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The Inside Straight - Highlights & Events

by CP The Inside Straight Authors |  Published: Aug 08, 2006


By Tim Peters

The 37th-annual World Series of Poker got under way officially on Monday, June 26, with its first bracelet event, the traditional casino employees no-limit hold'em tournament. But even the day before, a visitor to the enormous Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas could sense that history was in the making.

On Sunday afternoon, the biggest (albeit temporary) poker room in the world opened for business: 208 tables set up in what could have served as an airplane hangar. Satellites with a variety of buy-ins started up in one corner (they pay in tournament chips, good for entry into WSOP events), while in the area set aside for final tables and ESPN coverage, a terrific invitation-only event started up: the Tournament of Champions (TOC).

Originally the brainchild of Mike "The Ambassador of Poker" Sexton, the TOC this year included a field of 27, including winners of WSOP Tournament Circuit events, all nine players from last year's main-event final table, and several special invitees, including Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu, and Sexton himself. The tournament, which took two days, was filmed for TV, and it featured an epic heads-up battle between Sexton and Negreanu. Read the full report on this event on page 144 in this issue.

The official events began on Monday, and early returns suggested that this year's Series was going to break records for participation. The casino employees no-limit hold'em tournament, nearly doubled in size from the previous year with 1,233 entrants, and the first open event also set a record when 2,776 people bought their way into the $1,500 no-limit hold'em tournament - making it the second-largest poker tournament in WSOP history.

The name players - most of whom were wearing the official attire of their sponsors - were visible everywhere, and a number of them were getting off to very good starts in this year's Series. Carlos "The Matador" Mortensen made it to two final tables in quick succession (event No. 2, $1,500 no-limit hold'em, and event No. 6, $2,000 no-limit hold'em), but went out in ninth place in both. Joe Hachem, last year's main-event winner, proved his chops by making the final table in the challenging $2,500 no-limit hold'em shorthanded tournament (event No. 5); he came in second to Dutch Boyd. David Williams got the bracelet in the $1,500 seven-card stud event, and Sam Farha took the gold in the $5,000 Omaha eight-or-better event.

But even though he has not yet won a bracelet in the 2006 Series, perhaps the most impressive performance to date was that of Phil Hellmuth. "The Poker Brat" cashed in three events in quick succession (event No. 1, $1,500 no-limit hold'em; event No. 4, $1,500 limit hold'em; and event No. 9, $5,000 no-limit hold'em), setting the record for most WSOP cashes with 51, trumping the 49 cashes of Men "The Master" Nguyen. And Hellmuth very nearly won his 10th WSOP bracelet in the $5,000 event, playing incredible poker but finishing second to amateur Jeff Cabanillas.

Card Player magazine and are on hand to cover every bluff, bust-out, bad beat, and bracelet ceremony. Here, Card Player recaps events No. 1-13. Find out who won a bracelet! spade

The Big Deal - Caesars Dealer Wins First World Series of Poker Bracelet of 2006
By Alex Henriquez

The 2006 World Series of Poker officially kicked off with the casino employees no-limit hold'em tournament. The first bracelet event on the WSOP calendar drew 1,233 entrants, smashing last year's record number of 663. The diverse field featured gaming staff from all around the country, with job titles ranging from poker dealer to executive host.

As a result of the record turnout, the two-day event boasted a $554,850 prize pool. Players entered day one expecting the top 99 to finish in the money, but due to a change in tournament structure, the money bubble burst at player 102.

On day two, 18 players returned to compete for the $127,616 first-place prize and the coveted WSOP bracelet. The two-table, ninehanded action began with $2,000-$4,000 blinds and $500 antes.

Alejandro Posso became the first final-table victim. The Hard Rock Seminole poker dealer finished 10th ($11,088) when his pocket kings failed to improve against Chris Himmenger's pocket aces.

Barry Goldberg, a casino dealer at The Venetian, finished in ninth place ($12,474).

Marsha Waggoner, executive host at Hollywood Park Casino, enjoyed a lively cheering section, which included her husband, poker pro Kenna James. Despite the love and support, Waggoner bowed out in eighth place ($13,860), a victim of David Wortham's pocket aces.

Pocket bullets led to a number of eliminations at the final table, and Wortham soon found himself on the receiving end of poker's strongest starting hand. The Soboba Casino shift manager received no help for his pocket queens and hit the rail in seventh place ($16,632).

Less than 10 minutes later, Chris Gros continued the pocket aces hot streak when his Aspade Aheart held up against Craig Federspiel's Jheart Jclub. Federspiel, a Mirage Casino poker dealer, ended the day as the sixth-place finisher ($19,404).

Fifth place ($22,176) belonged to Chris Himmenger, the lone Binion's representative at the final table, and Scott Clark, a poker dealer from the Rio, took fourth place ($27,720).

