Poker News

The Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino and, in particular, the tournament poker arenas were buzzing yesterday at the 2015 World Series of Poker. Coming back to a delayed tournament, Konstantin Maslak came off the short stack in Event #13 to win the WSOP bracelet while U. S. professional players Barry Hutter and Shaun Deeb picked up their first-ever bracelet victories.

Event #13 – $2500 Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Eights or Better

After having the tournament halted early on Saturday morning, three men – chip leader Hani Awad (3.3 million), Benjamin Dobson (1.645 million) and a short stacked Maslak (975,000) – had to come back on Saturday afternoon to complete the tournament. In a surprise, it was Maslak who was able to come back to take down the Event #13 crown.

Maslak had to know he was the target of both the big stacks, but he didn’t let that affect his game. During the opening round of Omaha Hi/Lo, Maslak captured several hands to climb above the million chip mark before, in Stud Hi/Lo, Maslak used two hands to pass both Dobson and Awad. Awad would pick up the challenge of Maslak, taking all of the chips off of Dobson over the span of two hands, to send Dobson to the rail in third place. It also allowed Awad to retake the lead going to heads up play against Maslak.

Both men would hold the lead at some point during their heads up battle as they took over during their fortes. It seemed that Awad had the edge when the game was Stud, but Maslak would take it back over during the Omaha segments. Over the 90 minute contest, though, Maslak was able to limit the losses during Stud play and maximize his wins on the Omaha grind. That Omaha play allowed Maslak to win the tournament in Stud, when he made a flush by Sixth Street to lead Awad drawing dead with his open ended straight draw.

1. Konstantin Maslak, $269,612
2. Hani Awad, $166,583
3. Benjamin Dobson, $105,893
4. Viacheslav Zhukov, $76,357*
5. Tuan Vo, $55,923*
6. Brandon Paster, $41,581*
7. Chris Birchby, $31,379*
8. Jose Paz-Gutierrez, $24,036*

* – eliminated on Friday night

Event #14 – $1500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout

Perfectly drawing in 1000 players for the tournament (an improvement over the 948 players from 2014), Event #14 used two days of play to work their way down to the final ten players that returned on Saturday for action. There was a chance for history on a few fronts as two women, Kitty Kuo and Elizabeth Montizanti, looked to become the first female player to win a WSOP Shootout event. Former “November Niner” Dennis Phillips was also in the mix alongside Barry Hutter, Daniel Strelitz and Benjamin Zamani in looking to earn their first WSOP bracelet also. With everyone starting virtually even in chips (4000 chips separated first from tenth), it was anyone’s WSOP bracelet to take.

At a normal final table, the players would have had some experience playing with each other and would bypass a “feeling out” phase. In the Shootout, however, the ten players were seeing each other for the first time. As such, players didn’t do much during the first level of the day as Anton Smirnov and Hutter stepped away from the pack in garnering over one million chips each. It wasn’t until the 63rd hand of the final table that the first departure would take place when Zamani flushed out Randy Pfeifer in tenth place.

That seemed to wake up Zamani at the minimum as he went on to take out Grayson Ramage in dramatic fashion. A pre-flop raising war saw Ramage get his stack to the center against Zamani with a nice edge, holding pocket Kings against Zamani’s A-Q off suit. An A-J-K flop hit both men, but it kept Ramage in the lead. A ten on the turn changed everything, however, as Zamani took an unlikely lead. A nine on the river cemented that lead into a win, earning Zamani the chips and Ramage the ninth place position.

Zamani would continue to surge up the leaderboard, joined by Kuo in making their moves. By the end of the second level, Kuo had taken over the lead while Hutter, Orson Young and Zamani attempted to keep pace. With eight players still in the mix, it was looking as if it would take well into Sunday morning to determine the champion.

Young and Phillips would team up to beat Sterlitz, knocking him out in eighth place, and after Phillips took down Smirnov in seventh, suddenly he found himself in the mix for the title. Zamani found his previous stride in ending Young’s day in sixth place and Montizanti’s tournament in fifth to push his stack up to 2.6 million for the lead. Even after Hutter eliminated Kuo in fourth, the three men left – Zamani, Hutter and Phillips – were still evenly matched.

Zamani looked to be the one who would end the Shootout event, working his way to over 4.8 million chips by the dinner break as Phillips and Hutter struggled with a little over a million chips each. After the sustenance, Zamani would take out Phillips in third place and, heading off to take on Hutter, sat on a nearly 3:1 lead.

