Another day of heated action was on hand for the competitors and fans that were in attendance at the Amazon Room on Thursday. With the second day of both the $2500 Pot Limit Hold 'Em and the $5000 Seven Card Stud event (which would also have a winner at the end of the night) going on, there was also the first day of the $5000 No Limit Short Handed (six player) event that was kicking off with some of the biggest names in the game on hand. Amidst all of this was another final table, the $1500 No Limit Hold 'Em tournament.
The $1500 event provided another huge field for the survivors at the final table to run through. 2,126 players started off the event on Tuesday and the nine men gathered on Thursday afternoon to carve up the largest portion of the prize pool, with $655,121 and the World Series bracelet going to the man who outlasted everyone else. The final table looked like this as the cards hit the air:
Seat 1: Tournament veteran James Sileo, 144K
Seat 2: Successful Hungarian online player Richard Toth, 447K
Seat 3: Swedish poker professional Mats Rahmn, 511K
Seat 4: Two time 2006 WSOP final table finisher Billy Duarte, short at 96K
Seat 5: Irish professional poker player Padraig Parkinson, 278K
Seat 6: Washington's Ashwin Sarin, in his first WSOP appearance, chip leader at 591K
Seat 7: Chris Birchby, 497K
Seat 8: Californian Michael Binger, 325K
Seat 9: Jordan 'I'msolucky0' Morgan, 307K
There was only about eight minutes of action with the blinds at 6K/12K (with a 2K ante), so action was limited there. Even after the blinds rose to their first official final table level at 8K/16K (with the same 2K ante), the players were taking some time and making excellent poker decisions. Perhaps this was because of the rather low blind levels in comparison to the stacks or the presence of three Europeans and veteran poker player Billy Duarte at the table (Europeans are known for their accomplished post-flop play, rather than pushing all in preflop and letting the luck take over, and Duarte, even though short stacked, was well respected when he raised due to his solid style), but it did make for a rather unexciting level of play. Around three dozen hands were played with rarely more than just the flop hitting the World Series felt, a drastic change from other events that have taken place.
Once the level went up again to 10K/20K with a 3K ante, the action began to heat up a bit. Duarte finally was forced into action on Hand 42 and moved all in over the top of Chris Birchby's 45K preflop raise and Birchby called. Both had made correct decisions with their particular situations; Duarte's A-Q, however, was dwarfed by the A-K of Birchby. While the flop and river brought nothing, the river was an unnecessary King for Chirs Birchby and Billy Duarte, who has now been at two final tables at this year's World Series (he was the eighth place finisher in Event #22, the $2000 No Limit event), went home in ninth place for the tournament.
This seemed to loosen up the table as the action heated up between the remaining eight players. On Hand 55, Ashwin Sarin (who had just folded a large pot to Michael Binger two hands earlier after Binger moved in on him) raised the pot to 40K from the cutoff and was called by the big blind Richard Toth. On an 8-6-J rainbow flop, Toth checked his option to Sarin, then check-raised to 180K after Ashwin put a 60K bet into the pot. Sarin moved all in at this time and, with very little thought, Richard called him and turned up an interesting hand in 8-7 (second pair). Ashwin was in firm control of the hand with his pocket Kings…until the turn delivered salvation to Toth in a seven for two pair. There were still plenty of outs for Sarin but one of them wasn't the Ace that came on the river and Toth eliminated the hard luck Ashwin Sarin in eighth place, with Toth assuming the chip lead at that time.
Only four hands later, Binger got into a heads up duel with Jordan Morgan which led to our next departure from the Rio. Morgan moved all in from under the gun, with only the big blind Binger deciding to look him up. Binger had made a pot odds call with a Qh-4h to Morgan's pocket tens and the flop evened everything up between the twosome when it came down Ah-Jh-2. While the turn didn't help Binger with a heart, it did give him a Queen to take the lead on the hand and, when the river came with an unhelpful six, Jason Morgan was done for the night in seventh place.
Sweden's Mats Rahmn decided to get back into the game when he was able to double up through Binger in a classic big hand battle (Rahmn's pocket Kings versus Binger's pocket Queens), which put Rahmn into a much better position on the leader board in second place and put Binger on the short stack in the tournament. On Hand 64, Chris Birchby ended the night for Binger's short stack when Binger moved all in from under the gun and Birchby took the challenge. It was all Chris, as his K-J easily had Michael's hand of 10h-7h covered. A seven on the flop swung the lead to Binger but the river brought one of the six outs that Birchby needed in the Jack, sending Michael Binger out of the Amazon Room in sixth place.
Two hands before the end of the level, Irish poker legend Padraig Parkinson also got back into the mix at the table when he took on James Sileo. After Birchby raised the pot, Sileo moved all in over the top and was called by Parkinson (who had Sileo covered but not Birchby). This put Chris in a difficult situation. He agonized over making the call (with the opportunity to eliminate two very worthy opponents) before opting to get out of the way. Once again it was a big hand battle, with James' Big Slick paling in comparison to Padraig's pocket ladies. When the board came with all low cards, the night was over with for James Sileo in fifth place.