After nearly eight hours of play, R.J. Wright pushed all in on a 6diamond 2diamond 2heart flop and Bryan Devonshire called. After the 3heart turn, Wright's Aspade 5diamond appeared to be in good shape against Devonshire's Kspade Qspade. However, the Kclub hit on the river, and Devonshire eliminated Wright.

The Luxor poker dealer netted $38,531 for his third-place finish.

The final hand of the tournament began with a $30,000 Devonshire raise. After Chris Gros' call, the flop came 8heart 3spade 3diamond. Devonshire bet $45,000 and Gros reraised to $100,000. Devonshire, a former employee of Bronco Billy's, moved all in and Gros immediately called. Devonshire showed the Aclub Kclub, but Gros all but wrapped up the tournament when he turned over the 4heart 3club. The 10heart turn and 7spade river sealed Devonshire's fate, and he finished the tournament in second place ($66,582).

Gros, a poker dealer from Caesars, took home $127,616 and earned the distinguished honor of being the first bracelet winner of the 2006 World Series of Poker. spade

Event No. 2 - Cantu Can Do
Brandon Cantu Wins World Series of Poker $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
By Alex Henriquez

If you want the understatement of the 2006 World Series of Poker, describe the turnout for the $1,500 no-limit hold'em event as "good." This popular tournament drew a record 2,776 players and featured a $3,789,240 prize pool.

After two days of marathon poker action, nine players remained for the ESPN televised final table.

Here were the chip counts:
1. and 2. Lee Padilla - $753,000; Brandon Cantu - $753,000
3. Drew Rubin - $573,000
4. Mark Ly - $516,000
5. Mark Swartz - $359,000
6. Don Zewin - $340,000
7. Juan Carlos Mortensen - $337,000
8. Ron Stanley - $283,000
9. Brent Roberts - $260,000

The relatively low starting blinds ($8,000-$16,000) and antes ($2,000) allowed for conservative play, and the tournament clock crept to the two-and-half-hour mark before fans in attendance witnessed the first final-table knockout.

Juan Carlos Mortensen, the most recognizable name remaining, finished in ninth place ($71,617). Despite living near the top of the leader board for the better part of the tournament, Mortensen entered the final table with a moderate stack. He moved all in preflop with pocket fours, but exited when Mark Ly paired his queen on the turn.

Fans needed to wait another two hours before Mark Swartz went home as the eighth-place finisher ($88,668).

Lee Padilla quickened the elimination pace when he bounced two players on the same hand. He called preflop all-in raises by Ron Stanley (Aclub 9club) and Don Zewin (8spade 8club), and eliminated both men when his Aspade Jspade paired a jack on the turn. Stanley, the short stack, finished in seventh place ($107,614), and Zewin ended the day in sixth place ($126,940).

The number five spot went to Brent Roberts ($151,570) after his pocket sevens failed to hold up against Brandon Cantu's Aheart Qclub.

Padilla, the man who took out two opponents with one swing, hit the canvas himself when he reraised all in with the Adiamond 3diamond and Ly called him with the dominant Aclub 10spade. The board brought no treys, diamond flushes, or straights, and Padilla finished in fourth place ($176,579).

Less than an hour into three-way action, Drew Rubin called Cantu's all-in raise with the Aspade 6diamond. Cantu's pocket eights held up, and Rubin's tournament run ended with a third-place finish ($226,597).

The right to wear the WSOP bracelet came down to a hand in which, after a series of huge bets, Ly moved all in on an Aclub Jclub 7diamond 6club board and Cantu called. Ly flipped over the Jheart 4heart, giving him a pair of jacks, but Cantu showed the Adiamond Kspade. The Qspade river offered Ly no help, and Cantu doubled up with his pair of aces. The hand crippled Ly, leaving him with only $10,000 in chips. With a $4 million lead, Cantu called Ly's blind all in. Cantu made two pair, queens and fives, and Ly completely missed with his 10club 2heart.

At shortly after midnight, Ly became the $1,500 no-limit hold'em event runner-up ($416,816).

Cantu took home $757,839 and walked away with the second open-event bracelet of the 2006 World Series of Poker. spade

Event No. 3 - Furst Bracelet
Rafe Furst Wins the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em Event

By Alex Henriquez

The $1,500 pot-limit hold'em event attracted a field of 1,102. With a lion's share of the $1,504,230 total prize pool still available, players entered final-table action knowing that the bracelet and a serious amount of cash were tantalizingly within reach.

