“The players, the players, the players…”
It’s what poker television is really about, isn’t it? The cast of characters that gathers around the table determines so much of the viewing experience, and with this pointed introductory salvo, ESPN opened the book on its coverage of the 2010 World Series of Poker by telling the audience to buckle up and get ready to watch some great clashes of personality on the green felt.
In this week’s installment, viewers got a two-hour block featuring the final table of the $50,000 Player's Championship. Although the tournament was played with an eight-game format (2-7 triple draw, the five limit H.O.R.S.E. games, no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha) up until the final table, from then on, it was all no-limit hold’em.
Cast of characters: The Brothers – Michael and Robert Mizrachi, The Veteran – John Juanda, The Cash Game Legends-in-Training – Daniel Alaei, Mikael Thuritz, David Baker, Representing the Bobby’s Room Crowd – David Oppenheim, and The Russian Wild Card – Vladimir Shchemelev
Poker television for advanced players: In addition to revamping the intro, 441 Productions is also bringing more statistical information to the screen this season. Table position is more clearly highlighted, with labels like “UTG+1,” “hijack” and “cutoff” used on each player in the hand. Nearsighted folks like myself will also appreciate the new graphics featuring larger cards with clearer-looking suits.
Shchemelev seizes the early chip lead: Norman Chad kept asking, “Who is this guy?” However, those of us on the ground at the WSOP this summer are already well-acquainted with this summer’s biggest international surprise. After Daniel Alaei decimated Mikael Thuritz’s stack when his turned top pair against pocket jacks, Shchemelev nearly finished off the young Swede. Thuritz four-bet shoved with and Shchemelev made an easy call with . Thuritz was drawing dead by the turn on the board and was left with a single 5,000 chip while Shchemelev took the lead.
He folded what?!: It started as a six-way limped pot. Alaei limped in from UTG+2 with , Michael Mizrachi limped from the hijack with , Oppenheim came along from the cutoff holding , Robert Mizrachi called on the button with , Baker completed the small blind with , and Thuritz was all-in from the big blind for the aforementioned 5,000 chip with . The flop came down ; the Grinder flopped trips and his brother hit two pair. The action checked around to the Grinder, who bet 50,000. Only Oppenheim called. The on the turn gave Oppenheim an open-ended straight draw, and he decided to play it aggressively, raising Mizrachi’s 125,000 lead bet to 425,000. Mizrachi called. The did nothing to improve Oppenheim’s hand, but after Mizrachi checked his trips, he bet 550,000 with only ace-high.
“You have a full house?” Mizrachi mumbled. “I fold.”
Mizrachi cringed as Oppenheim turned up his cards to show down for the main pot with Thuritz. “I thought he had 6-8 for sure,” he said ruefully.
Thuritz picked up the main pot and took his stack up to 40,000 (but busted a few hands later) while Oppenheim collected the substantial side pot.
Mizrachi fun facts: All four Mizrachi brothers play poker, three of them professionally (Michael, Robert, and Eric). Youngest brother Danny earns his living as a professional magician.
Suck-resuck: What’s a final table without one? Alaei limped in for 50,000 with and David Oppenheim made it 225,000 to go with . Alaei called and they went heads-up to a flop. Alaei moved all-in, having Oppenheim covered, and he made the call for his tournament life. Alaei wrested away the lead when the hit the turn, making him two pair. Oppenheim was looking for an ace, a four, a ten, or a jack to survive and got his wish when the spiked on the river to send Alaei’s stack plummeting to less than five big blinds. The shortest stack to start the final table, Oppenheim was now the chip leader, and Alaei went out in seventh place at the hands of Vladimir Shchemelev a short time later.
David Gets Baked: Holding , Michael Mizrachi opened with a raise to 145,000 from UTG+1 and play folded around to David Baker in the small blind. He moved all-in with and Mizrachi insta-called. Baker looked resigned to his fate as the board fell , Mizrachi's pair of kings holding up to eliminate Baker in sixth place. The chip lead changed once again on this hand, vaulting Mizrachi to the top spot amid chants of "Grinder! Grinder! Grinder!" from his family members in the audience.
Model student: When Baker was 20 years old, he hired Vanessa Selbst as his poker coach. Their lessons took place entirely over Skype and the two remain close friends. Later in the series, Baker matched Selbst’s feat, earning a WSOP bracelet of his own in the $10,000 Deuce-to-Seven event.
Brotherly record: With Baker’s elimination, the Mizrachis became the highest-finishing pair of siblings ever in a WSOP tournament.
Shchemelev’s soul-read: Shchemelev opened pocket fours for 175,000 from the cutoff and Michael Mizrachi called from the small blind with . Mizrachi missed the flop but nevertheless led out for 260,000. Shchemelev called. Both players checked the on the turn. The river was the and Mizrachi bet 330,000. After a far-longer tank than the one shown on television, Shchemelev called, catching Mizrachi’s hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
History matters: We’d already witnessed Michael Mizrachi make a tight fold to a river bluff from David Oppenheim, and had Mizrachi made the call with the best hand in that instance, this hand, which ended up decimating Mizrachi’s stack, might have played out quite differently.
