This marked the second consecutive year that the WSOP has offered a $5,000 buy-in “Mixed Hold’em” tournament on the schedule. Mixed hold’em means that two games are played – Limit Hold’em and No-Limit Hold’em. The games alternate as each game is played for 30 minutes per (one-hour) level.
The World Series of Poker is truly global. Of the 36 players who finished in-the-money, five different nations were represented – including Canada, England, Ireland, Monaco, and the United States.
This was the third WSOP event of the year to be televised by ESPN. The final table was played on the ESPN main stage, surrounded by the Milwaukee’s Best Light All-In Lounge. Daily seating for WSOP final tables remains free and open to the public. Most final tables begin in the afternoon.
Once again, this final table attracted a standing-room only crowd of spectators. David Rheem and Erick Lindgren brought the largest and most vocal cheering sections. Nevertheless, a few bona fide superstars ensured that the outcome of this finale would attract widespread interest.
Of the nine finalists, only two players were previous gold bracelet winners, Howard Lederer (with two previous wins) and David Williams (with one win).
The chip leader when final table play began was David Rheem. He started with about 26 percent of the total chips in play. Rheem ended up going out fifth.
The winner was Erick Lindgren. He is a 31-year-old professional poker player from Las Vegas, NV. Lindgren was born in Burley, CA, which is a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
First place paid $374,505.
Lindgren rarely had the chip lead at the final table until the final moments. He was in second or third place most of the way. But he ultimately prevailed over tough competition.
Lindgren made a straight (ace-to-five) as his winning hand. He had A-2 and called rival Justin Bonomo all-in bet on the turn when the cards showed 10-5-3-4. Bonomo had 5-4, good for two pair. But Lindgren scooped the final pot of the night with his wheel.
Justin Bonomo, a.k.a. “ZeeJustin” ended up as the second-place. Although disappointed, Bonomo expressed his admiration for Lindgren and understood what the victory meant to his final adversary. In a touching moment that showed real class, Bonomo’s parents went over to Lindgren immediately after his victory and expressed their congratulations.
Lindgren’s win wrote the closing chapter of one of poker’s great human interest stories, particularly amongst poker aficionados. One of the most popular touring pros, Lindgren had been snake bitten at the WSOP for years. He has won just about everything in poker except a WSOP gold bracelet. Lindgren was often mentioned up this point on the very short list of “best poker players never to have won at the WSOP.” His name will now be removed from that list, and be placed on countless others.
With his sixth place finish in this event, Howard Lederer currently ranks 20th on the all-time number of cashes list in WSOP history, with 35. His cash in this event also pushes him over the $4 million mark in lifetime tournament winnings (for all major events). Lederer is widely-known at “The Professor.” He won the $5,000 buy-in Omaha High-Low event in 2000. The following year, he won the $5,000 buy-in Deuce-to-Seven Lowball championship. He also finished fifth in the 1987 WSOP Main Event. Much of his recent time has been spent fighting for the rights of poker players and lobbying government officials to accept poker as a game of skill.
David Williams finished in seventh place. In 2004, he burst upon the poker scene as the runner up in the WSOP Main Event to Greg “Fossilman” Raymer. Williams went on to win a gold bracelet in the $1,500 buy-in Seven-Card Stud event in 2006.
Three-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Chau Giang just missed making it to the final table. He finished 11th.
Former gold bracelet winner Barry Shulman finished in 33rd place. Shulman is the owner of Card Player magazine and Shulman Media.
Other well-known poker celebrities who performed well and cashed in this event included Andy Bloch (who finished second in Event #1) taking 16th, Phil “Unabomber” Laak taking 24th, and Mori Eskandani, taking 32nd.
Mori Eskandani is the Executive Producer of the popular television program “Poker After Dark.”
One of the more humorous moments of this year’s World Series occurred at this final table when 11-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, Jr. tromped across the stage to greet a few of the players. When the tournament announcer Robbie Thompson acknowledged Hellmuth and delivered what would normally be an applause line, the crowd sat silently. Then, a few of the more boisterous onlookers began booing and the entire audience joined in. Hellmuth, shocked by the crowd’s reaction shouted out, “tough crowd!”
Last year, this tournament was won by Steve Billirakis. At age 21 years and 11 days, Billirakis set a new record as the youngest gold bracelet winner in WSOP history (which has since been broken). Billirakis played in this event but did not cash.
About half an hour prior to Lindgren’s win, touring pro David Singer won his first WSOP gold bracelet at final table held on an adjacent stage. This proved to be a real day of deliverance for two longtime poker stars, who had been denied poker’s ultimate prize for too long.
ESPN will air the broadcast of this event on August 5, 2008.