As play at the WSOP began on Monday, there was an abundance of activity that was available for poker fans to check out. There were two final tables scheduled to take place, the $3000 Limit Hold 'Em tournament at 2PM and the $3000 Omaha Hi-Lo tournament at 4PM. The problem was what do you do with two tournaments and only one official final table area?
The answer to this was have them side by side, with the Limit final table being the one to play on the outskirts of the final table arena as Phil Hellmuth was at the Omaha final table making another run at bracelet #10. This was something of a concern for many friends and family members who wanted to watch their loved one play for a World Series bracelet but, without a microphone to announce the action and the only area available to view the Limit table from approximately fifteen feet away, the spectators (including yours truly) were reduced to hearing about hands via players who would run over to the rail when they weren't in a hand and letting everyone know (somewhat) what happened. It was, without a doubt, a very difficult situation for fans, tournament staff and the players as well.
With this said, we still had a gold and diamond World Series of Poker bracelet to play for. 341 runners came to the line two days ago and these players were working for the lion's share of the $941,160 prize pool, with first place taking home $291,755. The final table shaped up along these lines:
Seat 1: Tad Jurgens, 61K
Seat 2: Mark Newhouse, 106K
Seat 3: Fi "Chris" Tran, short stacked with 31K
Seat 4: Benjamin Robinson, 103K
Seat 5: Chip leader Ian Johns, 207K
Seat 6: Brendan Taylor, 155K
Seat 7: Javier Torresola, 132K
Seat 8: Jerrod Ankenman, 161K
Seat 9: Theo Tran, 74K
There were approximately fifty minutes left with the blinds at 3K/5K and betting levels of 5K/10K and it didn't take very long for our first player to depart the Rio. Fi Tran had come to the final table with the short stack and could never get any momentum after play resumed. Brendan Taylor raised a pot and "Chris" put his last chips in and showed an Ace-3. Brendan had him thoroughly covered with Big Slick and, once the board blanked off, Fi Tran was eliminated in ninth place.
As the level wore along, Tad Jurgens and Theo Tran were the major movers at the table. Both were saved on the river on a couple of occasions and used the new life to make moves on the table. One player who couldn't join along with their ascension on the leader board was Benjamin Robinson.
After the level was moved up to 3K/6K blinds and 6K/12K betting limits, Robinson found himself down to the felt in a hand against chip leader Ian Johns. Johns had Robinson out kicked with A-Q against A-J for Robinson and, even though an Ace came on the flop, there was no Jack to turn the tide for Robinson and he was ousted from the table in eighth place.
Coming in seventh for the evening was Brendan Taylor, as he got all in against Jurgens with the worst of it and received no help. The table then went into quite a bit of shifting of chips as the audience sat back and waited for the next person to get up from the table, signifying that their evening at the World Series was over.
Someone who piled up a sizeable stack of those shifting chips was Jerrod Ankenman. He is the co-author (with 2006 WSOP double bracelet winner William Chen) of the forthcoming "The Mathematics of Poker" and it seemed he was putting every tool in the book to work to his advantage. His attack on the table resulted in him prying the chip lead away from Johns and heading to the break with a sizeable advantage.
When the blinds were raised to 4K/8K with betting levels of 8K/16K, the action ratcheted up and the players started dropping away from the table. Tad Jurgens, after his early rush, couldn't sustain the drive and was eliminated in sixth place. Mark Newhouse was gone in fifth and Theo Tran, who survived many all in situations during the run of the final table, finally ran out of luck and was ushered from the event in fourth place. We were left with three players as the level ran out and the players went to dinner.
After the dinner break, we were fortunate enough to get the action called on occasion as Ian Johns, Jerrod Ankenman and the quietly playing Javier Torresola started three handed play with the blinds at 5K/10K and 10K/20K betting limits. Torresola had been sitting and watching the carnage but, when it came down to three handed play, he lacked the ammunition to be able to continue. When he put the last of his chips in play, both Ankenman and Johns called and checked down a board of 8-8-6-4-2. As the two players made their final checks, Torresola remarked, "I don't think I'll take this," and watched as Johns turned up an Ace-6 for two pair. Torresola simply mucked his hand and left the final table in the third position.
Down to heads up action, Johns and Ankenman were virtually identical in chips and we received a new table announcer in the form of 2004 World Champion Greg Raymer. Raymer, who was on a break from the Omaha event that was hastily added to the schedule today, decided to announce the action as the audience watched. He joked that there were three forms of Texas Hold 'Em poker, "No Limit, Pot Limit and Donkey," as everyone laughed and the heads up match was off.
The pace as the final two combatants was incredibly brisk as the two players hammered away at each other for almost two hours. Ankenman fell back, then took command and made a stirring charge that left Johns down to the felt as the two players got the chips in the center. After Ankenman missed his flush draw, a simple pair was good enough for Johns and he started a change in fortunes at the final table. He doubled up on the next hand as well and incredibly moved back into the chip lead as the level came to an end.
When the blinds were moved up to 10K/15K with 15K/30K betting limits, Johns, after having been one card removed from being eliminated, continued his Phoenix-like rise and battered Ankenman's chip stack down to the felt. The two mixed it up on an innocent looking board of 9-5-2-3-A. Once the last of Ankenman's chips hit the center, Johns turned up A-3 for two pair to capture the bracelet as Ankenman mucked his cards.
1. Ian Johns, $291,755
2. Jarrod Ankenman, $150,586
3. Javier Torresola, $75,293
4. Theo Tran, $65,881
5. Mark Newhouse, $56,470
6. Tad Jurgens, $47,058
7. Brendan Taylor, $37,648
8. Benjamin Robinson, $28,235
9. Fi "Chris" Tran, $18,823
As the desert skies showered the city of Las Vegas with an odd rainstorm, there was one smile that could not be extinguished. It was Ian Johns' as his wife wrapped the WSOP bracelet around his wrist and he could call himself a World Series of Poker champion!
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