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The Inside Straight

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

Curtain Falls on Second Act of 2007 World Series of Poker
By Bob Pajich

The second act of the World Series of Poker revealed many things about a lot of familiar players. Players who have spent years on the tournament trail without a WSOP win finally got one, and several added to their collections during the final few weeks.

Bill Edler, who continues to have a fantastic tournament year, won his first bracelet. The big brother in perhaps the country's premier poker family - Robert Mizrachi, the man who introduced 2006 Card Player Player of the Year Michael Mizrachi to poker - won his first bracelet. Tournament vet Ram Vaswani also won his first bracelet after coming painfully close multiple times in the last five years.

Freddy Deeb was the man of the hour by becoming the 2007 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world champion, and, truly, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. In that tournament, he showed the heart of a lion by battling back from an extreme short stack to end up winning it in the wee hours of the morning.

And then, in the last preliminary tournament, we watched Erik Seidel win his eighth bracelet in the deuce-to-seven lowball tournament, which was populated with a WSOP-low 78 entrants.

There were also plenty of emerging poker stars stepping up and winning on the biggest poker stage of the year. Their names and photos are found in the following pages. And, it's possible that one of those players will soon end up on the cover of this magazine.

Alex Borteh Wins Event No. 34: $3,000 Limit Hold'em
Sets the Pace to Victory
By Andy Liakos

Limit hold'em is not about picking a few spots to double up with the nuts. It's about getting out in front, setting the pace, and slowly putting distance between you and your opponents.

Event No. 34 drove 296 horses to the gate, all of whom ponied up the $3,000 buy-in to create a total purse of $816,960. As the tired and hungry final nine gathered for the third day, Alex Borteh sat as the chip leader with $389,000, followed by Shawn Keller ($260,000), David "The Dragon" Pham ($254,000), Michael Byrne ($231,000), Brandon Wong ($216,000), Vivek Rajkumar ($170,000), Matthew Kelly ($97,000), Petri Pollanen ($94,000), and Marco Johnson ($66,000).

After a grueling heads-up battle of small-pot poker, Borteh's overly patient and equally methodical style of play had finally gotten the best of Wong. Down to his last $100,000, Wong got it all in preflop with the Q 8. Borteh made the call with the K 6, and the flop came 9 9 6. The K on the turn sealed the victory for Borteh, as Wong was drawing dead on the river.

Wong ran a good race, earning $135,615, but it was Borteh who would win the bracelet and the $225,483 grand prize. Borteh has cashed three times in WSOP events since 2005, and this was his first victory.

Ryan Young Wins Event No. 35: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
A Flopped Two Pair Makes All the Difference
By Erik Fast

Event No. 35 was the fourth $1,500 no-limit hold'em event of the 2007 World Series of Poker. Like its predecessors, it began with long lines of registering players snaking down the hallways, as 2,541 players would enter this event.

The first day saw the familiar faces of notable pros hidden among a sea of hopeful unknowns. Whether due to the large field or the shallow starting stacks, play went quickly, and the final table was no exception.

Going into heads-up play, the chip stacks of Ryan Young and Dustin Dirksen were comparable in size, but Dirksen quickly got into a rhythm and started winning the majority of pots through aggressive play. He used his momentum to build a lead before this definitive hand came down: Both players saw the flop, with Young holding the 10 3 and Dirksen the J 10. The flop was 10 3 2. Dirksen bet, and Young raised.

Dirksen then went all in with his top pair and Young called with his two pair. With no help to Dirksen, Young doubled up to $6.5 million while Dirksen was left with $1 million. With only minutes left in the level, Young open-pushed with the A 7 and Dirksen called with the K J. The board came down 10 7 6 4 Q, giving Young the pot, the bracelet, and $615,154. Dirksen earned $381,531 for second place.

John Guth Wins Event No. 36 - $5,000 Omaha Eight-or-Better
Robert Stevanovski Is Runner-Up
By Seth Niesen

The final table of event No. 36 featured no big-name players and no ESPN camera, but there was still a World Series of Poker gold bracelet at stake, as well as the top prize of $363,216. The spectators who attended were loud, with each player represented by a small contingent of rowdy enthusiasts. In the end, only John Guth's fans backed the winner, as he was the last man standing out of the starting field of 280 players.

Entering the final day, the chip counts were: Massimo "Pennello" Reynaud ($529,000), Bart Hanson ($191,000), Guth ($387,000), Randy Jensen ($283,000), Greg Jamison ($223,000), Michael Pollowitz ($189,000), David Flores ($450,000), Robert Stevanovski ($384,000), and Jim Grove ($163,000). It took four hours to narrow play to heads up, and the match between Guth and Stevanovski was a roller-coaster ride.

Guth started with a $1,880,000 to $920,000 chip lead, and quickly took control. He ran his stack up to more than $2.5 million before Stevanovski battled back to even. They then traded the chip lead for more than three hours until Guth was finally able to get a foothold and win the bracelet.

In a celebration that rivaled Burt Boutin's win earlier in the Series, Guth let loose a primal scream as he realized his victory, and a celebration that included dancing, grunting, and an enormous amount of collar-popping began. Guth won the top prize of $363,216 and his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet. Stevanovski was a true class act in defeat, and he took home the runner-up prize of $218,456.

