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WSOP 2009

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Event #29, $10,000 World Championship Heads Up No Limit Hold'em, Final Results

Official Report
Event #29
World Championship
Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em
Buy-In: $10,000
Number of Entries: 256
Total Net Prize Pool: $2,406,400
Number of Places Paid: 32
First Place Prize: $625,682
June 13-15, 2009

Event Headlines

  1. Leo Wolpert Wins First WSOP Gold Bracelet
  2. University of Virginia Law School Student Wins $652,682
  3. John Duthie, Co-Founder of European Poker Tour, Finishes as Runner Up
  4. Johnny Chan’s Bid for Record-Tying Eleventh WSOP Win Falls Short – Former World Champion Eliminated in Final Eight Round

The Winner

The 2009 World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em World Champion is Leo Wolpert, from Fairfax, VA.

Wolpert is originally from Syracuse, NY.

Wolpert is a 26-year-old former professional poker player who is currently attending law school. He is enrolled at the University of Virginia. He just completed his first year.

Wolpert graduated with an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. He spent two years as a poker pro, mostly playing online. Wolpert was so successful that he built up a huge bankroll playing mostly cash games. He decided to use his poker winnings to go back to school.

Wolpert is spending the entire summer in Las Vegas, where he is working an internship with the Nevada Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Wolpert is committed to social justice. He intends to use his law degree to help the less fortunate and disadvantaged.

Wolpert once appeared on the popular television game show “Jeopardy.” In his appearance, he faced Ken Jennings during the middle of his record-setting 74-game win streak (the longest win streak of any “Jeopardy” winner in history).

Wolpert collected $625,682 for first place. He was also awarded his first WSOP gold bracelet.

Wolpert’s best previous finish at the WSOP was a third-place showing in the 2008 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout event.

According to the official records, Wolpert now has 1 win, 2 final table appearances, and 8 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP.

Wolpert currently has $880,156 in WSOP winnings.

Wolpert plans to continue his pursuits – which includes completing law school and working on behalf of causes to which he is committed.

Three gold bracelets this year have been won by players from the Washington, DC area – one by Leo Wolpert and two by Brock Parker.

Winner Quotes (Leo Wolpert)

On attending law school: “I just finished my first year at the University of Law School this spring….actually, I have to go back home and check my grades. They are posted up now, so I have to see what I got.”

On his post-law school plans: “I haven’t made up my mind yet. I’d love to work on helping to protect civil liberties and helping to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”

On his association with the American Civil Liberties Union: “It’s a great group of people. We are a close knit office and we do amazing things there. The people there have an amazing record in court, at least at the appellate level. We are just doing great things and trying to help people out here in Nevada.”

On using his poker winnings to finance his law school education: “The University of Virginia is a top-ten school. I had a big score last year, so that has been helping to finance my education.”

On his background as a heads-up player and preparation: “I used to play a lot of heads-up cash games online. A ton of games. I just recently went back to playing more six-handed games, which is less variance….but I had not played No-Limit Heads-Up cash games since last November.”

On losing the first “best-of-three” heads-up match in the finals against John Duthie: “I was steaming a little bit. I’m not going to lie. I just decided I have to grind back and get the best two out of three. So, I stayed calm and remembered there was another match coming up. And hopefully I could run a little better the next time. I would not say it strengthened my resolve. I would say I was already pretty resolute (to win).”

On an enthusiastic cheering section full of supporters: “That helped me a lot. I want to thank everyone who came out to support me. There were people who wrote messages on Facebook. There were texts. I really appreciate that support. It really helped me keep going. It helped me stay more focused. I didn’t want to let all these people down who came to see me.”

On his general heads-up strategy: “I tried not to play any huge pots without the goods.”

On winning a WSOP gold bracelet: “I can’t really even describe it. I actually didn’t really expect to win. I mean, I always enter a tournament hoping to win. But with a tough field like this I wasn’t even really thinking about it until today. The goal was to just play against whoever I was going to play and run good against them, see if they had some leaks, and try to exploit those – and I happened to run really, really good during the entire tournament. Now, here I am.”

