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The Inside Straight

by CP The Inside Straight Authors |  Published: Aug 01, 2007

And They're Off: 2007 World Series of Poker Bracelet Race Begins
By Bob Pajich

With 55 events, the 38th World Series of Poker is the biggest one yet. With each event having its own storylines and characters, and textures and colors, the WSOP is really a smorgasbord for poker fans. You like stud, it's there. You like H.O.R.S.E., it's there. And, of course, there's plenty of no-limit hold'em to satisfy all poker cravings.

For those who can't make it to Las Vegas for the WSOP, don't worry. Card Player and have your back with tournament reports, updates, videos, feature stories, and interviews with many of the winners and top pros who are playing in the events. This is our first installment.

The WSOP started on June 1 and will run until July 17. That's a lot of poker. We hope you're hungry.

2007 World Series of Poker: The Return of the Professional
Seasoned Veterans Get Their First, and Hellmuth Breaks Record
By Bob Pajich

At press time, the second third of the World Series of Poker was completed, and the story line for this installment was the number of professionals who made it deep and either won their first bracelets (congrats to Jeffrey Lisandro and Eli Elezra) or added to their collection of gold. Phil Hellmuth shattered a three-way tie with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan by winning his historical 11th bracelet.

Katja Thater became the first woman since Annie Duke did it in 2004 to win a WSOP bracelet in an event that wasn't either the seniors or the ladies-only tournament when she won the $1,500 seven-card razz event. And two other women came awfully close to doing it: Beth Shak finished second in the $3,000 no-limit hold'em event and Vanessa Selbst finished third in the $5,000 heads-up no-limit hold'em event.

Other highlights included Allen Cunningham winning his fifth bracelet ($5,000 pot-limit hold'em), Scott Clements winning his second ($1,500 pot-limit Omaha), and Hoyt Corkins winning his second ($2,500 no-limit hold'em).

And then there are the players whom no one ever heard of who took home bracelets. There's even a story about a player who won his bracelet on a Sunday night, then stressed about making it to work in Boston the next day. Everyone's having a blast. Enjoy the following postcards from the 2007 WSOP.

New Kid in Town
Steve Billirakis Wins $5,000 Mixed Hold'em Event and First Open-Event Bracelet of 2007
By Ryan Lucchesi

Steve Billirakis made history by winning the first $5,000 mixed hold'em event in World Series of Poker history; he also became the youngest person ever to win a bracelet, at 21 years and 10 days old. Billirakis won $526,387 by outlasting 450 other players. He is 25 days younger than Jeff Madsen was when he won his first bracelet last year.

John Younger busted out on the first hand of play at the final table, and Jon Turner was the next to exit. He had doubled up twice, but the third time was not the charm. The next set of eliminations went by quickly, with Kirk Morrison, Roger McDow, and Fred Berger falling in succession. With four players left, lady luck decided to turn her back on Steve Paul-Ambrose when he ran into Billirakis' pocket aces and was sent to the rail.

Billirakis took a large chip lead into the heads-up match with Greg Mueller. On the final hand, Mueller raised to $200,000 and Billirakis reraised to $300,000. Mueller moved all in for $25,000 more and Billirakis called. Mueller showed the 5 4 and Billirakis flipped over the K 2. The board was dealt Q J 2 8 Q and Billirakis won the first bracelet of the 2007 WSOP. Mueller took home $328,554 for second place.

Luck of O'Leary
O'Leary Gets Off to a Slow Start, Then Pours on the All-In Aggression in $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Event
By Ryan Lucchesi

"All of a sudden, I feel very tired. I'm running on fumes, to say the least," said Ciaran O'Leary.

Despite only getting two hours of sleep, O'Leary was very upbeat. A gold bracelet will do that for you, as will $727,172 in prize money. O'Leary needed neither of these to appreciate his victory in the $1,500 no-limit hold'em event at the World Series of Poker.

The event featured the largest non-main-event field in the history of the WSOP, 2,998 players. Arriving at the final table was no small accomplishment.

"I was completely and utterly card-dead," said O'Leary, who went 19 hands before acting at the final table. He then came to life with aggressive play and colorful celebrations.

An example of his aggressive play came with action threehanded, when he took control of a pot with pocket sevens even though both an ace and a king hit the board. He instantly raised Alex Jacob to $600,000 after Jacob tried to represent a flopped ace when only a 4 had hit him.

O'Leary and Paul Evans' head-up match didn't last long. The tournament ended on the second hand after O'Leary flopped topped pair with the K 10. Evans, holding middle pair, quickly called O'Leary's all-in raise. O'Leary's kings held up, sending Evans home with second-place prize money of $450,150.

