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Considering he has a record eleven World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelets, the old saying “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” wouldn’t quite be appropriate, but it must feel like that for Phil Hellmuth this summer.  Early Tuesday morning, Hellmuth fell just shy of his twelfth bracelet for the second time at the 2011 WSOP, finishing runner-up to Arlington, Virginia’s Eric Rodawig in Event #33, the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship.  It was Rodawig’s first ever bracelet and third WSOP cash of his career, earning him $442,183.

In addition to Hellmuth, it was a star-studded final table, including the likes of John Racener, David Benyamine and Ted Forrest, not to mention strong players such as Joe Tehan and Ali Eslami.  It was a long day for this group, as unlike many events, the final day did not start with the final table.  For this event, Day 3 began with 18 of the 168 players remaining (just 16 got paid) and played all the way down to a champion.  The first hand was dealt at about 3:00pm local time and half a day later, at around 3:30am, Rodawig took out Hellmuth.

Going into final table play, Rodawig had a huge chip lead.  With 1,855,000 chips, he had more than the next two players – Benyamine with 918,000 and Forrest with 794,000 – combined.  Hellmuth sat in the middle of the pack with 444,000, though he lost almost half of that on the first hand.  The short stack, Eslami, was the first one to bow out, getting all of his chips in the pot before fourth street was dealt.  He had a decent starting hand with split fours, but so did Forrest.  Forrest took a big lead right away when he was dealt an Ace, giving him two pair.  After Eslami pulled a 7 and a 3 before the river, he had a chance to split the pot with the low, but his 7 paired, giving him no qualifying low hand.

Tehan was the next to be shown the rail.  With nothing but a check-call for the action through sixth street, Rodawig put Tehan all in on seventh street with Tehan showing 4-8-4-Q.  Rodawig was showing just 9-8-A-7, but he had a J-T in the hole for a straight, while Tehan only had pocket Aces (one was dealt on seventh street) for Aces up.

In the meantime, Ted Forrest was on a roller coaster ride, pushing his stack above a million, falling all the way down to just over 100,000, and then climbing back up to over 800,000, while Hellmuth was languishing near or at the bottom of the ladder.  Just around 11:00pm, though, Hellmuth doubled through Rodawig, beginning his ascent.

At about midnight, Mikhail Savinov found himself all-in on fourth street against Benyamine.  Savinov had a solid enough hand at that point – 7-7-6-4, giving him chances at the high and low, while Benyamine held A-Q-3-A.  Savinov took the lead with another 6 on sixth street, but Benyamine spiked a Queen on seventh street, giving him a better two pair.  Savinov couldn’t improve either his high or low hands, so he was out in sixth place.

Just after that, Benyamine was surprisingly eliminated.  After losing more than half his chips to Forrest, he got involved in a big hand with Hellmuth, as he pondered making an all-in call on the river.  Hellmuth was showing A-9-K-7, nothing too threatening, so Benyamine made the call with T-6-J-K out for everyone to see.  Hellmuth turned over his other three cards: 8-A-8, giving him Aces up.  To this, Benyamine simply mucked and went off to collect his $96,836 in winnings.

A half hour later, Hellmuth and Racener teamed up to knock out Forrest.  Hellmuth had a relatively weak high hand for stud, just Kings, but that wasn’t what concerned Forrest, as he was going for the low half of the pot.  His low hand wasn’t bad – 3-4-6-7-8 – but Racener hit a 5 on seventh street, giving him A-2-4-5-7 and a better low hand.  That was all she wrote for Forrest, as he was eliminated in fourth place.  That put Racener and Hellmuth on about equal terms with one and a quarter million chips each, while Rodawig had them each doubled.

Racener was up and down for the next couple hours, finally having to get his last few chips in the pot after the initial deal.  Hellmuth and Rodawig checked it down until seventh street, when Hellmuth threw out a bet, chasing Rodawig from the pot.  Neither Racener nor Hellmuth had improved since their hole cards were dealt, but Hellmuth’s Queens bested Raceners Sevens, so Racener was out in third place.

Going into heads-up play, Rodawig had an almost 3-to-1 advantage on Hellmuth, leading 3,700,000 to 1,300,000.  Hellmuth got hit hard early, but fought valiantly for the better part of an hour before finally falling to Rodawig.  On the final hand, Hellmuth got all of his chips in with J-T-9 and was called by Rodawig, who held A-8-3.  Fourth street was a 2 for Rodawig and a 5 for Hellmuth, so nothing exciting, but on fifth street, Rodawig paired that 2 to take the lead.  He then made another pair on sixth street while Hellmuth continued to brick.  On the final card, Hellmuth had just three outs to make a gutshot straight, but none of them appeared, giving Rodawig the title, $442,183 in prize money, and his first WSOP bracelet.

WSOP Event #33: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship

  1. Eric Rotawig – $442,183
  2. Phil Hellmuth – $273,233
  3. John Racener – $171,122
  4. Ted Forrest – $123,904
  5. David Benyamine – $96,836
  6. Mikhail Savinov – $77,222
  7. Joe Tehan – $62,710
  8. Ali Eslami – $51,750

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