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World Series of Poker -- World H.O.R.S.E. Championship Day Four

Erik 'Erik123' Sagstrom Leads Final Table, Wahlbeck and Lunkin Go for Second Bracelets of Series


Vitaly LunkinIt was a short day down at the Rio in the World Series of Poker $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world championship event, but the day was not without its fair share of drama. Just 19 players came back to play down to the final table, but there was still the matter of making the money ahead of them.

Predictably, the short stacks had targets on their backs from the get-go, and while some managed to escape the mounting blinds and antes, Todd Brunson became the first casualty of the day, busting in 19th place to Vitaly Lunkin.

Ville WahlbeckIt would take about an hour before the next player, Brett “get crunk” Richey, hit the rail. Richey was short and down to his last few bets before getting it all in four ways in a hand of stud eight-or-better. Richey’s tens and nines were no match for Ville Wahlbeck’s queens up, and he was eliminated, putting the rest of the field on one of the biggest money bubbles in tournament poker.

The tension quickly mounted as each player felt the pressure of at least a $72,914 payday up for grabs. Just before the break, Frank Kassela and Ray Dehkharghani battled in a big hold’em pot.

Ray DehkharganiKassela raised on the button, and Dehkharghani called in the big blind. The flop came out KDiamond Suit 10Heart Suit 8Diamond Suit, and Kassela continued with a bet. Dehkharghani raised, Kassela reraised, and Dehkharghani called. The turn was the 5Spade Suit, Dehkharghani bet, and Kassela called. The river was the 4Club Suit, and Dehkharghani bet. Kassela raised, and Dehkharghani called with AHeart Suit KSpade Suit for top pair, top kicker.

Kassela mucked, admitting he held a busted straight draw and flush draw. Dehkharghani shot back with a sarcastic, “Sorry you missed,” and Kassela, clearly frustrated heading in the wrong direction, snapped back with, “Well, you don’t have to be such an asshole about it.”

Frank KasselaDespite winning the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship at the Los Angels Poker Classic a few months ago, Kassela was eliminated in brutal fashion by Dehkharghani in a later razz hand. Kassela made a 9-low, but a river 6 gave Dehkharghani a winning 8-low to take the pot and make Kassela this year’s official bubble boy.

From that point on, it was just a matter of the short stacks eventually finding their way to the rail. First to go was recent WSOP bracelet winner John Kabbaj. He was followed out the door by Steve “MrSmokey1” Billirakis, whose dominating ace was outdrawn by the surging Vitaly Lunkin. Both players received $72,914 for their finish.

Freddy DeebJust squeaking into the next pay level was 2007 champion Freddy Deeb, who had some rough luck throughout the day to find himself as the short stack. Eventually, he got it all in with ADiamond Suit 2Spade Suit against Gus Hansen’s JSpade Suit 9Spade Suit. Not one, but two jacks came on the board, and Deeb was busted. Deeb earned $83,630 for his efforts, as did Tony G behind him.

There were four short stacks heading into the dinner break, and all were eliminated within just 45 minutes after returning, setting up the final table of eight. David Chiu was previously crippled down to his last big bet and was quickly dismissed by Wahlbeck in a hand of Omaha eight-or-better. Dehkharghani was next to go at the hands of Huck Seed. Both players were paid out $99,590.

Gus HansenMike Wattel hung on for quite a while before finally succumbing in 10th place. His chips went to Chau Giang, who temporarily took himself out of the danger zone. Giang picked up even more chips when he took out Gus Hansen on the final-table bubble. Both Hansen and Wattel pocketed $123,895.

Leading the way is Erik Sagstrom from Sweden. Sagstrom has kind of faded from the spotlight he earned as one of the best online players in the game. In 2006, he made headlines when he took on Liz Lieu in a series of three $200,000 limit hold’em freezeouts held at the Venetian. He lost the match 2-1, but will easily erase the loss from memory with a H.O.R.S.E. championship on his résumé.

Also joining him at the final table is 1996 main-event champion Huck Seed, three-time bracelet winner Chau Giang, and eight-time bracelet winner Erik Seidel.

The final table will conclude on Tuesday and will resume play at 2:00 p.m. PT. The winner will walk away with $1,276,802 and the Chip Reese memorial trophy.

Erik SagstromHere is a look at their seating assignments and chip counts:

Seat 1 Ville Wahlbeck 645,000
Seat 2 Erik Sagstrom 3,675,000
Seat 3 John Hanson 1,700,000
Seat 4 Huck Seed 1,380,000
Seat 5 Vitaly Lunkin 2,490,000
Seat 6 David Bach 2,345,000
Seat 7 Erik Seidel 965,000
Seat 8 Chau Giang 1,075,000