As the excitement continued to grow for the start of the $10,000 Championship Event of the World Series (which kicks off today), there was still some unfinished business left to take care of in the Amazon Room. As hundreds of players attempted to win their last minute seat into the Big Show through the satellite route, there was the small factor of the final $1500 No Limit Hold 'Em event to take care of. An astounding 2,803 players came to the felt on Tuesday for this event, making it the second largest poker tournament of all time (that is, until the Main Event begins) and the nine men who reached the final table, while not the best known of players, definitely had to show some skill to reach this point.
As the cards went into the air around 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, the gentlemen took their places at the table in the following order:
Seat 1: James Gorham, 717K in chips
Seat 2: George Christian, 262K
Seat 3: Age (pronounced Augie) Spets, 316K
Seat 4: Nicholas "Nick" Ronyecz, 789K
Seat 5: A short stacked Mohammad Ilyas, 252K
Seat 6: Chip leader Osman Kibar, 796K
Seat 7: North Carolina's Jason Strasser, 254K
Seat 8: Miff Fagerlie, 367K
Seat 9: Peter Dalhuijsen, 477K
Maybe it was the factor that the Main Event starts on Friday (and probably these guys will also be playing in that) and the players wanted to get some rest, but there was a tremendous amount of early action with the blinds only at 8K/16K with a 2K ante. Only six hands into the event, Osman Kibar raised the bet to 45K and was called by Peter Dalhuijsen on the button. After a scary flop of 9-Q-J, the two players checked to see another scare card in an Ace on the turn. At this time Osman shot a 100K bet at the pot and Peter responded by moving all in over the top. Immediately Kibar called and flipped up pocket Jacks for the set. Dalhuijsen could only manage to bring out an A-Q for two pair. He still had eight outs to make a better hand than Kibar (the two remaining Queens, the two remaining Aces and the four Kings for a straight) but the board didn't cooperate, delivering a ten on the river for Kibar to make an unnecessary boat on the river to eliminate Peter Dalhuijsen from the tournament in ninth place.
On Hand 16, another interesting hand sprung up for the audience that had massed around the final table to watch the action. Mohammad Ilyas raised to 45K and had the very entertaining Age Spets make it 100K out of the small blind. Ilyas considered his action and called the bet, at which time Spets made the bold move of declaring all in before the flop came out. The flop came J-7-10 and, with Spets' declaration binding, Ilyas had to consider the action he wanted to take carefully. He took several moments before deciding to call the all in of Spets and turned up pocket Queens. When the call was made, Spets rocketed from his chair and tuned over two Jacks for the set on the flop! Once the board had blanked the rest of the way, Age Spets had made an important double up to stay in the match.
George Christian was one of the hard luck stories of this final table. He had no hands through the remainder of the opening level and, after the blinds were kicked up to 10K/20K with a 3K ante, he moved all in from early position. Jason Strasser looked him up from the button and Christian had the edge with his pocket fours over Strasser's A-Q. The flop made the news better for George as it came 10-10-7 and the turn brought a 5. The river drowned him, however, when a Queen came to deliver the knockout blow for Strasser. A dejected George Christian was gone from the tournament in eighth place.
This was the last of the good news for Strasser, however. On Hand 34, James Gorham raised the pot to 60K and had both Spets and Kibar call. Strasser chose this point to go all in over the other three players, with only Gorham making the call and Spets and Kibar dropping out. Strasser didn't like what Gorham had in store for him; Gorham had the rockets while Strasser could only bring two Jacks to the conflict. An Ace on the flop virtually assured Gorham of the victory and, with a trey on the turn, Jason Strasser was drawing dead and done for the afternoon at the Rio in seventh place.
By far one of the more interesting stories at the table was that of Mohammed Ilyas. After doubling up through Nick Ronyecz, he went on a rush of a half dozen hands where he captured the pot. This catapulted the former short stack at the table to the chip lead, which he used to eliminate our next player.
On Hand 55, Mohammed raised the pot to the standard 60K and Miff Fagerlie moved all in over the top. Ilyas decided his hand was good and called, entering his A-J into a race against Fagerlie's pocket nines. The flop delivered what Ilyas was looking for when an Ace came. No nine was around to rescue Miff Fagerlie as he departed the final table with the sixth place position.
