The first championship event of the 2010 World Series of Poker required a $50K buy-in for the Poker Player’s 8-game mix tournament, and the ones that followed were $10K buy-ins for stud variations. Both of the latter events garnered fields of approximately 100 players each, but when the $10K Omaha hi-low split-8 or better came up on the schedule for Saturday, June 12, players were more than ready.
The $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship had a very solid turnout with 212 players, a notable increase over the 179 players in the same event in 2009. This year, the prize pool climbed to $1,992,800, which offered payouts to the top 27 finishers and $488,241 to the winner. Play got underway slowly, as was understandable with the buy-in and number of chips, but Day 1 whittled the field to 154 players. Eugene Katchalov was the leader going into Day 2.
Day 2 took the field into the money but not until the late evening hours, at which point Dale Phillips bubbled the tournament and allowed players like Dan Heimiller, Pat Pezzin, Huck Seed, and Jeff Lisandro to cash. But that was as far as they got, as the 12-hour rule kicked in and the night ended with 23 players remaining. Michael Chow was the chip leader with 600K going into the final day.
June 14 was Day 3, and it started with those 23 players and quickly started the eliminations to move toward the final table:
23rd place: Barry Hartheimer ($17,138)
22nd place: “Miami” John Cernuto ($17,138)
21st place: Michael Watson ($17,138)
20th place: Jose de Paz ($17,138)
19th place: David “Chino” Rheem ($17,138)
18th place: John D’Agostino ($21,582)
17th place: Jean-Robert Bellande ($21,582)
16th place: Steve Zolotow ($21,582)
15th place: David Baker ($27,401)
14th place: Tai Nguyen ($27,401)
13th place: Mikael Thuritz ($27,401)
12th place: Oleg Shamardin ($34,814)
11th place: Eric Baldwin ($34,814)
The last ten players were seated at one table, though one more person had to be eliminated before it was deemed official. It happened when Mike Sexton and Sammy Farha took to betting after a flop of . The on the turn prompted a bet from Sexton, raise from Farha, and call from Sexton for the remainder of his chips. He turned over , but those aces were beat by the of Farha, who had the full house. The on the river ended it for Sexton, who left in tenth place with $34,814.
The final table was then set with chip counts as follows:
|James Dempsey ||1,535,000 |
|Yueqi Zhu ||997,000 |
|Abe Mosseri ||914,000 |
|Tony Merksick ||764,000 |
|Sammy Farha ||608,000 |
|Michael Chow ||570,000 |
|Sergey Altbregin ||550,000 |
|Eugene Katchalov ||320,000 |
|Steve Wong ||92,000 |
Play got underway amidst Level 21, and the first pot went to Mosseri. But if the caution at play was any indication, the playdown was going to be a long haul.
Wong was short-stacked and did chop twice to stay alive, but he finally moved all-in again, this time from the small blind for his last 56K. Farha and Dempsey went along to see a flop. A bet and call took them to the on the turn, which they checked. They also checked the on the river, and Farha showed , which gave him a pair of tens. Wong had a smaller pair with his , and Steve Wong was eliminated in ninth place with $44,619.
As the last eight players went to dinner, Dempsey was in the lead with 1,630,000, followed by Zhu and Mosseri. Altbregin was the short stack with just 225K. When play resumed, Altbregin tripled up, Merksick climbed a bit, and Katchalov doubled through Mosseri.
It was Mosseri in trouble after the Katchalov double-up and through other pots that thinned his stack. He finally got involved with Zhu to see a flop, at which point he moved all-in with , and Zhu called with . The on the turn and gave Zhu the top two pair, and Abe Mosseri was ousted in eighth place with $57,552.
Katchalov had dominated play during the first two days of action but suddenly found himself on the other end of the leaderboard. He pushed the remainder of his chips all-in preflop, and Farha and Altbregin went along to the flop. Farha bet and Altbregin checked to the on the turn. Both players checked it, as they did the on the river. Katchalov showed for two pair, but Altbregin turned over for the winning hand. Eugene Katchalov departed in seventh place with $74,670.
As Farha moved up the leaderboard, Chow was on his way down. He finally moved all-in preflop with , and Dempsey challenged with . The board brought , and the uneventful cards eliminated Michael Chow in sixth place, for which he was awarded $97,508.
Farha continued to dominate, though Dempsey slowly but surely chipped up. Altbregin was able to take the biggest pot of the tournament thus far from Farha and Dempsey, allowing him to get into safer chip territory.
But when Merksick was on the losing end of a scoop by Zhu, it was the next hand that was do or die for Merksick. Action was capped preflop with Merksick, Altbregin, Zhu, and Dempsey all along for the ride. After the flop, more betting led to the on the turn, at which point Merksick called all-in. The on the river prompted a bet from Zhu, fold from Altbregin, and call from Dempsey. Dempsey tabled , but that couldn’t beat the and full house of Zhu. Merksick showed for the losing hand. The fifth place money of $128,097 went to Tony Merksick.
Four-handed play found Zhu at the top of the leaderboard with Farha working hard to regain his lead. But it was Altbregin who started as the short stack and found himself in more danger when he was quartered.
Altbregin then went to battle with Zhu, and the all-in play came after the flop appeared. Zhu showed for top two pair, and Altbregin turned over for top pair only. The on the turn and on the river ended the tournament for Sergey Altbregin, who walked away with $169,368 for the fourth place finish.
As the final three players continued the action, it was Zhu who took the worst of it. Being relegated to a short stack prompted an all-in and double-up, but he needed to make another move. Zhu pushed all-in preflop with against the of Dempsey, and the two watched the board come . Dempsey flopped the low and turned the wheel for the high. Yuegi “Richard” Zhu was eliminated in third place with $225,326.
Exact chip counts were not given at the start of heads-up play, but it was noted that a few pots into it had Farha with 4.3 million and Dempsey with 2.1 million.
Farha dominated throughout much of the match, though Dempsey wasn’t afraid to risk some double-ups. He successfully doubled several times during the first hour or so and ultimately evened the chip stacks. The battle lasted several hours in total, as the exhausted players continued to stay focused and intent upon winning.
One hand changed everything, and it came after sunrise when the two got involved on a board. Farha had for the full house on the end, and Dempsey was left with only 200K as a result.
Dempsey then pushed all-in on the next hand holding , and Farha called with . The board was dealt as , and though both players could claim the tens, Farha’s J-9 bested Dempsey’s J-8. James Dempsey finished the tournament in second place with $301,790.
Long-time poker pro Sammy Farha claimed his third bracelet - the third in Omaha as well, and with the Event 25 victory, he walked away with $488,237 to go with the gold.