The chip counts entering the final table were as follows:
1. Eric Lynch - $455,000
2. Rocky Enciso - $247,000
3. Rafe Furst - $222,000
4. George Bronstein - $157,000
5. John Juanda - $147,000
6. Burt Boutin - $140,000
7. Can Kim Hua - $122,000
8. Richard Chase - $95,000
9. Alan Gilbert - $88,000

Only four minutes after the cards hit the air, Alan Gilbert's short afternoon of poker ended with a ninth-place finish ($33,854).
John Juanda, one of two FullTilt representatives to reach the final table (Rafe Furst being the other), made a shocking exit when he finished in eighth place ($37,606). The biggest name at the final table, Juanda hit the rail after moving all in with pocket queens, only to have Can Kim Hua call him with the Aclub Kdiamond and pair his king on the flop.

After a period of little action, Richard Chase, his stack whittled down to almost nothing, became the seventh-place finisher ($45,127). He tossed his last $4,000 in with the abysmal 7spade 3heart, and took a trip to the rail when George Bronstein's Aclub 3spade held up.

Riding a wave of success after a runner-up finish at the WPT's inaugural Mandalay Bay Poker Championship, Burt Boutin eliminated Hua in sixth place ($52,648), but eventually crashed on the sand as the fifth-place finisher ($60,169).

The eliminations of Bronstein in fourth place ($75,212) and Eric "Rizen" Lynch in third place ($104,544) set up a bracelet showdown between Rafe Furst and Rocky Enciso.

Furst, famous (or infamous) for being the first player eliminated in the 2003 main event, benefited from two miracle river cards en route to heads-up action. The first, an ace, saved Furst's pocket rockets from Hua's set of sevens, while the second, a jack, made two pair on the board and led to a chopped pot by eliminating an opponent's dominant kicker.

By the time Furst entered heads-up play, however, he possessed a near 2-to-1 chip lead, and Enciso needed the miracle. He didn't get it. On the final hand of the day, Furst put Enciso all in on a 10heart 10spade 8spade 4heart board. After the call, Furst flipped over 8diamond 4diamond, giving him a far better two pair than Enciso's Jheart 4spade. The 2diamond river failed to save Enciso and Furst eliminated him from the tournament.

Enciso took home $180,508 for his runner-up finish.

Furst, one of the original "Tiltboys" with friend Phil Gordon, walked away from the final table with $345,984 and his first World Series of Poker bracelet. spade

Event No. 4 - Abolfathi Wins
$1,500 Limit Hold'em Bracelet

By Rich Glanzer

The first limit hold'em event of the World Series drew 1,068 players, producing a massive $1,457,820 prize pool. While the final table of the $1,500 event might not have drawn the crowds associated with a normal WSOP finale, the nine remaining players didn't notice, as their focus was on winning a bracelet and a lot of cash.

The chip counts going to the final table were as follows: Patrick Maloney ($260,000); Josh Schlein ($243,000); Hank Sparks ($243,000); Michelle Lewis ($225,000); Eric Buchman ($213,000); Lars Hansen ($156,000); Vipol Kathavi ($132,000); Kianoush Abolfathi ($75,000); and Matthew Elsby ($51,000).

Elsby was the first casualty of the day when Abolfathi cracked his pocket aces with K-Q after hitting his third king.

Hansen ($36,446), Maloney ($43,735), Sparks ($51,029), and Kathavi ($58,313) were the next four eliminations.

The final four consisted of Lewis, Abolfathi, Schlein, and Buchman, with each having enough chips to contend. Lewis, the last woman in the field, went on a roll, but soon started losing chips. Schlein eliminated her when he cracked her aces by catching a flush on the river. While Lewis will have to try again for a bracelet, Schlein was in great shape to get his. Schlein acted fearlessly, but on the inside he was anything but calm. "I'm extremely nervous because I want the bracelet that bad," he said to a dealer during a break.

But just like Lewis, Schlein will have to wait, as he lost many pots and his stack wilted away. Finally, Abolfathi eliminated him when his set of deuces beat Schlein's king high.

Going into heads-up play, Abolfathi ($1,350,000) enjoyed a huge chip advantage over Buchman ($390,000).
Abolfathi soon extended that lead and put Buchman all in for his last $85,000 preflop. Abolfathi turned over the 6club 6spade and Buchman showed the Aheart Jclub. The flop came Qheart Qdiamond 3club. The turn was the 4club and Abolfathi was one card away from victory. But winning a WSOP bracelet is never easy, and Abolfathi had more work cut out for him when the Adiamond hit on the river. "I was gutted. I wanted it to be over," said Abolfathi after the tournament.

But while he may have been upset, he still had a monster chip lead, something Buchman knew all too well. "I still thought I was going to lose even after the ace hit," the native of Valley Stream, New York, said.

As it turned out, Buchman was right. Although he made a small comeback, made it to the next break, and survived two more all ins, the fourth time was the charm for Abolfathi. He had the advantage with the 10diamond 6spade over Buchman's 9club 8diamond. A 10 hit on the flop and Buchman was drawing dead by the river.

