With the 2010 World Series of Poker Europe wrapping up last week in London, another great tournament series saw plenty of well-known players hit the felt, and some very deserving winners take home some gold. The event was extremely successful and I was able to witness poker history go down first hand once again. Caps off to Harrah’s for putting on a great series of events.
On the schedule this year were two new events: the £2,650 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em and the £10,350 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller Heads-Up. Both events were very successful and saw fields of 244 and 103 come out, respectively.
The big story from the six-handed event was that the one and only Phil Laak finally kicked the monkey off his back and won his first WSOP gold bracelet. This puts Laak in a league with his best friend Antonio Esfandiari and girlfriend Jennifer Tilly, who both have already won gold bracelets. Coming off a record-breaking summer when Laak set the record for the longest session of poker played and a near fatal ATV accident, Laak can now proudly look into his trophy case and see one of the most coveted prizes in poker.
With Laak’s victory taking all the major headlines, one can’t overlook the performance of Chris Bjorin in this event. Bjorin came into the 2010 WSOP Europe tied with Daniel Negreanu with the most cashes at four. Hitting the money meant Bjorin took the lead in that statistic. He went on to reach the final table and tied Howard Lederer for most final tables at the WSOP Europe, and Bjorin wasn't done there either.
The second event was a £5,250 Pot-Limit Omaha event, which saw 120 players hit the felt. Although that number was down from the 154 who came out for the same event in 2009, the field was concentrated with talent. Just look at the final table, which was absolutely stacked with the likes of Chris Bjorin, Felipe Ramos, November Niner John Racener, Jeff Madsen, Joe Serock and Jeffrey Lisandro. And yes, you read that right, Bjorin cashed again and made yet another final table, surpassing Lederer for the most WSOP Europe final tables to date.
Lisandro was the eventual winner of the event, winning his fifth bracelet. Doing so with such a tough field and elite final table is a testament to his poker prowess. Prior to his finish here, Lisandro hadn’t performed too well at the WSOP Europe, only managing one cash in previous years, although it was a final table appearance.
The third event also saw a bit of a decline in the number of entrants. A total of 582 players entered the £1,075 No-Limit Hold’em, which was down from the 608 that played the year before. Still, this event didn’t fail to produce a great story. JP Kelly won this event in 2009 and was in line to go back-to-back after making the final table. He would’ve been the first person to do so in a hold’em event since Phil Hellmuth in the 1990s and would have joined a very elite group of players who have won the same event two years in a row. As if that wasn’t enough, Kelly was in line to smash Phil Ivey’s record being the youngest player ever to win three gold bracelets. It wasn't meant to be though, and the history books would remain untouched as Kelly’s run ended with a runner-up finish. Nevertheless, his performance kept the crowd at the Empire casino on the edge our their seats for hours.
The No-Limit Hold’em High Roller Heads-Up provided as an elite field as the poker world has ever seen. You could probably count the number of player on one hand who were unrecognizable by media members. To top it off, plenty of elite players made it to the money and there were some amazing matches to be witnessed. Huck Seed continued to prove he's one of the best heads-up players in the world, making it to the quarterfinals. Negreanu also made the quarterfinal, but lost there, as well. The final match saw Gus Hansen and Jim Collopy both in line for their first bracelets. Collopy was the young online superstar looking to take down Hansen, the established high-stakes professional who has tons of titles, but yet to win a WSOP gold bracelet.
After three hard fought matches spread out of several days because of scheduling conflicts, Hansen emerged victorious and took home his first bracelet. With four events in the books and only the Main Event left; three of the four events had been won by big-name professionals.
When it came time for the Main Event, the drooling began. Every table spread throughout the Casino at the Empire has five or six big names on it, making for great action to follow at every turn. As the days carried on and players dropped, plenty of notable players were still alive and it looked as though the final table was going to be one of the greatest in history. Freddy Deeb, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Barry Greenstein, Greg Mueller, Jani Sointula, Ivey, Viktor Blom, Barny Boatman and Arnaud Mattern were all still alive when the money bubble broke. Unfortunately, all of them hit the rail before the final table.
Everyone thought the final table would be star studded; however, with only Roland de Wolfe claiming a final table seat, those hopes were dashed. Even so, the final table was extremely exciting to witness. James Bord went on to win the event and if the title was supposed to go to the player with the most electrifying and exhilarating rail, it went to the right person. They cheered on their mate as they would cheer on their favorite football (soccer) team. When the final river card hit the felt and Bord was declared the winner, the place erupted with Bord jumping up and down in his mates’ arms. Security had to hold back the crowd and prevent the railing from collapsing around the final table. It was an amazing scene and one that will stay in my memory for a long time.
Overall, the 2010 WSOP Europe was one of the best tournament series I’ve had the opportunity to be at. It may not boast massive tournament fields that allow for ridiculously large paydays, but the fields were packed with big names, top players won titles and the story lines were exciting and intriguing. You couldn’t really ask for more.
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