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WSOPE Main Event

by Shane Gittes |  Published: Nov 30, 2008


John Juanda wins the 2008 World Series of Poker Europe main eventA total of 362 of the world's finest poker players descended on London for the second World Series of Poker Europe main event, presented by Betfair. The hefty £10,000 buy-in ensured that the quality of play was outstanding throughout, as everyone aimed for the £868,800 that the latest WSOP bracelet winner would receive. The first few days saw huge names such as Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, and Doyle Brunson all hit the rail, while other stars such as Mike Matusow and Johnny Lodden made the money but fell just short of the final table.

As the final table was set, it appeared to be one of the most exciting in a long time. John Juanda was the chip leader, with the effervescent Daniel Negreanu hot on his heels, while the play of the two Russians, Stanislav Alekhin and Ivan Demidov, had had the whole of the Empire casino talking all week. Clad in an imposing hood and shades, Alekhin had tormented Hellmuth before his elimination, and had gone on to dominate the tournament. His compatriot Demidov already had made poker history by reaching this final table to go alongside his participation in the hallowed "November Nine" WSOP main event.

The epic final table lived up to all the hype by lasting an incredible 21 hours, eight of them in the heads-up match between Alekhin and eventual victor Juanda. This shattered the record for the longest final table in WSOP history, and ensured that this event will live long in the memories of all who were there to see it.

As they lined up at the start of play, the chip counts looked like this:

Seat 1 Robin Keston UK 849,000
Seat 2 Daniel Negreanu USA 1,002,000
Seat 3 Chris Elliott UK 281,000
Seat 4 Bengt Sonnert Sweden 385,000
Seat 5 John Juanda USA 1,349,000
Seat 6 Ivan Demidov Russia 1,006,000
Seat 7 Toni Hiltunen Finland 386,000
Seat 8 Scott Fischman USA 732,000
Seat 9 Stanislav Alekhin Russia 1,278,000

2008 World Series of Poker Europe finalistsDespite the snail's pace it ended at, the final table got off to a roaring start with Chris Elliott's elimination in the first 30 minutes of play. Stanislav Alekhin raised it to 32,000 and got a call from Elliott on the button. They both saw a flop of 10 9 2, and Alekin led out for 45,000. Elliott called. The turn 7 is the card that prompted the carnage to follow. Alekhin decided to continue his aggression by betting enough to put Elliott to a decision for all his chips. He couldn't have liked it, though, when Elliott snap-called him with the 10 9 for top two pair. The Russian held the A 5 for the nut-flush draw. Elliott had only one card to fade and he was right back in the mix. The river K sealed his fate, though, and without making a wrong move, Elliott was out in ninth spot for £81,450.

After the first exit, there was a long lull in play, with most pots taken down by a single preflop raise. Alekhin and his countryman Demidov were starting to make a gap at the top of the leader board, though, while others such as Toni Hiltunen simply couldn't pick up a card and get the motors running. He was the next out when he got all in on the button with pocket jacks. It was a good hand, but the problem was that Alekhin had a pair of lovely queens to make the call with. The dominated Hiltunen failed to turn water into wine, and he departed with a cheque for £108,600 and a week to remember.

Though there weren't many big names colliding, the fate of Daniel Negreanu at the table kept the rail's attentions. It was the last remaining Brit, however, Robin Keston, who was the next to find his hopes dashed by Demidov. Demidov made a standard raise before the flop, Keston pushed with the A 8, and got a swift call from Demidov, holding the 9 9. Keston was in trouble, and a K 10 4 flop didn't help matters much. The 9 on the turn opened up a few doors, however, as Demidov spiked a set but Keston found an unlikely flush draw. It was not to be, though, as the river was an anticlimactic 6. Keston fell by the wayside in seventh place for a nice cash of £135, 750.

The Russian double act of Stanislav Alekhin and Ivan Demidov was running over the table, playing aggressively but also simply having great hands at the important times. The experienced Scott Fischman was the next to feel their wrath, falling in sixth place for £171,950. Demidov made it 39,000 to go before the flop and found two callers, Fischman and Alekhin. A very interesting A J 10 flop fell, at which point Demidov checked, Fischman bet 45,000, and Alekhin raised to 135,000. Demidov got out of the way, yet Fischman moved all in, only to run straight into the nuts - Alekhin's K Q, for the flopped Broadway straight. Fischman's A Q was effectively playing for a chop, but the turn 4 and river 4 simply sealed his demise.

2008 World Series of Poker Europe finalistsWith five players remaining, and both Negreanu and Bengt Sonnert running dangerously low on chips, it was only a matter of time until there would be another collision. It was the fan favourite Negreanu who eventually succumbed to Alekhin's sword next. Negreanu had already pushed all in on numerous times without getting a caller, and when Alekhin put him all in from the small blind, Negreanu must have thought his A-9 would likely be in great shape against the Russian's range. Unfortunately, as was so often the case, the Russian had the cards to back up his aggression, as he flipped over the J J. The board was ace-less and Negreanu left to a standing ovation to cash his £217,200 cheque and celebrate a brilliant WSOPE of three cashes from four events.

Needless to say, it was Alekhin who dispatched the likeable Sonnert soon thereafter. All in preflop, the young Russian star again held the best of it - A-8 to Sonnert's dominated A-5. A K-10-8 flop more or less sealed it before a 3 on the turn meant that the Swedish cash-game pro was drawing dead. Fourth place paid out a huge £271,500, though, so Sonnert had something to be cheerful about, especially since he had been grinding away on the short stack for most of the final table.

So, it was on to three-handed play, where it was Full Tilt pro John Juanda with his back against the wall, sandwiched in between Demidov and Alekhin. Demidov's dream of capturing WSOP main events in both Europe and across the pond was still on until he fell by the wayside in a great hand against Juanda. It opened with Juanda raising from the button to 105,000, and Demidov calling. The flop was 8 5 3, at which point Juanda checked and Ivan bet out 170,000. Juanda just called. The turn J saw Juanda check again, and this time Demidov bet a large 450,000, only for Juanda to check-raise him all in. It didn't take Demidov long to realise he was priced in to the call with his Q 10, with plenty of straight and flush outs against Juanda's sneakily played pocket aces. The river bricked out, though, and Demidov was consoled with third place, £344,850, and a place in poker history.

With both Alekhin and Juanda strong, aggressive, and fearless players, it looked like the heads-up battle would be a quick, merciful finale. Instead, for more than eight hours and 241 hands of poker, they played on without a winner. Alekhin had Juanda in huge trouble for much of the match, outchipping him by 6-1 for long stretches before Juanda got a crucial double-up that decimated the Russian's stack. Juanda raised from the button to 165,000 and Alekhin called. The flop fell K Q 7 and Alekhin led out into the initial raiser for 325,000. Juanda didn't think twice before moving all in. After thinking it over, the visibly exhausted Alekhin eventually made the call with just the 4 3, for the flush draw. Juanda was ahead, but in danger, with K-6. The turn 4 was safe, and the 9 on the river saw Juanda take the initiative in the contest for what was surely the final time.

It was simply a formality from that point, with the brave Alekhin down to just 600,000, but after the heroics of the previous hours, nobody could be sure until it was finally over. A few hands of jostling later, and the inevitable all-in clash happened. Alekhin pushed his dwindling stack in with A-9, and Juanda decided to try to end it there and then with the K 6. The flop sealed it, 6-6-2 for trips. Fittingly, a fourth 6 fell on the river, giving Juanda quads and the WSOPE main-event championship after one of the most memorable days of poker in history.