For his runner-up effort, Buchman earned $174,398.

Abolfathi, along with being $335,289 richer, beamed about his new WSOP accessory. "Fantastic. Amazing," he said. "You don't know what it means until you put it on." spade

Event No. 5 -Russ 'Dutch' Boyd
Wins $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shorthanded Bracelet

By Ryan Lucchesi

One of the World Series of Poker's most exciting events, the no-limit hold'em shorthanded tournament, which pits six players per table against one another, drew 824 players and produced a $1,895,200 prize pool. After two exciting days of play that included all of poker's biggest names, the stage was set for a dramatic final table. Russ "Dutch" Boyd was the chip leader when the final table began, and he was joined by 2005 WSOP Champion Joseph Hachem, Michael Goodman, Peter Hassett, David Solomon, and Jeff Knight.

Play kicked off with $3,000-$6,000 blinds and $1,000 antes. Solomon was the first to fall when his Kheart 6club ran into Goodman's Kspade Qspade. He took home $68,277 for his sixth-place finish. Hachem sent Hassett to the rail next. Hassett's Kheart Qheart failed to improve against Hachem's Aheart Jheart, and he was eliminated from the tournament in fifth place, earning $91,917. Hachem doubled up through Boyd twice and jumped into the chip lead with $1,146,000. Boyd was down but definitely not out, with $691,000. Boyd started his climb back up to the chip lead when he eliminated Goodman with an ace-high straight. Goodman was awarded $115,607 for his fourth-place finish. Boyd then regained the chip lead when he eliminated Jeff Knight with a set of jacks. Knight was caught bluffing with the 4heart 3spade and received $153,511 for third place. Then, the heads-up battle between the reigning world champion and one of the game's passionate young stars got under way. Boyd was the chip leader with $1,226,000 and Hachem had $846,000. The railbirds surrounded the final table, and the Amazon Room buzzed with excitement. Boyd struck the first blow with a pair of jacks, and crippled Hachem by taking $320,000 from the world champion. Hachem was short-stacked at this point and switched gears to aggressive play. He kept tempting Boyd to "pass the sugar" with many bets and raises. Hachem was able to double up when his ace played on a board of Jheart Jclub 3spade 10diamond 10heart against Boyd's Kdiamond 3heart.

With the chip stacks at $1,460,000 for Boyd and $600,000 for Hachem, the decisive hand of the tournament was dealt. Boyd moved all in preflop and Hachem immediately called. Hachem flipped over the Aspade Qclub and Boyd turned over the Adiamond 5heart. The flop of Aheart Kclub 9spade hit both players, but Boyd was still behind. The turn was the Jclub. With only three outs that could give Boyd his first bracelet, the 5diamond hit on the river. Hachem, suffering a tough defeat, was consoled by his wife and also by his friend and fellow World Champion Greg Raymer. Hachem was confident in his final-table strategy against Boyd: "I had him where I wanted him. I knew exactly what he was going to do." Raymer also pointed out, "Every time Joe was all in, he was the big favorite." Hachem was awarded $256,800 for his second-place finish and further cemented his WSOP legacy with another solid performance. But, to the victor goes the spoils, and Boyd was awarded his first gold bracelet and $475,712 in prize money. "This is what the Crew's all about," Boyd pronounced as he gave many thanks to his friends and family who were present to support him. spade

Event No. 6 - First Time's a Charm … and a Bracelet
22-Year-Old Aussie Wins $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em Tournament

By Alex Henriquez

One bracelet, $803,274 in prize money, your first World Series of Poker appearance - not bad. That's exactly what happened to Mark Vos, who outlasted a starting field of 1,919 players to win the $2,000 no-limit hold'em event.

The $3,492,580 total prize pool attracted some of the biggest names in the game, but only two of them survived long enough to play on day three: Card Player Player of the Year contender Nam Le and Juan Carlos Mortensen, appearing at his second WSOP final table in one week.

The chip counts going to the final table were as follows:
1. Kevin Peterson - $1,130,000
2. Mark Vos - $528,000
3. Vanessa Selbst - $492,000
4. Thomas Hunt III - $468,000
5. Nam Le - $323,000
6. David Wells - $275,000
7. John Reiss Jr. - $222,000
8. Juan Carlos Mortensen - $214,000
9. Willard Chang - $214,000

Mortensen pulled a "back to the future" by not only playing at his second 2006 WSOP final table, but finishing in the exact same place. After taking ninth in the $1,500 no-limit event, he again went home in the nine spot as the first player eliminated. His pocket sevens failed to hold up against Selbst's Aheart 9heart, as she paired her ace on the flop, and Mortensen walked away $73,344 richer.

