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Poker News Round-up: Week #26

London may have been named the number one city in Europe for poker by Bluff magazine, but the Irish love of poker was also recognised with Dublin making it to number two. There have been some memorable performances by Irishmen at the World Series Of Poker in the past and Alan Smurfit added to them in event 33, pot limit Omaha with rebuys. The event was originally scheduled to run over two days but had to be extended to three after the action in the rebuy period introduced a large number of chips into play. Of 293 starters 27 would get paid but mobster Ram Vaswani would not be one of them after being eliminated with five tables left by an opponent holding trips in his hand.

Englishmen Dave Ulliott, Warren Wooldridge and Julian Gardner managed to make it to the paid positions but none could make it beyond the minimum prize of $16,000. As the final table was reached there as still one Englishman left in Sonny Nijran, and an Irishman who was not exactly looking like a bracelet winner with less than five big blinds in his stack. An early double up though gave Smurfit some hope, and from there he managed to keep building his stack whilst others around him fell until the point where he found himself heads up against Qushqar Morad of Afghanistan. An epic one on one battle ensued which took around five hours to find a winner but eventually Smurfit had all the chips after flopping two pair, going behind to trips on the turn and then rivering a full house to win the final hand and $465,000.

From that point on it has been complete domination from North America. Every bracelet awarded in the following nine events has been won by a resident of the USA or Canada, with few final table challengers from any other country. The most notable exception came in the event which has caused the most excitement so far – the $50,000 buy in HORSE tournament. The high buy in and the requirement to excel at numerous variants of poker meant that this was an event populated by big name pros all the way through. As 148 players sat down to play, pretty much every table was made highly watchable by the concentration of so many world class players. Buoyed by his win a few days ago in the stud hi/lo, Eli Elezra made the early running as overnight leader on the first day, followed by Bruno Fitoussi of France.

Bruno Fitoussi

As play progressed over the next day the chip lead changed hands but Elezra maintained a promising position as he was joined by the likes of John Hanson, Toto Leonidas and Allen Cunningham at the top of the leaderboard. By the time day three was finished though Elezra was out, joining amongst others Annie Duke, Andy Bloch, Chip Reese and Phil Hellmuth on the rail.

Amnon Filippi surged to the front as new chip leader on day four as play was reduced to three tables, followed by Kenny Tran and a resurgent Fitoussi.

Amnon Filippi

Filippi held firm on day four as the field was reduced to the final table contenders, but the day belonged to Kassem “Freddy” Deeb who won several sizeable pots to challenge for the lead. A final table of Filippi, Deeb, Fitoussi, Tran, David Singer, John Hanson, Thor Hansen and Barry Greenstein might not quite have had the same range of stars as last year’s but there could be no doubting the ability of these players who over four days had seen off the very best in the world.

Last year the final table had switched to no limit hold’em to make for more entertaining television, and whilst heads up razz might not make much of a spectator sport, thankfully the tv execs could not prevent this year’s event remaining a HORSE tournament to the end. As expected, Thor Hansen’s short stack didn’t last very long, and he was followed to the rail by Greenstein who had also been struggling for chips on the final day. David Singer was crippled by John Hanson during a razz round and exited shortly afterwards claiming sixth place in the world championship HORSE event for the second year running.

Hanson’s chip lead was taken over by Fitoussi after his pocket aces won a big pot, then Bruno again stacked another giant pile of chips after taking three quarters of a massive Omaha hi/lo pot against Deeb. Deeb was left in serious trouble with only four big blinds but then incredibly in the space of three hands he doubled up at Omaha hi/lo then trebled up at razz. When he then swiped nearly all of Kenny Tran’s chips another four hands later, the comeback was complete and Freddy was celebrating with cocktails.

Amnon Filippi fell victim to an increasingly active Bruno Fitoussi in the stud hi/lo round and all of a sudden Bruno was a chip monster with over 10 million chips of around 15 million in play. It looked as though it was a straight fight between Fitoussi and Hanson when Deeb once again lost a big Omaha hi/lo pot which left him with just over two big blinds, but Freddy refused to die and steadily built himself up once more.

Fitoussi’s lead was gradually reigned in as Deeb’s improbable comeback gathered more momentum, and then all of a sudden Deeb’s 6 low hand in razz had eliminated John Hanson and Freddy held over 10 million in chips. All the big pots from there on went Deeb’s way and at around 5 o’ clock in the morning the last of Bruno’s chips were pushed across to Deeb.

Freddy Deeb

The main event will decide the world champion but it has been said repeatedly that the HORSE event is the truest test of poker ability and is highly regarded by the biggest names. The chances were that this event would be won by someone with vast poker experience and Freddy Deeb certainly fits the bill – this was his thirteenth WSOP final table.

With 43 of 55 events now complete the WSOP is in fact nearly over, but in many ways the real drama has not yet begun. This year’s world champion may not even have qualified for the main event yet, as was the case when Raymer won in 2004. Whatever happens there is an awful lot of action and suspense left to be experienced here in Vegas.

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