To say that Day 34 was a busy or action-packed one would be an understatement. All three rooms at the Rio Convention Center were packed with players, the hallways were jammed with fans, and the tournament staff was as occupied as could be. With a sold-out noon tournament, another new event beginning at 5pm, two tournaments in their second days, the H.O.R.S.E. event playing down, and one final table, there was hardly room to breathe.
Players who just arrived in Vegas to play their first event were excited, and most of them were in the $1,500 NLHE event. Their excitement was matched by the doldrums of the players and media who had been at the Rio for more than a month already and still had to find some energy to get through the main event. The two attitudes were in direct contradiction with each other but somehow combined to make for an interesting and action-packed day at the WSOP. Let’s get right to it.
Event 49: $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship, Day 4
Outside of the $10K main event, the $50K H.O.R.S.E. was the biggest draw for fans at the 2009 WSOP, as it has been every year since its implementation in 2006. Though the original 95-player field was somewhat disappointing as compared to years past, many of the biggest names and most popular faces were at the tables, a situation which was good enough for the fans, who lined up 3- and 4-deep to see those players and attempt to get photos and autographs.
While the railbirds were enjoying a poker highlight, the players were looking at the numbers. With 95 of them in the field, the prize pool was $4,560,000 with $1,276,806 reserved for the winner. But only 16 players would receive any money back from their buy-in at all, and that was quite the pertinent fact.
Day 1 saw the field diminish only slightly, from 95 to 91, but the second day thinned it down to 53 players. Day 3 found quite a few more players hitting the rail, including players like Brunson, Lindgren, Ivey, Greenstein, and Benyamine. Upon the elimination of Thor Hansen in 20th place, play stopped for the night with Vitaly Lunkin in the chip lead.
Day 4 of 5 had a mission - to play down through the money and reach the final table of eight. The day began with short-stacked Todd Brunson moving all-in during a stud-8 hand, though none of his draws panned out to best the pair of eights belonging to Vitaly Lunkin. Brunson took 19th place, just a few places outside of the money. Brett Richey followed in 18th place, courtesy of Ville Wahlbeck.
The money bubble loomed, and Frank Kassela was one of the shorter stacks at the tables. During an Omaha-8 hand, Ray Dehkharghani was able to chip Kassela down to only 81K, and that brought him to a subsequent razz hand. Kassela got involved with Huck Seed and Dehkharghani and made the all-in move on fourth street, at which point Dehkharghani was the one willing to vie for the pot. When all of the cards were out, Kassela showed ()(), but Dehkharghani had ()() for the win. Kassela had to accept the 17th place finish on the bubble.
Meanwhile, Freddy Deeb was having a rough day. From starting atop the leaderboard, he quickly sunk to a spot among the shorter stacks. He took a hit from Tony G that resulted in some verbal sparring, and when Deeb began to curse at Tony G, he received a penalty of one orbit out. When he returned, he lost a substantial pot to David Bach, pushing him down under the million-chip mark, and Bach proceeded to do more damage in a razz hand. When John Kabbaj doubled through Deeb, the outlook was not a positive one for the only player remaining looking to win his second $50K H.O.R.S.E. title.
But it was John Kabbaj who was the next up for elimination. In a razz hand, he got involved with Erik Seidel on the river with 5-5-3-Q(2-7-?) against the 4-3-7-9(A-2-4) of Seidel, and Kabbaj was ousted in 16th place with $72,914 from the cashier cage.
Steve Billirakis got involved with Lunkin and ended up all-in after the was delivered. Billirakis had but was outdone by the of Lunkin, leaving Billirakis with $72,914 for 15th place.
Finally, it was Deeb’s turn to exit after working the short stack and doubling a few hands prior. But when he lost a big hand to Wahlbeck during razz and was left with 250K, he decided to move. Deeb took that opportunity soon after with versus the of Gus Hansen. The board came , and the trip jacks eliminated Freddy Deeb in 14th place with $83,630.
Tony Guoga also worked a relatively short stack throughout the day and finally got involved in a stud hand with chipleader Erik Sagstrom that led to Guoga all-in by fifth street. Guoga showed two pair - threes and sixes - but Sagstrom turned over a flush to eliminate Guoga in 13th place with $83,630.
David Chiu was finally eliminated in 12th place as a result of an Omaha-8 hand that gave Chiu the spade flush on the river but Wahlbeck the full house with the same card. David Chiu was ousted in 12th place with $99,590.
Ray Dehkharghani was up next, again in Omaha-8, against Lunkin and Seed, the latter of whom took the entire pot with top two pair and the best kicker. Dehkharghani was gone in 11th place with $99,590.
Omaha-8 claimed another victim when Mike Wattel pushed all-in post-flop with A-8-6-2 against the A-Q-K-10 of Giang. The board ultimately read A-Q-10-J-2 to give Giang the two pair and send Wattel home in tenth place with $123,895.
