The story at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) over the weekend was the incredible battle between all-time greats John Juanda and Phil Hellmuth in the $10,000 2-7 No-Limit Draw Lowball Championship. It would have been interesting enough had it just revolved around Juanda winning his fifth gold bracelet, but the attention of the poker world was squarely on Hellmuth, who just missed an unprecedented twelfth WSOP victory. It comes as no surprise, then, that other tournaments at the Rio went largely ignored, but we’re here today to fill you in on the other bracelets that were handed out over the weekend.
Event #13 – $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout
Connecticut’s Andrew Badecker won his first ever WSOP bracelet early Saturday morning, emerging triumphant in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout. For those unfamiliar with this unique tournament structure, a shootout is really just a series of single table tournaments, with the winner of each advancing to the next round, where they reseat and do it all again until there is one player left standing from a final table comprised of multi-round winners. 1,440 players started at 144 tables on Wednesday and everyone who made it to Day 2 made the money.
It was a tough final table, with four bracelet winners – Erik Cajelais, David Pham, Dan Kelly, and Vitaly Lunkin – all looking to add to their collections, but the best any of them could do was fifth place. Badecker, who just moved to Las Vegas for the summer, but was considering permanent relocation to pursue a poker career, became the thirteenth consecutive first-time winner at this summer’s WSOP.
1. Andrew Badecker – $369,371
2. Robbie Verspui – $228,334
3. Daniel Makowsky – $151,379
4. Jonathan Spinks – $108,358
5. Erik Cajelais – $79,315
6. Dan Kelly – $58,903
7. Vitaly Lunkin – $44,362
8. Joseph Webber – $33,864
9. David Pham – $26,185
Event #14 – $3,000 Limit Hold’em
Yet another first-time champion was produced in the $3,000 Limit Hold’em event, as Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada native Tyler Bonkowski outlasted 336 fellow competitors to take down the title. As opposed to the previous event, the final table was comprised largely of unknowns, with Shawn Keller and Jeff Shulman, the latter of whom made the 2009 Main Event final table, the only two who casual fans would likely recognize.
Nevertheless, it was a hard fought battle for Bonkowski. Though he began heads-up play with a slight lead over Brandon Demes, he eventually fell way behind, 2,750,000 to just 250,000 chips. That gigantic deficit looked virtually insurmountable, but he battled back to take the lead in short order and the rest, as they say, is history.
In an interview with tournament officials after his win, Bonkowski said, “When I was down 250 thousand, I was really mad. But I didn’t let it affect my play at all. But it was very frustrating. But then I got a couple of hands in a row and I started playing with confidence again and it just kind of went on a roll.”
1. Tyler Bonkowski – $220,817
2. Brandon Demes – $136,419
3. Andrew Brongo – $100,198
4. Shawn Keller – $74,171
5. Matt Sterling – $55,338
6. Mitch Schock – $41,621
7. Casey McCarrel – $31,547
8. Ron Burke – $24,095
9. Jeff Shulman – $18,547
Event #15 – $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em
Guess what? Another first-time bracelet winner! That makes fifteen in a row to start the WSOP, though we know that the streak ended with Juanda’s win in Event #16. This time it was Brian Rast, a cash game specialist. And to think, he came this close (holds fingers a half-inch apart) to not even playing.
Rast had just arrived at his condo at the Panorama Towers in Las Vegas on Thursday morning after a two-month vacation in Brazil with his fiancee. Exhausted, he was likely going to hit the hay, but he ran into his friend, the colorful Antonio Esfandiari, who offered to stake him in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event for a portion of any winnings. So, Rast gave it a go, and wouldn’t you know it, everything worked out perfectly. Rast beat 764 players and Esfandiari got part of the $227,232 first prize.
Also of note is runner-up Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler. An icon of sorts in the poker community, Kessler grinds the tournament circuit, playing almost any tournament of any sort of significance. He is known to be happy to “min-cash,” or just make it into the money to turn a profit, which annoys some, but amuses most. Last year, however, he made a tremendous run, cashing a record eight WSOP events, including a second place finish, good for over $276,000. His first cash this year earned him about half that.
1. Brian Rast – $227,232
2. Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler – $140,309
3. Dajuan Whorley – $91,212
4. Daisuke Endo – $66,994
5. Mika Paasonen – $49,902
6. Ali Eslami – $37,654
7. John Gordon – $28,741
8. Ted Lawson – $22,183
9. Ronald Lee – $17,298