Selbst might be in the running for the nickname "The Widow Maker," as she then eliminated David Wells. She entered with the Kdiamond 8diamond, a huge underdog to Wells' Kclub 10club, but she paired her 8 and sent Wells to the rail in eighth place ($87,351).

Despite her strong play, Selbst soon fell victim to the strongest starting hand in Texas hold'em. She pushed all in preflop on an apparent bluff with the 5spade 2spade, and Peterson made the call with pocket aces. He went on to crush Selbst with quad aces, and she finished in seventh place ($101,285).

Peterson, who started the day as the chip leader, followed Selbst to the rail. On a Kspade 9diamond 5spade flop, Peterson moved all in with the Qclub 10club and Reiss called with pocket treys. Reiss' pair held up, as Peterson missed his inside-straight draw, and he exited in sixth place ($115,255).

Five minutes later, Chang made an all-in preflop raise for his remaining $370,000. Le called from the big blind, and his dominant Kclub Qspade prevailed over Chang's Kspade 3heart. He eliminated Chang in fifth place ($136, 211).

Thomas Hunt made a rare "muck out" on his final hand of the day. He was all in with an Adiamond Kclub Kdiamond 5club 3heart board, and instead of showing his cards, he simply tossed them in the muck after Reiss flipped up an ace. Hunt finished the action as the fourth-place finisher ($160,659).

In a matter of minutes, Reiss took his own trip to the wrong side of the rail. He moved all in on a Jclub 10club 8heart 4diamond board and received an immediate call from Le. Reiss' pair of jacks, made by his Aclub Jclub holecards, proved to be no match for Le's 9diamond 7diamond. Le eliminated Reiss with the jack-high straight. Reiss netted $209,555 for his third-place finish.

Reiss' elimination set the stage for heads-up action between a 22-year-old Australian who was making his WSOP debut and one of the year's most dominant pros. Le entered the showdown with a 2-to-1 chip lead, but the back-and-forth play went late into the night as the lead changed a number of times.

At 11:05 p.m., the final hand started when Vos fired $90,000 into the preflop pot. After a call by Le, and with a Qspade 8spade 3heart flop, Vos bet $150,000. With Le calling again, and the turn bringing the 2diamond, Vos continued to dictate the action with a $250,000 bet.

Finally, with a Qdiamond river card, Vos pushed all in and Le called. Vos' Qclub 10club gave him trip queens, and Le frowned as he flipped up pocket sixes. Le exited in second place ($401,647).

Vos walked away with a coveted bracelet and more than $800,000 in prize money - not bad for the first time playing in a World Series of Poker event. spade

Event No. 7 - William Chen
Captures $3,000 Limit Hold'em Title

By Alex Henriquez

Limit hold'em, the game many players cut their teeth on before moving to no-limit, took center stage at the World Series by attracting 415 players who battled it out for the $1,145,400 prize pool. The $3,000 limit hold'em final table drew fan attention as the nine players battled for the first-place prize of $343,618 and the coveted gold bracelet.

The cards hit the air with $3,000-$5,000 blinds and a $5,000-$10,000 limit.

The chip counts going to the final table were as follows:
1. Karlo Lopez - $227,000
2. Yueqi "Rich" Zhu - $221,000
3. Henry Nguyen - $189,000
4. Jeffery Lisandro - $153,000
5. Allan Puzantyan - $144,000
6. William Chen - $122,000
7. Ernie Scherer III - $118,000
8. Larry Thomas - $59,000
9. Danny Ciasamella - $38,000

With the restrictions placed on betting amounts, limit poker tends to feature eliminations brought on more by attrition than explosion/implosion. So, how long does it take for a player to be knocked out at a limit hold'em final table? In this event, roughly two hours, when Lisandro, a famous high-stakes cash-game player, bowed out of the tournament. He flopped a set of treys, only to have Zhu turn the nut flush. Lisandro's ninth-place finish was good enough for a $22,908 payday.

If the final table was about endurance, fatigue started to set in during hour three. Scherer (eighth - $34,362), Puzantyan (seventh - $45,816), Thomas (sixth - $57,270,) and Ciasamella (fifth - $68,724) all busted out during this time.

In classic limit hold'em fashion, Lopez suffered a slow demise as he watched his chip stack steadily decline with each passing level. The chip leader when going to the final table, Lopez was forced to throw in his final $5,000 preflop with the marginal Qspade 4diamond and was called by Chen, who held the Kspade 7heart. The Kheart Jclub Jspade 9spade 7club board gave Chen two pair, and he eliminated Lopez in fourth place ($80,178).

In a similar situation, Nguyen tossed his last $5,000 chip into the pot preflop, and Chen gobbled up that paltry offering with a straight. Nguyen finished in third place and earned $91,632 for his effort.

