Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

Big Names Go Head to Head in London

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Jan 01, 2010


Littlewoods Poker
The Littlewoods Poker World Heads-Up Poker Championship 2009 began on October 27 and saw a total of four days of play at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino in London. It was the first time the event, which is now in its ninth year, took place in London. The exciting £3,000 buy-in tournament attracted 42 players, but not just any players — some of the top names from across the poker globe turned up to take each other on for the title. Also at stake was a prize pool of £126,000, however only four would get paid. The person who took it down was due £65,000, the runner-up would receive £30,000, and the defeated duo would collect £15,500 each.

Among the competition were stars of the virtual and live felt such as Marc Goodwin, Richard Gryko, Paul Zimbler, Sorel Mizzi, Stuart Rutter, Bambos Xanthos, Laurence Houghton, John Tabatabai, Dario Minieri, Roland de Wolfe, and former footballer Teddy Sheringham. Prior to the first set of matches, the draw took place, with some of the aforementioned players receiving byes, and others taking on the survivors of the first forced set of matches in round two.

Round One:
Martins Adeniya BEAT Roland de Wolfe
Jan Teilhof BEAT Jean Daniel Malan
Thor Drexel BEAT Adnan Chanaa
Samer George BEAT Victor Ilyukhin
Ryan Fronda BEAT Richard Kellett
Roberto Romanello BEAT Bas Faessen
Tony Cascarino BEAT Pietro Conti
Keith Hawkins BEAT Nick Gold
Albert Iversen BEAT Michael Greco
Hieu Van La BEAT Andrew Feldman

Round Two:
Victor Ilyukhin BEAT Martins Adeniya
Jan Teilhof BEAT Nicolas Dervaux
Robert Price BEAT Marc Goodwin
Thor Drexel BEAT Teddy Sheringham
Richard Gryko BEAT Samer George
Paul Zimbler BEAT Richard Wheatley
Sorel Mizzi BEAT Stuart Rutter
Bambos Xanthos BEAT Ryan Fronda
Bryan Pellegrino BEAT Roberto Romanello
Laurence Houghton BEAT Alexander Petersen
Steven Wilmot BEAT Gaspare Triolo
Anooj Sareen BEAT Tony Cascarino
Keith Hawkins BEAT John Tabatabai
James Mitchell BEAT Simon Battle
Albert Iversen BEAT Battisti Alfio
Dario Minieri BEAT Hieu Van La

Through a frenzy of analysis, aggression, calculation, and manipulation, 42 players became 32, and that field was then halved. Between games, players watched what could be future opponents take each other on, and upped their game to contend with those left standing when the dust settled.
Players Littlewoods Poker
The remaining 16 players who got through to the third round then had a day to rest and prepare. Many exciting names went deep and would be watched by eyes worldwide at the live webcast at when they took to the felt for the next stage of play.

Round Three:
Victor Ilyukhin VERSUS Jan Teilhof
Robert Price VERSUS Thor Drexel
Richard Gryko VERSUS Paul Zimbler
Sorel Mizzi VERSUS Bambos Xanthos
Bryan Pellegrino VERSUS Laurence Houghton
Steven Wilmot VERSUS Tony Cascarino
Keith Hawkins VERSUS James Mitchell
Albert Iversen VERSUS Dario Minieri

On the second day of play, the cameras were firstly pointed at Paul Zimbler and Richard Gryko, but after an hour they were moved to the side to allow others some screen-time. Gryko gradually built up a lead, and finally the two got it all in with K-9 versus pocket sixes. Gryko’s K-9 beat Zimbler’s sixes and he moved through to the quarter-final. He said, “I knew it would come down to a race in the end.”

Bambos Xanthos then took on Sorel Mizzi in what turned out to be the longest match of the day. Xanthos moved out in front early on and created a 3-to-1 chip lead, but then Mizzi flipped things and decreased Xanthos’ stack to 5,000, a quarter of what they started with, with pocket aces versus Xanthos’ flopped pair and flush draw.

Xanthos came back once more and eventually his pocket sixes crippled Mizzi’s A-Q. A few hands later, and almost four hours in to their match, Mizzi’s remaining 300 in chips made the trip across the table when his K-8 was slaughtered by Xanthos’ A-K.

After his win, Xanthos said, “I have been a poker cash game player for the past 30 years and I have a lot of patience.”

Thor Drexel beat Robert Price in the next match. The ultimate hand came when on a flop of QHeart SuitQClub Suit3Diamond Suit, Price shoved all in with 9Heart Suit3Diamond Suit and was called by Drexel holding JDiamond Suit7Diamond Suit. Amazingly, Drexel hit runner runner to make a diamond flush and took the match down.

Victor V. Ilyukhin also made it through to the quarter-finals, as did Laurence Houghton when he beat Bryan Pellegrino. Houghton said after that he had spent some money on watching Pellegrino’s video tips before playing him and that it was well worth it.

Tony Cascarino is another former footballer making waves on the poker scene, and this event was no different, he faced Steven Wilmot and took it down when his Q-J made a straight on the 10-9-8 flop in the final hand. Cascarino said, “I got lucky and Steve is a good player. I was fortunate to hit the nuts, but my heads-up game has improved of late.”