Greg Hopkins Wins Event No. 37 - $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em
One-Outer Sends Gioi Luong Home
By Julio Rodriguez

Greg Hopkins came to the $2,000 pot-limit hold'em final table second in chips, but once heads-up play began, there was no question that he wouldn't settle for anything less than first place and the bracelet. Hopkins, whose previous biggest cash was $62,450 for a second-place finish in an L.A. Poker Classic event, battled through a long final table that saw some questionable play and sick beats to win $269,274 and his first World Series of Poker bracelet. He outlasted 598 players.

Hopkins went heads up with Jason Newburger, who made his second WSOP final-table appearance in 2007. He won $165,707 for his second-place finish. The final hand came down when Newburger raised from the button with the K Q. Hopkins reraised with the J J and Newburger pushed his remaining chips into the pot. Hopkins made the call, and the board came 10 9 2 10 4, giving him the victory.

Most of the final-table participants came in with very little experience, with the exception of Pete Lawson, Hopkins, and Gioi Luong. Luong suffered a tremendously tough beat to finish in seventh place. Luong raised with the A K and Yuval Bronshtein defended his blind with the K 8. The flop came A-K-8, and Luong bet. Bronshtein raised and Luong went all in with his top two pair. Bronshtein made the call, drawing dead to an 8. One of the players at the table claimed he had folded an 8, but when the turn was the case 8, Luong was gone.

Robert Cheung Wins Event No. 38 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
Erica Schoenberg and Chris Bjorin Make Final Table
By Alex Baer

Robert Cheung, a 46-year-old from Vancouver, won the fifth $1,500 no-limit hold'em tournament of this year's World Series of Poker. Cheung topped a field of 2,778 entrants who built a prize pool of $3,791,970, and had to overcome two well-known poker professionals at the final table to prove his mettle.

Three-time bracelet winner Chris Bjorin, making his third final table of this Series, came into the day fifth in chips and hungry for another bracelet. Erica Schoenberg entered the day fourth in chips, intent on proving that she is more than just the fiancé of high-stakes professional David Benyamine and is a great player in her own right.

Schoenberg dominated early, eliminating the first two players, and Bjorin bowed out in sixth place, while Cheung picked up a lot of ground by doubling through Andy Lee on the 50th hand with the A 10 against Lee's A 8.

Schoenberg relinquished the chip lead after losing with the A Q to Richard Murnik's jack-high straight. Cheung was now in the lead and would not trail again. In fact, he busted the final three players on the last three consecutive hands, holding the K K, the 8 8, and the A K. Schoenberg finished third, earning $261,646, her best-ever cash at the WSOP.

Heads up, Murnik called Cheung's all-in reraise with the 8 7, only to find that Cheung had the goods with the A K. The board ran out J 5 4 A 4, and Murnik took home $417,117 for his runner-up finish. Cheung earned $673,628 for his victory, along with the coveted gold bracelet.

Event No. 40: Fred Goldberg Wins $1,500 Mixed Hold'em
He's a Bubble Baby No More
By Andy Liakos

He started the day as a part-time poker player, and ended the night as a full-fledged member in the game's most elite club. Fred Goldberg is probably a name that you can't put a face to, and with good reason. Finishing 10th in last year's main event, Goldberg bubbled out of the final nine and never made it to the ESPN final table.

A year later, Fred Goldberg would make a final table, but winning it would be no easy task. Christoph Niesert started the day first in chips with $396,000, followed by Michael Craig ($317,000), Scott Bohlman ($236,000), Goldberg ($193,000), Rene Mouritsen ($172,000), Reza Zand ($147,000), Joe Brandenburg ($129,000), Kevin Marcotte ($84,000), and Karlo Lopez ($58,000).

On the final hand of the tournament, Goldberg limped into the pot with the 10 7, and Mouritsen checked his option with the 5 2. They say that life imitates art, and just like a scene from the silver screen, the flop came down all hearts (J 8 4).

All of the chips made their way to the center of the table, and Goldberg was the man of the hour. Mouritsen earned $125,895 as the runner-up, but it was Goldberg who stood as king of the hill after outlasting a total field of 620 players to claim his share of the $846,300 prize pool; he took home the gold and $204,935.

Ernest Bennett Wins Event No. 41 - $1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold'em
Two World Champions in the Field
By Ryan Lucchesi

Lost along the way to the final table of the $1,000 seniors no-limit hold'em event were two world champions. Amarillo Slim Preston, 1972 World Series of Poker champ, started strongly on day one of the event, but could not go the distance to the final table. Tom McEvoy, 1983 WSOP champ, made a late push in the tournament, but was busted by a one-outer to end his run.

The event did feature one of the best bluffs of the summer. Tony Korfman moved all in for $65,000 on a flop of K 4 3 and Thomas Catanzaro mucked. Korfman then flipped over J-9 to reveal that he had fibbed.

With six players remaining, Ernest Bennett went on a tear to jump into the chip lead. He was joined atop the field by Korfman, who rode the momentum of his bluff to double up again, knock out an opponent in fifth place, and challenge for the title. Bennett kept his edge, though, and busted out opponents in fourth and third place. Those would be the final two eliminations of the day.

Action was paused between the two players and they chose to make a deal with one another. Bennett was declared the winner, which was befitting of his chip lead, and Korfman was declared the runner-up. Bennett took home the gold bracelet, and the two players split the first- and second-place prize money for undisclosed sums amongst themselves.

