As the 2009 World Series of Poker geared up for the $10K main event to start in less than a week, it was a rare busy day in the Rio Convention Center. There may have been only one final table, but in addition to two new tournaments, another was in its second day and yet another was in its third. Plenty to see and do also made for plenty to write about.
Many poker players from around the world are just getting excited about the World Series, as the main event is the only tournament they look to play the entire year. Some of them are starting to arrive in Las Vegas to enjoy some rest and relaxation before their big chance at millions of dollars and as much ESPN camera time as they can garner. But other players have been in Vegas for weeks - since late May, in fact - to as many tournaments in the WSOP as possible. And despite having no right to speak for them, it might be fair to assume that most of them are exhausted. Whether they’ve been winning or losing, the numerous tournaments take their toll emotionally and physically.
But there is no rest for the weary, especially those in the third day of the $50K H.O.R.S.E. tournament, as the WSOP must go on. And it does push forward with opportunities for cashes and bracelets, expectations and dreams. That is what the last few days of the WSOP preliminary events are all about.
Event 49: $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship, Day 3
One of the biggest attractions of the entire WSOP was in full swing on its third day, and the number of fans that continued to line the rail around the remaining tables was a testament to that. Looking to see some of the most famous faces in the game was their task, but those players were all about the game. There was a $4,560,000 prize pool on the line that would only be distributed among the last 16 players, and the first prize was an attractive $1,276,806. It was serious business.
Out of the 95 players in the starting line-up, there were 91 who started Day 2 but only 53 still alive to start Day 3. Gus Hansen began the day in the chip lead, but he was not too far ahead of some of the other toppers on the leaderboard like Ray Kehkharghani, Erik Sagstrom, Todd Brunson, and Hasan Habib. But as anyone in tournament poker knows, a chip lead at anything but the final table guarantees nothing, especially in a game like H.O.R.S.E. that can have serious swings.
The 53 players were set to play six levels on Day 3, beginning with Omaha-8. Nick Schulman was the first to be in serious danger in the early goings, after being sliced down to only 40K during a hold’em hand with Hansen. He then got involved in a subsequent Omaha-8 hand with Lindgren and Hansen for his tournament life. Schulman was all-in with , but the board of gave Lindgren the high with the flush with and Hansen the low with 8-5-4-2-A. Schulman quietly left the tournament.
Alex Kravchenko and Phil Ivey were some of the big names to be ousted next, and others like Jason Gray, Barry Greenstein, David Benyamine, and Daniel Alaei followed. And to the dismay of the fans and media alike, it was Doyle Brunson who had been crippled, doubled back, and finally took another stand against John Hanson. Brunson showed 7-5-3-2 to the A-A-Q-4 of Hanson, and the board came K-J-10-6-10 to give the straight to Hanson and a ticket out of the event to Brunson.
Ultimately, the night began to come to a close when Bill Chen was finally eliminated after working a short-ish stack for a good portion of the day. He was eliminated by Dehkharghani in 21st place. Not long after, Thor Hansen took a stand in a stud hand with () against the () of Steve Billirakis, with Hansen all-in after fifth street. Billirakis had no problem calling with the three tens, and Hansen didn’t improve with his last card, thus relegating him to a 20th place finish.
With that, play ended for the day with only 19 players remaining. Freddy Deeb was near the top of the leaderboard and looking strong for a run at his second $50K H.O.R.S.E. title, while three others already boasting of 2009 WSOP bracelets - Vitaly Lunkin, Ville Wahlbeck, and John Kabbaj - were all in the running to take their second of the year. The final chip counts that the 19 players would take into Day 4 were:
Vitaly Lunkin 1,527,000
Erik Sagstrom 1,315,000
Freddy Deeb 1,300,000
David Bach 1,265,000
Ville Wahlbeck 842,000
John Hanson 815,000
Gus Hansen 801,000
Mike Wattel 779,000
John Kabbaj 678,000
Huck Seed 672,000
Brett Richey 671,000
Tony G 650,000
Chau Giang 616,000
Steve Billirakis 576,000
Frank Kassela 499,000
Erik Seidel 464,000
David Chiu 397,000
Ray Dehkharghani 262,000
Todd Brunson 145,000
Event 51: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em, Day 2
It was the second-to-last donkament of the 2009 WSOP. The donkament name has been affectionately given over the years to the lowest buy-in NLHE tournaments that are sprinkled throughout each Series and contain massive numbers of dead-money players. While there are solid names in the fields, it is not unusual to find the list of the last 20 or 30 players in the tournament devoid of any familiar names. But the people turn out for these events without fail, and this found 2,781 selling out the event and creating a prize pool of $3,796,065.
Day 1 found only 349 of the original field able to survive it, though it would be that number returning on Day 2 to play down into the money. That was exactly what happened on the second day of action, and less than two hours into play, hand-for-hand was launched in order to find the bubble player in 298th place. It turned out that three players exited on one hand to burst that bubble, one of them being Chris Cooke. Upon that turn of events, the last 297 players standing were guaranteed a payout of $2,733 for their efforts. Anthony Blanda was the first to cash in, as he finished in 297th place.
As the tournament reached the cutoff time of 3:00am, it appeared that 30 players still remained in the event, meaning Day 3 would have a tough task of playing down to the final table and on through to the winner. When all of the chips were counted, the tournament staff found Thibaut Durand as the chip leader with 1,650,000 in his monster stacks. The only other player above the million-chip mark was Owen Crowe, who sat on 1,002,500. The rest of the top five were Josh Schlein, Georgios Kapalas, and Eric Lupovich. Notables left in the field included Alex Jacob and Andrew Chen.
Event 52: $3,000 Triple Chance No-Limit Hold’em, Day 1
The triple chance tournament was a little something different offered up by the WSOP in 2009. Players were given 3,000 of their original starting stack of 9,000 when they took their seats at the beginning of the event, along with two buttons that could be used to request another stack of 3,000 chips at any point in time throughout the first few levels of the tournament. At the end of the “rebuy” period, players could ask for the remainder of their chips.
It turned out that 854 players were interested in the format, though they soon found out that they were playing ten-handed to accommodate the field. It wasn’t until many players had been eliminated that the tables became nine-handed to satisfy the players. The final prize pool numbers were not released in time for this report, but it was made known that 81 players would cash in the tournament, with the minimum payout being $5,892 and the first prize being set at $506,800.
Day 1 ended with 149 players remaining and Timothy Horan in the chip lead with a stack of 149,000 chips. Harris Pavlou brought up second place with 137,300, and Karfa Holt, Antonio Esfandiari, and Blake Cahail rounded out the top five. All 149 players were set to return on Monday, June 29, to play down to the money and hopefully the final table.
Event 53: $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low-8 or Better, Day 1
The late starting event attempted to gather players around the 5pm mark but allowed registration until two hours later, so it wasn’t known until late into the evening that the field ended up with 467 players looking for some stud-8 action. They created a prize pool of $637,455, which would be distributed among the top 48 players, with $159,390 going to the winner.
When the action stopped for the day, there were 136 players remaining, and Day 2 would put them to the heavy task of playing to the money and on to the final table. Allie Prescott was the chip leader when play stopped, as he held 52,500 chips, but Jim Geary came up in a close second with 51,000. The rest of the top five included Richie Sklar, Eldon Brown, and George Markakis. Notably, the name in sixth place was Annie Duke, in ninth was Marcel Luske, and in tenth was Daniel Negreanu.