By the start of the fifth day of the 2009 World Series of Poker, only one bracelet had been awarded, and it went to Andrew Cohen for winning the casino employees Event 1. But Day 5 looked to find two more champions, one in the $40K NLHE tournament and one in Event 3 for Omaha hi-low 8 or better.
Event 3 began on Friday, May 29 with 918 initial runners looking for some Omaha action. Only 197 survived that day, and it was well into the second day that the field reached the money bubble and found its 90 finalists. The tournament went well into the morning hours seeking its final table, but action was finally stopped after 3:00am with 19 exhausted players.
Ed Smith went into Day 3 with the chip lead, but it was Thang Luu in second place and in the spotlight, for he had the opportunity to make the final table of the same event three years in a row and actually repeat the victory two years in a row. The reigning 2008 champion of this event was looking to make history, and it was closer and closer to his grasp.
Action started on the last day of play with Jeremy Harkin finding his way into a 19th place payout, and he was followed by Henry Hull, William Seale, Edgar Cheng, Adam Quiggle, Dan Spear, Micah Brooks, and Richard Toth. When Lee Mougous was eliminated in 11th place, the last ten players took their seats at one table.
With one more player to go before the official final table of nine was established, it was Sebastian Ruthenberg who committed his short stack of 40,000 chips preflop. Jim Geary, Jordan Rich, and Pascal Leyo all called and checked down the board of . Geary turned over for the high, and Rich showed for the low. Ruthenberg simply mucked and left with $16,829 for the tenth place finish.
The final table was then set with nine players, listed in order of seat numbers: Ming Reslock, Jordan Rich, Pascal Leyo, Robert Price, Freddy Deeb, Senovio Ramirez, Thang Luu, Ed Smith, Jim Geary.
Starting off the action was Geary, who lost a reasonable amount of chips to Price but then tripled up through Reslock and Smith to stay alive.
But it was Ramirez who put himself at risk by calling the preflop raise of Reslock to see a flop. Ramirez pushed his last 15K all-in with K-8-6-4, and Reslock had no problem calling with A-A-J-10. The turn and river ended it for Senovio Ramirez III, who received $23,520 for the ninth place finish.
On the very next hand, Deeb decided to push pre-flop with a hand that included pocket aces, and Luu ended up with two pair. Freddy Deeb exited in eighth place with $27,029.
Geary finally succumbed to the pressure and made another all-in move after a flop. Smith and Luu called and check down the turn and river, after which Smith turned over and for the flush. Jim Geary showed aces and eights but couldn’t beat the flush and exited in seventh place with $32,404.
After the dinner break, the six remaining players returned and saw several exits come quickly. But the action that preceded the eliminations was a serious double-up by Luu with quads, courtesy of Reslock. Reslock then came back to take a significant pot from Rich, leaving him crippled with only 35K.
Rich then pushed all-in preflop with , and Luu was the caller with . The board came , which gave Luu the full house and winning hand. Jordan Rich left the tournament in sixth place with $40,612.
With five remaining, Robert Price was the chip leader with 2 million chips, and Leyo was the short stack with only 100K. Leyo soon moved all-in with against the of Reslock. The board brought three deuces, and the ace kicker of Reslock won the pot and eliminated Pascal Leyo in fifth place with $53,293.
As play continued Price began to lose chips, he finally chose his spot after the board showed . Luu made the bet, and Price called all-in with for ace high to the paired board, and Luu showed for the winning two pair. The changed nothing, and Robert Price finished in fourth place with $73,405.
Three-handed play found Luu running away with the lead, though Smith was hanging tough in a solid second. It was Reslock on the short stack and needing to move. She chose to see a flop of with Luu, who bet post-flop and found Reslock check-calling. After the on the turn, she pushed the rest of her chips into the pot with and some draws. But Luu showed for two pair. The river blanked to give Ming Reslock $106,373 for the third place finish.
Heads-up action began with the following chip counts:
Thang Luu 2,300,000
Ed Smith 1,800,000
Smith took the first significant pot of two-handed play, but Luu took the next and put a 1 million-chip distance between himself and his opponent. Luu then took a monster pot from Smith holding K-J-9-2 on a board of A-7-7-J-9 to leave Smith with little more than 100K in chips.
Those chips went all-in soon after with A-10-6-4 against the J-10-5-2 of Luu, and the board fell A-A-4-Q-K to give Smith a much-needed double-up.
Still extremely short-stacked, Smith decided to limp into a subsequent hand, but Luu raised it up. Smith called with only a few chips left in front of him, and the two saw the dealer produce the flop. Luu made the initial bet, and Smith called all-in with . Luu showed for top pair and a straight draw. The turn came , and the river ended it with to give Ed Smith a second place finish, which was worth $162,110 for the effort.
That left Thang Luu finishing in first place. But it was more than that. And it was more than the $263,135 first place money that he would find waiting for him at the cashier’s desk.
Thang Luu made an incredible name for himself in the game of Omaha at the World Series of Poker. In 2007, he finished second in the event. In 2008, he won the event. And in 2008, he won it again, making him the only player in the history of the World Series of Poker besides Johnny Chan to accomplish such a feat.
Event 3 concluded with a bang and a place in WSOP history, thanks to Thang Luu.
(Thanks to PokerNews for live tournament reporting information used to compile this recap.)