Lukasz Dumanski Wins Event No. 42: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Eight-or-Better
Chad Brown, George Danzer Make Final Table
By Zach Bailey

Sporting a brightly colored green and orange garment of sorts, and drinking a beer, Lukasz Dumanski showed the Rio how to take down a bracelet in a style all his own. Event No. 42 was as unique as its winner's outfit. It was the only pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event at this year's World Series of Poker. The event attracted a field of 687 players and generated a prize pool of $937,755.

Lukasz came out on top of a final table that featured a couple of familiar faces. George Danzer, whom some may remember from last year's main event, and Chad Brown, a former Hollywood actor and recent tournament poker powerhouse, were both present and vying for the bracelet.

The final table began with David Bach ($502,000), Brown ($390,000), Dumanski ($358,000), James Tolley ($282,000), Gene Timberlake ($143,000), Danzer ($116,000), Thomas Hunt ($114,000), and Mark Wilds ($96,000).

After a tough threehanded battle, Dumanski and Bach found themselves heads up. Dumanski held more than twice the chips of Bach. In the end, Dumanski's A-A-Q-3 held up against Bach's J-J-6-3, and the gold bracelet was his. Bach took home $139,725 for his second-place finish. Dumanski took home first-place prize money of $227,454 and WSOP gold.

Saif Ahmad Wins Event No. 43 - $2,000 Limit Hold'em
William Jensen the Runner-Up
By Seth Niesen

Ask any hold'em player and he will tell you that World Series of Poker limit tournaments are brutal. They start with long hours of low, borderline-inconsequential blinds, and then the structure abruptly changes, often leaving average stacks with just a few big bets.

Saif Ahmad eventually emerged victorious on a final day that started with nine players remaining from the original 472 who started. Their chip counts were as follows: Tommy Rounds ($406,000), Ahmad ($322,000), Joseph Mandia ($259,000), Michael Graffeo ($250,000), William Jensen ($245,000), Justin Pechie ($147,000), Gerald Kane ($129,000), Robert Pacleb ($104,000), and Hal Havlisch ($30,000).

In the end, Ahmad fought through the field to get heads up with Jensen. He rode a wave of good cards, including some clutch rivers, to lock up the championship. In two hands, Ahmad crippled then eliminated Jensen. On the first hand, Ahmad raised, Jensen reraised, and Ahmad three-bet. Jensen made the call and the flop came Q Q 2. Jensen checked, Ahmad bet, and Jensen called. The turn brought the Q and Jensen again check-called. The river was the 3, Jensen checked, and Ahmad bet again. Jensen quickly called, but mucked when Ahmed tabled the A K.

That left Jensen on the short stack, and he was eliminated on the next hand. Jensen won second-place prize money of $133,151, while Ahmad won $217,329 and a gold WSOP bracelet.

Frankie O'Dell Wins Event No. 44: $2,000 Omaha Eight-or-Better
O'Dell Claims Second World Series of Poker Bracelet
By Julio Rodriguez

Frankie O'Dell is happy to see more and more Omaha eight-or-better events at the World Series of Poker, as he won his second bracelet and $240,057 in this event. His first bracelet came in the 2003 WSOP, when he won the $1,500 Omaha eight-or-better event. This win puts O'Dell over the $1.5 million mark in lifetime tournament earnings and vaults him into an elite class of professionals.

The final table in the order of elimination and payouts were: Mitch Maples ($14,578), Stuart Paterson ($20,409), Ming Lee ($27,699), Jess Robinson ($36,931), Marvin Ryan ($47,136), Marcel Luske ($64,630), Martin "Dick" Corpuz ($97,188), Thang Luu ($147,726), and O'Dell ($240,057).

Luske was unable to capitalize on his early chip lead and went out in fourth place. On a flop of A K 3♥, Luske moved all in and Luu made the call. Luske turned up the 10 10 7 6 and Luu flipped over the A Q 6 2. The turn and river cards were the 3 and 6, and were no help to "The Flying Dutchman," who walked away with $64,630.

On the final hand, Luu moved all in preflop and O'Dell made the call. Luu showed the J 10 5 4 and O'Dell turned up the Q 9 3 2. The board came Q 9 6 J A and O'Dell made two pair to take home the title.

Bill Edler Wins Event No. 45 - $5,000 Shorthanded No-Limit Hold'em
It's His First Bracelet
By Erik Fast

The $5,000 shorthanded no-limit hold'em event attracted a field 728 players this year, up from 507 in 2006. The play was fast all the way through the event, and the final table was no different. Erik Friberg and Alex Bolotin held most of the chips, while the rest of the players were short-stacked. The short stacks realized the value of chipping up to make the top three spots, which pay dramatically more money, and played aggressively early on. The first four eliminations all were due to this fast style of play.

When the smoke cleared, Bill Edler and Alex Bolotin were heads up and very close in chips. Edler won the first six pots, through aggression or by getting a walk. On hand No. 12, Edler raised to $360,000 with the A 10 and Bolotin instantly reraised all in with the A Q. Edler seemed to realize that Bolotin was strong, but with roughly a 6-to-1 chip lead, Edler opted to call. He was dominated preflop, but the 10 3 3 flop gave him a commanding lead. The 5 on the turn meant that he had to dodge only the three remaining queens for the win. The 8 on the river gave Edler his first bracelet and $904,672. Bolotin took home $504,686 for his second-place finish.

