When the 2010 World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions was announced in March, many were satisfied with automatic entries and public voting, but it was the sponsor exemptions that some questioned. When it was announced in early June that the WSOP Academy would be able to award one seat, and on June 10, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier won that seat in a turbo single-table tournament.
The entire TOC tournament, set to take place on July 4 at the Rio Convention Center in Las Vegas, will be comprised of 27 seats. Five of them already have their occupants, as previous TOC winners - Annie Duke, Mike Sexton, Mike Matusow - qualified automatically, as did 2009 WSOP Main Event champion Joe Cada and 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event champion Barry Shulman. There will be 20 players chosen by popular vote, as any previous WSOP bracelet winner has a chance and can win a seat via the most votes, a process which ends at midnight on June 15. The other two seats were reserved for to-be-named sponsor exemptions.
One of those exemptions was given to the WSOP Academy, and it announced days ago that it selected - with no criteria given - that nine players would compete on June 10, and the winner would receive the seat. Those players were Tom Dwan, Andy Bloch, Bertrand Grospellier, Gus Hansen, Sorel Mizzi, Michael Mizrachi, Liv Boeree, Paul Wasicka, and Don Cheadle. It was announced on June 10 that Cheadle would donate his winnings to Ante Up for Africa should he win the seat.
The tournament was filmed at a secret location, which ended up being Lightspeed VT Studios in Las Vegas, for the sole use of the WSOP Academy at a later date. Phil Hellmuth and Ali Nejad were recruited to provide commentary and analysis, all of which may be used for future trainees in the program. However, the only way for media and the general public to follow along was to follow the twitter feed of the WSOP Academy.
Action got underway with 20-minute levels and no breaks. It was then that it was reported that Dwan was unable to play, so Gavin Smith was given the seat. Mizrachi took the first hand and jumped out to an early chip lead, but Hansen soon took over. Bloch took an early hit when Wasicka doubled through him with A-J over J-10. Grospellier then doubled through Mizzi, and Wasicka doubled through Grospellier.
Sorel Mizzi was the first to go from the table when his pocket sixes were up against the A-3, the latter card a heart. The flush came out on the board, and Mizzi left in ninth place.
Andy Bloch was the next to go when his short stack went all-in with A-J but found Smith calling with pocket queens. Don Cheadle then left in seventh place when his pocket jacks couldn’t beat the pocket kings of Mizrachi.
Some double-ups ensued, as Wasicka stayed alive courtesy of Mizrachi, and Grospellier did the same through Hansen. But then it was Liv Boeree whose K-Q couldn’t out-race the pocket nines of Smith. Boeree went out in sixth place.
Wasicka soon took the lead after doubling through Smith. Hansen tried the same thing, getting all of his chips in with K-9, but Mizrachi called with pocket sevens, and Gus Hansen left in fifth place. Smith was the next to go when his J-9 suited couldn’t catch up to the a-4 of Mizrachi. Gavin Smith took fourth place.
Three-handed action saw Mizrachi double through Wasicka, and the latter then got the rest of his chips in with A-6, but the A-7 of Mizrachi won and eliminated Paul Wasicka in third place.
The heads-up battled started with Mizrachi and Grospellier, and the former made a solid run to jump into the chip lead. Despite a double-up by Grospellier, Mizrachi held a 2-to-1 chip lead. But Grospellier didn’t give up, eventually evening the stacks and taking the lead. The final hand ultimately came about when Mizrachi pushed all-in with , and Grospellier came along with . The board of , and the flush was the winning hand, meaning Mizrachi finished in second place.
Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier won the “Golden Ticket,” which was a seat at the July 4 Tournament of Champions. He commented, “I want to thank the WSOP Academy for giving me the chance to win my way into the TOC. I feel like I am a deserving champion based on my record around the world, and I look forward to getting my WSOP bracelet soon.”