Seven Card Stud is an interesting beast in today's poker jungle. Once the most widely played game, it has settled into a niche occupied by 'stud specialists', and others who have been playing it for decades.
Every day, it seems more of today's internet poker players are discovering new games, or professing their love for a certain type of poker. I have heard comments recently like 'I'm obsessed with deuce to seven', or 'I've been playing a lot of Pot Limit Omaha' out of the new mouths of the new generation of poker players. Where's the love for Stud? I haven't heard anyone profess their love for stud in the better part of the last 15 years. Could it be because you can't say 'I'm all in', or even 'I bet the pot'?
Eight players that do have a passion for Stud gathered at the Rio on Thursday night, to play for what would be considered the 'championship event' for Stud players, the $5,000 buy in WSOP 7 Card Stud event. 182 players entered the event, producing a prize pool of $855,400. The winner would land the top prize of $256,620, and the coveted WSOP gold bracelet.
I would put the average age at the final table at about 45, but it was the youngest of the lot that would walk away a winner. When the play at the final table began, the chip counts looked this way.
1. Benjamin Lin - $251,000
2. Lupe Munquia - $120,000
3. Cyndy Violette - $111,500
4. Allen Kessler - $108,500
5. Patrick Bueno - $102,500
6. "Miami" John Cernuto - $75,500
7. Shahram "Sean" Sheikhan - $72,500
8. Mike "The Mad Genius" Caro - $69,000
The play started pretty fast at this final table, with the 'Mad Genius' being crippled only a couple hands in when Alan Kessler clipped Caro to near zero chips with rolled up 8's, on his way to making quads. On the next hand, it was Lin, who probably wasn't born when 'Crazy Mike Caro' started writing on the game of Seven Card Stud that had to take the Mad Genius out. Caro had virtually no chips, and threw them in with (K 10) 10. Lin ran him down when he made Kings on 4th street, and that was that for the Mad Genius. Mike Caro, 8th place - $21,385.
At least an hour passed until we had our next elimination. With the table playing 4,000/8,000, and almost 900,000 chips in play, it appeared that it might be a while.
The next hours action really showed the difference between the 'pro' players, and the part timers. Over the course of the next hour, two players let themselves get grinded down to the point where it was clear that only Violette, Lin, Kessler, or Shiekan was going to win this thing. Miami John was trying valiantly to rally, but he never got any traction. It became almost a question of who got more unlucky with the bring ins that would determine who finished 5th, 6th, and 7th place.
Lupe Munquia lost the bring in contest, and was all in when Kessler completed one bet with an Ace showing. Lupe had a split pair of Kings, but Kessler made two small pair to relieve Munquia of his final chips. If my description seems anticlimactic, its because the action was also. Lupe Munquia, 7th place - $29,939.
Only three or four hands later, we lost two players in a matter of minutes. For the second time in five hands, a player was all in after bringing the bet in, and throwing in his last couple chips when the bet was completed. Patrick Bueno decided his (J 10) 2 was bueno enough to take his final ride. Lin had nines, and Bueno could not improve. Patrick Bueno, 6th place - $38,493.
Miami John did everything he could to try to survive, but alas it was not meant to be. For those of you who haven't seen John lately, he is literally half the man he used to be, having lost what appears to be 80 or more pounds in the last year. It hasn't affected his poker however, as he has gone deep in several events this year. This event was not meant to be for him, however, as he started the next hand showing a Q, as did Lin. John had two tens below, and his last few chips went in the pot. Lin had paired his Q, however, so 'Miami' was behind. The rest of the streets did not help John, and he was out as the last cards were turned over. 'Miami' John Cernuto, 5th place - $55,601.
After Cernuto was out, the players settled into a groove where we didn't see too many hands go past 5th street – if even to 4th street.
Alan Kessler, who by everyone's estimation is a fantastic 7 Stud player, was clearly becoming frustrated after having to let a few hands go after he started with some potential, but either his hands would not improve, or his opponent's hands would improve significantly. Alan got ground down to just under 60,000, and that is where he met his demise. First, Violette clipped him for a pretty big pot showing nothing but three clubs on 6th street, and then on the next hand Kessler met his fate.
With split tens, Kessler caps the betting, and Violette calls. Cyndy makes Jacks, and Kessler is behind with his tournament at stake. Both players make two pair on 7th street, but Cyndy's Jacks up are better than Kessler's tens, and the day is over for Alan Kessler. Alan Kessler, 4th place - $76,986.
Down to three, and with Violette riding a rush, the chip counts looked like this.
Its rare for the most crucial hand of a limit tournament to occur when play is still three handed, but the hand that changed the shape of the tournament did take place with three players left. Lin took a huge pot off of Violette when he showed a flush after there was significant action on every street. This put Lin in control of the chip stacks, and what we saw for the next hour was a clinic in limit power poker.
Lin played nearly every hand once establishing a 2 to 1 chip lead on both Cyndy, and Sean after the big pot with the flush. Lin would open or call every hand it seemed, and every time he was the aggressor – betting, raising, and firing at just about anything. He never let up, and neither Sean nor Cyndy could find anything to make a stand.
Finally, after being ground down, Cyndy took her last chips into battle with a doorcard of the Ace of hearts. Bad news for her – Lin had wired Kings, and when Cyndy couldn't improve, she was out the door in third place. Cyndy flashed one of the best smiles in poker, and headed to collect her $102,648 for third place. This is Cyndy's second time in three years making the top three in the $5,000 Stud event. The last time, she won it, but it was not meant to be for Cyndy today. Cyndy Violette, 3rd place - $102,648.
Down to heads up, it was Lin who kept his power style of betting up. Sheikhan tried to stay with him, but it was only a matter of time when Lin made a wheel to cripple Sean in a big pot, and that lead us to the last hand.
With (6 9) K, Sean put his last chips into the pot. Lin called, and was ahead with two nines (9 9) 6. Sheikhan took the lead on 5th street by pairing his King, but Lin had picked up a gutshot to give him a number of outs on 6th and 7th street. When the last cards were dealt down, Lin sweated his last card, and took a slow peek. Elated, he flipped up a 7, filling his gutshot, and giving Sean the final kick in the gut of what had been a long evening filled with mostly frustration. Sean Sheikhan, 2nd place - $171,080.
Champion – Benjamin Lin - $256,620.