Tom Schneider Wins Event No. 46 - $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better
Captures Second Bracelet of 2007
By Seth Niesen

Coming into the World Series of Poker, Tom Schneider was worried about being respected. That is one concern he will never have again.

Schneider won his second WSOP bracelet of the year, making it the seventh year in a row that at least one player has won multiple bracelets. Schneider defeated second-place finisher Hoyt Verner to take home the top prize of $147,713 from the $607,880 prize pool. The last nine players of the original 668 were: Schneider, Miguel De La Cruz, Scotty Nguyen, Saundra Taylor, Hoyt Verner, Tommy Hang, Woody Deck, and Tony Ma.

Players fell quickly, and the tournament was down to heads-up play in just three hours. Verner held a slight chip lead, $670,000 to $620,000, but it was clear that Schneider would not be denied. He played fearless, aggressive poker, and eliminated Verner on this hand: Schneider had the bring-in with the 4, and Verner completed with the A. Schneider called, and fourth street brought him the 2. Verner check-called with the Q, and on fifth street he received the 7. He led, Schneider raised with the K, and Verner reraised, putting himself all in. Schneider made the call and tabled (K-2) 4 2 K, while Verner showed (7-X) A Q 7. Neither player improved, and Schneider was the champion.

Verner earned $82,064 for his second-place finish. The victory gave Schneider two bracelets in three 2007 final-table appearances. He won his first bracelet in Omaha/seven-card stud eight-or-better, for $214,247. He also took fourth in event No. 16, $2,500 H.O.R.S.E., for an additional $54,769.

Blair Rodman Wins Event No. 47 - $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em
Longtime Pro Wins First Bracelet
By Alex Baer

Blair Rodman outlasted a field of 2,038 players to win his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet. Las Vegas native Rodman is a professional gambler who has been playing at the WSOP since 1982. He had made eight previous final tables, and his best finish was a fourth place in 1993 (limit Omaha).

The total prize pool for this event was $3,709,160, with 198 of the entrants finishing in the money. Rodman had to outlast a star-studded final table, including World Poker Tour champs Joe Pelton and Roland De Wolfe, as well as 21-year-old sensation Anna Wroblewski.

Rodman began the final table sixth in chips, which was less than half of chip leader Steven Crawford's stack. Mark McKibben was quickly eliminated in ninth place, earning $42,655. Rodman then eliminated David Schnettler in eighth place ($55,637) and Joe Pelton in seventh place ($74,183). Roland De Wolfe was the next to fall after Amato Galasso hit running clubs to make a flush. De Wolfe earned $98,293. Crawford (fifth; $135,384) and Wroblewski (fourth; $192,876) would bust out next on successive hands.

Rodman then eliminated Klein Bach in third place a few hands later with nines full of deuces. After seeing more than 100 hands heads up, Galasso moved all in with the A K, and was called by Rodman with the A J. The board was dealt J 5 4 3 Q, and that was that. Galasso earned $448,808 in his first-ever live-tournament cash, and Rodman took home $707,898 and the gold bracelet that was a long time coming.

Rafi Amit Wins Event No. 48 - $1,000 Deuce-to-Seven Triple-Draw Lowball
It's His Second Bracelet
By Julio Rodriguez

Even though Rafi Amit is widely known for his skills in the game of pot-limit Omaha, people can't say that he is just a one-trick pony. Amit bested a field of 209 players in the $1,000 (with rebuys) deuce-to-seven triple-draw lowball event to win his second bracelet and $227,005.

The event attracted a stacked field, but Amit was one of the few recognizable faces who managed to survive day two. Other notable players finishing in the money included Joe Cassidy, Chau Giang, Ralph Perry, Brian Haveson, Devon Miller, Steve Zolotow, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, and Andy Bloch, who was the unfortunate player to bubble the final table.

Mark Bartlog was the first player to exit the final table when he couldn't beat Lenny Martin's J-8-5-4-2 low. Eugene Ji was the chip leader for most of day two, but his 10-7 low was bested by Anthony Lelluoche's 9-7. Jon Shoreman then fell victim to Martin's 8-6 when he held an 8-7. This pot put Martin over $1 million in chips for the first time. Amit eliminated Lelluoche in third place with an 8-7-6-4-3, and the final two players were set for heads-up play.

Amit dominated heads-up play despite starting with $555,000 to Martin's $895,000. He quickly took the lead and never looked back, even after Martin was able to double up near the end. The final hand had Martin's 8-7 low succumbing to Amit's 7-6-4-3-2 after both players stood pat on the third draw.

Event No. 49 - Chandrasekhar Billavara Wins $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Title
Delivers TKO on the Turn
By Andy Liakos

Chandrasekhar Billavara went to the final table of event No. 49 ($1,500 no-limit hold'em) dead last in chips and without a single notch in his belt. Scratching and clawing his way out of the short stack, Billavara ended the night as the last man standing in a 3,151 every-man-for-himself no-limit hold'em battle royal.

Going to the final table was the heavyweight, Taylor Douglas ($2,618,000). Leandro Pimentel weighed in next at $1,134,000, followed by Ray Spencer ($1,128,000), Greg Mueller ($1,032,000), Duane Felix ($996,000), John Hunt ($833,000), Cort Kibler-Melby ($694,000), and Lewis Titterton ($552,000), and Billavara was the lightweight with $456,000.

