The first H.O.R.S.E. event of the World Series of Poker always brings with it a certain level of excitement. Though there was a $10,000 mixed game event with a total of eight games with Event 12, but a H.O.R.S.E. tournament brings far more players to the tables and garners more attention from the public because of their increased familiarity with it through the years. The poker community always awaits the high-stakes $50K buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event at the WSOP, but a $3K buy-in gets their attention as well.
Event 21 of the 2009 WSOP brought 452 players to the tables and created a $1,247,520 prize pool, which would be reserved for distribution among the last 48 players standing. But the first day of action only thinned the field to 197. It was Day 2 that would hold the key to the money bubble, and after Al Barbieri busted in 49th place, the remainder of the players were guaranteed a minimum $5,277 payday. Ultimately, the second day of play ended with 21 players standing, with Timothy Finne in the chip lead and Stewart Yancik in second.
The final day’s action began with some short stacks doubling up but soon moved to eliminations, with Jared Okun taking 21st place, and Brian McKain and Frank Debus following. Others who left, in order, as the day progressed, were Ylon Schwartz, David Baker, Chau Giang, Adam Heller, Aaron Steury, Bill Blanda, Asher Derei, and Frank Cremen, with Gavin Smith leaving in tenth place for a $23,777 consolation prize.
The last nine players took their seats at one table, though one more player needed to go before the official final eight could begin their action. On the way to that tournament milestone, Timothy Finne doubled through Martin Eikeng, and Chris Amaral doubled through Stewart Yancik. That left the latter with only 24K in chips, which he pushed in a hold’em hand with after a flop and turn. It was Zac Fellows who called with pocket kings. The river brought the , and Yancik was gone in ninth place with $23,777.
The official final table got underway and soon found Matt Hawrilenko doubling up in an Omaha-8 hand. In the subsequent razz round, he moved again with (6-3)8-7-2-5-9 against the (A-4)3-9-2-7-7 of Chris Amaral. Finne came along until fifth street, at which point he folded, leaving Amaral to win with the 7-4 low and eliminate Hawrilenko in eighth place with $32,647.
Michele Limongi took the chip lead into seven-handed action, though James Van Alstyne was close behind. Amaral soon doubled to sit more comfortably, but Gabriel Nassif wasn’t able to accomplish the same feat. In an Omaha-8 round, Nassif was all-in preflop with , and Amaral called with . The board came , and Nassif couldn’t make a hand to stave off elimination. He received $38,947 for seventh place.
Eikeng was the next to double up his short stack, but he attempted it again in the same stud round when he called all-in on fourth street to a reraise from Fellows. When all of the cards were dealt, Eikeng showed ()(), and Fellows had ()() to give him the win with the better full house. Martin Eikeng was eliminated in sixth place with $48,590.
While James Van Alstyne was putting himself in the chip lead, Finne was tripling up and Amaral was gathering chips. But Amaral needed to move again in the same hold’em round, and he did it with . Finne called with , and the board came to oust Chris Amaral in fifth place with $63,536.
Michele Limongi was the next up for elimination, and it happened during a razz hand that gave him ()(). Fellows was along for the ride with ()(), and Limongi was gone in fourth place with $87,264 for the effort.
Three-handed action saw Van Alstyne and Fellows battling for the chip lead, and Finne was the short stack by nearly a 3-to-1 margin due to Fellows doubling through him. Finally, in a hold’em hand, Finne went to see a flop with Fellows that fell . Betting brought the on the turn, at which point Finne was all-in with and top pair, but Fellows showed for top pair with the better kicker. The river brought a to give Fellows the flush, and Finne was eliminated in third place with $126,199.
Heads-up action began with the following counts:
James Van Alstyne 2,040,000
Zac Fellows 2,010,000
No sooner than play began did Fellows put his aggression to good use, taking pot after pot from Van Alstyne. At one point, Van Alstyne was down to only 150K in chips, though he came back to double up and stay alive temporarily in an Omaha-8 hand and then again in a stud hand. The crippling and doubling up happened again.
Finally, it was hold’em that ended the match. The two went to see a flop. A bet from Fellows and call from Van Alstyne led to the on the turn. Van Alstyne was the initial bettor at this point, and when Fellows raised, Van Alstyne reraised all-in with . Fellows called and showed pocket sixes for the set. The on the river changed nothing, and James Van Alstyne was relegated to second place, which was worth $192,866.
Zac Fellows was the last player standing, which meant he won the $311,899 first place prize and his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet.