WSOPE, Event 1 - £2,500 HORSE: Thomas Bihl Captures First-Ever WSOP Europe Bracelet
Eight players with nine WSOP bracelets among them returned to the Empire Casino in London on Saturday to vie for the first-ever World Series of Poker Europe bracelet. The field of 105 top players had narrowed to the final eight, with Jen Harman starting the day with the chip lead in one of the toughest final tables in recent memory. By the end of the day a former World Champion, an environmentalist with green hair and a Hendon Mobster would all be left watching the action as Thomas 'Buzzer' Bihl took down the £2,500 HORSE event, collecting the historic first WSOP Europe bracelet and £70,875 in first-place money.
As Bihl said before the final table, "It's not the easiest field I will ever face but I'm so happy to get this far in a field of 105 of the best players in the world. I think I have every chance now. A few key pots and I could be the first WSOP Europe bracelet winner." Bihl picked up more than a few of those key pots on his way to his first WSOP bracelet and victory in the inaugural WSOP Europe event.
Bihl started the day in the middle of the pack. The final-table chip counts and seat assignments looked like this:
Seat 1: Jennifer Harman — 204,000
Seat 2: Gary Jones — 30,000
Seat 3: Joe Beevers — 74,500
Seat 4: Kirk Morrison — 172,500
Seat 5: Thomas Bihl — 130,500
Seat 6: Yuval Bronshtein — 185,500
Seat 7: Alex Kravchenko — 114,500
Seat 8: Chris Ferguson — 142,500
Gary 'The Choirboy' Jones lasted less than one orbit before all his chips got in the middle for the last time. The British poker pro, who dyed his hair bright green for the WSOP Europe to raise awareness of global warming and climate change, raised pre-flop with , and Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson called from the big bling. On the flop of , Jones bet and Ferguson check-raised. Jones called, then called all in when Ferguson led out on the turn. Ferguson held 8-9 for a pair of eights with a straight draw, and got his straight on the river with a seven, sending Jones to the rail in eighth place with £9,188.
Joe 'The Elegance' Beevers was well-known to British poker fans from his performances on Late Night Poker, and had home-field advantage in his home town of London. That wasn't enough to hold off Kirk Morrison in the second Hold'em round of the day. Beevers was eliminated in seventh place when Morrison turned an ace-high flush to send the dapper Englishman to the rail, collecting £11,812 for his finish.
Shortly after Beevers hit the rail, he was followed by Atlanta native Yuval Bronshtein, when Bronshtein ran into Thomas Bihl in Razz with 2-9-3-2 showing. Bronshtein bet out all the way until Bihl check-raised on sixth once Bronshtein paired his deuce. Bronshtein called all in on seventh and turned over a nine-low, which was no good against Bihl's 8-7-5-3-A, sending Bronshtein home in sixth place with £14,438.
After eliminating Bronshtein, Bihl moved up into the middle of the pack as Alex Kravchenko tried to make something happen with his short stack. Kravchenko picked up his first WSOP bracelet this summer in the $1,500 Omaha-8 event, and finished fourth in the Main Event, so he was no stranger to the pressure of WSOP play. He was eliminated in fifth place during Omaha-8 play here by Kirk Morrison's on a board of . All the chips went in on the turn, when Kravchenko's was slightly ahead of Morrison's flush draw and low draw. The on the river made Morrison's flush and nut low, and sent Kravchenko home with £17,850 for three days' work. Morrison picked up a slight chip lead on that hand, and the chip stacks looked like this at the beginning of four-handed play:
Kirk Morrison — 310,000
Jennifer Harman — 305,000
Chris Ferguson — 230,000
Thomas Bihl — 210,000
Morrison increased his chip lead as the dinner break passed, moving into a major chip lead shortly after dinner, as former chip leader Jennifer Harman slid dangerously close to elimination. Ferguson, though, was the first to be eliminated after dinner when he ran into Thomas Bihl's kings in the hole in Stud Hi and didn't improve to win. Bihl's kings held up through seventh, and the 2000 World Champion was eliminated in fourth place for £21,700. As three-handed play began, Morrison still held a massive chip lead over the other two competitors:
Kirk Morrison — 685,000
Thomas Bihl — 280,000
Jennifer Harman — 75,000
But a little luck and a lot of determination go a long way in limit poker, and Harman was determined not to let her night end early. She clawed her way back from the brink of elimination over nearly three hours of three-handed play to pull back into contention, and then past Morrison for second position in chips as Thomas Bihl took over the chip lead. Finally, as the night wore on, Harman sent Morrison off in third place during Stud Hi/Lo action. Morrison brought it in, and called when Harman completed. Morrison called Harman's bet on fourth, fifth and sixth street, ending up all in on sixth. Morrison turned up a pair of fours and a draw to an 8-7 low. Harman was ahead with her jacks and no low draw, and Morrison missed his low and didn't improve his high on seventh street. Morrison collected £26,250 for his performance.
It took over 100 hands of heads-up play and several lead swaps before Bihl took down the final hand during Hold'em play and claimed his first WSOP bracelet. On a flop of , both Bihl and Harman checked. Harman check-raised the turn , and Bihl called on a draw with an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw. Harman's tens and sevens couldn't hold up when a six on the river made Bihl's 10-high straight and brought him the first WSOP Europe bracelet ever.
Here is the final-table finishing order:
1. Thomas Bihl £70,875
2. Jennifer Harman £40,688
3. Kirk Morrison £26,250
4. Chris "Jesus" Ferguson £21,700
5. Alex Kravchenko £17,850
6. Yuval Bronshtein £14,438
7. Joe Beevers £11,812
8. Gary Jones £9,188
Bihl, sponsored by Betfair (also the official sponsor of the WSOP Europe) said, "It's every poker player's dream to win a bracelet," in an interview shortly after winning the event. "I hope the good run continues."