The preliminary fights all had been decided, and the only thing left on the card was the final bout between Douglas and Billavara. Douglas came out swinging at the sound of the bell, moving all in multiple times from the start. Billavara kept an early distance, circling and evading an overly aggressive Douglas by surrendering his blinds and antes. Douglas open-pushed for the last time with the Q 9, and Billavara countered with the A 7. The board came J 6 2 A, and Douglas hit the mat on the turn, drawing dead on the river. Billavara took home the gold bracelet and the $722,914 grand prize, while Douglas gets to hold his head up high as the runner-up, earning $467,101.

Event No. 50 - Robert Mizrachi Wins $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Title
Wins First Bracelet at a Stacked Final Table
By Erik Fast

The $10,000 pot-limit Omaha championship attracted 314 players and generated a prize pool of $2.9 million. A Mizrachi would win the event, but not the one everyone knows as "The Grinder." It would be his brother, Robert, who would win the title.

Among those at the final table was Doyle Brunson, who had positioned himself to tie Phil Hellmuth's record by winning his 11th bracelet. Brunson fell short of the milestone when he was eliminated by Patrik Antonius in sixth place. As he left the table, he received a rousing round of applause from the crowd and the remaining players.

With five players remaining, Mizrachi and Rene Mouritsen began to take control of the table, eliminating the next three players. As heads-up play began, Mizrachi held a sizable chip lead, and would end it after only a few hands.

Mouritsen raised to $480,000 and Mizrachi called. The flop came Q 9 3 and Mizrachi went all in. Mouritsen called and revealed the A Q 7 6, and Mizrachi tabled his 10 9 9 5. The turn brought the 5 and the river the 6, making Mizrachi the champion. He took home $768,889 and his first WSOP bracelet, while Mouritsen won $464,877 for his second runner-up finish this year.

Dao Bac Wins Event No. 51 - $1,000 S.H.O.E.
Vietnamese Poker Pro Takes Final Mixed Event
By Alex Baer

Dao Bac bested an impressive final-table lineup to win his first gold bracelet in the $1,000 S.H.O.E. event. A total of 730 players entered the tournament, creating a prize pool of $664,300. S.H.O.E. is H.O.R.S.E. without razz.

The final eight players included several familiar faces: two-time bracelet winner Patrick Poels, noted poker author Michael Craig, Raymond Davis, and World Poker Tour regular Chip Jett.

Bac got off to a good start at the final table when he eliminated Poels with a set. Poels had pocket aces and finished eighth ($11,957). Craig was eliminated in seventh place ($15,943), notching his second such finish of the Series. The second hour of final-table play saw the exit of Vladimir Shchemelev in sixth place ($20,793) and Irme Leibold in fifth ($26,592). Raymond Davis was the next to go ($34,012).

After losing a few stud eight-or-better hands, Jett ended up getting all in with pocket queens against Adam Geyer, only to have Geyer end up with aces up. Jett finished third ($55,801).

Bac was merciless during heads-up play. Geyer committed all of his chips on the final hand with the A 7 against Bac's 7 4 on a 10 7 5 3 board. The 4 on the river sent Geyer home with $88,691. Bac earned $157,875 for his first-place finish.

Event No. 52 - Michael Graves Captures $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em (With Rebuys) Title
Theo Tran Takes Second
By Zach Bailey

Youth was present and the chips were plentiful at the final table of event No. 52, $1,000 no-limit hold'em (with rebuys). The play was fast and furious from the start, and the final table played out in five hours. The event attracted a field of 1,048 players, and after rebuys, it generated a massive prize pool of $3,226,609.

The final table began with Michael Graves ($1,233,000), Isaac Haxton ($1,226,000), Theo Tran ($1,132,000), Arnold Spee ($760,000), Shawn Luman ($651,000), Thierry Cazals ($640,000), Shawn Hattem ($466,000), Chad Batista ($373,000), and Kris Tate ($299,000).

The heads-up battle was played in the same aggressive fashion as the entire final table. On the final hand, Graves raised from the button to $200,000 with the 6 5 and Tran made the call with the 9 8. The flop came down 7 5 4 and Graves bet $375,000. Tran quickly moved all in, and was almost immediately called by Graves. Tran showed an anguished face as he turned up his cards, while excitement filled the air on Graves' side of the table. Tran was unable to catch up when the turn brought the K, followed by the 10 on the river.

Tran walked away with $387,193 for his second-place finish, while Graves took home first-place prize money of $742,121 and the gold bracelet.

Ram Vaswani Wins Event No. 53 - $1,500 Limit Hold'em Shootout
Andrew Ward the Runner-Up
By Ryan Lucchesi

Square one, back to the drawing board, it's a whole new ballgame; whichever metaphor you choose to describe starting over, it can be applied to a shootout tournament. When the final eight players of the $1,500 limit hold'em shootout took their seats, they all sat behind a stack of $300,000.

With no short stack, play in the beginning was slow. The first elimination wouldn't happen until about two hours in. Raye Puckett was the first to hit the rail in eighth place, followed by David Baker, Sondre Sagstuen, Ishak Noyan, and David Mosca.

With things down to threehanded, Ram Vaswani jumped into action, and he flushed his last two opponents en route to his first gold bracelet. His first victim was Anh Van Nguyen, who was sent to the rail by a club flush on the river.

