The winner of the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em championship was Ghandrasekhar Billavara. He is a 38-year-old businessman from San Francisco, CA. This was only the second World Series of Poker tournament Billavara had ever entered. It was his first tournament victory.
Billvara was born in India. He earned a B.A. in computer science. He now owns a coffee shop in San Francisco.
In Billavara’s first WSOP poker event last week, he busted out on the third hand of play. Frustrated, he almost passed on entering this event. However, Billavara had previously won $3,200 playing craps inside the casino. He decided that if he entered one more $1,500 buy-in tournament, even a bust-out guaranteed a net win of $200 for the Las Vegas trip. So, Billavara entered this tournament along with over 3,000 other aspiring champions. He ended up cashing for $722,914.
Billavara needed some luck at one point, and got it at the perfect time. He arrived at the final table lowest in chips of the final nine players. “I said to myself the night before, if I could just double up once I might have a chance,” Billavara said in a post-tournament interview. “I looked down and saw pocket aces on my first hand! It’s a hand everybody dreams about.” Billavara won the hand and was the champion five hours later.
“I plan to pay off some of my mortgage,” Billavara answered when queried about his plans for nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in winnings. “Now, I might take $10,000 and enter the main event, too.”
Billavara started playing poker only about two years ago. He was invited to a home game where he plays for modest stakes in a weekly game. Now, he admits that his friends in the home game in San Francisco might view him a bit differently. “Now, I will look at them and say – are you trying to bluff me? Are you crazy?” Billavara said jokingly. “Look at this gold bracelet on my wrist! You want to try and bluff me?”
The runner up was Taylor Douglas of Athens, GA. He enjoyed a nice payday totaling $467,101.
Fourth–place finisher Leandro “Brasa” Pimentel (Sao Paulo, Brazil) brought a rowdy cheering section with him. The Brazilian national was backed by several vocal supporters. In fact, fans at a popular Brazilian poker website were so excited that a fellow-countryman had made it to a WSOP final table, that the site’s message board attracted thousands of visitors extending best wishes. Poker is growing throughout South America and is about to experience a boom in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and other nations -- according to observers in the region.
“Brasa” is also the Brazilian Poker Champion (2006) in what is called the BSOP – or Brazilian Series of Poker.
If any player is snake bitten at the WSOP it is Greg “FBT” Mueller. The Canadian has been the chip leader after Day One in four events this year. He had cashed five times. He has made two final table appearances. However, Mueller went out a disappointing eighth in this event.
Lewis Titterton, from Washington, DC, took 9th place at what was his first WSOP final table. Titterton, a graduate of prestigious Tufts University, wants the world to know he is a “die-hard Libertarian,” an appealing philosophy to many poker players during this time.
This was the sixth (and last) $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event on this year’s schedule. These tournaments attracted over 15,000 entrants, combined. This is greater than the total number of players who entered the entire 2003 World Series of Poker, which totaled 36 events.
Predictably, the record turnout meant that many new names found their way to the money list. Of the top 324 finishers – all of whom made it into the money – only two players had previously won a WSOP gold bracelet. This was only the second final table at this year’s WSOP (in an open event) that did not have at least one former gold bracelet winner as a finalist.
This was the largest non-main event tournament in World Series of Poker history. The turnout of 3,151 players broke the old record set three weeks ago, which was 2,998. This was also the busiest day in WSOP history in terms of total number of tournament entries within a 24-hour period.
The tournament ranks as the third-largest live poker tournament of all-time. Only the WSOP main events of 2005 and 2006 attracted more players.