel Negreanu had been at the top of the leaderboard after Day 1B and came to the final table with a great deal of momentum. But the story of the day might have been a Russian player named Ivan Demidov, a member of the 2008 WSOP’s November Nine who will play that main event final table next month. To make the WSOPE main event final as well was a feat in itself, and a win would change the entire dynamic of the November Nine.
The make-up of the final table going into the last day of play on October 1st was as follows:
Seat 1: Robin Keston 849,000
Seat 2: Daniel Negreanu 1,002,000
Seat 3: Chris Elliott 281,000
Seat 4: Bengt Sonnert 385,000
Seat 5: John Juanda 1,349,000
Seat 6: Ivan Demidov 1,006,000
Seat 7: Toni Hiltunen 386,000
Seat 8: Scott Fischman 732,000
Seat 9: Stanislav Alekhin 1,278,000
The action began when Negreanu and Fischman tangled, with Negreanu winning the raising war after the flop. All indications were that nothing at this table would be easy, and it was going to be aggressive play as the order of the day. And in the sixth hand of play, Bengt Sonnert took that to heart, finally pushing all-in preflop with Robin Keston as the caller. Sonnert showed pocket queens against the A-K of Keston, and with a queen coming on the flop, Sonnert doubled through to sit near 800,000 and stay alive.
The very next hand saw the extreme short stack of the table take his shot. Preflop, it was Chris Elliott and Stanislav Alekhin in the pot. And when the first three cards came , Alekhin bet first, and Elliott called. It was the on the turn that brought another bet from Alekhin and an all-in call from Elliott. Alekhin showed for the nut flush draw, but Elliott looked good with the for two pair. However, the came on the river to give Alekhin the better flush, and Elliott was the first to go in 9th place with a £81,450 prize.
In a sizable pot involving Demidov and Juanda, Demidov took it and climbed into the chip lead, relegating Juanda to a medium-sized stack. And at the first break, Demidov sat as the only player over the 2 million chip mark. His fellow Russian competitor at the table, Alekhin, was in second chip position.
The short stacks were in trouble, one of whom was Toni Hiltunen. He had been unable to gather much momentum, only winning four hands during final table play leading up to the 50th hand. On that particular hand, Alekhin began with a raise, and ultimately, Hiltunen put all of his chips in preflop with pocket jacks. Alekhin had pocket queens, though. The board came , and Hiltunen was ousted in 8th place with £108,600.
Only a couple of hands later, it was Keston who moved all-in preflop. Demidov called with pocket nines, and Keston was hurting a bit with . The board ran out , and that was all it took for Keston to be eliminated in 7th place with a £135,750 prize.
The speed at which players were leaving was increasing, albeit temporarily. On the 55th hand of the day, it was Demidov who opened with a raise, and Fischman and Alekhin who called to see the on the flop. Fischman led out with a bet of 45,000, Alekhin raised to 135,000, Demidov folded, and Fischman pushed all-in. Alekhin called with and the nut straight, which Fischman could only show for top pair. The turn and river were and , and Scott Fischman was gone in 6th place with £171,950.
Negreanu had fallen as the day progressed, and even after taking a substantial pot from Alekhin on the 70th hand of the final table, he continued to hover around the low end of the leaderboard as the short stack. Mainly, it happened to be the Russians - Demidov and Alekhin - who continuously got the better of Negreanu in various hands. Joining Negreanu near the bottom of the board, after the 107th hand of the night, was Juanda after losing a very substantial pot to none other than Alekhin, who became the massive chip leader with nearly 3.4 million.
Finally, Negreanu’s momentum from days before was about to come to an end. In the 138th hand of the night, Alekhin raised from the small blind enough to put Negreanu all-in, and the latter called from the big blind. Negreanu showed , but Alekhin had pocket jacks. the board bricked with , and Negreanu was forced to accept a 5th place finish and the £217,200 that came with it.
Next under fire was Bengt Sonnert, who kept Negreanu company near the bottom of the leaderboard for quite awhile. Though Sonnert improved his status by doubling through Demidov, he dipped again when Juanda doubled through him and finally moved all-in preflop from the small blind with . Alekhin called with a dominating , and the board only helped Alekhin when it ran out . Sonnert was gone in 4th place with £271,500.
Meanwhile, Juanda had been taking control of the tournament. He took a significant pot from Demidov to climb into a solid second place of the three remaining players. And eventually, he took a monster pot from Alekhin as well, which catapulted Juanda into the chip lead with over 3.5 million.
Demidov was suffering. Though he doubled through Juanda and took a significant amount of chips from Alekhin to find his own way to the chip lead, his roller coaster was not about to stop there. Demidov’s opponents chipped away at him, and he ended up in a dangerous pot with Juanda. Both players saw a flop of , after which more betting occurred. And after the on the turn, Demidov came out betting, but Juanda check-raised all-in. Demidov called all-in with for the flush and straight draw, but Juanda showed pocket aces for top pair. The river only brought the , and Demidov would be restricted from winning one of his two World Series main event final tables this fall. His spectacular showing at the WSOPE found him out in 3rd place with a £334,850 prize.
Heads-up play began with the 243rd hand of the night and the following counts:
John Juanda 4,420,000
Stanislav Alekhin 2,850,000
And the decision would not come quickly. To be honest, that was an understatement.
Juanda kept the pressure on against his heads-up opponent, taking the reigns and a big pot to climb near the 6 million chip mark. But Alekhin hadn’t gotten that far without knowing how to use aggression in his own favor. He doubled through Juanda twice to soar back into the lead and a 2:1 advantage. But nearing the 300th hand of the final table, Juanda doubled through Alekhin, then climbed back to the chip lead. This was near the 16 ½ hour mark of play.
As they approached the 400th hand, Juanda had again seen his lead disappear but doubled up consistently when needed. But the most key double happened in the 479th hand when Juanda moved all-in on a flop with , and Alekhin called looking for the flush with . The turn and river were no help, and Juanda moved up to 6.6 million, relegating Alekhin to a very short stack of only 600K.
Finally, five hands later, the match would be decided. Alekhin moved his short stack all-in with , and Juanda called with . The board was a beautiful one for Juanda when it came to give him quad sixes and the victory.
The final table became the longest in the 39-year World Series of Poker history, clocking in at 19 hours and 10 minutes for the 484 hands played. For his efforts, Stanislav Alekhin took second place and the corresponding £533,950 prize.
Long-time pro John Juanda won his fourth World Series of Poker bracelet and his first at the World Series of Poker Europe. He won the £868,800 first prize and a place in WSOP history.
(Thanks to PokerNews for its detailed hand recounts and tournament action updates.)