This whirlwind of a week in the Bahamas included a plethora of tournaments and competitions at the Atlantis Resort and Casino. In addition to the PokerStars.Com Caribbean Adventure main event, one of the big draws for high stakes poker players was the $25,000 buy-in High Roller tournament. For those who could afford it and were not making a hot run in the PCA main event, it was a must-play tournament.
The names attached to the event before it even got rolling on January 7th included Daniel Negreanu, Dario Minieri, Jason Mercier, Joe Hachem, Bertrand Grospellier, Boris Becker, Isaac Baron, Ivan Demidov, Dennis Phillips, Sorel Mizzi, and Shaun Deeb. Those pros alone, much less the ones that were likely to join in the tournament at its actual start time, brought players to the rail and fans to the internet to keep up with the high stakes action.
When the tournament did begin, names like Erik Seidel, Gus Hansen, Antonio Esfandiari, Greg Raymer, Humberto Brenes, Bill Edler, Josh Arieh, Eli Elezra, and Chris Ferguson were added to the all-star roster as they plunked down $25K to play. By the first break, Demidov had already climbed to 70K in chips with Mercier not far behind. Sitting with far less chips than they started with were Hachem and Minieri.
The final tally of players upon the closing of registration was 48, which would allow for the last eight players standing to receive a portion of the prize pool and the winner to get $433,500 - not an amount that even a high roller can sneeze at.
First out of the tournament was Minieri, when his set of aces lost to a straight. Andrew Robl was soon after eliminated with K-Q by the A-K of Phillips, and Ferguson was ousted by Hachem. By Level 5, Esfandiari had taken over a strong chip lead with 135K, and Mizzi was on the short end of the stacks with 7,500.
Mizzi soon left for good, along with Becker, Raymer, and Minieri, none of whom made it to the dinner break. In truth, returning from dinner, there were only 30 players left, and Daniel Alaei, Phillips, and Mercier were at the head of the pack. And as the evening progressed, Baron left the tournament area when he was eliminated, as did Hansen who was sent away by Phillips. Jason Mercier was ousted, along with Hachem, Isaac Haxton, Esfandiari, and Demidov.
With 14 players remaining, Dennis Phillips took his leave at the hand of Scott Seiver whose flush beat Phillips’ two pair. Arieh was eliminated by Grospellier, and Johan van Till was gone in 11th place at the hands of Will Molson. Daniel Negreanu became the tenth place finisher holding A-J when Brenes called with A-9 and hit a nine on the flop.
The final nine were seated at one table and playing until one more left the group, allowing the rest to be in the substantial money. Finally, just before 3:00am, short-stacked Bill Edler took his 53K chips into play after an initial raise from Elezra. Elezra considered his options and asked Edler if he should call, to which Edler replied, “No.” But he finally did call and showed against the of Edler. The board came , and Edler was gone in ninth place as the bubble player.
Set for the next day, the final table looked as follows:
Seat 1: Humberto Brenes 423,500
Seat 2: Scott Seiver 449,500
Seat 3: Nick Schulman 99,500
Seat 4: Liya Gerasimova 259,000
Seat 5: Daniel Alaei 209,500
Seat 6: Bertrand Grospellier 358,000
Seat 7: Will Molson 270,500
Seat 8: Eli Elezra 355,500
Play began on January 8th with blinds at 3,000/6,000 and a 500-chip ante. Daniel Alaei won the first hand of the day, but the first significant hand and 166K pot went to Bertrand Grospellier. Humberto Brenes then took a sizable pot from Eli Elezra to jump into the chip lead with his new 485K stack. But Grospellier subsequently took over that top position on the leaderboard after taking a good deal of chips from Elezra to sit with 675K.
Elezra was in trouble and moved his last 79,500 in with pocket kings, only to be called by Grospellier and his sad-looking 6-3 offsuit. The board gave Elezra another king, and he easily doubled up to stay alive.