When action was down to heads up, Andrew Ward bet $30,000 preflop, and Vaswani raised to $60,000. Ward then three-bet the action to $90,000, and Vaswani made the call. The flop came A J 2. Ward bet $30,000 and Vaswani called, and the turn brought the 8. Ward bet $60,000 and Vaswani raised to $120,000. Ward made the all-in call and turned up the A 10. Vaswani showed down the K Q for the nut flush. Vaswani won the gold bracelet and $217,438. Ward took home $124,816 for second place.

Erik Seidel Wins Event No. 54 - $5,000 No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball
Garners Eighth World Series of Poker Bracelet
By Julio Rodriguez

One of the most impressive final tables of the entire World Series of Poker didn't quite get the attention it deserved. Nonstop satellites for the main event and the celebrity-filled Ante Up for Africa charity event were the primary focus of the day during the $5,000 no-limit deuce-to-sevent draw lowball final table.

Poker celebrities Erik Seidel, Chad Brown, Todd Brunson, Andrew Black, Barry Greenstein, Freddy Deeb, Lamar Wilkinson, and Sean Sheikhan were gathered at this final table, having outlasted a total field of 78 players.

Brunson was the first player to take home any cash when he was eliminated in seventh place. Deeb fell short of winning his second bracelet of the Series when Sheikhan eliminated him in sixth place. Black finished fifth, and lowball specialist Wilkinson finished fourth. Despite having a substantial chip lead going into threehanded play, Sheikhan was unable to do much damage and finished in third place.

Going into heads-up play, Brown held almost a 3-1 chip lead over Seidel, but a couple of key double-ups had Brown scrambling for chips. On the final hand, Brown raised to $250,000 and Seidel made the call. Seidel drew two cards and Brown drew one. Seidel then bet $250,000 and Brown raised all in for $600,000. Seidel made the call. Brown showed his 9-7-5-3-2, normally a great hand when heads up, especially with your opponent drawing two cards. But, Seidel showed down 8-7-6-5-3 to capture the title, his eighth bracelet, and $538,835.

Ante Up for Africa Tourney Raises Thousands
Top-Two Finishers Donate Winnings to Charities
By Bob Pajich

The night of July 5 was a good one for poker and the world.

The Ante Up for Africa poker tournament, a $5,000 event that took place at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino to raise money for charities that are dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, concluded when the final two players, Dan Shak and Brandon Moran, stood up and announced that they had decided to donate all of their winnings to the charities.

Between Shak and Moran alone, $368,738 went to the Enough Project and the International Rescue Committee.

The tournament, which was the brainchild of actor Don Cheadle and poker star Annie Duke, was added to the World Series of Poker schedule as a kind of exhibition. Although no money was held out of the prize pool for the charities, the players were asked to donate at least half of their winnings to the charities.

If everyone who cashed added half of their winnings to Shak's and Moran's large donations, $610,869 would've been donated out of the $835,000 prize pool. The WSOP didn't have an exact figure as of press time.

The celebs who showed up included Cheadle, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Sandler, Ray Romano, Dean Cain, Brad Garrett, Martin Sheen, Charles Barkley, Hank Azaria, and Cheryl Hines.

Poker stars who played included Michael Binger, Andy Bloch, Justin Bonomo, Doyle Brunson, "Miami" John Cernuto, Antonio Esfandiari, Farshad Fardad, Clonie Gowen, Russ Hamilton, Joe and Tony Hachem, Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, Mike Matusow, Daniel Negreanu, Kevin O'Donnell, Steve Zolotow, and others.

World Series of Poker Propels Players Into the Player of the Year Race

This section of The Inside Straight is usually dedicated to one player who has made his mark on the Card Player Player of the Year (POY) leader board, but not this edition. The World Series of Poker, as usual, has changed everything. Several players have either made a serious push into the POY race or padded their positions (and bankrolls) with their WSOP showings.

Robert Mizrachi, Tom Schneider, Scott Clements, and Rene Mouritsen all have chalked up fabulous WSOP results. Consequently, they are all serious contenders in the POY race.

Mizrachi, the eldest of four poker-playing brothers, including the 2006 Card Player Player of the Year Michael Mizrachi, finally got his first major tournament win in the WSOP $10,000 pot-limit Omaha event. He won $768,889 and the bracelet, and solidified the Mizrachi family as a poker juggernaut. It was his third final table of the 2007 WSOP and his fifth cash. His other two final tables were in the $2,500 and $5,000 H.O.R.S.E. events. He has earned 2,229 POY points during the Series, and now is sixth in the standings with 2,984 points. He's won $861,138 in WSOP events in 2007.

Finishing second to Mizrachi in the pot-limit Omaha championship was Mouritsen. The intimidating-looking Dane (visualize John Hennigan with glasses and an accent) has three WSOP cashes, two as the runner-up (the $1,500 mixed hold'em event was the other). He sits 18th in the POY standings with 2,472 points, and all but 432 of them came at the WSOP. He's won $612,670 at this year's WSOP.

Schneider has cashed three times at the WSOP, but two of those cashes included bracelets, and the third was a final table. Schneider won the $1,000 stud eight-or-better and the $2,500 Omaha/seven-card stud eight-or-better events. He also finished fourth in the $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. event. He's earned 2,382 points in this WSOP, for a total of 2,832 and ninth place on the leader board. He's won $483,463 at the WSOP.