The rapid pace of the tournament continued as the blinds went up to 12K/24K with a 4K ante. A short stacked Nick Ronyecz made his move by doubling up twice early in the level (against Age Spets and James Gorham) but it wasn't enough to prevent the inevitable. Hand 74 presented one of those situations that people scream about online when they get beat. After Spets had raised the pot to 75K, Ronyecz reraised him to 160K and Osman Kibar called. Spets now moved all in and, after Ronyecz called, a stupefied Kibar considered his options and called them both, as he had them covered. The hands turned up were stunning; pocket Kings for Spets, pocket Queens for Kibar and pocket Jacks for Ronyecz. Once the board came with nothing but baby cards (5-6-9-6-5), Kibar had eliminated Nick Ronyecz from the tournament in fifth place with the side pot, but lost a huge main pot to Age Spets, which catapulted him back into the race and drew an almost soccer like song chant from Spets' friends in the stands.
Even with the loss of the main pot to Spets, Kibar was still in the chip lead:
As the players worked their way through the level, Gorham began to exert himself on the table. He took down several pots which allowed him to climb up the ladder and surprisingly pop to the top of the leader board. On Hand 91, Mohammed Ilyas was able to put Age Spets on life support when Mohammed (with an A-Q) caught Broadway on the turn to cripple Spets (with pocket deuces). Six hands later, Spets went into battle against Osman Kibar when Spets moved all in from the button and Kibar decided to check him out. Spets' pocket Kings was far dominating Kibar's 10-9 off suit but, as we saw often on this final table, five cards can bring a world of changes. The flop came down 9-4-2 and the turn gave another four. The only card that could allow Kibar to take the hand was one of the two nines left in the deck…which is exactly what happened when a nine came on the river to give Kibar a boat over Spets' two pair. A stunned Age Spets rose from the table after his elimination in fourth place and was immediately mobbed by his friends, who applauded his play and offered condolences for such a bad beat.
The three remaining players decided, after another few hands, to take a dinner break. The gentlemen must have wanted to get plenty of rest (or maybe celebrate their achievements in this tournament) because it only took eleven hands and twenty five minutes after the dinner break to determine a champion.
On Hand 108 (with the blinds at 15K/30K and 5K antes), Gorham limped from the small blind and Mohammed Ilyas raised it up to 90K. Gorham reraised him to an astronomical 400K and Ilyas moved all in. Gorham immediately called and turned up pocket Queens to have the edge over Ilyas' A-J. The flop of K-6-10 ended James' calls for a Queen and brought Mohammed to calling for the lady's help. There wasn't another one to come on the turn or the river and Mohammed Ilyas left the Amazon Room as the third place finisher.
With the vanquishing of Ilyas, Gorham took a commanding two and a half to one lead over Kibar:
It only took another five hands to decide who would be the victor in the event. On Hand 113, Gorham once again limped from the button and, after a raise by Kibar to 90K, called. The flop of 6-6-10 didn't look to be of great assistance to either player, but Kibar fired another 150K and Gorham called. A seven on the turn brought an all in move from Kibar and Gorham eagerly called him. Gorham turned up a perfectly slowplayed (and quite fortunate) 7-6 for the full house and Kibar dejectedly turned up pocket Kings. Once the river blanked out with a Queen, James Gorham could claim the victory in the $1500 No Limit Hold 'Em event.
1. James Gorham, $765,226
2. Osman Kibar, $420,870
3. Mohammed Ilyas, $228,800
4. Age Spets, $178,296
5. Nicholas Ronyecz, $153,044
6. Miff Fagerlie, $128,174
7. Jason Strasser, $108,661
8. George Christian, $89,531
9. Peter Dalhuijsen, $72,313
With Gorham's victory on Thursday night, the stage is now set for the largest poker tournament of all time. The first of four first days comes to the Amazon Room on Friday at noon, but there will be plenty of time for James Gorham to celebrate his first World Series bracelet in the final preliminary tournament before the Big Show starts!