The poker tables around the Amazon Room at the World Series of Poker were packed for action on Saturday. With the start of the $1000 (with rebuy) event, there were rumors of some professionals walking to the table with $10K in their pocket to last through the rebuy period. Event #13, the #2,500 No-Limit tournament, was entering into its second day with several top professionals who were vying for the final table. The focus of a great deal of the audience was on the final table stage where the $1,500 Limit tournament, Event #11 on the schedule, was ready to square off at 2PM.
This was slightly delayed, however. At 2PM, many of the players arrived to find no chips in their respective seats at the table as many of the floor staff and tournament directors were responding to the call of "rebuy" from that tournament. It got off to a slightly later start than we expected, but we settled into a final table that set up like this:
Seat 1: New York police detective David Calla, 147K
Seat 2: WSOP newcomer Thanh Nguyen, 72K
Seat 3: Stillwater, OK's Bob Bartmann, 64K
Seat 4: European professional Jan Sjavik, short stacked at 37K
Seat 5: Bellagio player Bob Chalmers, 175K
Seat 6: Doug Saab, 150K
Seat 7: Chip leader Graham Duke, 184K
Seat 8: Sin City's Tam Ho, 149K
Seat 9: "The Golden Fish" Warren Wooldridge, 74K
It was quite an international field that came to the final table. Out of the nine men who came to the felt to compete for the top prize of $258,344, four of them could claim birthplaces outside of the United States: two from Canada (Vancouverites Chalmers and Duke) and one each from England (Wooldridge) and Norway (Sjavik). All in all, it looked to be a fascinating match between some very deserving Limit Hold 'Em players.
One of the most impressive players of the early going with seventeen minutes left with the levels at 3K/5K with betting levels of 5K/10K was Jan Sjavik. "The Balrog" knew that he would have to go to work quickly to build up his short stack and he did just that. The Norwegian doubled through Graham Duke to help his flagging stack then, after the blinds were raised up to 3K/6K blinds with 6K/12K betting limits, he did it again through Bob Bartmann. This moved him up to a more healthy level and put Bartmann, who seemed to be having the time of his life at the final table, on the watch as the short stack in the event.
Bartmann, in fact, seemed to be keeping the mood light at the table as he offered to buy a round of drinks for the competitors and continuously imbibed at the final table himself. One of the interesting facts his friends, who were railbirding him, let me know is that he started with the mixture of drinking at the table and playing, a la Men "The Master" Nguyen, with over a dozen drinks on the first day of the tournament and he continued to have fun all the way to and through his play at the final table. His laughing and joking made the mood very light at the final table as they continued on deeper into the level.
One person who had a difficult time getting action going for him at the final table was David Calla. The New York City police detective went to war against Tam Ho and, once Ho was able to take down a significant pot, left Calla in trouble and gave Ho the chip lead. When Calla raised to 12K and was reraised by Graham Duke, it took the rest of his chips to just see the flop. Calla's K-Q had Duke's J-10 clearly dominated but, as often happens in the cruel game of limit poker, the flop brought the ten that Graham was looking for. Once the board blanked off on the turn and river, Calla was eliminated from the tournament in ninth place with half of the level to go.
Bartmann continued to battle with the short stack throughout the level and the play was pretty tame. The players did have a nice supply of chips that would allow them extensive play and the table was probably waiting out the level for the increases that would make it difficult for Bartmann. While the table passed chips around, it seemed that Tam Ho and Graham Duke, seated next to each other, went to battle with Ho taking the best of it. Ho increased his chip advantage by taking them from Duke on two key hands as the level ended.
With action going up to 4K/8K blinds and 8K/16K limits, it was time to say goodbye to the man who had made the table lively. Bob Bartmann was in the small blind and put his final chips in against Jan Sjavik in the big blind. Bartmann held a dominating Q-2 to Sjavik's 8-4 but, once an eight appeared on the river of an A-7-5-5 board, it eliminated Bartmann from the event in the eighth place slot. Even as he left the table, he smiled and shook the hands of his opponents and went to receive his friends' accolades and his payday of $28,706.
Graham Duke was also a player who never seemed to get going at the tables on Saturday afternoon. After coming into the final table with the chip lead, he never seemed to catch a hand when he needed it and slowly bled off chips, most of them going into the chip stack of Tam Ho. On the next hand after Bartmann's elimination, Doug Saab raised from the small blind and forced Duke to put the remainder of his chips in the center of the table. The danger in this is that Saab had been playing an extremely tight game since the start of the final table, so he had to have at the minimum a decent hand. He did, turning up pocket tens into Duke Qd-7d. A seven on the flop opened some doors for the man called "Cool Hand" Duke, but no other cards came to his rescue and he left the floor of the Amazon Room in seventh place.
While Tam Ho was pacing the field, two challengers were rising up the board to take their shots at him. Bob Chalmers, who plays the $15/$30 limit tables at the Bellagio, was taking his time and accumulating chips. Another major mover was the Englishman, Warren Wooldridge. Wooldridge took advantage on some key draw outs at critical times and, with the cheers of his father and brothers behind him, mounted an assault up the leader board.
