So many aspects of the tournament made it stand out from the rest of what would be presented by the 2010 World Series of Poker. First, it was Event 2, preceded only by the casino employees’ private event on Day 1 of the Series. Second, the Poker Player’s Championship required a $50,000 buy-in, which not many poker players can come by. Third, it was an 8-game mixed event that required knowledge of all eight games and the ability to transition from one to another quickly. Fourth, it was one of the few 2010 events to be broadcast on ESPN, and though the final table was set as only no-limit holdem, every poker player wanted to be in that ESPN show.
Needless to say, the $50K Championship was watched by many as it played through five days and presented a star-studded final table for poker fans and media.
The event started on Friday, May 28 with 116 players, which set the prize pool at $5,568,000. Only the top 16 players would receive any part of it though, and the winner would take home $1,559,046. It was a higher turnout and prize pool than the 2009 $50K HORSE Championship that brought only 95 players to the tables. David Bach was that 2009 champion.
Action got underway with a lot of fanfare for the Chip Reese trophy to be awarded the winner, as a video played for the crowd of Reese himself reflecting on his career before his untimely death only several years ago. Doyle Brunson spoke to the crowd about his friend Reese, and Bach briefly mentioned what an honor it was to win the 2009 title and the trophy. With rules in place for the eight games, play began.
Day 1 only lost six players, while Day 2 saw the field play from 110 down to 54 players. Day 3 took them to only 21 players, but it was Day 4 that brought them into the money after Kirk Morrison bubbled from the tournament in 17th place during a stud-8 hand. The following players then took home a bit of the prize pool instead of moving on to the final table.
And it was after midnight on Day 4 that the final table was set. The chip counts of the participants set to take seats at the final table the following afternoon were as follows:
With two brothers - Michael and Robert Mizrachi - pushing for the same title, they were making history by being at the same final table, the only ones to do so since Ross and Barny Boatman in 2002. (Siblings Howard Lederer and Annie Duke made a 1995 final table.) But a lot was on the line for all of the players, and the all-important final table began on Tuesday, June 1, with an audience full of friends, family, and fans, all gathered under the lights and cameras of the ESPN stage. Baker and the Mizrachi’s seemed to have the largest cheering sections as action got underway.
It didn’t take long to see serious action at the NLHE table, as Alaei doubled through Thuritz on the 13th hand of the table, and Oppenheim doubled through Baker on the very next hand.
Thuritz was climbing back with double-ups through Alaei and Robert Mizrachi, but when Schmelev doubled through Thuritz, the latter was left with a very short stack. A quadruple helped, but four hands later, Thuritz put his 55K all-in preflop. Baker and Michael Mizrachi went along to see a flop. Baker bet, but Mizrachi check-raised, which prompted a fold from Baker. Thuritz then turned up the , but Mizrachi showed the for a full house. The turn and river ended it for Mikael Thuritz, who was the first player to exit the table, taking with him $182,463 for the eighth place finish.
More double-ups followed: Michael Mizrachi through
|16th place: ||Andy Bloch ($98,300) |
|15th place: ||Ilya Bulychev ($98,300) |
|14th place: ||Allen Bari ($113,030) |
|13th place: ||Brett Richey ($113,030) |
|12th place: ||Lyle Berman ($129,957) |
|11th place: ||Abe Mosseri ($129,957)|
|10th place: ||Alexander Kostritsyn ($152,739) |
|9th place: ||Nick Schulman ($152,739) |
Baker, Oppenheim through Alaei, and Alaei through Oppenheim.
Finally, Alaei made another attempt. The hand started with Schmelev making a raise, at which point Alaei pushed all-in with his last 410K chips. Schmelev called with , and Alaei had to show the . The dealer slowly gave them the board, and Daniel Alaei was gone in seventh place with $221,105.
Then it was Baker, who moved all-in from the small blind with . Michael Mizrachi called immediately with , and he hit the flop. The on the turn and on the river were blanks, and David Baker was sent to the cashier cage in sixth place to collect $272,275.
Five-handed chip counts released during a break for the players showed Michael Mizrachi leading the pack with over 5.1 million, Oppenheim following with 4 million, and Schmelev close behind with just under 4 million. Juanda had just under 2.4 million, and Robert Mizrachi was stuck at 2 million.
|Seat 1: ||David Baker ||3,095,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Mikael Thuritz ||2,300,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Vladimir Schmelev ||1,925,000 |
|Seat 4: ||John Juanda||2,620,000|
|Seat 5: ||Daniel Alaei ||1,705,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Michael Mizrachi ||2,620,000 |
|Seat 7: ||David Oppenheim ||460,000 |
|Seat 8: ||Robert Mizrachi ||3,125,000 |
But things took a turn when Oppenheim doubled through Michael Mizrachi prior to the dinner break, pushing the former up to 9.1 million chips and the latter down to just under 1.5 million.
Upon returning from dinner, the very short-stacked Robert Mizrachi pushed all-in preflop from the big blind with . Original raiser Michael Mizrachi called with . The flop of blanked, but the on the turn gave Michael a pair of jacks. The on the river ended the hand and the battle of the brothers. Though it was clearly not as the brothers intended, Michael eliminated Robert Mizrachi in fifth place, which was worth a $341,429 payout.
Juanda was the next on the short-stack list and put his tournament life on the line with . Schmelev made the call holding , and the dealer slowly brought out the board. John Juanda caught no help, thus exiting the final table in fourth place with $436,856.
Three-handed chip counts showed Oppenheim with 9.8 million, Schmelev at 5 million, and Mizrachi at 2.6 million, but Mizrachi went on a tear, and pot after pot brought him into second place and put Oppenheim at the low end of the shortened leaderboard.
Oppenheim finally got involved preflop and pushed all-in from the big blind. Schmelev got out of the way, but Mizrachi eventually made the call with , which was soon to be in a race with Oppenheim’s . The board came , and the river card gave Mizrachi the out he needed to eliminate his opponent. David Oppenheim was eliminated in third place with $603,348 for the third place finish.
Starting with the 153rd hand of the night, heads-up play began with the following chip counts:
|Michael Mizrachi ||10,635,000 |
|Vladimir Schmelev ||6,765,000 |
Then it was Schmelev’s turn to go on a tear. Through a series of big pots and aggressive plays, Schmelev eventually surpassed Mizrachi in the chip counts and went on to take a commanding lead.
Finally, on the 189th hand, Mizrachi pushed all-in preflop with , but Schmelev did not hesitate to call with . The crowd was on its feet for the flop, which gave Mizrachi the flush draw. The on the turn made the straight for Schmelev, and just when it looked to be over, the came on the river to give Mizrachi the winning flush. Mizrachi received his crucial double-up to stay alive and nearly even the chip stacks.
And then Mizrachi soared to a four-to-one. Over the next thirty hands, he continued to climb while Schmelev seemed to get more frustrated. Schmelev made an all-in attempt, but Mizrachi chose not to get involved. But soon after, the two got involved on a flop, checked the turn, and Schmelev bet the river. Mizrachi raised to 2 million with , and Schmelev called, only to muck to Mizrachi’s trips.
Schmelev was left with approximately 600K.
Four hands later, Mizrachi pushed, and Schmelev called with . Mizrachi showed , and it seemed like Schmelev would still be in the game. The flop brought nothing, but the hit on the river to give Mizrachi the pair. The blanked on the river. A disappointed Vladimir Schmelev finished in second place with $963,375.
Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi won the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship, along with the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy, gold WSOP bracelet, and $1,559,046 in prize money.