It was Nick Schulman who struggled to get to the final table and couldn’t gain much momentum with his short stack. His final battle was with against the pocket tens of Grospellier, and when nothing came to help Schulman, he was out in eighth place with $45,700.
Alaei took a serious hit to his stack when his pocket kings tangled with the A-8 of Liya Gerasimova, who was all-in for her tournament life. The board brought an ace and an eight on the flop, and that was all it took for Gerasimova to double up and leave Alaei desperate to move. Soon after, Alaei moved all-in with pocket kings again, and it was Gerasimova who called, this time with . Alaei was safe from the flop, even the turn, but an ace hit on the river and eliminated Alaei in seventh place, which was good for a $57,000 payday.
Next to go was Elezra, who lost his ability to double up. He pushed with pocket fives, but Gerasimova called with pocket queens. The board gave Elezra a straight draw with 6-4-8 on the flop, but it didn’t fill out. Elezra took sixth place and the $68,500 that went with it.
Brenes started the final table with some force, and then he tangled with the other heavy hitter at the table. The battle began after seeing a flop of , and Brenes bet out to get a call from Grospellier. The on the turn brought another bet from Brenes, but Grospellier raised. Brenes took a moment before moving all-in with deuces for the set, but Grospellier called with pocket tens for the higher set. The on the river meant nothing for Brenes, who was left with just over 100K. Grospellier, on the other hand, surpassed the million-chip mark.
There was a double-up in store for Brenes at the expense of Grospellier, but a little more than an hour later, he had been chipped down to 95,500. He pushed with K-4, and it was Seiver who called with . The board brought hope for Brenes with , but the on the turn gave Seiver a flush draw. The on the river made it for Seiver, and Brenes was gone in fifth place with $70,800.
The four remaining players went to dinner with Grospellier in the lead, Seiver a somewhat distant second, and Gerasimova holding up the short spot on the board.
Molson came back from dinner with the intention of doubling up, and he did so with A-K versus the pocket fives of Grospellier by making a full house. Gerasimova decided to try the same thing, pushing all-in with only 8-6. Seiver called with pocket aces, and they held up to knock Gerasimova out, to the dismay of boyfriend Ivan Demidov, in fourth place with a $91,300 cash.
Three-handed action saw a change; for the first time at the final table, Seiver was the leader with over 1 million in chips, and Grospellier was only about 200,000 above Molson.
That was not good enough for Grospellier, and he went on an aggressive tear. He began by taking a 708K pot from Seiver to take the lead back, but he didn’t stop there. He continued to apply pressure to the other two players, not giving them much of a chance to do anything.
Finally, Seiver took his shot with 10-9, and Grospellier called with A-8. The board brought nothing but an ace on the turn, and Scott Seiver was eliminated in third place with a cash prize of $137,000.
Heads-up began with the following chip counts:
Bertrand Grospellier 2,049,000
Will Molson 331,000
It was the first hand that decided the match. Grospellier naturally started the action with a raise, but Molson raised it up all-in with K-10. Grospellier called and showed A-J for the dominating hand. The board came Q-6-2-A-6, and Will Molson was forced to settle for a second place finish and $228,000.
Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier won the 2009 $25K High Roller event, along with the $433,500 first prize. There were several points that made the win even more special. Not only was Grospellier a Team PokerStars Pro at a PokerStars-sponsored event, but he was the 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion (worth $2 million) who was unable to repeat in 2009. Being out of the PCA main event, he seemed ever-determined to win the High Roller tournament, and he did.
The victory also comes on the heels of a stellar and very successful 2008. Not only did Grospellier win the 2008 PCA to start the year, but in October, he won his first World Poker Tour event at Bellagio during Festa al Lago. The High Roller win was another in the series of wins and an impressive way to start a new year.
“It feels great,” Grospellier said in a PokerStars interview. “Last year’s main event was bigger but this means a lot. The field was so prestigious and I played very well against good players. This will be a great memory for me.”
(Thanks to PokerStars Blog for detailed tournament information.)