A Battle of Opposites - Part II
Alex Kravchenko Wins a Personality Face-Off in an Omaha Eight-or-Better Battle of Wits
By Ryan Lucchesi

The final table of the $1,500 Omaha eight-or-better event began with just eight players vying for the first-place prize of $228,466. In the end, a stout Russian defeated a former dealer who is all too familiar with the final-table pressure and glory that the World Series of Poker brings.

Despite its placement on the island of misfit final tables, the action attracted a group of railbirds.

"We gotta make this feel like a World Series final table," said Bryan Devonshire. The two players in the heads-up match, Devonshire and Alex Kravchenko, could not have been more different. Devonshire is your basic all-American nice guy; he chats as much with the crowd as he does with the players at his table. Kravchenko is a quiet man, with a stern demeanor. It's a safe bet that you can count the number of times he smiles in a given day on one hand.

Devonshire closed the gap during the first part of their heads-up match. But, that all changed when he lost a $515,000 pot, which put him in all-in mode. He fought hard and survived by making either the high or low hand in many pots.

It all ended, though, when he shoved all of his chips into the middle on a board of Q Q 4 4, and flipped over the A A 8 5. Kravchenko showed the A 10 9 4, and the 8 was dealt on the river. Devonshire took home $140,336, while Kravchenko won the gold bracelet and $228,446.

Michael Keiner Wins Marathon Event No. 14 - $1,500
Seven-Card Stud Stud Event Attracted 385 Players
By Ryan Lucchesi

The first marathon event of the 2007 World Series of Poker took place during the $1,500 seven-card stud tournament. Action started at 4 p.m., and it continued through the night and into the morning of the next day. Of the 385 players who entered, Michael Keiner emerged victorious at just after 7 a.m. Keiner was the most gracious bracelet winner of the summer thus far, as his genuine happiness could not be ignored as he celebrated the win.

"The money doesn't count. This is it," said Keiner as he raised the gold bracelet in the air. "Ten years now I've been waiting."
Keiner had to face a tough final table of Greg Raymer, Barry Greenstein, Larry Eubanks, Steve Sung, Dale Phillips, John Robertson, and Nesbitt Coburn. Of course, Raymer and Greenstein are the most well-known players of this bunch, but the others did have considerable tournament poker experience and results.

Phillips has cashed for more than $155,000, Sung for nearly a half-million, Coburn for almost $155,000, Robertson for more than $300,000, and Eubanks for more than $320,000. In fact, Keiner had the least amount of success coming into the tournament with "only" $62,000 in winnings.

Eubanks, Robertson, Raymer, Phillips, Greenstein, and Sung left in that order, leaving Coburn and Keiner heads up.

Keiner started the heads-up battle with a $100,000 advantage and he did nothing but increase that lead on the way to the tournament win by leaning on Coburn throughout their heads-up match. Keiner won the gold bracelet and $146,987. Coburn won $80,876.

Phil Hellmuth Wins Event No. 15 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
Actions Speak Louder Than Words as Hellmuth Wins 11th Bracelet
By Alex Baer

Anyone who has sat at a tournament table with Phil Hellmuth has heard him refer to himself as the "greatest hold'em player in the world." After watching Hellmuth win his unparalleled 11th World Series of Poker bracelet, it's hard to disagree.

Arguably the most recognized face in poker, Hellmuth finds many players willing to challenge him in pots, if only to return home with a story of how they tried to put a move on the "Poker Brat." A field of 2,628 players vied for the title and a share of the prize pool of $3,587,220.

Hellmuth's path to victory was not easy, particularly at the final table, where four other players had been before. Scott Clements won a bracelet last year and again this year, Morgan Machina and Fabrice Soulier made the same final table two years ago, and Rick Fuller had made a final table, as well.

Hellmuth found himself heads up with nearly a 6-to-1 chip lead against Andy Philachack. After a few hands, Hellmuth called Philachack's all-in bet with the A 3, which was up against Philachack's A 10. A 3 on the flop was all Hellmuth would need to finish in first place and take home $637,254, along with his 11th bracelet (which he will give to his youngest sister, Molly).

Philachack's second-place finish is his first cash at the WSOP, good for $394,594. Ten-time bracelet winners Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan were on hand to award Hellmuth his record-breaking bracelet.

Event No. 28: Shankar Pillai Wins $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em Title
Beth Shak Finishes Second
By Erik Fast

Final tables are always full of people on a mission, but the $3,000 no-limit hold'em final table played host to two special quests for glory. Only a week after winning bracelet No. 11, Phil Hellmuth was at another final table, going for No. 12. Beth Shak was also in the running for some glory; with Katja Thater winning the razz event earlier in the day, Shak had a shot at another historic honor: If she won, it would be the first time that two women captured a bracelet on the same day.