On if and how his life will change after a gold bracelet win and a $652,682 payday: “It won’t change. I will have more money in the bank. But I am still going to be in law school next year.”

The Elite Eight

The final eight contained only one former WSOP gold bracelet winner – Johnny Chan (10 wins).

The runner up was John Duthie, from London, England. Duthie became the first European player in history to win more than $1 million playing Euro-tournaments. In 2005, he co-founded the European Poker Tour, which is now one of the world’s most successful series of tournaments.

One semi-finalist was Nathan Doudney, from Bend, OR. He is a graduate of Gonzaga University. Doudney now has five WSOP cashes and finished as high as third place in an event lat year.

The other semi-finalist was Jamin Stokes, from Grand Rapids, MI. He is primarily a cash-game player. However, Stokes did win a WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Indiana last year.

A top eight finisher was ten-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Johnny Chan, from Cerritos, CA. The back-to-back 1987 and 1988 world champion was eliminated by Jamin Stokes.

A top eight finisher was Dustin “Neverwin” Woolf, from Chicago, IL. This was his 16th career cash. He finished 32nd in the 2005 WSOP Main Event.

A top eight finisher was Steve O’Dwyer, from New Britain, PA. He is a graduate of East Carolina University and is one of the top online poker players in the game.

A top eight finisher was Bryan Pellegrino, a.k.a. “PrimordialAA,” from Danbury. NH. He is unquestionably a heads-up specialist, having played more than 20,000 heads-up Sit n’ Go’s online. Pellegrino recently graduated from the University of New Hampshire.

In-the-Money Finishers

Former WSOP gold bracelet finishers who cashed in this event included – Johnny Chan, Jason Mercier, Brian Lemke, Steve Zolotow, and Brock Parker.

Noted poker theorist, writer, and teacher Mike Caro cashed in this event.

The defending champion from 2008 was high-stakes cash game pro Kenny Tran, from Arcadia, CA. He entered this year’s event but did not cash.

Odds and Ends

The $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em World Championship attracted 256 entries. The event was closed off at 256 players due to the heads-up single-elimination format. The total prize pool amounted to $2,406,400. The top 64 finishers (which meant all winners of at least two heads-up matches) collected prize money.

All 57 tournaments on the 2009 WSOP schedule (plus WSOP-Europe) are categorized as “gold bracelet” events. However, this is also known as a World Championship event. Starting last year, all $10,000+ buy-in tournaments were designated as official World Championships.

This is only the third time this event has been included on the WSOP schedule. Last year (like this year), registration was limited to 256 entries. In the inaugural tournament played in 2007, more entries were accepted (392). However, some players randomly drew a 'bye' and did not have to compete in the first round. This was ultimately viewed as giving too much of an advantage to those players. Hence, the adoption of the single-elimination format with no byes was adapted for 2008. This also meant that only specific multiples of entrants would be possible. Hence, the tournament accepted a limited number of entries -- with 128, 256, or 512 being the most likely targets. It was decided that the tournament would be capped at 256 players – which appears to be the right decision given the demand.

All matches/pairings in the heads-up competition were conducted by a random draw.

The tournament was played over three consecutive days. Since 256 players started the tournament in a heads-up format on Day One, 128 winners survived to play in the second round. The second round produced 64 survivors. The 64 played down to 32 in round three. On Day Two, the field of 32 was reduced to 16 in round four. Round five took the field from 16 down to 8. Round six (on Day Three) played from 8 down to 4. The final four players took seats in two separate matches at the final table. Those two winners faced off in a “Best Two-Out-Of-Three” heads-up match played out on ESPN's main stage.

The format used at the WSOP is similar to the March Madness brackets in (U.S.) college basketball. However, the field actually starts with 256 entrants instead of 64 teams. Furthermore, players in this competition are not seeded.

With 256 entries, the competition ultimately requires that the tournament champion win nine heads-up matches.

