The tournament began on Thursday, June 25, with 762 players seeking one of the lower buy-in non-hold’em tournaments. Though going for the pot-limit Omaha hi-low eight-or-better action seemed to be quite the challenge, one that some of the players were quite frankly not ready for, the rather sizable field created a prize pool of $1,040,130 and made for an exciting tournament all the way through the final table.
When the first day of action came to a close, there were only 87 players remaining in the event, just a few spaces outside the money bubble. It would be Day 2 that would bring that bubble that found Carlo Citrone exiting in 73rd place with nothing but some PLO-8 memories with which to leave the Amazon Room at the Rio. The other 72 players in their seats were guaranteed a payout, and as the afternoon turned to evening and went well past midnight, it seemed as if the goal of reaching the final table would be accomplished. Ultimately, with the elimination of Sean Getzwiller in tenth place, that $15,664 payout did it.
The Saturday final table was then set with chip counts as follows:
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
Play started with some typical caution from the competitors, but it soon came down to one of the shorter stacks moving all-in out of sheer necessity.
Serious preflop betting and raising led to McMahan calling all-in for his entire stack with , which was met by the of Vedes. The board came down and improved Vedes’ hand to trips, eliminating William McMahan in ninth place with $22,862.
The severe short stack coming into action was Hofman, and it didn’t take long for him to get involved after a flop. Watkinson called with , and Hofman showed . The on the turn left Watkinson leading with two pair, and the on the river solidified the outcome. Ronnie Hofman was ousted in eighth place with $25,618.
During the next period of chip exchanges, Jelinek doubled through Cantu, but Cantu rose again to quarter Sias. That led to Sias pushing all-in with preflop, and Weinstock was along for the ride with . The board came to give Aaron Sias the seventh place finish and $30,028 in prize money.
Action slowed a bit during the next level, but finally, it was Steve Jelinek who got involved in a pot that would risk his tournament life. The all-in move didn’t come until after the flop, at which point Jelinek showed , and Vedes called with . Jelinek had top two pair until the came on the turn. The on the river ended any hopes of moving on for Steve Jelinek, who took sixth place and $36,893.
Tommy Vedes had been responsible for some of the final table bustouts but finally got involved in a pot he couldn’t back away from. He and Mathieu went to see an expensive flop of , at which point, Mathieu put Vedes to the test with a check-raise, and Vedes called all-in with . Mathieu showed trips with , and the on the turn and on the river sealed the deal. Vedes was eliminated in fifth place with $47,617.
Ted Weinstock decided to tangle with Mathieu and Cantu in a pot that led to a flop. After Cantu raised, Weinstock moved all-in. When Mathieu came over the top all-in to isolate, the plan worked when Cantu folded. Mathieu showed , and Weinstock turned over with . The came on the turn and the hit on the river to leave Weinstock with a fourth place finish and $64,727.
Play then slowed again with three players. Mathieu led the pack for a while, though Watkinson jumped to over one million chips to become a serious contender. Eventually, Watkinson took over the lead, which led to a key hand.
Mathieu and Watkinson went to see a flop of , which prompted a check from Mathieu. Watkinson bet out, and Mathieu raised all-in with . With nothing but a pair of sevens, his bluff was called by Watkinson who turned over for the set. The came on the turn and the on the river, and the recent chip leader was out in third place as Jacqmin Mathieu was forced to accept $92,946 and no WSOP bracelet.
Heads-up action began with the following counts:
Lee Watkinson 2,485,000
Brandon Cantu 945,000
Watkinson dominated the first bit of two-handed action as he chipped away at Cantu. But then it was Cantu’s turn for a comeback from a significant deficit. He doubled with a set to get back to 840K and continued to climb. Ultimately, a big pot that had Cantu all-in preflop turned the tide when Watkinson could only muster one quarter of the pot. Cantu took the lead.
The two ran close for a few hands and exchanged the chip lead until Cantu doubled through Watkinson again, this time with against the of his opponent. The board brought to give Cantu a 2-to-1 chip lead.
It was then that Watkinson made his move, though the two took it easy going to the flop. Watkinson committed himself with , and Cantu showed . The hit on the turn and the on the river, and Cantu’s trips ousted Lee Watkinson in second place with $141,873.
Brandon Cantu won the tournament, for which he was given the 2009 WSOP bracelet and $228,867 in prize money.