Neither Hellmuth nor Shak had it easy, with a tough table that included Perry Friedman, Brett Richey, and each other to get through. Hellmuth put on quite a show along the way. On a few of his hands, he bought insurance from Phil Ivey, which earned Ivey more than $100,000 on the night. Eventually, Hellmuth was eliminated in sixth place, and although he didn't capture the bracelet, he did tie T.J. Cloutier for most final tables made.

Shak got closer to her goal when she got heads up with Shankar Pillai. On the eighth hand, Pillai raised to $180,000 and Shak reraised $550,000 more. Pillai called and the flop came 10 8 3. Shak pushed and Pillai eventually called with the A 8, which had Shak's K 8 outkicked. After the turn and river brought blanks, Pillai was awarded the bracelet and $527,829. Though she barely missed the historic achievement, Shak still outlasted 825 players to finish second and earn $328,683.

Katja Thater Wins $1,500 Razz Championship - Event No. 29
First Woman to Win an Open-Field Event Since Annie Duke
By Julio Rodriguez

Just because of the ladies event alone, a woman is guaranteed to win a bracelet every year. But not since Annie Duke's win in the 2004 $2,000 Omaha eight-or-better event has a woman won an open-field World Series of Poker tournament. Now, Katja Thater can add her name to a very short list of women.

Thater took out Larry St. Jean to win event No. 29, $1,500 razz. On the final hand, Thater's hand read (8 2) 9 3 5 3 (4), and St. Jean's, (5 2) 10 5 7 8 (4). Thater's 8-5-4-3-2 low beat St. Jean's 8-7-5-4-2 for the bracelet.

This was Thater's second final table of the Series. She finished fifth in the ladies championship event.

Players were up until 4 a.m. on day one and 3 a.m. on day two, in one of the longest tournaments of the Series. The final eight players voted to come back on day three to finish the tournament, which originally was scheduled as only a two-day event.

The final-table results were as follows: Katja Thater, $132,653; Larry St. Jean, $73,311; O'Neil Longson, $46,547; Paul "Eskimo" Clark, $31,186; Denny Axel, $24,204; Mark Vos, $18,386; Men "The Master" Nguyen, $14,197; and Thomas Daubert, $10,473.

Event No. 32: Jeffrey Lisandro Captures $2,000 Stud Title
It's His First World Series of Poker Bracelet
By Ryan Lucchesi

Many elite players have come close to World Series of Poker gold, and yet, it has eluded them. Some of these names may surprise you. Erick Lindgren, Gus Hansen, J.C. Tran, Gavin Smith, Phil Gordon, David Benyamine, John Phan, Michael Mizrachi, and Marcel Luske are among those who don't own a bracelet. Smith and Phan both came close this year, but each finished as the runner-up.

Another player who had finished second in his quest to win a first bracelet at this WSOP was Jeffrey Lisandro. He lost a superb heads-up battle to Allen Cunningham in event No. 13. He came to the final table of event No. 32 as the chip leader, received a large blow early, and then fought back to claim the golden prize.

Lisandro defeated Nick Frangos in their heads-up confrontation to win $118,426 and the $2,000 seven-card stud title. More importantly, he claimed his first gold bracelet and further solidified his place among poker's elite. Lisandro followed in the footsteps of Eli Elezra a few days before him to join the timeless fraternity of bracelet winners.

The final eight players in the order of their eliminations were: Farshad Cohen, $8,916; David Brody, $12,405; Gregory Pappas. $16,282; Daniel Negreanu, $21,321; Severin Walser, $28,105; Nesbitt Coburn, $42,643; Nick Frangos, $65,902; and Lisandro, $118,426.

Lisandro is a fantastic tournament player, with tournament winnings of more than $2.5 million. His first WSOP cash took place in 1997, and he's cashed a total of 18 times.

Event No. 33: Alan Smurfit Wins $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha (With Rebuys) Title
The Marathon Man
By Zach Bailey

Alan Smurfit came out on top of a heads-up battle that lasted more than 160 hands in the World Series of Poker $1,500 pot-limit Omaha (with rebuys) event. He beat out 293 players and took home $464,867 of the nearly $1.7 million prize pool. His opponent, Qushqar Morad, endured the same five-hour battle only to finish in second place. He took home $279,595.

The end of this epic battle came when the blinds had escalated to an astronomical $80,000-$160,000. Smurfit limped in from the button and Morad checked. Morad moved all in on a flop of J 8 6 and was called by Smurfit. Smurfit showed the Q J 8 2 and was ahead of Morad, who flipped up the 10 9 9 6. The turn was the 6 and the river the 8, which gave Smurfit the win, the money, and the gold bracelet.