Bluff Media and ESPN 360 covered the event from the Elite Eight matches forward. Fifteen more events are scheduled, which are split between ESPN 360 and Bluff Media. For a complete broadcast schedule of all events, go to:

The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory. The ceremony takes place on at center stage of the main tournament room and begins during the break of the noon tournament. The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 pm. The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played. The entire presentation is open to public and media. Video and photography is permitted by both media and the public.

The Event

The $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em World Championship sold out at 256 entries. The total prize pool amounted to $2,406,400. The top 32 finishers collected prize money.

The tournament was played over four consecutive days. An extra day was added because of the length of play, particularly on Day Three. The semi-final matches (eight playing down to the final two) lasted ten hours. Tournament officials decided it was best not to force the finalists to play a best-of-three series immediately following the long day. So, the tournament went an extra day.

One other tournament this year added an extra day of play. This took place in Event 4, the $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event, a.k.a. the “Stimulus Special.”

Wolpert won nine straight heads-up matches to achieve his gold bracelet victory.

Winner Leo Wolpert later stated that his toughest heads-up opponent was John Juanda. “He was super tough. He was amazingly tough,” Wolpert said afterward. “I ran really good to beat him. I was in an all-in coin flip for my life against him and I managed to win. But everyone here is tough. You don’t get into a $10,000 buy-in event unless you are good. They were all very good heads-up players.”

The final best-of-three match lasted about eight hours. John Duthie took the first match, which lasted 96 hands. Leo Wolpert won the second match, which went much shorter at just 9 hands. The third match was won by Wolpert and lasted a staggering 191 hands.

The final hand of the tournament came when John Duthie had 10-3 and flopped top pair, as the flop showed 10-5-3. Wolpert had 5-3, good for two pair (fives and threes). Two blanks fell on the turn and river, giving Wolpert the victory.

The tournament officially began on Saturday, June 13th, at 5 pm. The tournament officially ended on Tuesday, June 16th, at 8:30 pm.

Final Results

  Name Prize City State/Country
1 Wolpert, Leo $625,682 Fairfax VA
2 Duthie, John $386,636 London United Kingdom
3 Stokes, Jamin $214,289 Grand Rapids CO
4 Doudney, Nathan $214,289 Rockwall TX
5 Chan, Johnny $92,580 Las Vegas NV
6 Woolf, Dustin $92,580 Los Angeles CA
7 O'Dwyer, Stephen $92,580 Las Vegas NV
8 Pellegrino, Bryan $92,580 Dansbury NH
9 Romanello, Roberto $38,424 Gorseinon United Kingdom
10 Mathieu, Clavet $38,424 Quebec QC, Canada
11 Sprengers, Benjamin $38,424 Plantation FL
12 Torelli, Alec $38,424 Orange CA
13 Smith Justin $38,424 Kissimmee FL
14 Timoshenko, Yevgeniy $38,424 Mukilteo WA
15 Caro, Mike $38,424 Shell Knob MO
16 Mercier, Jason $38,424 Davie FL
17 Lichtenberger, A $17,987 E Northport NY
18 Lamb, Benjamin $17,987 Las Vegas NV
19 Woodward, Matthew $17,987 Las Vegas NV
20 Lesnoy, Dmitry $17,987 Moscow Russia
21 Senti, Jason $17,987 St Louis Park MN
22 Tollerene, Benjamin $17,987 Mansfield TX
23 Lemke, Brian $17,987 Norristown PA
24 Iversen, Albert $17,987 London United Kingdom
25 Spindler, Benjamin $17,987   Germany
26 Zolotow, Steve $17,987 Las Vegas NV
27 JAFFE, JONATHAN $17,987 W Springfield MA
28 Parker John $17,987 Silver Springs MD
29 Roberts, Evan $17,987 Las Vegas NV
30 Dambrosio, James $17,987 Chicago IL
31 Poysti, Nathanael $17,987 Zeitlarn Germany
32 Galic, Dragan $17,987 Schneverdingen Germany

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