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The first weekend of action is underway at the 2017 World Series of Poker, but action from earlier in the week has already handed out two bracelets. On Thursday night, Bryan Hollis emerged as the champion of the Casino Employees’ Event, while action on Friday saw Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov defeat a difficult field of opponents to take the $10,000 Tag Team Championship.

Event #1 – $500 Casino Employees’ Event

11 players came back to the tables on Thursday afternoon to take care of the unfinished business of crowning a champion. Starting the day, Chris Gallagher (519K in chips) held an ever so slight lead over Chris Solomon (513K) in the pursuit of the $68,817 first place bounty. The players just needed to eliminate one player to get to the unofficial final table, which happened rather quickly when Nathan Bolinger was eliminated by Alex Cordova after only a couple of hands of action.

Hollis didn’t get off to the best start once the unofficial final table was seated. He would double up Josh Clanton to fall to the bottom of the leaderboard and barely kept his head above water as Haviv Bahar (eliminated 10th place, no official WSOP final table appearance), Victor Kim and Vincent Russell left the festivities. Hollis, who kept shoving but couldn’t find a dance partner, finally got a big double up when Solomon looked him up with an inferior A-3 against Hollis’ A-9. Hollis would use those chips to get healthier in knocking out Gallagher (who bled chips all afternoon) in seventh place, with Hollis cracking the 500K mark.

Solomon led the pack at this point, the only player over the one million mark in chips (1.36 million, to be exact), and his mountain of chips only grew from there. After Solomon knocked off Adem Arbuckle in sixth to pass the 1.5 million mark and then Cordova in fifth to pass 2.2 million, he held nearly two-thirds the chips in play. Solomon was living right because, after he eliminated Jermel Stephens in fourth place (and running down a set of jacks from Josh Clanton) after turning a straight with a 7-3, Solomon sat at 2.5 million and seemed to be in command.

That would be the apex of the day for Solomon, however. Within ten hands of knocking off Stephens, Solomon would double up both Clanton and Hollis, with Hollis taking over the lead with his double. Hollis used those chips from the double up to knock off Clanton in third place, sending him to heads up action against Solomon with Hollis holding a nearly 700K chip lead. Instead of a quick fight for the championship, however, the duo decided to make it a lengthy showdown.

Solomon doubled out of the gate, putting Hollis in more than a 3:1 hole, but Hollis would work his way back to the lead with his own double after a dozen hands of action. It would be a lead that Hollis would never relinquish as, on the penultimate hand, Hollis three-bet a Solomon raise pre-flop to see a K-9-3 flop. Hollis made a continuation bet and, after Solomon chose that moment to make his stand with an all-in, immediately made the call and turned up K-J for top pair. Solomon had been caught; his 10-5 was a complete whiff and, after an eight came on the turn, that whiff turned into the end of his tournament life in crowning Bryan Hollis the champion of the Casino Employees’ Event.

1. Bryan Hollis, $68,817
2. Chris Solomon, $42,508
3. Josh Clanton, $29,372
4. Jermel Stephens, $20,629
5. Alex Cordova, $14,731
6. Adem Arbuckle, $10,698
7. Chris Gallagher, $7903
8. Vincent Russell, $5941
9. Victor Kim, $4547

Event #2 – $10,000 Tag Team No Limit Hold’em World Championship

On Friday, the final six teams in the Tag Team event came back to decide who would reign supreme. Would it be the chip leaders, Team Negreanu (Daniel Negreanu, Eric Wasserson, David Benyamine and Mark Gregorich) who would ride their 1.498 million chips to the title? Or would it be Team McClain (Mike McClain, Anthony Ajlouny, and David Fong, 932K) or Team Boeree (Liv Boeree and paramour Igor Kurganov, 900K) who would take the championship? Then there were the “shorties,” Team Mandavia (Ankush Mandavia and Joe Kuether, 800K), Team Jacobson (former World Champion Martin Jacobson and Mark Radoja, 632K) and Team Gomez (Javier Gomez and Lander Lijo, 287K), who all had enough chips to still pose a threat to the upper echelons.

The players were content to shuffle chips around for the first hour of the final table, but something had to give at some point. That would happen in a clash between Kurganov and Radoja when, after Kurganov raised and Radoja defended his big blind, the two saw a seemingly innocent 6-5-3 flop. Radoja checked his option, then came to life with an all-in after Kurganov put a bet out. Kurganov wasn’t going anywhere, making the call and turning up his leading pocket eights against Radoja’s 10-6. That lead didn’t change after the trey on the turn or the deuce on the river, knocking out Team Jacobson in sixth place and pushing Boeree and Kurganov into contention.

Now with a threat to their position, Team Negreanu would get into action in taking out Team Gomez when the namesake of Team Negreanu won the race with his pocket nines over Gomez’s A-10. With that knockout, Team Negreanu moved past the two million mark, but Team Boeree kept on their heels with their own knockout of Team McClain to also pass the two million point as the tournament worked into the late afternoon hours.

Team Mandavia, working with a short stack against the two power stacks, began to make some moves at this point. They would work their way past Team Negreanu to take over second place but, after Kurganov eliminated Negreanu to send his squad home in third place, Team Mandavia was facing more than a 2:1 deficit against Team Boeree as heads up play began.

Mandavia put on an outstanding display of poker, eventually working back to even against Kurganov and even eking out a lead at a couple of points over the span of 50 hands. Kurganov would eventually reestablish Team Boeree’s lead, however, and on Hand 268 the end would come. On a Q-9-8-J-K board that both players checked to the river, Mandavia would put out a bet on the river to light the afterburners. After Kurganov moved all in, Mandavia agonized over the decision but eventually made the call. Kurganov unveiled his A-10 for the turned straight and the rivered Broadway straight while Mandavia’s Q-10 (turned second nut straight) came up short, dramatically earning the championship for Team Boeree and the second and third bracelets of the 2017 WSOP.

1. Team Boeree (Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov), $273,964
2. Team Mandavia (Ankush Mandavia and Joe Kuether), $169,323
3. Team Negreanu (Daniel Negreanu, Eric Wasserson, David Benyamine and Mark Gregorich), $119,753
4. Team McClain (Mike McClain, Anthony Ajlouny and David Fong), $86,237
5. Team Gomez (Javier Gomez and Lander Lijo), $63,253
6. Team Jacobson (Martin Jacobson and Mark Radoja), $47,271

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