Before the marathon match, the players had to get through a final table that started with Morad ($995,000), Chris Bjorin ($605,000), Brandon Adams ($500,000), Chau Giang ($360,000), Hilbert Shirey ($335,000), Van Marcus ($220,000), Robert Fellner ($210,000), Sunny Nijran ($195,000), and Smurfit ($90,000). Smurfit started the final table the lowest in chips, making his win that much more impressive.

The Dragon is Burning Down the House

David "The Dragon" Pham has gone on serious heaters before. His results page on goes 17 deep, and this year alone, he has cashed a dozen times for $669,345 and has 3,570 points in the Card Player Player of the Year (POY) race. He's only 799 points away from taking the lead from J.C. Tran.

If Pham happens to win the 2007 POY title, it will be the second time. He won it in 2000, and would join Men "The Master" Nguyen and T.J. Cloutier as a repeat winner.

Pham owns two World Series of Poker bracelets (2001 $2,000 S.H.O.E. event and 2006 $2,000 no-limit hold'em shootout event), and has cashed three times this year, including one final table in the $3,000 limit hold'em event, in which he finished fourth. He has won three tournaments so far this year, including two within three days at the Winnin' o' the Green at The Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, California.

He also won the Mirage Poker Showdown $5,000 heads-up championship in May, which was good for $155,200. Days later, he nearly made the final table of the Mirage Poker Showdown championship event, but finished 11th ($34,582).

Pham plays a ton of events, and players shouldn't be surprised to see him take a seat in tournaments that many pros wouldn't touch. The Winnin' o' the Green events, for example, cost $500 and $1,000. Even though, combined, these victories were worth only 402 POY points, they could be important in a race that is proving to be a tight one. If Pham continues his winning ways, he could chalk up another POY title.

Look Out!
Scott Clements is now officially in the Player of the Year race. With his win in the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event at this year's WSOP - his second bracelet in less than a year - Clements has cemented himself as an elite player who could win any event at any time. His first bracelet came last July in the $3,000 Omaha eight-or-better event.

He's had a great year so far. Since finishing eighth in the Caribbean Adventure in January, Clements has cashed six more times for a total of $637,438. That includes three cashes at this year's WSOP, including his bracelet win.

After his WSOP win this year, Clements said that he wanted to prove that he wasn't some sort of one-hit wonder by winning another event. He has nothing to worry about. Take one look at his tournament-results page at and you'll be able to tell that he's someone who needs to be accounted for at every table he plays.

With the World Series of Poker nearly in the rearview mirror, it's time to look ahead at where the tournament trail is about to take players. With no WSOP Tournament Circuit events planned, the schedule's not as jampacked as in past years. First, players will return to World Poker Tour action with the Legends of Poker championship at The Bicycle Casino (starting Aug. 25). They'll then head to the Gulf Coast Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi (starting Sept. 6). After that, the schedule picks up again.

For international players who love to travel, the European Poker Tour starts its season-four schedule on Aug. 28, with the Barcelona Open. EPT London then starts on Sept. 25. And for players like Pham - who will play just about any buy-in event - there are plenty of smaller tournaments taking place. Please visit to view all of the tournaments.

Card Player Digital

Best Poker Content on the Web

Card Player has set up a studio in the luxurious Bellagio, and has brought just about every popular poker star into it to hear what they have to say. Each day is a new adventure for the crew. With so many shows filmed, edited, and broadcast on Card Player TV, Card Player has to be affecting the bottom line of businesses everywhere as a result of all of the people tuning in during the workday. Don't worry, we won't tell.

If you haven't yet tuned in, you've missed truly must-see poker TV. One of the best is The Scoop, featuring Diego Cordovez and Adam Schoenfeld. They host a daily strategy show that features special guests discussing strategy, hot poker topics, and more.

And don't miss Jon Friedberg's strategy show called Stacking Chips. Everyone should listen to him, as he nearly won his second World Series of Poker bracelet in less than a year during the first week of the Series.

Tune in to to view all of the shows, and good luck!

Coverage and More Coverage
Card Player is the best site to learn what's happening during this poker summer in Vegas. Reporters are covering the World Series of Poker and the Bellagio Cup III, tournament reports and updates are hitting the website by the minute, professional poker players are constantly blogging about their games, and it's all presented in an easy-to-use format that makes finding information a breeze.

There are also plenty of tools to help your poker game on the site, including an odds calculator for both hold'em and Omaha, and the forum is a great place to share any poker thoughts that you might have.

Going Mobile
If you can't get to a computer and just need to know how J.C. Tran did in an event during the WSOP, you need to point your browser to, where you can sign up to receive both tournament updates and poker tips. provides live 2007 World Series of Poker and Bellagio Cup updates on your cellphone with the same speed as There are also many other fun things for your phone, including an odds calculator, wallpaper of good-looking women, stacks of money, and card suits, and a ringtone featuring Mike "The Mouth" Matusow. Check it out!