Chen entered heads-up action with $200,000 less than Zhu, but took the lead after only a few hands and never looked back. He built his chip stack to more than $1 million, nearly 10 times Zhu's stack.

At 10:16 p.m., Chen put Zhu all in on a Qheart 7spade 4heart 3spade board. Zhu called and showed the 10heart 5diamond, but Chen flipped up the Aheart 4diamond. The Qspade river offered Zhu no help, and Chen eliminated him with two pair.

Zhu, a Rowland Heights, California, native, pocketed $184,409 for his second-place finish.

Chen told the media that the accomplishment of winning a WSOP bracelet ranked among his most satisfying personal achievements, but then added, "I have to admit, the money is nice."

With a $343,618 first-place prize, Chen, a math genius (he has a book coming out titled The Mathematics of Poker), apparently also possesses a pretty good sense of humor. spade

Event No. 8 - Zwerner Wins
$2,000 Omaha Eight-or-Better Bracelet

By Alex Henriquez

The first non-hold'em event of this year's World Series of Poker drew 670 players and guaranteed a $1,219,400 prize pool. The game of Omaha, a mystery to a good number of casual poker fans, drew a solid crowd of die-hard WSOP viewers, old-school Vegas rounders, and the faithful loved ones of the players for the final table of its $2,000 eight-or-better event.

The chip counts going to the final table were as follows:
1. Jeff Madsen - $225,000
2. Jack Zwerner - $189,000
3. Daniel Negreanu - $166,000
4. Bob Mangino - $165,000
5. Robert Collins - $156,000
6. Florante "Rusty" Mandap - $156,000
7. Russ Salzer - $142,000
8. Cuong Do - $99,000
9. Steve Lustig - $31,000

Action began with $3,000-$6,000 blinds and a $6,000-$12,000 limit. Lustig, the short stack, bowed out first. Zwerner's full house sent him to the rail in ninth place ($24,388).

Chopped pots usually mean no casualties, but Salzer exited the tournament on a hand split by two other players. Mandap took half the pot with trip aces and Mangino raked the other half with the A-2-4-5-8 low. Salzer mucked his hand and finished the day in eighth place ($36,582).

Negreanu suffered two big hits in a row that left him with only $10,000 in chips. He moved all in with two pair, but was eliminated when his opponent rivered a straight. Negreanu walked away from the final table as the seventh-place finisher ($48,776).

A mere five minutes later, Collins (sixth place - $60,970) and Mangino (fifth place - $73,164) were eliminated.

Do, who lived on a short stack all day, finally saw his tournament run come to an end after his two pair failed to improve against Zwerner's trip queens. Do's fourth-place finish ($85,385) set up a three-way showdown between Zwerner, Mandap, and Madsen.

For the second time at the final table, a player went out on a chop when Zwerner took half the pot with a king-high flush and Mandap won the rest with the low. Madsen's tournament life ended with a third-place finish ($97,552).

Zwerner took a $300,000 lead into heads-up action, but within half an hour, he built his chip stack to more than $1 million, nearly 10 times Mandap's. With his demise all but guaranteed, Mandap doubled up a few times but simply could not close the gap.

Zwerner took Mandap out when his Aheart 8diamond 7club 4heart defeated Mandap's Aspade Aclub 10diamond 3spade on a 7heart 6heart 5club 3heart 2diamond board. Mandap's second-place finish earned him the biggest cash prize of his career ($176,813).

While Zwerner might not have been the most recognized face in the Amazon Room, let alone his final table, T.J. Cloutier, on hand to emcee heads-up action, called his friend of 25 years "the best heads-up Omaha player ever."

With a $341,426 first-place prize and a WSOP bracelet, Zwerner just may have proved Cloutier right. spade

Event No. 9 - The 'Poker Brat' Versus the Kid
Jeff Cabanillas Wins $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Event

By Alex Henriquez

Independence Day marked the start of the popular $5,000 no-limit hold'em event. The 2006 version drew a starting field of 622 and generated a $2,293,400 total prize pool.

The biggest story leading into day three centered on Phil Hellmuth's quest for a record-tying 10th bracelet. He came to the final table second in chips, trailing Quoc Al "Vinnie" Vinh $784,000 to $461,000.

The rest of the chip counts were as follows: Marcel Luske ($458,000), Isabelle Mercier ($301,000), Jeff Cabanillas ($275,000), Douglas Carli ($273,000), Eugene Todd ($240,000), Thomas Schreiber ($200,000), and Dan Smith ($117,000).

The cards hit the air with $8,000-$16,000 blinds and $2,000 antes.

Shortly after Danny Smith finished in 10th place ($58,468), Vinh made a surprising exit from the tournament. With more than $500,000 lost to Luske and Cabanillas, Vinh struggled to stay alive. After about two hours. Hellmuth eliminated Vinh in eighth place ($87,702) with an ace high.

