The elite of the poker world descended upon the Casino at the Empire in London’s Leicester Square. Some of them played the preliminary events, others played cash games, and many took in the sights and sounds of London, England. But they were all there for one primary reason, and that was the third annual World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) Main Event.
The action began on September 26, 2009, with the first of two starting days for the £10,000 buy-in tournament. There were 156 players in action when registration closed, and among them were names like Doyle Brunson, Erik Seidel, Mike Matusow, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Patrik Antonius, Huck Seed, Andy Black, Jason Mercier, Jeff Lisandro, Tom Dwan, Hoyt Corkins, Robert Mizrachi, Vanessa Rousso, Roland de Wolfe, Bruno Fitoussi, Dario Minieri, Nick Schulman, Alex Kravchenko, David Pham, Men Nguyen, and Jeff Madsen. When the day came to a close, only 79 remained with Jason Mercier and Brian Powell among the chip leaders.
The second starting day brought another 178 players into the fold, making for a total field of 334 and a prize pool of £3,340,000. Some of the recognizable faces at the tables were Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, past WSOPE Main Event champions Annette Obrestad and John Juanda, Peter Eastgate, Michael Binger, David Williams, Chris Ferguson, Dennis Phillips, Josh Arieh, Antonio Esfandiari, Steve Zolotow, Noah Boeken, Jean-Robert Bellande, Scotty Nguyen, Jennifer Harman, JC Tran, Joe Sebok, Vitaly Lunkin, Neil Channing, Carlos Mortensen, Matt Hawrilenko, David Ulliott, Kenna James, and Nenad Medic. And when the day finished, there were 107 of them bagging chips, and Zolotow had the chip lead.
Day 2 was a short one with a late start in observance of Yom Kippur. The field quickly thinned with such names as Hellmuth, Lederer, Seidel, and Matusow leaving the tournament. But when the clock stopped and there were only 92 left, it was Ian Munns with 528,300 chips and the lead. Amnon Filippi was in fourth place and Doyle Brunson in sixth as play wrapped for the evening.
The goal of Day 3 was to play down to 27 players, and play started off quickly but soon slowed as the money bubble neared at the end of the night. The late hours found players like Amnon Filippi, Fredrik Andersson, and Ian Munns leaving just before hand-for-hand play ensued with 37 players in the field. And finally, it was John Tabatabai who made the all-in move preflop with pocket aces, which looked good against the pocket sevens of Peter Gould. But the flop of changed that with the set for Gould. The turn of and river of gave Gould the full house, and Tabatabai left in 37th place. That left 36 players all in the money and a decision by the tournament officials to end play for the night. And atop the leaderboard was Matt Hawrilenko with 701,500 chips, followed by Praz Bansi, Arnaud Mattern, Barry Shulman, and John Kabbaj in the top five.
Those 36 finalists returned to the Empire to play down to the final table on Day 4, and the first to finish and cash was David Docherty, who took home £21,142 for the effort. Other notable bustouts through the day included David Ulliott in 35th place, Steve Zolotow in 32nd, Christian Harder in 29th, Andre Akkari in 27th, Men Nguyen in 26th, Yevgeniy Timoshenko in 25th, Arnaud Mattern in 23rd, Liz Lieu in 22nd, Doyle Brunson in 17th, Ram Vaswani in 15th, and Tony Cousineau in 13th.
After Thomas Bichon left in 12th place and Keith Hawkins exited in 11th, the players were moved to one table and awaited the elimination of one more player before they could retire for the evening. It took about 30 minutes of play before Eric Liu moved all-in and found a caller. Liu had pocket queens, and Jason Mercier showed . The board came , and the pair of kings took out Liu in tenth place with £51,536.
That left the official final table set for October 1st as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Barry Shulman ||1,090,000 |
|Seat 2: || Jason Mercier ||3,198,000 |
|Seat 3: || Praz Bansi ||1,160,000 |
|Seat 4:||Markus Ristola ||784,000 |
|Seat 5:||Chris Bjorin ||518,000 |
|Seat 6:||James Akenhead || 1,398,000 |
|Seat 7:||Daniel Negreanu ||438,000 |
|Seat 8:||Antoine Saout ||701,000 |
|Seat 9:||Matt Hawrilenko ||674,000 |
The star-studded final table featured six previous WSOP bracelet winners - Barry Shulman, Praz Bansi, Chris Bjorin, Daniel Negreanu, Matt Hawrilenko, and chipleader Jason Mercier. And two of the players - James Akenhead and Antoine Saout - were members of the 2009 November Nine and awaiting their shot at the World Series of Poker Main Event bracelet in a little over one month. The tension was high, as was the level of excitement surrounding the table before it began.
