There was certainly a lot of poker to be played yet when the final table began, but it kind of felt like the real story of this event had already played itself out. Former tennis great, and current professional poker player Yvgeny Kafelnikov finished on the final table bubble, and just missed having a great story to tell.
The story would have been made better by the fact that his poker mentor, and good friend Kirill Gerasimov did make the final table, and indeed was disconsolate when he watched his friend and student just miss the honor.
The players had played down to 20 from last nights play, and the plan was to play it all the way out tonight. The ESPN World Series of Poker (as many people have been calling it) was causing a bit of havoc with the schedule of the events. Number of final tables tonight: 2. Number of final tables tomorrow: 0. Number of final tables Sunday: 2.
So, tonight we were the 'B' final table, with the finals of the $1,000 with rebuys NLHE event playing itself out on the ESPN stage. The Stud final table would play itself out about 20 yards away from the NL event. In terms of media coverage, The two tables could have been 20 miles away from each other.
The day started rather interestingly, as we had two pretty extraordinary hands competing for high hand of the day award. First, Minh Nguyen made quad Aces, and felt pretty good about the high hand award. That was, until 6 time major championship winner (four in doubles) Kafelnikov made a straight flush to the Jack, and took over high hand honors on the very next hand.
When Kafelnikov was knocked out when he made a flush on the 7th street, but his opponent made a full house on the same card, we were down to our final eight. The final table looked like this.
Abe Almalhi 137,000 in chips
Cliff Josephy 130,500
Greg Mascio 122,000
Murray Reinhart 86,000
Kirill Gerasimov 84,500
Minh Nguyen 60,500
Arfell Willis 58,000
Dr. Mark Burtman 33,000
The first to go tonight was Murray Reinhardt. Murray liked his two pair, but when Minh Nguyen made a flush on 6th street, Murray was left with the short end of the stick. Murray Reinhardt, 8th place - $17,585.
The players proceeded to play 7 handed for almost two hours. Every time someone was all in, the player would double up, etc. This happened no fewer than six times during the two hour period, and things were........moving.......slow.
Eventually, Minh Nguyen got worn down, and had to go. Minh put his money in with two pair on fourth street, but Cliff Joesphy made a better two pair on a later street, and Minh was free to leave on a street of his choice. Minh Nguyen - 7th place - $24,750.
Next, and interesting scenario came up I will call the 'race to zero'. Both Arfell Willis, and Abe Almalhi had only enough chips to make a couple antes. Luckily for Abe, Arfell made trips on sixth street to move ahead in his all in hand...only to have his opponent make a better set on the same street. Arfell was a jolly man who was just happy to be here, and took his $31,265.00 for 6th place, and laughed all the way to the bank. Arfell Willis - 6th place - $31,265.00
After doubling up a couple times, Abe Almalhi was down to the felt once again. Abe came in to the final table as the chip leader, but ran into tough luck, and ran out the door when Kirill Gerasimov made two kings to knock Abe out. Abe Almahli - 5th place - $39, 735.00
Now down to four, the chip counts looked like this.
Cliff Josephy 390,000 in chips
Kirill Gerasimov 180,000
Greg Mascio 80,000
Dr Mark Burtman 63,000
Greg Mascio, shortly after being crippled with a missed draw was the next to go. Mascio started with a pair of sevens, but Cliff's trip eights tripped Greg up, and Greg was free to go. Greg Mascio - 4th place - $48,200
Down to three, and the approximate chip count was
Cliff Josephy 510,000
Kirill Gerasimov 180,000
Dr Mark Burtman 25,000
Dr Mark had picked himself up off the carpet a number of times throughout the final table, making quads once, and two full houses when he was all in. Kirill stumbled immediately upon it becoming three handed, and was down to about 50,000 right away...Most of those chips going to Dr. Mark. The tide had shifted, and it appeared the tide was moving away from Russia. It should be noted that Kaflenikov sweated his boy Kirill all the way through this final table, which lasted well over five hours. But Kirill made a comeback, and doubled up at least twice, leaving Dr Mark Burtman as the short stack.
This was Cliff's first stud tournament ever, but you wouldn't have known it by his play. Cliff kept the pressure up, and the short stacks had no choice but to challenge Cliff only when they had hands. Cliff is a bit of an online legend, (JohnnyBax), having won seven seats to the main event already this year online. But those were No Limit Hold Em tourneys (online no less). This was a live Stud tourney, and you would think Cliff was not in his comfort zone, but you wouldn't have known it by his play. Cliff kept the pressure up, and eventually Dr Mark had to go.
Dr Mark's swan song hand was soon to come. Dr Mark put his chips in with two tens, and both Cliff, and Kirill called him. Cliff made jacks up, and Dr Mark could go back to, um....seeing his patients (Dr Mark is an OB/GYN) back home in Mississippi. It should be noted that Dr Mark came into the final table as the short stack, and played his heart out to get to 3rd place. Dr Mark Burtman, 3rd place - $63,180.00
Now down to heads up, and Cliff had a dominant lead over Kirill.
Cliff Josephy 630,000 in chips
Kirill Gerasimov 83,000
After doubling up once, Kirill lost a big pot to Cliff when his two pair were no match for Cliff's straight. At that point, it was only a matter of time.
Cliff Josephy, in his first stud tournament EVER, won a gold bracelet when he made Aces up on 6th street, which bested Kirill's smaller two pair. Congrats Cliff, maybe you should quit while you have a perfect record.
Kirill Gerasimov, 2nd place - $108,775.00
Champion - Cliff Josephy - $ 192,150.00
Ed Note:Cliff has won SEVEN WSOP seats on Poker Stars. How many can you win?