The last nine players from a starting field of 296 assembled on Friday for the final table of Event #34, $3,000 Limit Hold 'Em, chasing WSOP gold and a first-place cash of $225,483.
The action was fast, as two players were eliminated on the first two hands of the day. It began when Vivek Rajkumar called Petri Pollanen's last chips after a 9-6-5 flop and a three on the turn. Rajkumar made the call with A-5, leaving Pollanen, with A-Q in search of a queen that didn't show on the river. Pollanen earned $14,705 for finishing in ninth place.
The next hand saw the elimination of Marco Johnson when the flop brought two spades and a club. Byrne held and filled the flush on the turn, eliminating Johnson, who collected $20,424 for his efforts.
Despite rebounding from being a short stack early in the day's action, Byrne departed when both Rajkumar and Shawn Keller called Byrne's raise; Byrne had opened with pocket sevens. Keller, with A-K, hit a king on the flop and took a commanding chip lead, ending Byrne's WSOP bracelet hopes. Byrne earned $27,777 for busting in seventh.
An instigator in many of the early hands, Rajkumar's luck finally ran out when he ran into Brandon Wong's flopped pair of eights. An extra eight for rivered trips didn't matter, with Rajkumar, unable to tie Steve Billirakis' recent mark as the youngest WSOP bracelet winner. Rajkumar still earned $36,763.
The next player to exit was Matthew Kelly whose pocket sevens, fell to Alex Borteh's two pair (queens and tens). Kelly earned $46,567 for his efforts.
Player-of-the-Year candidate David 'The Dragon' Pham, busted next, at the hands of Shawn Keller's flopped pair of nines. Pham's K-Q didn't improve and his day was over. He collected $62,906 for his play.
Sandwiched between chip leaders Borteh and Wong, Shawn Keller's run ended when Borteh caught turn and river kings for trips. Keller earned $92,316 for finishing third.
Going into heads-up play, Borteh had an almost 2:1 chip lead over Wong. With the large blinds a factor, Wong couldn't withstand Borteh's run of cards and finally ran out of steam when his Q-8 ran into Borteh's K-6. Borteh hit a king on the turn and sealed Wong's fate. Borteh claimed the bracelet and the first-place cash of $225,483, while Wong earned $135,615 for finishing second.
Final Standings and Payouts:
1. Alexander Borteh $225,483
2. Brandon Wong $135,615
3. Shawn Keller $92,316
4. David Pham $62,906
5. Matthew Kelly $46,567
6. Vivek Rajkumar $36,763
7. Michael Byrne $27,777
8. Marco Johnson $20,424
9. Petri Pollanen $14,705
Photo: Image Masters