It is the last weekend ahead of the start of the $10,000 World Championship – the “Main Event” – at the 2018 World Series of Poker. There is still some business to wrap up, however, with some of the preliminary events. In one tournament, a previously unknown player was able to rout a trio of legendary pros to walk off with his first WSOP bracelet, while it will take another day for the $10K Razz Championship to find a victor.
Event #53 – $1500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo Eight or Better
On Thursday 20 players returned for the final day of battle in the $1500 PLO, with a long day of playing poker ahead of them. Leading the chip counts was Nathan Gamble with his 834,000 stack, but it was the talent that was in the remainder of the field which drew the attention of the railbirds. Among the other 19 players than Gamble, 17 WSOP bracelets were represented, including Daniel Negreanu, Mike Matusow, Eli Elezra and Quinn Do (among others). Thus, it was going to be a difficult path for anyone to work their way through if they were going to win the championship.
Although Gamble started the day with the lead, that quickly disappeared. Joey Couden bounced Brad Albrinck from the tournament in the biggest hand of the event to that point, his A-K-9-6 leaving Albrinck’s A-K-8-3 drawing dead after the 9-5-K-9 flop and turn. That pot shot Couden up over a million in chips (1.3 million, to be exact) and a new sheriff was in town.
It was still anyone’s tournament to take once the final table was determined. Elezra staked his claim to the bracelet by knocking off Negreanu in ninth place and Gregory Jamison in eighth, but Couden would counter by sending Dustin Pattinson to the rail in seventh. Bruno Fitoussi, who had been quiet to this point, got in the mix in eliminating Kim Kallman in sixth place. After Elezra sent Christopher Conrad from the tournament in fifth place, Couden was looking at Fitoussi, Elezra and Matusow as his remaining opposition, a great “dream table” lineup but not one you’d want to see for a tremendous amount of cash and a WSOP bracelet.
It didn’t phase Couden, however. Couden bested Matusow in a “flush over flush” situation for a 1.3 million pot that left Matusow on fumes and Couden holding 3.4 million chips. Fitoussi would finish off “The Mouth” in fourth place but, after Couden dispatched Elezra in third, Couden would enter heads up against the legendary French pro with nearly a 3:1 advantage.
Couden would never let Fitoussi see the light of day, a glimpse of what the championship might look like. Over almost 90 minutes of play, Couden kept Fitoussi at a distance before finding the hand to end the festivities. All the chips went to the center with Fitoussi holding a K-K-Q-2 against Couden’s A-Q-5-3 and the “flop gods” went against the Frenchman. Coming down 8-A-6, Couden flopped the low (8-6-5-3-A) to guarantee a split pot and, with the Ace, bested Fitoussi’s Kings. A ten on the turn didn’t offer any help and, once the trey came off on the river, the hand and the championship were pushed to Couden after battling through a triumvirate of poker’s best.
1. Joey Couden, $244,370
2. Bruno Fitoussi, $150,990
3. Eli Elezra, $106,183
4. Mike Matusow, $75,708
5. Christopher Conrad, $54,738
6. Kim Kallman, $40,141
7. Dustin Pattinson, $29,862
8. Gregory Jamison, $22,541
9. Daniel Negreanu, $17,268
Event #56 – $10,000 Razz Championship
It is going to take overtime to determine the victor of the $10,000 Razz Championship. Start of day chip leader Calvin Anderson and former WSOP Player of the Year Frank Kassela will have to come back to the Rio on Saturday (like they weren’t going to be there anyway) to finish off Friday’s work and determine who will take their next WSOP bracelet.
13 players started the day on Friday with the dream of working to the title. Anderson held a slim 121,000 chip lead over 2018 WSOP bracelet winner John Hennigan with a wealth of poker talent behind them. Players such as Mike Leah, Dzmitry Urbanovich, Allen Kessler, Paul Volpe, Ted Forrest and Kassel were arranged behind them as the day’s festivities began.
Although Eric Rodawig was on the short stack to start the day, it was Forrest who would depart before him. Once Forrest, Rodawig, Volpe and Ismael Bojang were sent away in thirteenth through tenth places, the unofficial final table of nine was set with Anderson still cruising in the lead. Kessler would the unfortunate “bubble boy” as his eight-six was pipped by Urbanovich’s eight-five (remember, the object is to make the worst hand possible) to shut down “The Chainsaw” in ninth place.
At this point, Anderson and Kassela began to separate themselves from the pack. Urbanovich, Hennigan, Alex Balandin, Jerry Wong and Leah would bring the table down to three as Martini, Kassela and Anderson squared off in an extensive battle. Martini would eventually succumb to Kassela, however, setting up the heads-up match between the three-time bracelet winner Kassela and the one-time champion Anderson.
Over the next FIVE hours, the duo would battle it out. Each man was in the lead at one point or another and, simultaneously, each man was at some point nearly out of the tournament. After the end of the tenth level of the day – the WSOP curfew for tournaments – with the clock passing 3AM, officials put a stop to the action and asked the duo to return on Saturday to finish the tournament.
Calvin Anderson, 4.585 million
Frank Kassela, 1.37 million
The action will resume on the “overtime” Day 4 on Saturday at 2PM (Pacific Time) as one of these men will earn the $309,220 and the WSOP bracelet for their efforts.