Sitting two spots behind Schneider in 11th place is Clements with 2,690 points, 1,460 of which came at the WSOP. He's cashed eight times since Jan. 1, and four of those cashes happened at the WSOP (two were final tables). He's made $323,198 at the WSOP.

Edler Angles Into Fourth

Congratulations go to Bill Edler, who is having a fantastic year on the tournament trail and also won his first World Series of Poker bracelet when he took down the $5,000 sixhanded no-limit hold'em event and the $904,672 that came with it. So far this year, he's won $1.6 million playing tournament poker. The way Edler has been playing, he has a fantastic shot at winning the Player of the Year title.

On the Road Again
Players will have barely a month off after both the World Series of Poker main event and the Bellagio Cup III before they have to get on the tournament road again. There's one World Poker Tour event in August, and then three in September. The next four WPT events are as follows:

Legends of Poker,
The Bicycle Casino, Aug. 25-30
Gulf Coast Poker Championship, Beau Rivage, Sept. 6-9
Borgata Poker Open, Sept. 16-20
Turks and Caicos Poker Classic, Club Med, Sept. 25-30

Online Hand-to-Hand Combat: Cap'nJackpot's Sharp Read Gets Value Out of a Marginal Spot
By Craig Tapscott

Want to study real poker hands with the Internet's most successful players? In this series, Card Player offers hand analysis with online poker's leading talent.

Event: UltimateBet Sunday $200,000 Guarantee
Players: 846
First Place: $45,000
Stacks: Cap'nJackpot - $920,825; Villain - $1,194,175
Blinds: $10,000-$20,000
Antes: $2,000

The Villain limps in from the button. Cap'nJackpot checks from the big blind with the 8 5.

Craig Tapscott:
What's been the dynamics at the table so far during heads-up play?

Nath "Cap'nJackpot" Pizzolatto:
I believe I've developed a decent read on his play; I've been doing a good job of getting value out of him in marginal spots.

8 6 3 ($44,000 pot)

Are you looking to check-raise him here or set him up?

There's really no reason to get tricky here. I have no expectation that the Villain will bet, since the flop is unlikely to have paired him, and he hasn't done much stabbing at the smaller pots. Furthermore, there are a ton of straight draws on the board, not to mention overcards that could hit. Top pair is pretty strong here, so I bet it for value.

Cap'nJackpot bets $27,500.

Why that bet size?

My bet is a little on the small side, but it doesn't matter if he has nothing. At this price, he almost certainly calls with worse hands - lower pairs and straight draws. Either a fold or a call is fine with me; if raised, I have a tough decision, but this deep, I probably call and fold the turn if unimproved.

The Villain calls.

J ($99,000 pot)

What's your read here on the turn?

The jack, despite being an overcard, is actually good for me, because it is unlikely to have filled his hand. I'm still planning to play this as though I have the best hand. However, I don't want to build a big pot here, so I check to see what he does. I expect him to check behind.

The Villain bets $45,000.

That's not what you expected. Is he reacting to your weak turn check?

He could be value-betting another 8, or (mistakenly) a 6, or attempting to set the price for showdown with a pair of sixes or threes. He also could be bluffing with a straight draw, thinking that I will see the overcard and worry about my hand, folding either here or to a big river bet. I decide to call, planning to call most rivers.

K ($189,000 pot)

That is a great card, because it bricks off all of the draws, and it gives the Villain yet another overcard to represent. It fits exactly with everything I've assessed about the hand so far, and I still should have the best hand and be looking to get value for it.

Cap'nJackpot checks, the Villain bets $100,000, and Cap'nJackpot calls.

CT: You called pretty quickly. You stuck to your read the whole way.

NP: He could be going for a thin value-bet or made kings up. But it's far more likely that with so many straight draws on the flop, and all of them having bricked, he can't win a showdown. To him, the overcards are bluffing opportunities.

The Villain shows the 10 9.

Cap'nJackpot wins the pot of $389,000.

CT: Just what you expected.

NP: It was pretty consistent with his bets and the board coming out the way that it did. My accurate read of the situation gave me the confidence that I had enough insight into his play to continue playing my game. I would go on to win, but not after a grueling match that lasted nearly two hours.

Nath Pizzolatto captured second place in the 2006 World Series of Poker $2,500 shorthanded no-limit hold'em event for $238,000. He's been winning at tournaments both live and online since 2005. You can read about his misadventures in the tournament world at

Online Player of the Year Racers Kicking Into High Gear
By Shawn Patrick Green

The Online Player of the Year (OPOY) race midpoint has now officially passed and players are starting to angle themselves to leapfrog over the competition to land in the top spot. In the two weeks since the leader board was last published in Card Player magazine, more than a few players have either bolstered their leads or vaulted up the standings. The top-three contenders, Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi, Matt "Ch0ppy" Kay, and "Andy McLEOD," all have earned a few OPOY-qualified cashes here and there to distance themselves from competitors and hold them back for just a bit longer.

Just Try to Hold Them Back …
Sometimes a war plan seems like it can't fail until you realize that the enemy isn't cooperating. Issac "westmenloAA" Baron, James "P0KERPR0" Campbell, and "puffinmypurp" aren't ones to sit quietly while the leader board leaders rack up points. All three players have made OPOY-qualified finishes that have boosted them up in the standings.

