2017 World Series of Poker: ‘The Dragon’ Strikes, Kassela Defeats Lee in Single Draw



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Two more bracelets were awarded last night in action at the 2017 World Series of Poker. In both instances, it was two veterans of the game – including a former WSOP Player of the Year – who took down the gold.

Event #12 – $1500 No Limit Hold’em

In a final table that was dominated by a final mano y mano heads up battle, veteran poker professional David ‘The Dragon’ Pham earned his third WSOP bracelet after defeating Jordan Young.

Plenty of people on the rail thought this would be an extended battle, especially since there were 23 players to work through to get to the champion. Australia’s Melissa Gillett led the way with her 3.443 million chips and you had to look quite some way back to see who would challenge her. Aditya Agarwal, holding 1.286 million chips, and Billy Rodgers (1.277 million) were the next closest competitors. For his part, Pham was almost an afterthought in the tournament, starting the day with only 356,000 chips to rank amongst the bottom dwellers on the leaderboard.

Gillett came out of the gate fast, busting two players within moments of the opening bell, a still held a monstrous lead once the remaining 18 players were redrawn into two tables. To his advantage, Pham had Gillett on his immediate right, and it turned out that would influence the futures for both players. With one player left to be eliminated before the official final table was set, Pham and Gillett clashed with Pham pocket Kings putting a cooler on Gillett’s pocket Jacks. With that double up, Pham soared up the standings to almost a million and a half chips, setting the stage for his run at glory.

Gillett would bring the players to the official final table with her elimination of Marquis McCain, but a new leader had emerged. Nathan Pfluger (2.35 million) and Young (2.28 million) were now on top of the standings and the entire field was much closer together in counts than at the start of the day. As the final table action began, Gillett was one of the most aggressive players on the felt, while Pham was looking for his moments.

Pham found one of those moments in eliminating Agarwal in ninth place, his pocket deuces standing against Agarwal’s Big Slick, while Gillett found hers in doubling through Pfluger. There was a big difference, however; Pham’s patience saw his stack slowly work up, while Gillett’s constant action saw her stack work in the opposite direction, especially after she lost a significant pot to Young on a missed flush draw.

Pham’s stack grew with the elimination of Rodgers in seventh place, while Young increased his lead in knocking off Pfluger in sixth to crack the four million chips mark. In fact, Young was the “destroyer of worlds” as he rumbled through Kevin Trettin in fifth and Gillett in fourth before Pham set up for the heads-up match by eliminating Roman Korenev in third. Down to the final two, Young (8.9 million) held more than a 2:1 lead over Pham (4.3 million).

The heads-up battle would last for an astonishing 135 hands – longer than the final table had played – with Young working his chip stack over 11 million (and Pham down to about two million) halfway through the fight. Pham would get a key double, his trip Kings besting Young’s Aces up, to narrow the gap, and turned the tables over the next 15 hands to move out to his own 2:1 lead. Young, however, showed just as much resilience as Pham when, after getting down to his last 600K in chips, he fought for the next 47 hands, refusing to give into the “dragon attack.”

On the final hand (Hand 230), Pham put the pressure on a short-stacked Young and Young only needed to see one card – the A♠ – before making the call. It was a seven that went with Young’s Ace, good enough for the pre-flop chip lead over Pham’s K-9 off suit, and the 5-4-3-Q flop and turn looked as if it were going to let the tournament continue. A King came on the river, though, turning the results on their ear in earning Pham the championship, his first bracelet win in 10 years.

1. David ‘The Dragon’ Pham, $391,960
2. Jordan Young, $242,160
3. Roman Korenev, $174,559
4. Melissa Gillett, $127,180
5. Kevin Trettin, $93,667
6. Nathan Pfluger, $69,741
7. Billy Rodgers, $52,503
8. Huihan Wu, $39,969
9. Aditya Agarwal, $30,774

Event #13 – $1500 No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw

Another epic battle took place on Wednesday night as Frank Kassela, the 2010 WSOP Player of the Year and a two-time WSOP bracelet winner, denied start-of-day (and much of the final table) chip leader Bernard Lee his first WSOP bracelet in one of the most difficult disciplines of poker, 2-7 Lowball Draw.

Lee’s 571,000 in chips weren’t a massive leader over Matt Waxman (395,500) and Kassela (365,500) at the six-handed final table and, with the volatile nature of the game (one where drawing low is key – a 2-3-4-5-7 is the best hand, hence its name), it was figured that someone would come after him. That person turned out to be Kassela, who eliminated Stuart Rutter in sixth and Jared Bleznick in fifth within the first hour of action to take over the lead. An unruffled Lee came back, however, and retook the lead from Kassela within moments of Bleznick’s elimination.

Tim McGuigan made the quartet a trio in eliminating Waxman in fourth place, making a ten-low against Waxman’s Jack-low, and began a run of his own that would see him momentarily move into the lead. Lee, however, would calmly recapture the lead as McGuigan’s mojo ran dry, with Kassela eliminating him in third place. Down to heads up, Lee (1.34 million) held more than a 2:1 lead over Kassela (620K).

Over the course of the next three-plus hours, the duo of Lee and Kassela battled it out. Kassela kept himself alive in winning small pots and Lee never could find a hand to put him away. After 210 minutes of action, Kassela caught a bit of a rush and took over the lead. On the penultimate hand, Lee moved his stack to the center and Kassela, after getting a count, made the call and stood pat. Lee took one card for his efforts as Kassela laid out his hand – a J-10-7-5-4 for a Jack low. Lee laid out the four cards he had kept – a 9-4-3-2 for a run at a nine perfect – but once he turned over another nine for a pair, Kassela won the hand and the championship.

1. Frank Kassela, $89,151
2. Bernard Lee, $55,086
3. Tim McGuigan, $37,032
4. Matt Waxman, $25,451
5. Jared Bleznick, $17,890
6. Stuart Rutter, $12,868

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