The last nine players were seated at one table, and as play continued, Hansen was the one in trouble. His short stack got shorter after a hold’em hand against Sagstrom that prompted a post-turn fold from Hansen and left him with only 160K. He finally pushed in an Omaha-8 hand after a flop. Giang and Lunkin came along for the ride until the turn, at which point Lunkin folded to a bet from Giang. Hansen showed , and Giang showed for flopped trip kings. The on the river ended Gus Hansen’s run at the final table and sent him out in ninth place with $123,895.
The final table was then set for the $50K H.O.R.S.E. tournament and would play out on Tuesday, June 30 with the following starting stacks:
Seat 1: Ville Wahlbeck 645,000
Seat 2: Erik Sagstrom 3,675,000
Seat 3: John Hanson 1,700,000
Seat 4: Huck Seed 1,380,000
Seat 5: Vitaly Lunkin 2,490,000
Seat 6: David Bach 2,345,000
Seat 7: Erik Seidel 965,000
Seat 8: Chau Giang 1,075,000
Event 52: $3,000 Triple Chance No-Limit Hold’em, Day 2
Though most of the focus of the day was on the H.O.R.S.E. event, this tournament was attempting to play down to its final table as well, and there were still quite a few big names in the tournament as it happened. The event had started the day prior with 854 players and only thinned the field to 149 on its first day. The second day brought those 149 players back to play into the money at 81 players and beyond.
It wasn’t until the mid-evening hours until that point was reached, at which time an unknown player moved all-in with pocket aces on a board of , but the other player showed pocket jacks for the straight. The player with the set of aces left on the money bubble and made way for the final 81 players to make at least $5,892 for their efforts.
As play continued into the late of the night, the field thinned as much as possible and finally ended the action with a double-elimination hand in which Karga Holt was able to eliminate Jason Cohen in 18th place and Rob Tepper in 17th place with trip aces. Both players received $19,068 for making it so far in the tournament, and 16 remained for the last day of action. Jason Dewitt was the chipleader when all was said and done, and his 1,599,000 was far ahead of the second place Alex Millar and his 1,006,000 chips. All players would return on Tuesday, June 30, to play for the bracelet.
Event 53: $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low-8 or Better, Day 2
It was a non-NLHE event that brought players seeking some hi-low action to the felt for the first day of the event on Sunday, June 28. There were 467 of them in total, which made for a $637,455 prize pool. But only the last 48 players standing would receive any of those funds, and the first day ended with 136 still in the running.
Day 2 began slowly but surely and saw the field thin consistently throughout the afternoon. It was after the dinner break that the money bubble neared, and barely into hand-for-hand action, an unknown player busted in 49th place quickly and quietly to send the last 48 players into the money. Once that happened, Justin Bonomo busted in 48th place for a $2,696 cash, as did Daniel Negreanu and Barry Greenstein.
The night progressed in an effort to reach the final table, but the 3:00am cutoff time came about first. Just before that time, Jared Davis was eliminated in 15th place for a $5,864 payout, and the night came to a close. The last 14 players standing would return on Sunday to play for the win, and Brian Swinford was the chipleader with 292,000 chips. Notables still in the field included Chad Brown, Max Stern, Vince Burgio, and Matt Savage.
Event 54: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em, Day 1
It was the last $1.5K buy-in NLHE event of the Series, and the last chance for players to get in on such action before the $10,000 buy-in main event. And there was no shortage of interested players, as the event sold out the day prior. In the end, there were 2,818 players in all three tournament rooms at the Rio Convention Center, and the hallways were absolutely filled with players, friends, and fans. The total number of players made for a $3,846,570 prize pool that would be reserved for the top 297 players.
The vast majority of the field departed on Day 1, leaving the end of the night totals showing only 376 players left standing. They would all have to report to the Rio for Day 2 in an attempt to get into the money, and Jon Christensen would have the best chance of doing so, finishing up his first day as the chip leader holding 160,800 in chips. Jody Howe held down second place with 126,600, and the rest of the top five included Zsombor Gall, Henry Merchan, and Craig Gray.
Event 55: $2,500 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball, Day 1
The late-starting event of the day brought deuce-to-seven fans to the tables in small numbers. As players grew exhausted toward the end of the Series and began considering a few days of rest before the main event, only 73 players decided to get in on the lowball action. There were 257 in all, which made for a prize pool of $591,100. Only 24 spots would be paid.
There was a long way to go to hit the money, as 73 players lasted the first day and would return on Tuesday, June 30 to play toward the money and the final table. Ahead of the pack was Adam Ewenstein with his stack of 71,800 chips, followed by Mike Peltecki in second with 65,100 chips. Rounding out the top five were Rick Fuller, Terrance Jennings, and Jacobo Fernandez.