Baron made the biggest jump when he finished in third place ($42,714) in the Full Tilt $500,000-guaranteed tournament on July 8, earning 800 OPOY points. Those points put him at 3,840, which catapulted him over Aaron "Gotcha55" Kanter into the fourth-place spot.

Campbell took down the Full Tilt $1K Monday tournament on June 25 (earning $70,460), which landed him 360 more points. Those points were enough to move him from ninth place to sixth place, as he and his leader-board neighbors were occupying a crowded area in the 2,500- to 2,900-point range.

Last but not least, puffinmypurp still may be in eighth place, but he nevertheless had to hop over an opponent to stay there (because of Campbell's meteoric rise). Puffinmypurp took sixth place in the PokerStars daily $100 (with rebuys) tournament on July 8, which was worth $6,444 and 80 OPOY points, enough to slip by the sedentary Yevgeniy "Jovial Gent" Timoshenko for the eighth-place position.

New Faces Mean New Challenges
Gred "DuckU" Hobson was nudged out of the top-10 spots on the leader board when it came to light that loooser17, a player who finished in fifth place ($69,654) in the PokerStars Sunday Million on June 24, was also John_McClane17, the winner of the Full Tilt Online Poker Series IV main event. When his accounts had been merged, those two finishes, along with some deep finishes in the PokerStars $200 (with rebuys) event on Sundays, gave him enough points to edge out Hobson by 182 points. With the kinds of deep finishes he's been making in huge tournaments, he's certainly an unwelcome sight for the other players vying for the top spot on the leader board.

Chatbox Cunning
Quick strategy from online poker's top pros
Kevin "BeL0WaB0Ve" Saul

"I would venture to say that there are very few excellent players online who haven't made any friends at the table, don't know anyone at the table, don't discuss hands with anyone, and make poker a completely solo project. It's just not very likely. I think that to be successful in this game, you need a good support system around you to help you develop your game."

"If you have to go to showdown with every one of your hands, or even the majority of your hands, you're not going to win a tournament. You have to be able to chip up without showdown."

"My first piece of advice would be to make sure that, if you're going to play poker, you have your priorities in order as far as not overextending yourself at all and keeping your personal life and personal money away from poker. Keep that money and your poker bankroll separate so that you can differentiate between the two, because a lot of the common mistakes that players make are related to that."

"I liked bluffing people off of hands, and a lot of times I got more pleasure from winning a pot by making a nice bluff than actually getting somebody to pay off a huge value-bet. For me, now, when you can maximize value for a big hand - when you have aces and flop a set or something - that's harder to do than to bluff somebody off of a hand."

Get a Piece of the Action
Those wishing to take advantage of the promotions, overlays, and guaranteed prize pools at these sites can do so by going to the following links:

PokerStars -
Full Tilt Poker -
UltimateBet -
AbsolutePoker -
Bodog -

Tournament Results, June 25-July 8
PokerStars Sunday Million
July 1

Winner: tonijeromi
Winnings: $192,127
Prize pool: $1,362,600
Entrants: 6,813

July 8
Winnings: $157,154*
Prize pool: $1,364,200
Entrants: 6,821
* Reflects a deal made at the final table, per the PokerStars chopping rules.

Full Tilt Poker $500,000 Guarantee
July 1
Winnings: $114,198
Prize pool: $637,800
Entrants: 3,189

July 8
Winnings: $107,716
Prize pool: $601,600
Entrants: 3,008

UltimateBet $200,000 Guarantee
June 1
Winnings: $45,000
Prize pool: $200,000
Entrants: 901

June 8
Winnings: $45,000
Prize pool: $200,000
Entrants: 813

Bodog $100,000 Guarantee
July 1
Winnings: $25,000
Prize pool: $100,000
Entrants: 846

July 8
Winnings: $25,000
Prize pool: $100,000
Entrants: 846

Ian Johns
Unlimited Potential
By Craig Tapscott

During Ian Johns' teenage years, he was one of the top junior bowlers in the nation. But bowling for dollars didn't feel like the right career path. What next? Card games always had been a part of his youth. Both of his parents were successful players in the weekly games at a local bowling alley cardroom. They eventually encouraged their son to learn the game.

Limit poker intrigued Johns. He buried himself in books and began to play a little online poker under his dad's account. He worked an original deposit of $50 up to $200, but quickly faced the demons of variance and dropped his account balance to $6. "Then I turned that $6 into $400," said Johns. "I started playing small multitable tournaments and made the final table three weeks in a row one time. This was extremely significant for me to win $600 at that time in a poker tournament."

Soon after entering a local community college in the Seattle, Washington, area, he made a big decision; college would have to be put on hold. The online cash games were just too juicy and the $15,000 a month he was pulling in too lucrative to let pass by.

At the same time, tournament poker fired up his dormant competitive spirit. Johns would take his game to the 2006 World Series of Poker and bring home a championship title and a coveted bracelet. He captured the $3,000 limit hold'em event, for $291,000. Earlier this year, he placed 30th in the World Poker Tour Championship at Bellagio, for $92,000. Johns is now a regular on the traveling poker circuit, as well as a feared high-stakes limit cash-game specialist.

Craig Tapscott: When did the growth of your game turn a corner?

Ian Johns: I would see forums linked to 2+2 and started reading a ton there. Th