ESPN began its coverage of the 2010 World Series of Poker with the $50,000 buy-in Poker Player’s Championship, an 8-game tournament for the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy that replaced the HORSE tourney of previous years. To accommodate the network, it was agreed that the final table would revert to a no limit holdem format. Unfortunately, ESPN decided ONLY to shoot the final table, and as a result, the viewers were deprived of being able to see anything other than no limit holdem, despite the fact that only 1/8 of the tournament was played that way. So the versatility of the final table participants, and how they moved through the incredibly tough field, was never on display.
Despite the fact that it would be played with no limit holdem only, the final table still had just eight players, rather than nine. The big story was the presence of two of the Mizrachi brothers, Michael (hereafter referred to as “Grinder”) and Robert (who will be called Robert M.). They were joined by John Juanda, Daniel Alaei, David Oppenheim, David Baker, Mikael Thuritz and Vladimir Shchemelev. Oppenheim was by far the short stack, with just 460,000 chips.
ESPN added a new wrinkle to this year’s coverage, with the player’s table position shown next to his cards, which helped in better understanding player strategies. The first player eliminated was Thuritz, who was unfortunate enough to run his pocket kings into Shchemelev’s aces. Thuritz was reduced to a single chip after the board brought no help, which was at risk in the big blind on the next deal, when Alaei limped for 40,000 with Q-J. The Grinder also came in with K-9, as did Oppenheim with A-8, Robert M. with 7-5 on the button, and Baker with in the small blind. The Grinder hit the jackpot on a flop of 7-9-9, and he bet 50,000, which only Oppenheim called. The came on the turn, and Grinder bet 125,000, only to have Oppenheim raise to 425,000 with just a straight draw! Grinder called, and the seemingly harmless was the river card. Grinder checked, but Oppenheim bet 550,000! Grinder agonized, but finally folded the best hand. Thuritz actually survived, since he had a three in his hand, but went out in 8th place soon after.
With the blinds up to 25,000-50,000, with a 15,000 chip ante, Alaei limped in with K-Q, only to have Oppenheim raise to 225,000 with pocket aces. Alaei called, and then hit an unfortunate top pair on a flop of 10-4-K. He checked, but when Oppenheim bet 300,000 into the 630,000 chip pot, Alaei pushed all-in, and Oppenheim snap called. Alaei hit the on the turn to take the lead, but the on the river gave Oppenheim a better two pair to cripple Alaei, and vaulted Oppenheim, the short stack at the beginning of the day, into the chip lead with over 4.5 million chips!
Alaei went out in 7th place when he pushed all-in with but lost to Shchemelev’s A-K when the board came out all blanks for both. He was quickly followed by Baker, whose A-J lost to The Grinder’s A-K when Grinder paired his king and Baker couldn’t catch up.
With the blinds at 30,000-60,000 and a 15,000 chip ante, Grinder and Oppenheim went at it again. Oppenheim raised to 175,000 under the gun with pocket fours, and Grinder called in the big blind with A-Q. The flop brought Q-4-5 with two spades. Grinder checked, and Oppenheim decided to bet his flopped set, firing out 235,000. Grinder raised to 735,000 and Oppenheim smooth called. The turn card was the , and Grinder bet one million chips, whereupon Oppenheim went all-in. With 6,655,000 in the pot, Grinder needed 2.73 million to call, and perhaps remembering the big bluff that Oppenheim ran on him earlier, finally chose to make the call, but was drawing dead. Oppenheim took a huge chip lead with the 9,385,000 chip pot, and Grinder was left with less than a million chips.
In a hand that made almost no one happy other than the other three players who moved up on the pay scale, Grinder knocked out his brother Robert. After Grinder raised on the button to 200,000 with Q-J, Robert pushed all-in for 665,000 total with A-10. The Grinder caught a jack on the turn, and Robert Mizrachi was eliminated in 5th place.
The next to fall was Juanda, who had become short stacked and pushed all-in under the gun with . Shchemelev made the call with pocket tens, and the board of A-4-A-3-Q was no help to the 2008 WSOP Europe Main Event champion, and Juanda exited in 4th place.
With three players left, and the blinds at 45,000-90,000, with a 25,000 chip ante, Shchemelev raised to 250,000 on the button with A-4 offsuit. Grinder then re-raised to 600,000 with K-Q, but Oppenheim went all-in over the top for 3.3 million. Shchemelev folded, but Grinder, who had taken back the chip lead by winning two big pots from Oppenheim earlier, decided to make the call. Oppenheim showed pocket eights, and they were off to the races. The flop of 9-6-4 and the 7 on the turn left Grinder praying for a miracle, and the rivered queen delivered, knocking Oppenheim out in 3rd place, and leaving Grinder with a lead of 10,135,000 to 7,270,000 over Shchemelev going into heads-up play.
The expectation was that Grinder, the grizzled professional, would walk all over Shchemelev, the Russian businessman and “amateur” player (little did anyone know what a huge mark Shchemelev was going to make on the entire WSOP!). However, in the beginning of heads-up play, the Russian used Grinder’s own natural aggression against him, repeatedly letting Grinder do his betting for him when Shchemelev held the better hand. Shchemelev wound up holding a 3:1 chip lead, when the critical hand of the tournament took place.
With the stakes at 50,000-100,000-30,000, Grinder raised to 200,000 with , only to have Shchemelev re-raise to 750,000 with . Grinder then pushed all-in, only to have Shchemelev make the call. The flop brought , turning the hand into a coin flip. Shchemelev made a straight when the fell on the turn, but Grinder caught the on the river to double up and move back into the lead.
Being so close to victory only to have it cruelly snatched away seemed to finally cause Shchemelev to crumble somewhat, and Grinder kept extending his lead to the point where he was up by almost 7:1. He then raised to 225,000 with , which Shchemelev called with . The flop of Q-8-A gave Shchemelev middle pair, but he checked, as did Grinder. Grinder hit bottom pair on the turn card of the , but both checked again. When the river brought the , Shchemelev finally bet, putting out 250,000, only to have Grinder put in a seeming overbet to two million! Shchemelev took the bait and made the call, and was down to just a few hundred thousand chips.
Grinder then put him all-in with Q-5, and Shchemelev called with Q-8. To put the exclamation point on a very fortunate turn of events, Grinder caught a 5 on the turn, and when Shchemelev couldn’t catch in return on the river, Grinder had won his first bracelet, setting the stage for a remarkable 2010 WSOP for both he and his brothers!
Here at PokerWorks, we will be following the coverage leading up to the climactic November Nine Main Event final table. See you next week!