Some say that pot-limit Omaha is the next hold’em. While it certainly has a way to go before experiencing that same wide-ranging and global appeal, PLO is growing in popularity with each and every tournament circuit. And the world championship $10K buy-in event at the World Series of Poker brought 295 players out for it, most of them well-known faces in the poker world, but others looking to express their Omaha proficiency.
The field was able to put together a prize pool of $2,773,000 to be shared among the last 27 players standing, though a substantial $679,402 was reserved for the winner to accompany the WSOP gold bracelet. The goal of Day 1 was to play as far as possible within the allotted time, which thinned the field to 116 players.
Day 2 found another long day but one that finally pushed the last of the players into the money. Nam Le became the bubble player, out in 28th place, which allowed for the rest of the players to be guaranteed at least double their buy-ins as a return. Erick Lindgren was the first to cash in 27th place for $25,817, and Jonas Entin followed. That left 25 players still in the running.
The third and supposedly final day of action started with several eliminations in the first few hours: Henri Kuttunen in 25th place, Todd Barlow in 24th, Rodrigo dos Santos in 23rd, Tony Cousineau in 22nd, James Taylor in 21st, Markus Golser in 20th, and Matt Vengrin in 19th. With that, the last 18 players were reseated at two tables.
Moving toward the final table, Nenad Medic was eliminated in 18th place for $34,552, followed by Nate Lindsay in 17th, David Williams in 16th, Noah Schwartz in 15th, Padraig Parkinson in 14th, David Podgurski in 13th, and Howard Lederer in 12th. After Josh Arieh eliminated Chau Giang in 11th place with $61,838, players were reseated at one table but still needed one more to go before the official final table was set.
Ultimately, it was Arieh again who got involved with Nathan Doudney to see a flop. Doudney pushed all-in immediately for his last 75K with , and Arieh called with . The turn was the to give Arieh the flush, and the ended it for Doudney in tenth place on the final table bubble.
With that, the last nine players went to dinner and returned to play it down with the following chip counts:
Seat 1: Ferit Gabriellson 1,200,000
Seat 2: Matt Graham 1,400,000
Seat 3: Barry Greenstein 780,000
Seat 4: Josh Arieh 1,050,000
Seat 5: Stefan Mattsson 850,000
Seat 6: Richard Austin 1,030,000
Seat 7: Van Marcus 500,000
Seat 8: Vitally Lunkin 850,000
Seat 9: Robin Keston 1,000,000
Play started slowly, cautiously, and every other way but aggressively. Arieh tried to get things moving and took a big pot from Gabriellson, but then it was well over an hour (or several) before anything of significance happened.
Lunkin, Greenstein, and Arieh went to see a flop. Lunkin bet out, Greenstein check-raised, and Arieh folded. Lunkin pushed all-in with , and Greenstein called with . Barry Greenstein missed all of his outs when the hit on the turn and the came on the river, pushing him out in ninth place with $82,746.
Next up was Richard Austin, who went into battle with Lunkin but wasn’t all-in until after the flop. Austin showed for his tournament life, and Lunkin showed . The came on the turn and the on the river to give Lunkin the best hand and send Austin out in eighth place for $88,681.
After Arieh had maintained momentum for so long in the tournament, his fall was that much more painful. He put the last of his chips into the pot preflop with against the of Gabriellson. The dealer produced a board of to give Gabriellson quads and Josh Arieh $99,856 for seventh place.
Six-handed action showed Lunkin as the solid chip leader and Van Marcus as the short stack, but Marcus took the opportunity to double through Matt Graham and climb above the 1-million chip mark again.
It was late into the evening hours that Mattsson made his move with and found Lunkin as his worthy opponent holding . The board came to leave Lunkin with the best hand and oust Stefan Mattsson in sixth place with $118,463.
Around the 2:00am mark, Gabridllson decided to tangle with Graham to see a flop of . After Graham bet, Gabriellson pushed all-in for the remainder of his chips with and the pair of kings, while Graham called with for his own pair of jacks and the straight draw. The turn brought a to give Graham the set, and the on the river changed nothing. Ferit Gabriellson was eliminated in fifth place with $148,439.
Suddenly, the pace picked up and another elimination was upon the players. Robin Keston pushed his last 875K all-in preflop with , and Graham called with . The board brought nothing but a better card for Graham when it showed . Keston was gone in fourth place with $196,994.
And very soon after - in relative terms to the slow pace of the rest of the tournament - Marcus made his move with against none other than Graham and his . The board ran out to give Graham another win and send Van Marcus packing in third place with $278,409.
It was approximately 2:30am when the heads-up match got underway, and the starting chip counts were as follows:
Matt Graham 4,500,000
Vitaly Lunkin 4,350,000
Lunkin got off to a positive start by taking the first stack of chips, but Graham fought back and moved into the chip lead. Lunkin then doubled up to take a solid lead again. The double-ups went back and fourth, but a mid-session double for Lunkin put him at a massive chip lead of 8.25 million to the 600K of Graham.
That lit a fire under the young Graham. He doubled up several times in a row, pushing the envelope every step of the way and not backing down from a run at the title. After more than two hours of two-handed play, Graham regained the chip lead and went into one last battle.
Lunkin and Graham went to see a cheap flop. Lunkin bet, but Graham check-raised. Lunkin called, and the two found a on the turn. Graham began the betting, but Lunkin raised all-in with and the flush and straight draws. Graham called with and the set. The river squashed all hopes of the Russian to win his second 2009 WSOP bracelet when it brought the , and Lunkin had to settle for $419,832 and second place in this tournament.
Matt Graham came back from an enormous chip deficit to win the PLO World Championship and the $679,379 that went with it. The hard-fought victory brought a second lifetime bracelet for the young pro player.