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Jeff Cabanillas Wins 2006 WSOP $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em, Denies Hellmuth 10th Bracelet

$5,000 Omaha Eight-or-Better & $1,500 Limit Kick Off and Day 2 $1,500 Seven-Card Stud


Every once in a while a sports event achieves "you shoulda been there" status. When a television broadcast, an online article, or any other type of retelling can't replace the experience of physically witnessing the action firsthand.

The final table of the $5,000 no-limit hold'em tournament achieved "you shoulda been there" status.

On a day when the Rio's Amazon Room played host to four separate WSOP events, the attention and buzz that surrounded the $5,000 no-limit table reached a pinnacle that may be topped only in 20 days - when players sit down to participate in the Main Event.

$5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Final Table

The biggest news coming into day 3 revolved around ESPN's decision not to have a full production crew cover the action. The nine remaining players, each engaging personalities, coupled with Phil Hellmuth's quest for a tenth bracelet, made for a dream final table, but only one cameraman was on hand to capture the highlights.

With a WSOP bracelet and an $818,546 first place prize on the line, the chip counts coming into the final table were as follows:

1. Quoc Al "Vinnie" Vinh - $784,000 (Seat 1)
2. Phil Hellmuth Jr. - $$461,000 (Seat 9)
3. Marcel Luske - $458,000 (Seat 4)
4. Isabelle Mercier - $301,000 (Seat 2)
5. Jeff Cabanillas - $275,000 (Seat 5)
6. Douglas Carli - $273,000 (Seat 6)
7. Eugene Todd - $240,000 (Seat 3)
8. Thomas Schreiber - $200,000 (Seat 8)
9. Dan Smith - $117,000 (Seat 7)

The first cards hit the air at 2:21 p.m. PDT with $8,000-$16,000 blinds and $2,000 antes.

The fans packed in the bleachers and along the rails, already the largest crowd for a 2006 WSOP final table, needed to wait only one hour before witnessing the first elimination. Danny Smith, the short stack, pushed all in preflop but mucked his hand to Phil Hellmuth after the river. Smith exited the tournament as the ninth-place finisher ($58,468).

Over the next hour, Vinnie Vinh, who brought a massive stack to the final table, lost two key hands to Marcel Luske and Jeff Cabanillas. Left with only $200,000 in chips, Vinh moved all in on a Hellmuth preflop raise. Throughout the tournament both players entertained fans with their spirited table banter and constant heads-up battles, but the love-hate relationship came to an end when Hellmuth made the call. His Adiamond 10heart held up against Vinh's Kdiamond Qdiamond and Vinh stormed away from the final table in eighth place ($87,702).

Douglas Carli (seventh place, $116,396) and Thomas Schreiber (sixth place, $146,170) were the next players to be eliminated.

By the 6:20 p.m. dinner break, only four players remained and Isabelle Mercier was not one of them. Her tournament run ended when her Kdiamond 3club failed to improve against Cabanillas's pocket eights. The well-known Canadian poker pro finished in fifth place ($175,404).

Crowd favorite Luske, wearing his customary suit and tie, soon followed Mercier to the rails. After losing a big hand to Cabanillas, Luske bet $210,000 preflop, leaving him with only $20,000 in chips. Hellmuth called, and then put Luske all in blind. "The Flying Dutchman" called on the 7heart 7spade 4heart flop. Hellmuth showed the Kheart 10club and Luske flipped over Qheart Jdiamond. The 5diamond turn and 3heart river offered no help to Luske, and he became the fourth-place finisher ($204,638).

As opponents continued to drop and Hellmuth inched closer to tying Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan's all time WSOP bracelet records, a parade of poker stars gathered along the rails to check in on the "Poker Brat." Some of the stars who dropped by included Gus Hansen, Joe Hachem, Dave "The Devilfish" Ulliott, Jean-Robert Bellande, Amnon Filippi, and Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, who even took the microphone and called the action for a few hands.

Eugene Todd entered three-handed play with half the chips of either of his opponents. Todd survived 20 minutes before pushing all in on an 8club 6heart 4heart 2club board with Kheart 8spade. Cabanillas called, and showed pocket tens. When the 9club came on the river, Todd, the third-place finisher ($233,872), left the table to applause and cheers.

To call the heads-up match between Hellmuth and Cabanillas "David versus Goliath" doesn't give nearly enough credit to the favored party. The 22-year-old, playing in his first live tournament, and the nine-time WSOP bracelet winner were more like Titanic versus the iceberg.

The crowd stretched seven rows back, and even Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan sat tableside, all to watch Hellmuth make history.

The two players started heads-up action with similar stacks and when Hellmuth built a 2-to-1 chip lead, talk of a tenth bracelet started to 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 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, the $5,000 no-limit hold'em tournament, and Hellmuth's most recent hope for a tenth bracelet, came to an end. With his stack around $500,000, Hellmuth reraised all in on a 6diamond4diamond3heart flop, and Cabanillas immediately called. Fans swarmed the ESPN stage as Hellmuth flipped up 5heart 4spade and Cabanillas showed 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's 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," Hellmuth said as he thanked the crowd, "but that's not the way the game's played."

Cabanillas, surrounded by friends and family, raised his first WSOP bracelet in the air, and celebrated his $818,546 victory.

$1,500 Seven-Card Stud Event - Day 2

In the poker area adjacent to the ESPN set, 40 players returned to battle for a spot at the $1,500 seven-card stud final table.

Johnny Chan, looking for his record-breaking eleventh WSOP bracelet, survived the action and moved on to the final table. He will be joined by big-name pros David Williams and "Miami" John Cernuto.

The chip counts going into the final table are as follows:

1. John Hoang - $142,000
2. David Williams - $142,000
3. Ivan Swertzer - $118,500
4. Jack Duncan - $106,000
5. "Miami" John Cernuto - $86,000
6. Mitchell Ledis - $42,500
7. Matt Hawrilenko - $32,000
8. Johnny Chan - $26,500

Players return tomorrow at 2 p.m. PDT to contend for the bracelet and $163,118 first-place prize.

$5,000 Omaha Eight-or-Better - Day 1

The second Omaha event of the World Series of Poker drew a starting field of 265 players, including an impressive number of big-name pros.

Cards hit the air at 2 p.m. PDT with $25-$25 blinds and $25-$50 stakes. The goal of whittling the field down to 27 meant players could expect a long day (and night) of intense Omaha action.

The early buzz in the tournament centered on Table 46, which featured an all star roster of poker pros including Scotty Nguyen, Victor Ramdin, Chris Ferguson, Jean-Robert Bellande, Bill Chen, Eli Elezra, and Cyndy Violette.

As expected, the action did not conclude until well into Friday morning. At 4:26 a.m. PDT, Michelle Ferrante became the 27th and final elimination of the day.

Players return tomorrow at 3 p.m. and will play down to the $398,560 first-place finisher.

$1,500 Limit Hold'em Event - Day 1

The first of the four events kicked off in the Amazon Room at noon with $25-$25 blinds and $25-$50 limits.

The 701-player starting field generated a prize pool of $956,865 and first-place cash of $258,344.

Joe Sebok, cohost of's radio show "The Circuit," hovered near the top of the leader for most of the day and finished tied for third in chips ($55,000) when play concluded.

Some pros who did not survive day 1 included T.J. Cloutier, Josh Schlein, Jean Gluck, Allen Cunningham, David Plastik, Greg Mueller, and Karina Jett.

Play resumes tomorrow at 2 p.m. PDT and 41 players remain.

Stay tuned to for live updates, chip counts, photos, videos, and new episodes of "The Circuit" and "The Series."