After the break a very intriguing situation arose. With the new level of 12K/24K and a 4K ante, the four remaining players (Toth, Rahmn, Parkinson and Birchby) played four hands, then decided to take a break to discuss a potential deal. I caught up with Chris Birchby during this time and found out the talk was about splitting the money along chip counts, as the four were virtually even with around 800K in chips each. "Either way it goes, this has been the greatest experience of my life," Birchby gleamed as the math was taking place. In the end, however, there was no deal and the play continued on at the ESPN main stage.
It seemed as though the discussion had steeled the players' resolve to not be the next one out in fourth place. Over two dozen hands were played with basically all that changed was the position of the button. On Hand 111, however, this logjam was broken when Birchby and Toth went to war. After Chris raised to 75K on the button, Richard called from the big blind and the two saw a flop of 9-3-4. After a blank on the turn, both checked and saw a river of an eight, which woke Toth and brought a 100K bet. Birchby put him on a move and went over the top all in, only to have a more than willing Toth call and flip up a slow-played pocket Queens. Birchby could only gather a K-8 for second pair on the board and, once the river provided no assistance, Chris Birchby was short stacked and Toth assumed the lead of the table.
Birchby was able to hang around for another twelve hands, but the evening was to end with him in fourth place. When Birchby moved in from the button for 138K, Mats Rahmn was ready from the big blind and called him with a K-7. While it may not sound like much, it more than overmatched the Qd-5d of Birchby. A King on the flop furthered the advantage and, after a six came on the turn, Birchby was drawing dead and out of the tournament in fourth place.
Another very highly discussed hand came up just before the dinner break when, on a board of 5-Q-K-5-A, Padraig Parkinson and Richard Toth both checked. When Toth showed a 10-4 to play the board, the veteran Parkinson stated, "I can't beat it," and surprisingly mucked his cards. When it was noticed that both players would play the board, it caused the WSOP tournament directors to scramble to this final table for an official ruling. The decision was (and I asked on the dinner break) that, because Parkinson's cards could be easily retrieved from the muck, they were and it was confirmed that it would be a chopped pot, which seemed to satisfy both players without much argument. "After all, we're playing for some big money here," stated the tournament director. "We want to make sure we do what's fair." While some in the audience might have questioned the decision, it didn't seem to bother either player too much and everyone went to dinner happy.
"Looks like I'm going to need some of the luck of the Irish, eh?," Padraig said and smiled as we passed each other before the action resumed just off the main stage in the Amazon Room (the Seven Card Stud final table, with a lineup of Cyndy Violette, "Miami" John Cernuto, Shawn Sheikhan and Allen Kessler still alive, assumed the position on the main stage). Surely enough, on the very first hand of the new level (blinds of 15K/30K with a 5K ante), Parkinson took his shot when he pushed his approximately 350K stack in the center after Toth raised the pot to 90K. Toth agonized over the call before reluctantly doing so and showing a baby Ace (with a three). Parkinson, while dominating with his Ace-4, couldn't draw the luck of the Irish that he had been looking for. The flop hit Toth hard as it came 6-A-3, then added a three on the river to smash Parkinson's hand and take the Irishman from the event in third place.
At this point, Toth held about a two to one edge in chips over Rahmn and the two Europeans would proceed to put on an excellent display of patience, poker skill and thought. The two locked into battle over the next forty four hands before Rahmn (with K-6) trapped Toth (with K-Q) into calling his all in on a board of K-6-9. When the river was dry, Rahmn assumed the leadership role at the table by the same 2-1 margin he had been behind when heads up play started.
Toth, however, wasn't going anywhere. They played on for another twelve hands with Richard slowly chopping his way back into the match. After the two players took a break for another blind increase (to 5K antes and 20K/40K levels), it only took one hand to decide the winner. On Hand 192, Rahmn made a strong 100K raise which was called by Toth in the big blind. With the board reading a dangerous J-10-9 with two clubs, Toth checked and Rahmn hammered in another 150K. Richard Toth sprung his trap and moved all in over the top of the Swedish pro for another 700K and Mats Rahmn called him. Rahmn turned up two Kings in the pocket and Toth had a scary J-8 for top board pair and an open ended straight draw. While Rahmn was leading, it was precarious (although he eliminated four of Toth's outs in the four Queens). Once the turn came with a little five and the board paired on the river with another ten, Rahmn captured the bracelet in one of the more thoughtful and well played tournaments of this World Series.
1. Mats Rahmn, $655,141
2. Richard Toth, $333,729
3. Padraig Parkinson, $203,139
4. Chris Birchby, $145,100
5. James Sileo, $116,080
6. Michael Binger, $101,570
7. Jordan Morgan, $87,060
8. Ashwin Sarin, $72,550
9. Billy Duarte, $$58,040
"We talked again during the break and I offered him an additional $70K (over what he would receive for second) if we just ended it there," stated the twenty four year old Swede following the tournament. "He decided not to do that, so I was extremely grateful to get that hand and end this. Trust me, it wasn't that easy a call on that board and I was sweating it when I saw what he had!" As he accepted the congratulations of his fellow countrymen, Mats Rahmn could ease his mind in the fact he is bringing a bracelet back to Sweden from the World Series of Poker.
Ed Note: EPT seats up for grabs now at Poker Stars