Douglas Carli and Thomas Schreiber finished the day in seventh place ($116,396) and sixth place ($146,170), respectively.

Two popular foreign players, Luske and Mercier, became the next final-table casualties. The Canadian-born Mercier went home in fifth place ($175,404) after the board offered her Kdiamond 3club no help against Cabanillas' pocket eights. "The Flying Dutchman" lost the majority of his chips on a failed bluff attempt, and exited as the fourth-place finisher ($204,638) only a few hands later.

With the play threehanded, Todd survived 20 minutes on the short stack, but was forced to move all in with the Kheart 8spade. Cabanillas' pocket tens held up and Todd finished in third place ($233,872).

Hellmuth and Cabanillas started heads-up action with comparable chip stacks, but most gave the 22-year-old, playing in his first live tournament, little chance of beating the "Poker Brat." When Hellmuth built a 2-to-1 chip lead, talk of a 10th bracelet spread throughout the Amazon Room.

Cabanillas, however, played the underdog role to perfection. He survived Hellmuth's surge and frustrated the Poker Brat by raking in a huge pot after spiking a 5 on the river to make two pair.

Hellmuth's demeanor, and luck, seemed to change after the hand. He lost a number of big pots in a row and his stack slumped below the million dollar mark.

At 20 minutes past midnight, Hellmuth's quest for a 10th bracelet came to an end. With his stack around $500,000, Hellmuth reraised all in on a 6diamond 4diamond 3heart flop, and Cabanillas immediately called. Fans swarmed the ESPN stage as Hellmuth flipped up the 5heart 4spade and Cabanillas showed the 5diamond 3diamond. The 4club turn gave Hellmuth a set, and he was one card away from closing the gap. That last card, however, was the Jdiamond. Cabanillas' diamond flush eliminated Hellmuth from the tournament.

Hellmuth earned $423,893 for his runner-up finish. "I would pay a million dollars to win that bracelet," he said as he thanked the crowd, "but that's not the way the game's played."

Friends and family swarmed Cabanillas to celebrate the young poker player's $818,546 victory and first WSOP bracelet. spade

Event No. 10 - King David: David Williams
Wins $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Event and His First World Series of Poker Bracelet

By Alex Henriquez

The final table of the $1,500 seven-card stud event, a tournament that started with a field of 478 and a $652,470 total prize pool, became the story of two men: one famous for winning the main event twice, and the other famous for coming in second.

Back-to-back World Series of Poker Champion Johnny Chan and his pursuit of a recorded-breaking 11th bracelet dominated the talk going to the final table.

The seven players separating Chan ($26,000) from history were John Hoang ($170,000), David Williams ($142,000), Ivan Schertzer ($118,500), Jack Duncan ($106,000), "Miami" John Cernuto ($86,000), Mitchell Ledis ($42,500), and Matt Hawrilenko ($32,000).

After the first hand, the limits went up and action began with a $1,000 ante, $1,000 low-card bring-in, $4,000 completion, and $4,000-$8,000 limit.

Despite coming to the final table as the short stack, Chan doubled up twice, first through Williams and then through Jack Duncan, and survived being the first eliminated. Hawrilenko, the next player closest to the felt, was not so lucky. He exited the tournament in eighth place ($16,312) when his pair of jacks ran into Hoang's pair of kings.

Chan's run at history, now one place closer to happening, suffered the same, albeit shorter, fate as Hellmuth's. He went all in with pocket sevens, only to have Cernuto call him with trip nines. Chan still has a month to capture bracelet No. 11, but on this day he had to settle for seventh place ($22,836).

Three minutes later, Schertzer took a trip to the rail as the sixth-place finisher ($29,361) courtesy of Williams' trip kings.
Cernuto, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner, took fifth place ($35,886) and Ledis ended the day in fourth place ($45,673).

Duncan doubled up and won a number of pots, and he still never threatened the two chip bosses. He finished in third place ($71,772) after going all in with a pair of queens against Hoang's aces.

Williams, most famous for finishing second to Greg Raymer in the 2004 main event, has made numerous World Poker Tour final tables since then, but had yet to win a WSOP bracelet. He entered heads-up action a near 2-to-1 chip leader over Hoang.

Play lasted for more than three hours, and, although Hoang's stack fluctuated, Williams never relinquished the lead.

On the final hand, Hoang made a raise from the bring-in. With Hoang's 4spade up, Williams, showing the Kspade, made the call. Fourth street brought the 5spade for Hoang and the 3heart for Williams. Both players checked, and after getting the 9diamond, Hoang went all in.

