With a much larger than expected field of 788 players for the $1000 7 Card Stud Hi/Low, Harrah's once again found itself in the middle of controversy by changing the structure of an event at the last minute. The tournament, originally scheduled to be two days, was extended an extra day by tournament official Jack Effel after over 20 players still remained through 8 hours of play on day 2. Although it was a prudent move by Effel, since playing down to a winner would have taken a ludicrous amount of time, many players were still furious that they were not informed of the decision earlier. One player screamed at a floorman, "I've booked my flight and hotel for a 2-day event, and we have a contract - you can't just change the event without letting me know beforehand!"
Despite the complaints, a final table was ready to be played on Wednesday afternoon, and the Rio was buzzing with the news that wunderkind Jeff Madsen would be playing, making his fourth final table in this year's World Series with the chance to win his third bracelet. The final table shaped up as:
Seat 1. Professional William "Bill" Edler, $191,000
Seat 2. 2005 bracelet winner Patrick Poels, $109,000
Seat 3. 2-time bracelet winner and WSOP player of the year leader Jeff Madsen, $99,000
Seat 4. Greg Dinkin $259,000
Seat 5. Leo Fasen $102,000
Seat 6. Hoyt Verner $103,000
Seat 7. 2-time bracelet winner in Stud Rod Pardey, $210,000
Seat 8. Mark Bershad $110,000
Throughout the first hour of play, Mark Bershad was incredibly active, coming into a lot of pots and taking control of the table. Before play began, Bershad noted, "I feel like I have a shot to win this thing. There are a few big stacks, but the rest of us are basically at the same level. It's anybody's to win right now."
Bershad increased his chances of winning by eliminating the first two players of the final table in Leo Fasen and Rod Pardey in 8th and 7th place, respectively. Fasen was eliminated when his pair of Queens were beaten by Bershad's two pair and a 2-3-4-5-7 low, while Pardey's trip threes were ousted by Bershad's nut flush with no low qualifier for either player. Fasen took $17,927 for 8th and Pardey, who had won two WSOP tournaments in stud, took $25,098 for 7th.
With Bershad edging towards the chip lead, it was Greg Dinkin's turn to accumulate some chips. Dinkin came in as the chip leader, but seemed content to pick his spots and win a couple of monster pots rather than bully the table. One of the few pots that Dinkin did enter occurred when he eliminated Hoyt Verner in 6th. After holding a pair of aces on 5th street, Verner found himself all-in. Dinkin made an easy call with a diamond flush, and with no low for Verner, he was the next player eliminated, earning $32,269 and giving Dinkin a very healthy chip lead over the rest of the table.
Bill Edler was the next player eliminated, earning $39,439 for 5th. Edler's stack seemed to fluctuate all day, but after he was crippled by Jeff Madsen in the previous hand, he was forced to go all-in on fifth street against Patrick Poels. Edler's A-K-10-7-8 with no pair, no draw was behind Poels' 7-6-5-5-2 and Poels ended up making two pair to take the high, while Edler failed to improve his hand for a high or low.
Gavin Smith, who was watching his good friend Edler play, predicted disaster when he claimed, "Bill kind of sucks at this game, but he's a smart guy and a fantastic poker player." An extremely good-natured Edler replied, "He's probably wrong on all three counts, but on balance, I would take it."
Mark Bershad was the next player to go out. Although Bershad began the day incredibly active and gaining a lot of chips, he seemed to slow down his play later on and got involved in some huge losing pots. After Jeff Madsen took a large pot off Bershad, he found himself all-in a few hands later against Greg Dinkin showing 6d-10c-3h-Qh to Dinkin's As-0s-4d-7c. Bershad ended up with a worse two-pair than Dinkin with netiher player having a low, and Bershad was gone in 4th, earning his WSOP cash of $49,479.
Down to three, it took over 3 hours before another player was eliminated. Play was extremely slow at times, although the three players made things interesting by wagering $1 prop bets throughout play. Finally, at 1:30 am, Jeff Madsen was eliminated in 3rd place. Madsen entered the day as the short stack, but managed to claw his way through the field before falling to Patrick Poels' pair of aces. Madsen found himself all-in numerous times throughout the day, but was able to stay alive against the bigger stacks through his aggressive play.
After Poels eliminated Madsen, he noted, "I'm extremely impressed with how Jeff plays. I've sat with him for probably 15 hours in the last two days. I haven't seen him make any big mistakes and if any, just a couple of very tiny ones. He's very good at picking up the little pots out there, and releasing his hand when he's beat. He plays very well."
5th place finisher Bill Edler added, "I want to hate the guy because he's been so successful, but it's impossible because he's an extremely likeable guy. He played beautifully - appropriately aggressive and not overly selective as some people new to the game can be. He didn't look green at all."
Throughout the final table, Madsen had a number of noteworthy professionals monitor his progress, with Gavin Smith shouting, "You realize if you keep playing like this, 10 years from now there will be no one left to play against!" and David Williams yelling across the room while in the middle of a hand from his final table, "Good luck, Jeff!" upon hearing that Madsen was all in.
Madsen took $65,971 for 3rd place and added more points to his lead in the WSOP player of the year race. He has now made four final tables, with a 3rd in Omaha hi/low, a 3rd in Stud hi/low, a win in shorthanded no limit hold'em, and another win in no limit hold'em, all within the past three weeks.
Heads up, it was down to two very experienced players in Pat Poels with 900,000 in chips and Greg Dinkin with 300,000 in chips. Play was extremely slow, with most of the pots not making it past fourth street. Finally, after Poels won a rare showdown, Dinkin found himself extremely short-stacked and pushed all-in on 6th street, showing 9s-7s-10h-5c. Poels called with Jh-Qh-Ks-Qs and his pair of queens were good to scoop the pot, with Dinkin failing to make a better high or low. Dinkin earned $102,542 for 2nd.
Poels showed great respect for his opponents by noting, "I'm really unlucky that I got some of the better players at the final table here. I like to play good hands until we get short and try to run the table over, but it's impossible with guys here who know what they're doing. I have to have good hands to win here." Poels matched a combination of good hands with some great play and took home his second WSOP bracelet and a first-place prize of $172,091.