The final match of the day saw two young but powerful poker players battle it out. Although Albert Iversen had twice Dario Minieri’s stack at one point, in the end it was the Italian who took the final spot in the quarter-final.

Quarter Final:
Victor V. Ilyukhin VERSUS Thor Drexel
Richard Gryko VERSUS Bambos Xanthos
Laurence Houghton VERSUS Tony Cascarino
James Mitchell VERSUS Dario Minieri

The next day the field was halved from eight to four via the quarter finals. Things got off to a flying start with the first battle which was between Victor Ilyukhin and Thor Drexel. The two had only sat down when Ilyukhin moved all in preflop and was called by Drexel. It was a pocket pair each for the two – tens for the Russian and aces for the Dane. Ilyukhin celebrated as he watched a 10 drop on the flop and Drexel took it on the chin as his aces were crushed.

“All my life I’ve been unlucky, but I woke up this morning and was so confident. I never crack aces. I could crack two jokers today, even if you had quad jokers,” Ilyukhin said to Bambos Xanthos who went on to beat Richard Gryko.
Xanthos dominated Gryko from the word go, but the Brit was not going down without a fight and he clawed his way back so that there was only a couple of thousand between them. With not a lot going on on a board showing JSpade SuitJClub Suit6Spade Suit4Heart Suit, all hell broke loose when Xanthos check-raised a bet from Gryko, triggering Gryko to then move all in. Xanthos made the call and showed the winning hand — JDiamond Suit6Diamond Suit. Gryko revealed QDiamond Suit6Club Suit and it was all over for the Brit as even the river could not help him out.

The final two matches both lasted one hour and 10 minutes. The first saw Tony Cascarino take on Laurence Houghton. The match firstly went in Cascarino’s favour, but then changed direction and leaned towards Houghton. With Houghton in the lead, the final hand came when Cascarino shoved all in with KDiamond Suit6Club Suit on an 8Diamond Suit 5Spade Suit 4Diamond Suit flop. Houghton called with KClub Suit KSpade Suit and the turn and river were diamond-less and meaningless. No straight or flush could better Cascarino’s cards and Houghton reserved his place in the semi-final.

The last quarter-final match would see Italian boy wonder Dario Minieri up against James Mitchell, and when Houghton was asked who he would prefer to play in the next round, he said, “I’m friends with James and would prefer Dario”.

That, however, was not to be as Mitchell quickly built a 3-to-1 chip lead over Minieri. Minieri’s A-Q versus Mitchell’s A-8 helped the Italian increase his stack but he could not maintain it for very long and eventually moved all in with AClub Suit5Club Suit on an 8Spade Suit 3Spade Suit 2Club Suit flop. Mitchell made the call with pocket sixes and they held up when the turn and river did not bring an ace, a four, or running clubs.

Victor Ilyukhin VERSUS Bambos Xanthos
Laurence Houghton VERSUS James Mitchell

The last day of the event saw both the semi-finals and final taking place. Three matches would determine the 2009 World Heads-Up Poker Champion.
First, Russian Victor Ilyukhin took on Xanthos and appeared very confident, saying, “I know how Bambos plays”. His lucky pink shirt that he had been wearing all that week was no help to him however as throughout their two-hour match, Xanthos mostly maintained the lead despite some swings. Finally, on a QDiamond Suit10Diamond Suit9Club Suit flop, the two were all in, Xanthos holding JDiamond Suit9Heart Suit and Ilyukhin with 9Diamond Suit6Diamond Suit. No diamonds or any surprises came and the first match of the day went to Xanthos.

In their post-match interviews Ilyukhin said, “For most of the match I think I really out-played him. He’s very tight and needed the cards.” However, Xanthos said, “I decided I’m going to play tight. He played open, so when I played a hand I gave the impression I had a good hand. If I have a mediocre hand I decide I’m just going to call him and let him bluff off his chips to me. I kept him lopsided."

The second semi-final match also took two hours. This time it was between friends Laurence Houghton and James Mitchell. The two analysed their play throughout the rollercoaster heads up and finally Houghton was crippled when Mitchell paired his ace on the river with Houghton holding pocket jacks and Mitchell holding A-2. This left Houghton with 5,000 in chips and when he pushed with 8-6 from the button, Mitchell made the call with A-9. Houghton hit an eight and doubled up. He then pushed again with K-3 and Mitchell made the call with K-9. The better hand won and Mitchell secured his place in the final opposite Xanthos.

Bambos Xanthos VERSUS James Mitchell

It was a cracker of a heads-up match between the young Brit and the older Cypriot. The two tangoed back and forth until Xanthos gained a 3-to-1 chip lead and things slowed down. In the ultimate hand, Xanthos check-raised on an ADiamond Suit10Diamond Suit4Club Suit flop and Mitchell moved all in. Mitchell held 10Club Suit7Spade Suit for middle pair but Xanthos held an ace, and after making the call, went on to hit trips on the river, winning the championship in style.
Bambos Xanthos
The final payouts were:
Bambos Xanthos (Cyprus) £65,000
James Mitchell (England) £30,000
Victor V. Ilyukhin (Russia) £15,500
Laurence Houghton (England) £15,500

Dates will soon be announced for next year’s instalment which promises to be even more popular and is anticipated to reach its cap long before kick-off. Keep an eye on for further details. Spade Suit