Daniel Alaei joined an elite club of just 22 players who have at least five World Series of Poker gold bracelets, picking up his fifth by winning Event #24: $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low Championship for $391,097. It was his second victory in the event, which he also took down in 2009.
After the win, Alaei was asked about his place in poker history and possibly being ranked among the greats when all is said and done.
"I hope to win more, and maybe one day be in that conversation," Alaei said. "I don't know if I'm there now, but I just try to play my best and do what I do. I've been very fortunate here at the World Series."
If Alaei's results are any judge, his strength seems to be defeating small-field, high buy-in tournaments, but those events often draw the most elite competition to the felt. This tournament had 157 runners, and all of Alaei's bracelets have come in $5,000 or $10,000 events with no more than 386 players.
That's no accident, according to Alaei, who plays almost zero no-limit hold'em events as he focuses most of of his time on cash games. Unlike some players, he's very forthcoming about where he thinks his edge is, and it's not in the "Cadillac of Poker."
"There's a lot of good [cash] action at the WSOP," he said with a smile. "This is actually my first event. I feel like the good no-limit players are so advanced, and I'm not in practice in the game. I feel like they're much better than me, so I don't even bother to play those tournaments."
His edge in Omaha hi-low appeared to be just fine, as he was able top a tough final table that included Scott Clements (fourth place), World Poker Tour star Anthony Zinno (sixth), Mike Wattel (seventh), and Jeremy Ausmus (ninth). Things looked dicey in the heads-up match against Kyle Miaso, with Alaei around 600,000 at limits of 50,000/100,000, but he turned the tide with a furious rally.
First, Alaei made trip kings with no low on board to get up to 1.6 million. Then, he turned jacks full with on a board and got two big bets out of Miaso to draw almost even. After that, Alaei kept the momentum up, took the lead, and never relinquished it. By the time limits went to 80,000/160,000, Miaso had just a few bets left and got the remainder in with on a flop. Alaei had , and his set held up through the turn and river.
"I was so low-stacked, so it's very nice to come back and win it," Alaei said.
As for the rest of his WSOP, Alaei said his game plan will stay the same as he continues to be selective. He has the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Championship circled and will stick with his plan to play "about 10" tournaments that he likes best, with the rest of his poker time allotted for cash. That's just the formula that works for him, something he found when he tried playing a full tournament schedule.
"I don't necessarily chase bracelets," he said. "I tried it a couple of years ago where I made some big bets to motivate myself to play tournaments. I'm a cash-game player at heart, and I felt like a slave to the tournaments. I'd rather play when I feel like it."
If five bracelets and more than $6.8 million in tournament cashes are any judge, his game plan is working just fine.