It is very rare in a tournament that the two people who enter final table play with narrow chip leads over the rest of the field end up playing together heads-up for the championship at the end of the day. This is exactly what happened in the Pot Limit $1500 Omaha Hi event, however, as the whole day was about the battle between George Abdallah, 1st in chips entering the final table, and Ralph Perry, not far behind in 2nd. Throughout play, the rest of the final table seemed to be simply jockeying for position while never threatening Perry or Abdallah's chances at the bracelet. The final table shaped up as:
1. George Abdallah – 206,500 chips
2. Raphael 'Ralph' Perry – 151,800 chips
3. Russ Salzer – 106,500 chips
4. Spiro Mitrokostas – 103,000 chips
5. Jason Newburger – 39,000 chips
6. Brian Kocur – 37,000 chips
7. Zhang Luzhe – 29,000 chips
8. Frank Henderson – 18,500 chips
9. Ray Lynn – 16,000 chips
Russ Salzer and Jason Newburger were eliminated within the first twenty minutes of final table play, with Salzer earning $14,333 for 9th place and Newburger $21,499 for 8th. Salzer, who flopped top set with Ad-As-8h-9s on a board of Ah-Qh-2h, was in trouble when he pushed all of his money in against George Abdallah's nut flush of Kh-Jh-Qc-Ac. The board did not pair on the turn or river and Salzer was eliminated. Jason Newburger, meanwhile, who was playing in his first ever Omaha tournament, got all of his money in preflop against the K-K-J-3 of Brian Kocur holding A-K-5-2. However, Newburger's hand failed to improve and he was gone in 8th.
Frank Henderson, a long-time poker veteran who had previously won a bracelet in the 1989 WSOP Omaha event, went out next in 7th place. Henderson simply could not overcome his short stack, but earned $28,665 for his performance.
Spiro Mitrokostas was the 6th place finisher, taking $35,831. Better known as 55Lucky55, his online handle at Poker Stars, Mitrokostas seemed a serious threat to make some noise at the final table. Greg Raymer, who was watching intently throughout parts of the match, called Mitrokostas one of the best online tournament players in the world. However, things didn't pan out for Mitrokostas after he got involved in a huge pot with Ralph Perry. Both players shared top two pair when the money went in on the flop, but Perry was freerolling with a flush draw and hit it on the turn to knock out Mitrokostas.
Ray Lynn and Zhang Luzhe were both eliminated shortly thereafter. Both had been nursing short stacks all day, but managed to move up in the cash with shrewd short-stack play. Lynn was knocked out in 5th for $42,998 when his A-K-J-J failed to improve against George Abdallah's A-A-10-8. Luzhe was eliminated in 4th after Brian Kocur pushed all-in preflop with J-10-9-8, then flopped a straight with 8-7-6. Luzhe, who plays professionally in Austria, still had a chance holding A-K-7-6 for two pair, but he failed to fill up and took $50,164 for 4th.
Brian Kocur, who was also short for long stretches of the day, went out in 3rd place when he pushed all-in on the turn against Ralph Perry's straight. Kocur had a larger straight draw, but it failed to hit on the river and he managed $57,330 for his finish.
While it was relatively quick to get down to the final 2, it would take longer to bust the last competitor than it did to bust the previous 7 combined. Ralph Perry started with the chip lead, holding 419,000 chips to George Abdallah's 379,000 when play began.
The match was set up to be an interesting battle between two accomplished cash-game players. Perry, a regular at the Bellagio's $4000/8000 Big Game, was the perfect example of the cash game player who lacked notoriety mainly because of his disdain for tournaments. Although he had been attending the World Series for years, he was mainly concerned with the juicy side games rather than entering tournaments or winning bracelets.
Abdallah, on the other hand, is known for playing the Houston cash games. Abdallah credited Sam Farha, another Big Game participant, with teaching him the finer parts of Omaha and also mentioned John Bonetti as another mentor for his poker game.
Heads up, Perry seemed to grind Abdallah down by playing very aggressively, winning some big pots and getting Abdallah to call with worse hands. Entering the dinner break after over two hours of headsup play, Perry had pulled away with almost a 3:1 chip lead and looked to be in total control of the match.
As Perry returned from the dinner break, he showed what a gentleman he was with a very classy decision. Abdallah was late in returning from the break and the floor offered Perry the option of blinding off Abdallah's chips until he returned. While many players would jump at this opportunity, Perry declined and told the floor he would wait as long as necessary until Abdallah came back. Luckily, he only had to wait a few minutes as Abdallah returned, not even aware of the decision that Perry had been forced to make.
As the two players amicably wished each other good luck, things got a bit heated when they started to discuss the possibility of a deal. Neither side felt the other was being fair, and after a lengthy discussion, they decided to simply play it out with both confident that they would win.
It was soon apparent that even with a short stack, George Abdallah still had a lot of fight left in him. Raking pot after pot, he used the next hour to claw his way back to almost even with Perry. However, the end came soon after on a huge pot. With Perry having Abdallah slightly covered, Abdallah brought it in for a raise of 36,000 and Perry called. The flop came down 10h-7s-3s, and Perry bet out 60,000. Abdallah raised all-in for over 200,000 more and after going in the tank for a while, Perry made the call with Kc-Jh-10c-2h, good for top pair and a backdoor straight and flush draw. Abdallah revealed the Qh-10d-4c-3h for top and bottom two pair, sharing a higher backdoor flush draw with Perry. The possibility of a flush or a straight suddenly became a distinct possibility when the 9h came on the turn, but the 8d completed Perry's straight and awarded him the bracelet.
Interestingly enough, the floorman in charge of announcing and Abdallah both misread the board and thought that Perry had lost the hand. Abdallah pumped his fist in the air upon seeing the river and began yelling to his friends in exultation. Perry remained calmly sitting, and later confided that he was wondering why Abdallah looked so happy when he knew that he had just beaten him. A few seconds later, the realization that Perry had won hit Abdullah and he went from extreme joy to utter dejection, earning $109,644 for busting in 2nd.
Perry, who said he did not care about the money and was playing just for the bracelet, revealed that he did not even want to play in the event originally. His wife convinced him to play in the event rather than the side games, and he earned $207,817 to go with his first bracelet as a result of following her good advice.
Ed note: Lots of big Omaha action at Ultimate Bet