Now entering its third full weekend of action, the 2017 World Series of Poker has been the playground of the professionals over the first few weeks. That trend continued over the past couple of days as two top pros were able to take down their first bracelets respectively.
Event #26 – $10,000 Razz World Championship
Battling through the 97-player field, the final nine men who came to the felt for the Razz world championship were quite well known to poker fans. Heading the pack was James Obst, the longtime Australian pro, with his 818,000-chip stack, but such players as Andrey Zhigalov (782K), David ‘ODB’ Baker (757K) and Eric Kurtzman (737K) were close behind him. Add in bracelet holders Brandon Shack-Harris, Anthony Zinno and Nick Schulman and the table was replete with challenges for Obst.
The game itself – dealt in a Seven Card Stud fashion, but with the objective to make the lowest hand possible (The Wheel, Ace to five) – doesn’t exactly lend itself to stirring action, but the aggressive nature of the players provided some excitement. Obst maintained his lead in making an eight-seven low against Zhigalov to get close to a million chips, but Baker stayed in lockstep with him in chopping some chips away from Shack-Harris’ stack. Obst was the first to break the million-chip mark, however, when he left Schulman with scraps prior to Schulman’s ouster in ninth by Jyri Merivirta.
Obst continued to battle against the field, taking out Jack Duong in eighth, but the heat was rising against him. Zhigalov took out Merivirta in seventh (at the same time devastating the stack of Shack-Harris) and, after Baker finished off Shack-Harris in sixth, Obst for the first time was looking up at someone on the leaderboard. In fact, after Eric Kurtzman took a huge pot against Obst and Zinno, Kurtzman surpassed the two million mark and Obst only was ahead of Zinno in the standings.
The comeback trail began with Obst clipping Zinno for a pot, his nine seven eclipsing Zinno’s nine-eight by a pip, but the action atop the standings were mixing up. Kurtzman would prove to be a force at the final table, building his stack at one point to be larger than his three remaining opponents (Obst, Zinno and Baker) combined, and crossed the three million chip threshold when he was able to force Baker (who had eliminated Zhigalov in fourth place) to fold to a bet on Seventh Street. That stack approached four million when he captured chips from both Obst and Baker in three-handed play and eliminate Baker in third place.
When heads up action began, Obst stared at more than a 3:1 deficit (3.7 million to 1.15 million) chip deficit to Kurtzman. After a break for dinner, Obst would spend about a half-hour whittling the stack of Kurtzman before a huge hand flipped the fortunes of the competitors. With a seven up, Kurtzman was behind the Ace of Obst but raised the action, which Obst called. Fourth and Fifth streets didn’t do anything to change the complexion of the hand, with Obst receiving a deuce and a seven along with his Ace up while Kurtzman got a ten and a nine with his seven up. A second deuce for Obst on Sixth Street paired him and put Kurtzman, who drew a six, on the offensive. His bet on Sixth was raised by Obst, however, which Kurtzman called and saw Kurtzman check-call another bet on the Seventh Street down card. Obst would use the A-2-7 from his first three up cards along with a trey and four from his down (3-4-4, for the record) to make a seven-four low, clipping Kurtzman’s (A-3-4) down cards and his seven-six low (7-10-9-6).
Obst retook the lead at this mark and wouldn’t let it go again. On the final hand, Kurtzman completed (usually indicative of a strong hand instead of posting the bring-in) and Obst called that bet and another from Kurtzman on Fourth Street. On Fifth, Obst raised Kurtzman’s bet while showing a 3-2-5 for his up cards against Kurtzman’s 4-A-3, which Kurtzman called and committed his final chips on a deuce Sixth Street card. Obst called after getting a second five and, after Kurtzman showed (4-4 for no hand) in his down cards, was ahead with his (A-8) in his down cards for an eight-five low. The final down card determined the winner and Obst, after squeezing his card (another Ace) that didn’t improve him, Kurtzman needed a five, six or seven to make a better low. Kurtzman would squeeze and frown as he turned up a Jack, no good for his purposes and giving the pot and the championship to James Obst.
1. James Obst, $265,138
2. Eric Kurtzman, $163,867
3. David ‘ODB’ Baker, $112,645
4. Andrey Zhigalov, $79,616
5. Anthony Zinno, $57,903
6. Brandon Shack-Harris, $43,370
7. Jyri Merivirta, $33,485
8. Jack Duong, $26,674
9. Nick Schulman, $21,946
Event #27 – $3000 Six-Handed No Limit Hold’em
There was still a great deal of work when the players came back to the final day of Event #27 on Friday. 21 players remained and the players were well prepared to grind it out for an extended time for a shot at a WSOP bracelet. As the day began, the United Kingdom’s Max Silver sat on top, the only player over two million chips (2.219 million), while Nacho Barbero, Simeon Naydenov, Samantha Cohen, Steve Sung, Pratyush Buddiga, Chris Moorman and Ryan Tosoc sat behind him poised for attack.
The six-handed game, which drives the action to a faster pace than the usual full nine-handed table, was chock-full of drama even as the day started. Moorman knocked off Tosoc in 20th place and Buddiga took out Barbero in 19th place to bring the field to three tables within the first 30 minutes of play. Over the span of the next three hours, the tournament would be down to less than two tables remaining, with Cohen (17th), Naydenov (16th) and Buddiga (11th) being the notable departures.
At this point, Moorman was only two spots removed from the short stack, but he went on a rush that saw his stack climb. He doubled through Silver to go from the basement to the penthouse (OK, second behind Sung) and maintained about the same stack – two million chips – to the brink of the official final table. After Michael Gagliano eliminated Morten Mortensen in seventh place, he headed to the official final table leading the pack.
Moorman, in the middle of the final six, immediately went on the offensive. He spiked an Ace on the river against Sung to double up, then doubled through Gagliano to rocket to the top of the standings after flopping a set of Queens against Gagliano’s Queens up. Moorman kept his foot on the gas, taking down John Gorsuch in fifth and Sung in fourth to build a whopping eight million chip lead over Gagliano and Bernardo Dias. Even after Dias brought the match to heads up in eliminating Gagliano, he was still almost six million chips behind Moorman.
Give Dias credit, he did NOT go quietly into the Las Vegas night. Over 93 hands and more than three and a half hours of play, he never got close to Moorman but he put up a massive fight. Moorman was finally able to dispose of the tenacious Dias when he called a Dias push with a leading Big Slick over Dias’ K-10. The resulting Queen high board (5-8-8-Q-9) failed to improve Dias, earning Moorman – who seemingly has won everything else in the world of poker – his first WSOP bracelet.
1. Chris Moorman, $498,682
2. Bernardo Dias, $308,166
3. Michael Gagliano, $210,139
4. Steve Sung, $145,634
5. John Gorsuch, $102,605
6. Max Silver, $73,510