It was Wooldridge, in fact, who made the elimination of our sixth place finisher. After winning three consecutive hands, he went to battle against Sjavik, who apparently had decided to look up the young Englishman. On a flop of 7d-9c-8d, they checked to see a turn card of a ten of clubs. Sjavik tossed in 16K, which was answered by a raise from Wooldridge to 32K and forced "The Balrog" to toss in his final 26K. Sjavik saw the bad news that, at least this time, Wooldridge wasn't attempting to steal from him: the Englishman's pocket Kings had been leading the whole time, although Jan had several redraws for a flush and a possible split with a six with his 5-4 of clubs. The river paired the board and the Norwegian professional was eliminated in sixth place.
Wooldridge continued to push the table around, leading to perhaps one of the most interesting hands of the tournament. Before the level ended, he joined into battle against Doug Saab, who assumed the unfortunate mantle of being the short stack. With the board reading 10c-9s-3c-8s-Qs, Wooldridge bet 16K at Saab and he was faced with calling off his final 14K in chips to see if he would make the next level. Strangely, Saab folded his hand and would be on life support for the start of the next level.
Once the levels went up to 5K/10K in blinds and 10K/20K betting limits, Saab began a stirring comeback. He first tripled up, then turned around and doubled up to raise a glimmer of hope among his supporters. The comeback was thwarted, though, when he attempted to double up again versus Thanh Nguyen with pocket threes. Nguyen had him totally outclassed with pocket Kings and, when the board brought no treys, the comeback was over and Saab was out of the event in fifth place.
Once Saab was eliminated, the remaining four players took a break from the action. There was talk of making a deal for the remaining cash involved but nothing was reached between the combatants and they returned to the table with the chip stacks sitting as such:
At this point in the event, Bob Chalmers seemed to kick his game into another gear. He got more aggressive against his opponents and really began to assert himself into the action on the table. He was also the beneficiary of some great cards. He went to war against Thanh Nguyen and, after both three bet preflop, they saw a board of Q-7-4, they three bet it each again. Chalmers led into the turn card of the eight of diamonds and Nguyen just called. Chalmers led again with the river card of a deuce and Nguyen called, showing Q-9 for top pair with Queens. Chalmers, however, topped him with pocket Kings and crippled Nguyen's tournament efforts.
Thanh would be eliminated on the next hand, as both Ho and Wooldridge limped in to his big blind and Nguyen raised his last 5000 chip into the pot. He watched as the other two checked down a board of 7-8-8-Q-A and, once Wooldridge and Ho both turned up baby Aces to possibly split the pot, Nguyen mucked his hand of Q-J and was out of the Rio in fourth place.
Chalmers continued to pace the field, but Ho rapidly was climbing up behind him. Wooldridge cooled off tremendously from his earlier rush and couldn't keep pace with his opponents as the level ended with the chip levels looking like this:
After the dinner break and the raise in level to 10K/15K blinds and 15K/30K betting limits, Wooldridge attempted to make a stirring comeback. He took a sizeable pot from Ho, but then turned around and gave it Chalmers after Bob made quad Aces against Warren's boat. He continued to supply the chips for battle to both Ho and Chalmers and eventually was worked down to the felt. The end of the night for "The Golden Fish" (called such by his family because of his blond hair and "he's a fish!", as his brother said) came when he got his chips in against Chalmers on a board of 10-9-9. He flipped up the A-6 to have a shot, but it was a minimal one against the flopped full house from Chalmers (10-9). The turn card of the Queen of hearts sealed the fate of the Englishman to be recorded in this event in the third place position.
Down to heads up, the chip stacks were nearly identical between Ho and Chalmers:
The twosome took another unscheduled break and, once they came back from this tete a tete, the action ratcheted up to an unprecedented pace (take from that what you will). Chalmers seized control of the action and, within eleven hands of action, had moved to nearly a two to one chip advantage over Ho. Another six hands later, Ho was all in against Chalmers with his A-2 holding an edge over Chalmers' Q-3. Once the board came down Q-4-K-A-3, Chalmers had outdrawn Ho to capture the title of $1500 Limit Hold 'Em Champion and the gold and diamond World Series of Poker bracelet.
1. Bob Chalmers, $258.344
2. Tam Ho, $135,396
3. Warren Wooldridge, $76,549
4. Thanh Nguyen, $66,981
5. Doug Saab, $57,412
6. Jan Sjavik, $47,843
7. Graham Duke, $37,825
8. Bob Bartmann, $28,706
9. David Calla, $19,137
With the end of the Limit event, attention now turns to the action on Sunday. There are two big events already going on with the final table of the $2,500 No-Limit event set to go and the $1000 rebuy No-Limit tournament entering its second day. But Sunday most of all will be a day for the ladies as the Ladies' No-Limit event takes to the felt. It all adds up to another day of excitement for everyone at the World Series of Poker.
Ed Note: Limit Hold Em at every level – and you can even play 5 card draw(!) When you sign up at Pokerroom.com