The 2009 World Series of Poker schedule boasted of three very significant events, though the WSOP would argue that each tournament is important in its own right. But the fans only line up and the media only arrives early for three events - the $40K NLHE, the $10K main event, and the $50K H.O.R.S.E. - and the latter revved up its high-stakes engines on Friday, June 26.
One problem that no one foresaw was an obvious obstacle to the attendance for the H.O.R.S.E. event, and that was the aforementioned $40K NLHE. Many poker bankrolls were sapped from that and the rest of the 47 other events at the WSOP this year, and combined with a global recession and the fact that ESPN would not be filming or broadcasting the event, attendance was down - significantly - in the 2009 H.O.R.S.E. world championship. A letdown for most in the media, there were very few new faces to cover, and the tournament promised to be a long, slow one that would span the next five days. While it still promised to provide an exciting final table, the event was nothing like in years past.
Regardless, there was a PLO-8 tournament running in its second day and racing toward the money and final table, while a limit shootout event began its run later in the day. The Rio was bustling with players and fans, and the WSOP barreled on.
Event 48: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, Day 2
The name of the tournament was indicative of its complexities. PLO is a challenge in itself, but add the hi-low aspect of it, and the field was in for excitement mixed with chopped pots and an emotional roller coaster. Somewhat surprisingly, that appeal led 762 players to register and create a prize pool of $1,040,130. And though 72 players would cash in the tournament, the first day ended with 87 still in the running.
Day 2 started with those 87 players and quickly moved toward hand-for-hand action. Some of the earliest eliminations included Padraig Parkinson and Paul Darden, and eventually the bubble player was found when Carlo Citrone pushed his against the of his opponent. The board came , and the full house took out Citrone in 73rd place. The rest of the players were in the money.
As the night played on, the pace was still a quick one, and before the cutoff time of 3:00am, the final table was set. It was after Cung Tran busted in 11th place that the last ten players were seated together at one table. Then Sean Getzwiller made the all-in move preflop with against the of Tommy Vedes. The dealer gave them , and Getzwiller was eliminated in tenth place with $15,664.
The final table was set and would play out on Saturday, June 27, with the following starting chip counts:
Seat 1: Lee Watkinson 412,000
Seat 2: Steve Jelinek 260,000
Seat 3: William McMahan 168,000
Seat 4: Brandon Cantu 1,025,000
Seat 5: Ted Weinstock 250,000
Seat 6: Aaron Sias 353,000
Seat 7: Jacqmin Mathieu 552,000
Seat 8: Ronnie Hofman 76,000
Seat 9: Tommy Vedes 334,000
Event 49: $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship, Day 1
One could say that the $50K H.O.R.S.E. tournament is one of the most exciting of the entire Series, as it brings many of the biggest names in poker to the felt for a championship of championships. Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Jeff Lisandro, Erick Lindgren, and Phil Ivey. Even the Lakers’ own Jerry Buss bought in to compete with the likes of the others. Altogether, the field was a stellar one.
One could also say that the field was disappointing. Many of the online poker pros seemed to skip the event in favor of cheaper buy-in tournaments at other Las Vegas casinos. Some big names stayed away because there was to be no ESPN television coverage, and others presumably didn’t have the bankroll for another high buy-in tournament after the $40K NLHE tournament that kicked off the WSOP. For a variety or combination of reasons, there were players missing, and it was a clear disappointment to the WSOP staff.
When the tournament was scheduled to begin at noon, there were approximately 30 players registered, making it unappealing in many ways and prompting the tournament director to make an executive decision to begin the tournament one hour late. Since late registrants are allowed to start with a full stack of chips, many players chose to sleep in instead of starting at noon, but the late start found many of them wandering in and having little choice but to sit down and play. When the action finally started, there were still under 70 players having ponied up the $50K.
At the end of the registration period, the final number of entrants was known as 95. While tournament officials stated that they were not disappointed in the turnout, it was a significant decrease from previous years, as the first year brought 143 players to the felt, and the last two years had exactly 148 players each. The 2009 field could only bring its prize pool to $4,560,000, and the first place prize, though significant at $1,276,806, was not close to years past.
Regardless, the players pushed through the day, and only four of them would not make it out with any chips. Though they started with 150,000 in chips, some ran so bad that they left before the first of the five days was over. The first to go was Steve Zolotow, who got involved in a stud-8 hand with Jennifer Harman and Patrick Bueno, finally moving all-in for 8,200 chips on fifth street. Harman eventually folded out on seventh street, so it was Zolotow’s K-9-4-4(K-3-2) that lost to Bueno’s 5-7-4-3(Q-6-5) in the end, and Zolotow was the 95th place finisher.
The night went on to find others leave as well - Dan Shak, David Singer, and Alexander Kostritsyn. There were 91 players remaining when the chips were counted and bagged, all of whom would return for a rather late start on Saturday, as the tournament officials set the return time for 4pm. Hasan Habib was the chip leader with 387,000, and Martin Vallo pulled up in second place with 347,200. Matt Glantz, Patrick Bueno, and David Benyamine rounded out the top five in a field where anything could - and would - happen over the course of the coming days.
Event 50: $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout, Day 1
As in other tournaments, the turnout for the limit shootout was lower than expected. The cap was set at 640 players, but they soon realized that number would not be reached. There were only 571 players when registration was complete, and they were spread over 64 tables. The resulting prize pool was $779,024, with $194,854 set aside for the ultimate victor.
Each of the 571 players began the day with 4,500 chips, and considering it was limit hold’em, none of the tables were decided quickly in the sit-n-go format. Only one player would survive each table, and it wasn’t until late in the day that the first winner was discovered in Mike Thorpe. Subsequently, others like Jean-Robert Bellande, Greg Mueller, Dan Heimiller, David Williams, Brock Parker, and Tom Schneider won their tables as well. In the end, there were 64 players who came out on top of the SNG’s and were set to move on to the next day, all of whom were in the money and guaranteed at least $4,350 for their first round wins.
The next step in the process would be to return on Saturday, June 27, and win their respective tables to advance to the final table to be held on Sunday.