Oppenheim opened for 175,000 from UTG with , and Michael Mizrachi called with from the big blind. Oppenheim hit bottom set on the flop while Mizrachi made top pair. Mizrachi checked to Oppenheim who put out a 235,000 bet. Mizrachi raised to 735,000 and Oppenheim smooth-called. The turn fell the and Mizrachi maintained his aggression, leading out for 1,000,000. Oppenheim shoved, sending Mizrachi deep into the tank. Finally, he made the call, saw the bad news, and got no help from the on the river. Oppenheim doubled up and Mizrachi was left with under a million in chips.
Brotherly bust: Michael Mizrachi opened with a 200,000 raise holding , David Oppenheim folded the small blind and Robert Mizrachi moved all-in for an additional 465,000 with . Michael made the call, pitting the brothers against one another.
“You called me with queen-jack?” Robert asked.
“How can I fold?” Michael replied.
The flop was , Robert maintaining the lead wth ace-high. Mama Mizrachi started calling for a queen.
“That’s messed up,” Robert said.
Michael took the lead when the hit the turn. Now Mama was calling for an ace.
The river, however, was the and Michael eliminated his older brother in fifth place. Looking geniuinely upset about taking him out, Michael walked offstage for a moment to offer Robert his condolences.
He folded what?! (Part 2): Mizrachi opened for 150,000 with and Shchemelev defended his big blind with . Both players checked the flop. When the on the turn made his straight, Shchemelev led out for 175,000. Mizrachi called with his gutshot and overcards, only to hit a higher straight on the river with the . Shchemelev bet 350,000, Mizrachi raised to 1,000,000, and somehow, Shchemelev found a fold, mucking his inferior straight!
So long, Johnny: John Juanda’s quest for a fifth WSOP bracelet ended when he moved all-in for 1,365,000 from UTG with and Shchemelev called with from the big blind. The board sent him to the rail in fourth place.
Grinder calls Oppenheim’s bluff-raise: Mizrachi and Oppenheim limped in and saw a flop. Both players checked. The hit the turn and Mizrachi made it 100,000 to go. Oppenheim looked him up. The river fell the and Mizrachi loaded a second bullet, betting 300,000. After a brief tank, Oppenheim tacked on a 550,000 raise. Mizrachi must have picked something up, because he called pretty quickly, tabling for third pair. It was good and Oppenheim mucked his .
WSOP fashion moment of the week: Thank you, ESPN for the close-up on Shchemelev’s outrageous snakeskin loafers.
Oppenheim ousted: Shchemelev opened for 225,000 with , Mizrachi three-bet to 600,000 from the small blind with and David Oppenheim shoved for an additional 2.7 million from the big blind holding pocket eights. Shchemelev ducked out of the way, and Mizrachi called.
The Mizrachi contingent was on their feet as the flop came down , Oppenheim’s eights holding. Mizrachi got no help from the on the turn. Oppenheim’s fate lay in this river card and he couldn’t even watch as the dealer burned and turned. It was the , spelling his elimination as Mizrachi made top pair. Mizrachi fells into the embrace of his celebrating family as Oppenheim hit the rail.
Shchemelev picks up momentum: Mizrachi raised the button to 245,000 with , and Vladimir Shchemelev made the call with pocket fives. The flop was , Mizrachi hitting a pair of fours while Shchemelev held an overpair. Shchemelev check-raised Mizrachi’s 275,000 bet to 600,000. Mizrachi didn’t stop there and four-bet to 950,000. Shchemelev called and they went to the turn, which fell the . Shchemelev check-called 500,000 from Mizrachi. Onward to the river, which landed the . Shchemelelv checked and Mizrachi checked behind. Shchemelev’s fives were good and he took a 3-1 chip lead, temporarily silencing the raucous Mizrachi contingent.
The Norman Chad quote of the week: “Shchemelev in Russian actually means Grinder.”
“Club, club, club!”: Mizrachi raised his button to 200,000 with , and Shchemelev quickly re-raised to 750,000 with . Mizrachi thought for a moment before shoving and Shchemelev snap-called. Mizrachi’s hand was dominated, but the gave him a huge sweat with the nut-flush draw. The crowd started chanting for a club, but the on the turn made Shchemelev a Broadway straight. Mizrachi needed a club to win or a jack to chop and staved off elimination yet again when the hit the river, making his flush. Mizrachi thrust his hands into the air as Shchemelev let out a string of angry-sounding Russian words to a member of his rail contingent. With that hand, the chip counts evened back up.
Russian on the ropes: Fast-forward a few hours of real time. Mizrachi ground his way back up to 14 million in chips, leaving Shchemelev on only 2 million. He raised to 225,000 on the button with and Shchemelev called with . Both players checked the flop. The turn was the , Mizrachi hitting bottom pair. Shchemelev checked and Mizrachi checked behind. Mizrachi made trips when the river fell the , but Shchemelev did his bidding for him, leading out for 250,000. Mizrachi thought carefully and put in a raise to 2 million.
“Call,” said Shchemelev after a moment of thought. As soon as Mizrachi showed him the bad news, the “Grinder!” chant resumed and Shchemelev was left on less than a million in chips.
“$5 footlong!”: In the hand that would win him his first WSOP bracelet, Mizrachi moved all-in from the button with and Shchemelev made the call with a dominating .
The Mizrachi family instantly started screaming for a five but didn’t get one on the flop.
“Give me a $5 footlong,”Mizrachi said. And like manna from heaven, the hit, and the crowd went berzerk.
Shchemelev had to river a seven or eight to survive but didn’t get there, the falling to lock up the $50,000 Player's Championship for Michael Mizrachi.
The World Series of Poker airs Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN. Check your local listings.
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