275 players started the WSOP Pot Limit Hold'em Championship three days ago in what many would call a precursor to the Main Event. In the last $10,000 event of the Series before July 3rd, a stacked field showed up to challenge the defending champion, Nenad Medic.
Down to the last 14 players to start the day, a final table was reached relatively quickly in the second level of play when Mohsin Charania was eliminated in 10th place.
The final table would turn out to be an exercise in small-ball poker, a thing you do not usually see in Pot Limit Hold'em. After days of pot-sized raises and reraises, players seemed less willing to commit themselves early in a hand. The slow play led to an interesting situation - with seven players left at the table, the average chip stack was just 14 big blinds.
With the wealth spread so thin, players were almost forced to commit themselves in any hand they decided to play for a raise. Within an hour the tournament lost four players; Eugene Todd (7th), Jason Lester (6th), J.C. Alvarado (5th) and Davidi Kitai (4th).
Another hour would pass before recent braclet winner, Eric "basebaldy" Baldwin, would be sent to the rail. He was first crippled when Kirill Gerasimov flopped two pair with against his . Left with only 420,000 he was all in (and very shortly after all out) on the next hand.
Going into the heads up match, Kirill Gerasimov had an almost 2-1 chip lead over John Kabbaj. It took Kabbaj only nine hands to find a way to double up, risking all his chips on a coin flip with against Gerasimov's pocket threes. Kabbaj flopped the boat and never looked back.
In the second to last hand, Kabbaj used a powerful reraise to muscle Gerasimov out of a pot (after a seven-plus minute tank). It appeared Gerasimov should have gone with the hand, as he ran into the cooler of all coolers on the final hand: aces vs. kings.
Kabbaj was on the winning end, taking home the $633,335 first-place prize and having the privilege of having his picture taken next to his first WSOP bracelet alongside pocket aces.
Congratulations to John Kabbaj, Champion of Event #45!
On the 28th hand of heads-up play, the match has come to a close. Before the flop, Kirill Gerasimov raised to 435,000 from the button, and John Kabbaj made the call from the big blind.
The first three cards showed up , and with it would come the final betting actions of the tournament. Kabbaj led out into the pot with a bet of 400,000. Gerasimov shot a glance over at his opponent before announcing a raise. He grabbed two neat towers of green chips from his stack and made it 1,000,000 straight. Kabbaj took a sip of his beer and leaned back in his chair. He announced an all in, and Gerasimov quickly called to put his own tournament life on the line.
After 198 hands of final table action, it was going to take a situation like this to end the day. Gerasimov had the second-best pair, but it was only second best. Kabbaj's pocket aces were primed to bring their owner a bracelet. The turn was safe, and the that filled out the board brought a big celebration for Kabbaj.
Kirill Gerasimov was a formidable foe here today and for the last three days. Each of the final three players, including him, held the chip lead at one point. But with the big blinds and the pot limits, he was unable to seal the deal. There isn't a bracelet for second place, but nearly $400,000 is good enough for his second-largest career cash. Congratulations are certainly due for a fine performance this week.
He raised to 435,000 and Kirill Gerasimov makes the call. The board came with both players checking the flop and turn. On the river, Gerasiov checked again and Kabbaj bet 400,000. Gerasimov made the call.