Hutter wasn’t about to give up easily, however. He ground at Zamani’s stack for more than 20 hands, bringing the stacks closer together, and changed his fortunes on Hand 200, when Hutter got three streets of action from Zamani and took a huge pot and the lead with a straight. Hutter now applied the pressure to Zamani and Zamani couldn’t fight back. On the final hand, Zamani would shove pre-flop over Hutter and, after Hutter made the call, had two live cards with his 10-9 off suit against Hutter’s A♣ 6♣.

The Q♣ 3♣ K flop wasn’t exactly what Zamani was looking for, but he added a straight draw to his potential outs. Those outs completely disappeared when a 5♣ came on the turn, giving Hutter the nut flush and leaving Zamani drawing dead. As the dealer prepared to deal the formality of the river (an Ace), Hutter had already joined his rail to celebrate his first WSOP bracelet victory.

1. Barry Hutter, $283,546
2. Benjamin Zamani, $174,771
3. Dennis Phillips, $113,265
4. Kitty Kuo, $82,890
5. Elizabeth Montizanti, $61,560
6. Orson Young, $46,332
7. Anton Smirnov, $35,302
8. Daniel Strelitz, $27,216
9. Grayson Ramage, $21,208
10. Randy Pfeifer, $16,740

Event #15 – $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em World Championship

From a field that only totaled 128 players (20% fewer than the 160 in attendance in 2014), the ten men who made up the unofficial final table of Event #15 were all immediately recognizable. Jason Koon headed a pack that included Shaun Deeb, Paul Volpe, Ismael Bojang, Dario Sammartino, Greg Merson and Sam Stein as the cards hit the air and, with only one player to knock off to reach the “official” final table, the play was aggressive.

The unlucky man who became the final table “bubble boy” was Tom Marchese, who fell at the hands of Stein to take the tenth place position. Only a few hands into the official final table, Merson would find a double up through Volpe that put him in contention. Koon headed in the opposite direction, however, bleeding chips to the point that he was eliminated by Deeb in ninth place on the eighth hand of the day’s play.

Volpe, who has been having an outstanding 2015 WSOP to this point, then went on the offensive. He knocked out Bojang (his Kings standing over Bojang’s Big Slick) in eighth and Kristijonas Andrulis in seventh to push his way up the ladder. The only player he didn’t pass was Deeb, who quietly made his moves without massive eliminations. Once he eliminated Sammartino in sixth place, however, Deeb’s desire for his first WSOP bracelet became evident as he broke the 1.7 million chip mark.

Volpe didn’t let Deeb get too far away, however. He dumped Merson out of the tournament in fifth to firmly take the #2 position, but Deeb would attempt to pull away again in ending Stein’s tournament in fourth place after his pocket nines found a set on the flop against Stein’s pocket tens. The hand against Stein allowed Deeb to eclipse the two million chip mark and solidify his position atop the board.

With the pace of eliminations, many thought the tournament would be done before the dinner break would occur. Instead, the exact opposite occurred. Over the next 130 hands, Jason Les proved to be a substantial opponent for both Deeb and Volpe as he first worked his way back into the event to the point of taking a slim chip lead on occasion. On Hand 173, however, Les’ run was cut short in stunning fashion.

After a pre-flop potting war, Les was all in with an A-9 against Volpe’s A-10. An A-7-7 flop set up the potential for a split pot unless the board paired or one of the players could play their kicker. After a Jack on the turn, the pot was set to be split, but the river would come with a stunner in the form of a 10♣, giving Volpe a better two pair and ending Les’ strong play in third place.

Virtually even in chips at the start of heads up play, Volpe and Deeb wouldn’t take long to determine the champion. Only a few hands into play, Deeb would eke out the lead over Volpe and, on Hand 198, essentially won the tournament.

Volpe came along with Deeb on an A-5-2-7-2 board and attempted to represent a flush on the river with a pot bet of over a million chips. Deeb was undaunted, however, as he announced he was all-in for his stack. Volpe, with only a 10K tournament chip sitting in front of him after his bet, surprisingly chose to fold as Deeb, scooping up every other chip in the tournament, showed him he had the goods with pocket Aces for the flopped full house. Although Volpe would double twice after this, the tournament was essentially over as Deeb captured his first ever WSOP bracelet.

1. Shaun Deeb, $318,857
2. Paul Volpe, $197,048
3. Jason Les, $142,747
4. Sam Stein, $105,364
5. Greg Merson, $79,182
6. Dario Sammartino, $60,545
7. Kristijonas Andrulis, $47,081
8. Ismael Bojang, $37,227
9. Jason Koon, $29,911

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