Williams' fifth street had brought the 4club, and he made the call. Fans circled the final table as Hoang flipped up the Adiamond 8spade and Williams showed the 6spade 4spade. With Williams' pair of fours in the lead, the dealer tossed out seventh street. Williams immediately flipped over the 8heart and then ran over to Hoang. Looking together, Williams threw his hands in the air as Hoang turned over the 10spade.

Hoang earned $110,920 for his second-place finish.

Along with the gold bracelet, Williams took home a $163,189 first-place prize. spade

Event No. 11 - Super Nintendo Chalmers:
Bob Chalmers Wins $1,500 Limit Hold'em Bracelet

By Tom Bostic

The $1,500 limit hold'em event, a popular tournament with World Series of Poker first-timers and fledgling pros, attracted a field of 701 and produced a $956,865 total prize pool.

After two long days, the following players sat down for final-table action: David Calla ($147,000), Thanh Nguyen ($72,000), Bob Bartmann ($64,000), Jan Sjavik ($37,000), Bob Chalmers ($175,000), Doug Saab ($150,000), Graham Duke ($184,000), Tam Ho ($149,000), and Warren Wooldridge ($74,000).

Play began with the blinds at $3,000-$5,000 and limits of $5,000-$10,000. Slow, cautious play continued for more than an hour before Calla got his last few chips in preflop against Duke. Despite Calla's advantage with the Kdiamond Qdiamond, Duke's Jclub 10club paired a 10 on the flop and Calla became the ninth-place finisher ($19,137).

Bartmann exited in eighth place ($28,706) followed by Duke in seventh ($38,375).

Wooldridge then began mixing it up, getting involved in many large pots. He eliminated Sjavik in sixth place ($47,843) when his pocket kings were an overpair to the top pair of Sjavik, which he held on the board. Shortly after eliminating Sjavik, Wooldridge crippled Saab in a large pot. Saab battled back, even managing to triple up, but could survive only one more level, busting out in fifth place ($57,412).

Nguyen raised a three-way pot with his last $5,000 chip after being crippled in a previous hand. Wooldridge and Ho both called. On a board of Aspade Qheart 8spade 8club 7heart, both players checked it down. Ho flipped over the Aheart Jclub, while Wooldridge showed the Adiamond 6club to chop the pot. Nguyen mucked his hand and was eliminated in fourth place ($66,981).

Early on during three-way action, Ho controlled the table. However, things took a turn for the worse when his trip kings were bested by Wooldridge's trip kings with a better kicker. But Wooldridge would have his share of running bad, as well, losing more than $300,000 in less than a half-hour. The end of his day came on a board of Qheart 10heart 10diamond 9spade. Chalmers bet out $30,000 and Wooldridge called all in for his last $10,000 chip. Wooldridge showed the Adiamond 6club, but Chalmers flipped over the 10spade 9diamond for the flopped full house. The river was the Jspade and Wooldridge was eliminated in third place ($76,549).

Heads-up play between Chalmers and Ho would last less than 15 minutes. After Chalmers drew first blood, he crippled Ho with a better two pair. On the final hand, Chalmers raised from the small blind and Ho tossed in his remaining $50,000 from the big blind. Chalmers called with the Qheart 3spade, while Ho flipped over the Aspade 2heart. The board came Adiamond Kheart Qdiamond 4club 3diamond, giving Chalmers two pair and eliminating Ho in second place ($135,396).

Chalmers, walked away with $258,344 and his first WSOP bracelet. spade

Event No. 12 - Sam Farha Wins
$5,000 Omaha Eight-or-Better Bracelet

By Alex Henriquez

The second final table on day 12 of the World Series of Poker belonged to the $5,000 Omaha eight-or-better event. The tournament began with 265 players and featured a $1,245,500 total prize pool.

The nine players who emerged for final-table action were Jim Ferrel, Jeff King, Mike Wattel, Phil Ivey, Sam Farha, Kirill Gerasimov, Brian Nadell, Ryan Hughes, and Mike Henrich.

Less than 10 minutes into final-table play, Henrich scooped a pot with a wheel and eliminated Hughes in ninth place ($24,910).

The next elimination featured a flush-over-flush situation. Ferrel exited the tournament in eighth place ($37,365) after going all in on a queen-high flush, only to have Wattel call him with the ace-high flush.

A short stack all final table, King followed Ferrel to the rail an hour later. He failed to make a low against Henrich's set of jacks and went home in the seven spot ($49,820).

Ivey, who survived on a short stack leading up to final-table action, doubled up twice following King's departure. The dangerous poker star then took the chip lead after making quad kings against Farha.

At the same time that Ivey saw success, Nadell saw his stack dwindle. Sitting on $15,000 in chips, he went all in, only to have Gerasimov flop a queen-high straight. Nadell was eliminated in sixth place ($62,275).

A severely crippled Wattel became the next casualty. He failed to make a low when the 3 

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