As play got underway, Mercier came out as the aggressor and extended his lead. But it was Negreanu who made the most significant moves. He first took a sizable pot from Mercier to remove himself from short-stack position, and then he doubled through Mercier to climb over 1.3 million when his pocket nines held up to the pocket threes of Mercier. Negreanu lost some when Bjorin was able to double through him, but Negreanu climbed again to over 1 million.
It wasn’t until nearly five hours after play began that a player was actually eliminated. Akenhead had been chipped away at through the afternoon and when faced with a preflop raise from Bjorin, Akenhead pushed all-in with . Negreanu came over the top with another all-in move, which prompted Bjorin to fold A-J face-up. Negreanu showed pocket kings, and the two watched the board come . James Akenhead was sent to the rail in ninth place with £66,533 in prize money.
Action suddenly sped up, as it didn’t take long for Hawrilenko to push his stack with . Shulman was the caller with the dominating , and the board allowed that to hold when it came . Matt Hawrilenko was ousted in eighth place with £87,074.
Exactly one hand later, Saout moved all-in preflop with pocket fives, and Negreanu was there with and the call. The race ended after the board showed to give Negreanu the rivered flush. The last member of the November Nine, Antoine Saout, was eliminated in seventh place with £114,228.
While Bansi moved up the leaderboard by doubling through Mercier, Bjorin was in trouble and decided to move all-in with . Negreanu called with , and the short-stacked Bjorin was in trouble. The flop brought outs with , but the turn of and river of ended Chris Bjorin’s run in sixth place, which was good for a £150,267 payout.
With five players remaining, Negreanu was the chip leader, though Mercier and Shulman were not far behind. Bansi was the short stack, though he soon doubled through Negreanu to stay alive.
But it was Ristola in jeopardy and making the next move. From the big blind, he pushed with , and Negreanu called with . The flop of was uneventful, but the on the turn gave Ristola the lead. But an on the river gave the pot to Negreanu and sent Markus Ristola away in fifth place with £200,367.
At the dinner break, the four players were led by Bansi and his 2,925,000, followed by Negreanu with 2,865,000. Mercier was hanging tough with 2,320,000, and Shulman was the shortest stack with 1,925,000.
When they returned, Bansi proceeded to extend his lead, though Shulman then doubled through Bansi. Mercier went on a rush and took over the lead, but the run was brief, as he quickly sunk to becoming the short stack.
After an initial raise by Negreanu and call from Shulman, Mercier pushed all-in from the small blind for his last 1.67 million with pocket sevens. Negreanu called, and while Shulman folded, he showed pocket nines. The board ran out , and Jason Mercier was eliminated in fourth place with £267,267.
Negreanu led the action with three players remaining, but it was Shulman in trouble. Bansi took a sizable pot from Shulman, leaving him in need of a double-up. He not only took care of that through Negreanu, but he did it again through Bansi.
The last move from Shulman left Bansi with only 820K, which he pushed soon after with . Negreanu called with and was clearly ahead. The board brought nothing when it came , and Praz Bonsi was gone in third place with £360,887.
Heads-up action began with the following chip counts:
|Daniel Negreanu ||6,180,000 |
Neither of them could have anticipated the battle that awaited them.
Shulman took the first hour of heads-up play with an aggressive stance and was able to even up the stacks. But when Negreanu took a significant lead back, Shulman was able to double through when his cracked Negreanu’s pocket aces when he turned a heart flush. Negreanu was relegated to one-fourth of the stack of Shulman.
From then on, Negreanu struggled. Three hours into the match, he was able to even the stacks again, but Shulman chipped up consistently to regain the lead, though Negreanu took it back once more in the fourth hour of play. That was until the one key hand changed everything.
It began with a flop. Shulman bet first, Negreanu raised it up, and Shulman pushed all-in. Negreanu called with , and his jacks were behind the pocket aces of Shulman. But the came on the turn to give Negreanu the advantage, though that only lasted until the came on the river. Shulman exited the hand with more than 8 million chips, and Negreanu was under the 2-million mark again.
Some say he was visibly dejected after losing the last hand, and when he woke up with pocket fours a few minutes later, he pushed all-in. Shulman just happened to be able to call with pocket tens. The board came , and Daniel Negreanu finished in second place with £495,589.
It should also be noted that Negreanu made history with his finish at the WSOPE, as he pushed ahead of Phil Ivey and Jamie Gold in the all-time tournament money list.
Barry Shulman won the World Series of Poker Main Event, a WSOPE bracelet, and £801,603 in prize money.