Saturday at the World Series of Poker continued the trend of the "Year of the Pro" that has marked the 2008 WSOP to date. Except this time it was "Euro Pro" Day amid the greater theme. The day's action began with Event #37, $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low World Championship, which went to David Benyamine, who is generally recognized to be one of the best Omaha players on the planet.
Benyamine's breakthrough first bracelet came in a finale loaded with provable talent, including no less than five former WSOP bracelet winners (Mike Matusow, Tony Ma, David Chiu, Toto Leonidas and Ram Vaswani). Nonetheless, by the time heads-up play was reached it was Benyamine against Greg Jamison, an Iowan looking to put his own mark on WSOP history. Benyamine held a 3:1 margin in chips, then moved onward from there. Benyamine eventually collected the bracelet and the $535,678 in winnings, while Jamison settled for $331,350 in second-place money.
The day's other bracelet went to another European pro, Denmark's Jesper Hougaard, who began the day leading the final table of Event #36, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em, and finished it by striking gold. Hougaard's large-field triumph – this one started with 2,447 players – is the largest title to date for another of Europe's rising stars. For the most part, Hougaard rolled over a final that also included former Main Event final-table player Aaron Kanter, veteran pro John Shipley and Canadian online star Owen "ocrowe" Crowe. Only during heads-up play was Hougaard temporarily reeled in, by eventual runner-up Cody Slaubaugh, before Hougaard reestablished command. Hougaard's win was worth $610,276, while Slaubaugh collected $389,128.
In Event #38, $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em, yet another recognized Euro pro garnered headlines. Veteran German player Jan Von Halle, husband of Team PokerStars player Katja Thater, surged on the day's second event to take the lead into today's final. Stiff competition awaits in what must be considered a packed final table for a $2,000-buyin event; also present here are Full Tilt players Lee Watkinson and Ben Roberts, plus highly regarded pros Chris Bell and Michael Greco. Michael Binger, the Day 1 leader, crashed out just short of the event's finale.
Another huge turnout was on hand for the noon kickoff of Event #39, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em. 2,720 players occupied every available seat in the Rio complex, including overflow areas in the Rio's main-casino poker room and a spot near Buzio's Restaurant only a short bit closer. By night's end the need for the tables had dissipated; the 2,720 had become just 218, all of whom will return for Day 2 play, safely int the money. Michael Polcari holds the overnight lead in a field that still contains many big names, including Barry Greenstein, Kenna James and Humberto Brenes.
Two new events begin today at the Rio. Kicking off promptly at noon was Event #40, $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball, while, the 5pm starter is Event #41, $1,500 Mixed Hold'em, which features alternating 30-minute stretches of fixed-limit and no-limit hold'em play.