At $10,000 the Pot Limit Hold Em Championship Event at the World Series of Poker is perhaps the biggest buy in PLHE tournament in the world. With no antes, it means there is a lot of opportunity to be patient and play post-flop poker. With that in mind, 275 players entered the event creating a staggering prize pool of over 2.5 million dollars. Jason Mercier, Ivan Demidov, and Greg Raymer were among the notables who started action and Keith Lehr, Keven Stammen, Erik Siedel, Sam Simon, Ken Lennaard, and Vanessa Rousso all cashed but came up short of the final table.
The final nine, and their starting chip stacks, were as follows:
John Kabbaj – 1,867,000
Davidi Kitai – 1,737,000
Isaac Haxton – 1,139,000
Eric Baldwin – 1,115,000
J.C. Alvarado – 810,000
Kirill Gerasimov – 621,000
Jason Lester – 386,000
Eugene Todd – 341,000
Darryll Fish – 241,000
Early on Eugene Todd and Jason Lester were the beneficiaries of double ups to give themselves a little breathing room. Darryl Fish was not as fortunate. He raised to 120K from the small blind and J.C. Alvarado raised enough to set him all in. Fish made the call and was facing a race as he had and Alvarado had pocket 7's. The board came and Darryl Fish was the 9th place finisher winning $77,136.
The play was crawling along at a snail’s pace. Few flops were being seen and players were taking a very cautious approach. Finally, there was some action when Isaac Haxton opened the pot for 105K and was re-raised by J.C. Alvarado from the big blind. Haxton re-raised and a committed Alvarado made the call with . Haxton showed but when the board came with a queen and a jack, he lost the hand and shipped half his stack over to Alvarado. After the hand Alvarado was over one million while Haxton slipped to under half a million.
Things started to pick up and Kirill Gerasimov and Jason Lester (again) double up through the hands of John Kabbaj and J.C. Alvarado respectively. Haxton was now the short stack and when he looked down at he decided to go for it and opened with a pot sized raise to 210K. Kabbaj put him to the test, re-raising to 425K and Haxton moved all in for an additional 100K. Kabbaj had and the board was no help for Haxton and Kabbaj won the sizable pot. Isaac Haxton finished in 8th place winning $82,668.
Eugene Todd was desperately short and came over the top of Jason Lester's opening raise. Lester made the call with and was way ahead of the Todd's . The flop came keeping Lester in the lead. The turn was the giving Todd some outs to chop the pot if a queen or six hit. The river was neither of those but for Todd it was a glorious card... the ... to keep him alive and cripple Lester down to 350K.
Todd wasted no time putting those new found chips to use re-raising J.C. Alvarado's 160K opening raise to 600K. Unfortunately for Todd, however, Kirill Gerasimov woke up with a hand in the small blind and re-raised all in. Todd made the call and his was well behind Gerasimov's pocket queens. No ace, straight, or other miracle arrived for Todd and Gerasimov took over the chip lead with that win. Eugene Todd finished in 7th place winning $93,085.
Jason Lester was next to go when he moved all in with and was called by Davidi Kitai who had . Lester picked up an open ended straight draw on the turn and any 8, 10, jack, or king would win the pot for him but the river was none of those and Kitai eliminated the long time poker veteran. Jason Lester finished in 6th place winning $110,431.
J.C. Alvarado found himself down to 200K after losing a race and doubling up John Kabbaj. Alvarado wasn't about to give up though and proceeded to double up once, picked up the blinds twice, and doubled up yet again with pocket 10s against the A-K of Eric Baldwin. Just like that Alvarado was up to 1.45 million after being down to 200K just moments earlier. The comeback was short lived, however, as he was eliminated when his A-Q was bested by the pocket 10s of John Kabbaj when all the money went all in pre-flop. J.C. Alvarado finished in 5th place winning $138,375.
Davidi Kitai, after a series of hands where he folded to re-raises from Eric Baldwin, found himself getting moderately short. When he looked down at pocket 5s in the big blind after Kirill Gerasimov opened on the button, he moved the rest of his chips in. Gerasimov thought about it for a moment and reluctantly made the call with . The flop came to keep Kitai in the lead but it did give Gerasimov a flush draw to go with his two over cards. The turn was the giving Gerasimov even more outs with the gutshot straight draw. The river was the and the king would give Gerasimov a bigger pair to win the hand. Davidi Kitai finished in 4th place winning $183,638.
Eric Baldwin started out as the shortest stack three handed but took the chip lead when he check raise shoved all in on the river against John Kabbaj. Baldwin, however, lost most of those chips when he flat called a raise from Gerasimov out of the small blind and then made a huge check raise on a flop. Gerasimov moved all in and Baldwin shrugged his shoulders and said “I call.”
Baldwin showed which looked good until Gerasimov turned over for flopped top two pair. Baldwin picked up some outs on the turn but the river was the to deliver the monster pot to Gerasimov and cripple Baldwin. Eric moved all in first to act the next hand with and was called by Kabbaj who had . Baldwin hit two pair on the river but unfortunately for him Kabbaj had flopped two pair and it was no good. Eric Baldwin finished in 3rd place winning $259,534.
Gerasimov started with about a 3:1 chip lead in heads up play but things evened up quickly when Kabbaj doubled up with against the pocket 3s of Kirill. Kabbaj chipped away at Kirill and took a 2:1 chip lead when the fateful final hand took place. Gerasimov opened up the action for 435K from the small blind and Kabbaj called from the big blind. The flop came . Kabbaj led out for 400K and Gerasimov raised to 1 million straight. Kabbaj leaned back in his chair and announced that he was all in. Gerasimov quickly called and rightly so considering he had pocket kings. Unfortunately for him, however, Kabbaj had pocket aces and the cooler of a hand gave Kabbaj the title. Kirill Gerasimov finished in 2nd place winning $391,369.
In 2004, John Kabbaj finished 2nd in a PLHE event. Today, he was not going to settle for 2nd and patiently worked his way through the final table field to win the bracelet. John Kabbaj finished in 1st place winning $391,369 and his first WSOP bracelet. Congratulations John!