"It's a really sick final table," was how Shane 'Shaniac' Schleger described it.
The final table of Event #4 $5,000 Mixed Hold'em at the 2008 World Series of Poker was definitely one of the strongest and impressive final tables in recent WSOP memory. An electrifying buzz filled the Amazon Ballroom on Wednesday evening as history was made when Erick Lindgren beat Justin "ZeeJustin" Bonomo heads up for his first bracelet.
Event #4 was the second star-studded final table since the WSOP began last Saturday. With the exception of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. events, I can't recall two top-notch final tables occurring so close to each other since I started covering the WSOP in 2005.
Lindgren's victory was an impressive feat especially considering his competition included Howard Lederer, David Williams, Roland de Wolfe, Andrew "Good2cu" Robl, David "Chino" Rheem, Isaac Haxton, and Pat Pezzin.
The road to victory was not easy considering the pedigree of the final-table players. Howard Lederer's resume included two WPT titles and two bracelets, not to mention a victory in the $100,000 buy-in event at the 2008 Aussie Millions in January. David Williams is a bracelet winner and WSOP Main Event runner-up. Roland de Wolfe is one of only two players (Gavin Griffin is the other) to have won an event on the WPT and EPT. ZeeJustin has always been regarded as one of the premiere internet players over the last couple of years. He made a smooth transition from the virtual tables to the live ones. He won over $1.1 million in tournaments including cashes on both the WPT and at the WSOP. Andrew "Good2cu" Robl is a founding member of Ship It Holla Ballas. The 21-year old is most known for crushing the high stakes cash games online. In the WSOP Preview Issue for Bluff Magazine, managing editor Lance Bradley listed Robl as one of the top young guns we should be watching.
Even the lesser known players at the Event #4 final table were no slouches either. Isaac Haxton might best be known as the guy who had $800,000 stuck in NETeller, but he happens to have over $1 million in career earnings. David "Chino" Rheem came very close to winning a bracelet when he was the runner-up to Allen Cunningham in a 2006 WSOP event. Pat Pezzin's resume cannot be overlooked with six cashes and one WSOP final table.
When the dust settled, Lindgren won the bracelet and earned the respect of his peers and media alike after battling a difficult final table.
These days, with such large fields at the WSOP, it was rare that there was one deep final table, let alone two. If you thought Event #4 was unfathomable, consider the level of talent at the final table for Event #1 $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em. The final nine included a couple of bracelet winners, two WPT champions, and one EPT champion, not to mention two of the top online players in the world.
Nenad Medic made three final tables on the WPT including a victory at Foxwoods in 2006. He won his first bracelet when he beat Andy Bloch heads up for the victory. I have always considered Bloch to be the best player who never won a bracelet. The former MIT blackjack team member has over $3.2 million in career earnings with a second place in the inaugural $50K H.O.R.S.E. event against Chip Reese.
Medic also bested two bracelet winners in Mike Sexton and Kathy Liebert. Sexton was one of the most experienced players at the final table with 19 final tables at the WSOP but with only one bracelet. Sexton was among the Top 10 in career WSOP cashes with 43. Although Kathy Liebrt doesn't get the respect that she deserves, her stats don't lie. She currently ranks #1 on the All Time Female Career Money List for tournament earnings with over $4 million. She's one of the most consistent players in poker and won her first bracelet in 2004 and cashed 24 total times at the WSOP and made seven final tables, not to mention three WPT final tables.
The rest of the final table in Event #1 included Patrik Antonius, who is considered one of the best poker players in the world, and Phil 'The Unabomber' Laak. Although Laak won one WPT title and made two WSOP final table appearances, he had been focusing on cash games. Chris Bell might have been the least known player at the final table, but he had a couple of years of big league experience with one WTP final table appearance, two WSOP final tables and six WSOP cashes.
And don't forget about the highly touted internet players at the final table. Mike "SowersUNCC" Sowers was among the new wave of 21-year-old phenoms who made their debut at the 2008 WSOP. His biggest cashes to date included a victory in a WCOOP event on PokerStars and a nice score in a $5,000 buy-in event at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. Sowers was also mentioned in the Bluff WSOP Preview Issue as one of the players that you should keep an eye out at the 2008 WSOP. And then there was Amit "amak316" Makhija, who mastered high-stakes heads-up SNGs and won the $109 rebuy at PokerStars a couple of times. At the EPT Grand Finale in Monte Carlo in May, amak316 cashed in 20th place.
Seriously, with the exception of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. final tables, could you think of a tougher table to face at the WSOP? Despite the obstacles, Medic elevated the level of his play and beat some of the best in the game.
Nenad Medic and Erick Lindgren definitely earned their bracelets this week. They survived two of the toughest tables in recent history which should bolster the significance of their performances.