Look at any tournament schedule nowadays and you will see a predominance of Texas Hold’em tournaments on the roster. But what is arguably the true test of a poker player is their skills in non-Hold’em games – Stud, Razz, even Omaha. Over the past couple of days, two of the veterans of the game with the best poker nicknames – Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and Greg “FBT (Full Blown Tilt)” Mueller – have captured gold at the 2019 World Series of Poker.
Mizrachi Captures 5th Bracelet over Robert Gray
Coming into the final day on Thursday, Mizrachi led the $1500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better pack, but it was a slim lead. Michael Sopko was right on his heels and Robert Gray was waiting should one of them make a major error. Jan Stein, Elias Hourani and Jose Paz-Gutierrez, all on short stacks of less than seven big blinds each, rounded out the six men who would decide the title.
Paz-Gutierrez was the first departure, running into Sopko’s Aces up (Aces and treys) when his Queens up (Queens and eights) came on the river. Stein exited on the very next hand when Gray made a full house by Fifth Street and Stein could only show a flush for his efforts. Less than an hour into the final day of the tournament, there were only four players left.
Mizrachi, on the other hand, was going in a direction he didn’t want to be going. He would double up Hourani to drop under the million-chip mark as Gray and Sopko stormed past him. At one point, “The Grinder” was in the cellar of the final four players but, true to his nickname, he would come fighting back.
Two big scoops against Sopko pushed Mizrachi back into the mix as the battle raged on. He would take back the lead from Gray in the span of three hands and this time he wouldn’t let go. Mizrachi finished Sopko off in third place to go to heads up against Gray and, over the next two hours, the duo would slug it out.
While Gray was able to move past Mizrachi on a few occasions, he never did draw out to enough of a lead to have “The Grinder” in danger. On the final hand, Mizrachi started off with a (3-9) 8-9 to Gray’s (A-K) 6-K and would only see his hand improve. Sixth Street paired Mizrachi’s trey for two pair as Gray struggled to find something to work with his pair of Kings. Squeezing out the final card, Mizrachi didn’t improve but neither did Gray, giving the bracelet and the championship to Mizrachi.
1. Michael Mizrachi, $142,801
2. Robert Gray, $88,254
3. Michael Sopko, $60,330
4. Elias Hourani, $42,014
5. Jan Stein, $29,818
6. Jose Paz-Gutierrez, $21,575
7. Martin Sawtell, $15,921*
8. Matthew Schultz, $11,986*
(* – part of official WSOP final table)
As if a fifth WSOP bracelet win was necessary evidence, there is plenty of argument for Mizrachi as one of the best players of his generation. Along with his five bracelets (three of them in the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship), “The Grinder” also has two World Poker Tour championships and earned the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year award in 2006. With north of $17 million in career earnings despite NOT playing any “High Roller” events outside the PPC, can it be said that Mizrachi is in the Poker Hall of Fame when he is eligible in 2021?
Mueller Wins 3rd Bracelet after 10-Year Wait
After winning his first two WSOP bracelets within a two-week span in 2009, Greg Mueller was on top of the world. Little did he know that it would take another decade before he would pick up his third piece of championship jewelry. That jewelry came in a big way, in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament on Friday night.
Dario Sammartino came into the final table as THE dominant force, holding over five million in chips while no other players had more than 1.63 million (Craig Chait). Mueller was arguably on life support with only eight big blinds (985K) and had his work cut out for him. He got to work immediately, however, thrusting himself into second place when he scooped the very first hand in Omaha Hi/Lo against Sammartino to nearly double his stack.
Mueller would continue to charge upwards and Sammartino was once again his victim. “FBT” (for “Full Blown Tilt,” his nickname from the Aughts for his propensity to “blow up” when adversity struck) rivered a backdoor flush against Sammartino. As Sammartino came back to the field, other players moved into contention also, including Daniel Ospina and Scott Clements.
The penultimate hand of the tournament came during three-handed play. Sammartino, Ospina and Mueller were battling it out when, in Hold’em, Mueller and Sammartino clashed in a magical hand. The Italian fired away on each street of a 10-3-J-A flop and turn, and Mueller was down to his final chips. Without holding back, Mueller popped those chips to the center and found that his 5-3 – bottom pair – was somehow good against Sammartino’s Q-8 – complete air with a gut shot straight draw. Looking to avoid an eight, nine (straight) or Queen, Mueller got the magical double up when a five on the river gave him two pair and the pot.
This only seemed to fire Mueller up. Eventually he would eliminate Sammartino in Stud Hi/Lo, hitting trip nines against Sammartino’s split sixes and, on the very next hand, dispatch Ospina in second when his split Queens ruled supreme over Ospina’s split eights.
1. Greg Mueller, $425,347
2. Daniel Ospina, $262,882
3. Dario Sammartino, $184,854
4. Scott Clements, $132,288
5. Craig Chait, $96,378
6. Mikhail Semin, $71,505
7. Matthew Gonzales, $54,043
8. Phil Galfond, $41,625*
(* – eliminated on Thursday night, part of official WSOP final table)
Mueller may not play as much as he once did, but he certainly demonstrated he’s still got the skills to play at a high level. It is likely, however, that he doesn’t want to wait another decade before he is in position for his next WSOP bracelet.