It doesn’t take long to pick up on things at the World Series of Poker. The hallways of the Rio Convention Center will be packed during $1K or $1.5K NLHE breaks. Almost anything left in your car in an uncovered Las Vegas parking lot during the day will melt. And $10K buy-in championship tournaments will produce final tables with famous faces, lots of action, and a very attentive media, not to mention a packed rail of fans.
The $10,000 buy-in Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split Championship started on Sunday, June 6, with an all-star field of 170 players, which goes without saying due to the game choice and the high buy-in. Day 1 started with those 170 people, though only 107 still had chips at the end of the day, all still in contention to get into the money and take down the $447,442 first place prize.
Day 2 started with 107 players but whittled it down to only 18, and though some of them wanted to continue playing into the wee hours of the morning until the money hit at 16 players, the tournament staff called it a night with those 18 still holding chips. Frank Kassela had the most with 515K chips, and Sergey Altbregin was in second with 497K.
Day 3 started at 3:00pm on Tuesday, June 8, and the goal was to play to the final table and on to the winner’s circle. Chip Jett was the first to be eliminated as play got underway, at which point hand-for-hand play started as the money bubble was upon them. It didn’t take long for Alexander Dovzhenko to move all-in on third street, and Christopher George made the call. Dovzhenko had , but George beat the pair of queens with and his two pair. Dovzhenko left in 17th place.
From that point, the afternoon turned to evening as the following players exited the tournament:
16th place: Toto Leonidas ($28,221)
15th place: Blair Rodman ($28,221)
14th place: Christopher George ($32,439)
13th place: Marco Johnson ($32,439)
12th place: Alessio Isaia ($37,297)
11th place: Sergey Altbreggin ($37,297)
10th place: George Lind ($43,833)
With the elimination of Lind, the final nine players were ready to be seated at one table, and they were moved to the ESPN stage to accommodate the players and anyone who wanted to watch. Presumably, a few cameras could also capture the moment should someone like Jennifer Harman win the bracelet.
It wasn’t long before Gary Benson then got all of his chips in during a hand with five other players, though on fourth street, several folded. Ultimately, Benson was all-in on fifth street against Allen Kessler and Frank Kassela. After all of the cards were dealt, Kassela showed to win the hand and beat Benson’s two pair. Benson bubbled the official final table and took home $43,833 for ninth place.
The final table, as mentioned, was official, and the starting chip counts were as follows:
|Kirill Rabtsov ||882,000 |
|Jennifer Harman Traniello ||861,000 |
|Frank Kassela ||800,000 |
|John Juanda ||787,000 |
|Steve Zolotow ||684,000 |
|Allen Kessler ||467,000 |
|Dario Minieri ||316,000 |
|Vladimir Schmelev ||304,000 |
The nine players barely settled in before going on their dinner break. Upon returning at 9:00pm, it was Minieri who found himself in trouble.
Schmelev scooped Minieri in a pot that left Minieri as a very short stack, and he committed all of those chips on the very next hand. Kessler called on third street, and though the cards weren’t reported, it was noted that Minieri made a pair of aces and Kessler ended up with two pair. Dario Minieri exited the tournament in eighth place with $52,366.
Schmelev was the next on the list of short stacks, and he got involved with Harman and Kassela, putting all of his chips at risk on fifth street. The other two called and checked down the last two streets. Harman had the low with 7-5, Kassela had the high with trip tens, and it was Vladimir Schmelev who left the table in seventh place, for which he was awarded $63,457 and enough points to become the leader in the WSOP Player of the Year race.
Kessler benefited from a big hand with Rabstov, and the latter was crippled after the battle. Rabstov pushed all-in on fourth street of a subsequent hand, and Kassela came along. Rabstov needed one card for a flush, and Kassela had two pair - kings and eights. The last card gave Rabstov the flush, but Kassela found another king for the full house, and Kirill Rabstov was eliminated in sixth place with $78,142.
Five-handed play lasted many hours and many levels. It started with Kassela taking over the chip lead from Harman, and though Kessler was on the short stack for much of the action, he doubled through Juanda to climb into fourth place on the leaderboard. Kessler even eventually surpassed Harman as players neared the 2:00am hour.
Finally, it was Juanda who tangled with chip leader Kassela. All of Juanda’s money went in on seventh street with a complete hand of for kings and sevens, but Kassela showed for trip aces. John Juanda headed for the cashier cage to collect $97,989 for the fifth place finish.
Zolotow began slipping, and after Kessler took a sizable pot from him, Zolotow had only 250K remaining. Those chips went into the next hand against Kassela. When all of the cards were dealt and turned up, Zolotow showed for the pair of aces, but Kassela had for the three nines and the win. Steve Zolotow was sent home in fourth place with $125,379.
The initial three-handed chip counts showed Kassela with 2.9 million, Kessler with 1.5 million, and Harman holding on to 700K.
Kassela took the reins, chipping away immediately at both opponents.
But it was the two shorter stacks who tangled. Harman ended up all-in on sixth street with , but Kessler showed and the straight draw to go with the low. Harman picked up the , which did nothing, and Kessler drew the for the pair of fours. He scooped the pot, and Jennifer Harman was eliminated in third place with $173,159.
Heads-up play then began with the following chip counts:
|Frank Kassela ||4,070,000 |
|Allen Kessler ||1,030,000 |
Kessler was unable to gain much ground, almost immediately being chipped down to less than 400K. He did score a double-up to 840K, but reduced again to nearly nothing, he doubled to 440K to stay alive.
It didn’t take long for another move. Kessler was all-in before third street, and his cards produced a hand for a pair of tens. Kassela had two pair, though, in his hand of , and that was the end of the tournament. Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler took home $276,486 for the second place finish.
Frank Kassela won Event 15 to become this year’s 7 Card Stud Hi/Low champion, and he was awarded $447,446 and a WSOP gold bracelet for the accomplishment.