With the start of the 2017 World Series of Poker Championship Event today, the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino will be abuzz with action. While Day 1A of poker’s premiere event is sure to garner the most news, there are some preliminary events still wrapping up in the massive Rio tournament rooms, including the first bracelet win for a popular player on the tournament circuit, James Calderaro.

Event #67 – $25,000 Eight Handed Pot Limit Omaha “High Roller”

One of the bigger buy in tournaments on the WSOP schedule, the $25,000 Eight Handed Pot Limit Omaha event didn’t disappoint railbirds in the least. 205 players turned out for the event and, by Friday afternoon, only 20 players were left to vie for the latest WSOP bracelet. At the helm of the pack at the starting gun was Iraj Parvizi, who was nicely stacked with a 3.7 million arsenal. Right behind him, however, were two players who didn’t mind mixing it up in James Calderaro (3 million) and Dario Sammartino (2.675 million). Toss in players like Dan Smith, Ben Tollerene, Ashton Griffin and Esther Taylor, and there were plenty of potential pits for a player to fall into.

Griffin and Taylor clashed early in the day and it seriously damaged one of the contenders. After a Griffin raise, Taylor called out of her small blind and saw a J-8-5 flop. Out of position, Taylor potted and Griffin, not believing Taylor’s story, repotted to put Taylor at risk. She called off her chips and showed a 9-8-7-5 for a flopped two pair and a wealth of redraws at the straight. Griffin, however, might have overplayed his hand, showing an A-A-10-3 for only a pair of Aces (that was out-flopped) and a backdoor nut flush draw. That flush draw was teased on the 9♥ turn, but quashed when a deuce came on the river. After the chips were pushed Taylor’s way, she sat just short of a million chips while Griffin was left with scraps; he would be eliminated in 20th place a few hands later by James Park.

Parvizi bled off some chips in the early action, but it was a massive three-way clash that changed the course of the tournament. After Rifat Palevic limped in from the cutoff, Calderaro powered in a raise off the button and Parvizi defended his small blind. Palevic made the call and the trio saw a very wet 10-9-7 rainbow flop, which Parvizi checked. Palevic put out another bet and, after Calderaro raised the pot, it was obvious a big hand was brewing. That became even more evident after Parvizi dropped his stack in the center of the table and Palevic made the call. Covering them both, Calderaro made the call and the cards were turned up:

Calderaro: J-10-9-8 (flopped Jack-high straight and two pair)
Parvizi: Q-J-10-5 (pair of tens, redraw to Queen-high straight)
Palevic: A-7-7-3 (set of sevens)

Calderaro had the best of it and it only got better. Another nine on the turn brought Palevic back with a boat, sevens over nines, but Calderaro improved to his own boat, nines over tens, that was bigger (Parvizi was done with no chance to win the hand). Looking for the case seven, Palevic didn’t see it come with an eight on the river, eliminating Palevic in sixteenth and Parvizi in fifteenth place as Calderaro took a massive chip lead with his 7.7 million stack.

Calderaro would ride that double knockout to the final table, but he hadn’t won the championship just yet. The aggressive Floridian was knocked down severely when, in a confrontation with Alexey Rybin, Calderaro overplayed an A-A-J-4 against Rybin’s A-A-Q-Q, losing the hand when a Queen came on the flop and the river to earn Rybin the double up. At that time left with only 2.555 million chips (and Rybin surging with 13.14 million), Calderaro had to mount a comeback that stunned many on the rail.

It started with Calderaro doubling through Artem Babakhanyan, getting back to just short of seven million, then going over the nine million mark in taking some chips off Rybin. He would retake the lead in eliminating Babakhanyan in fourth place by hitting a runner-runner straight, but Rybin fought back in eliminating Esther Taylor in third to set up a heads-up battle between the two most aggressive players on the table.

With Rybin holding almost a 2:1 lead, Calderaro might have been expected to try to slow the action and work his stack, but that isn’t Calderaro’s style. Instead, two hands into the heads-up match, Calderaro scored a huge double up to take the lead back from Rybin. On what would prove to be the final hand, all Rybin’s chips would get to the middle, with Rybin’s A-Q-Q-10 actually in outstanding shape against Calderaro’s double suited A♦ K♥ Q♥ 6♦. That edge for Rybin disappeared on the K-10-8 flop, pushing Calderaro into the lead with Kings but giving Rybin a pair of tens and a gut shot straight draw. Another King on the turn left Rybin only looking for the straight draw and, after an eight came on the river to complete the board, Rybin was eliminated in second as James Calderaro claimed his first WSOP bracelet.

1. James Calderaro, $1,289,074
2. Alexey Rybin, $796,706
3. Esther Taylor, $543,713
4. Artem Babakhanyan, $379,128
5. Bryce Yockey, $270,242
6. Dario Sammartino $197,007
7. Dan Smith, $146,961
8. Ben Tollerene, $112,239

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