Monday, June 28, 2010

BJ's WSOP Report: Week 4

By BJ Nemeth
Las Vegas, NV

Four weeks down, and one more to go until the Main Event begins on Monday, July 5th. I'm BJ Nemeth, and I'll be guiding you through the biggest stories each week and the stats that summarize the rest.


1. Gavin Smith & Chris Bell Win Back-to-Back Bracelets

Gavin Smith and Chris Bell have seen many of their close friends win WSOP bracelets in recent years, but they kept knocking on the door without getting in. Gavin had a runner-up finish in 2007 in $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em, and Chris had a runner-up finish in 2008 in $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em.

Gavin, in particular, was one of the most prominent names on the list of "Best Players Without a WSOP Bracelet" -- there are certain expectations when you have $5 million in career tournament earnings and a WPT Player of the Year award under your belt. But as WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla said in the official report, "It's time to destroy the list. Rip it up. Burn it. Torch it." (Unfortunately for Andy Bloch, that only applies to Gavin's name; the list itself still exists.)

On Saturday night, Gavin Smith won Event #44 ($2,500 Mixed Hold'em), ripping through the final table mostly in the limit hold'em rounds, where he held a clear advantage. While Gavin was on the verge of winning his bracelet, Chris Bell was going deep in Event #46 ($5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo). Chris said he was more interested in watching the scoreboard (Gavin's final table) than in his own tournament. But by the time Gavin won his bracelet on Saturday night, Chris was at the final three tables. When Gavin showed up for his bracelet ceremony on Sunday afternoon, Chris was ready to start his own Day 3. And 12 hours later, Chris Bell was heads-up playing for a bracelet of his own, and this time Gavin Smith was in the stands to support his friend that had supported him a day earlier.

At 5:15 am Monday morning, Chris Bell won his first WSOP bracelet, made that much sweeter because it immediately followed Gavin's. Gavin summed it up well on his Twitter feed. "Chris Bell, one of my closest friends just won his first bracelet, I think I am as happy now as I was last night!"

There are a couple of interesting tidbits to tack onto the end of this story --

If Gavin hadn't been so eager to have his bracelet ceremony Sunday afternoon (many players put it off for a day), they could have taken the Pavilion Room stage together, which would have been an incredibly special moment.

Someone made a comment about Erick Lindgren's horses doing so well, and Gavin joked, "Yeah, his horses are one bracelet away from breaking even for the Series!"

With this bracelet, I think Gavin Smith will easily be voted into next year's WSOP Tournament of Champions. He's one of the most popular players in the game, and I've never seen as many players, fans, media, and staff come out to congratulate a player after winning a tournament. It seems that Gavin is loved by everyone. There is often a group shot taken with a bracelet winner's friends, and I've always turned down invitations to join in. But not this time -- I was in the friends-and-family victory shots for both Gavin and Chris.

One last note -- Gavin Smith and his girlfriend Kayce (pronounced "K.C.") are expecting their first child this November (shortly after the WSOP Main Event returns for the November Nine). Kayce's expected delivery date happens to fall on the birthday of Chris Bell's son, who tragically died at a very young age. Bell seemed to find strength in the coincidence, and it would mean a lot to both of them if Gavin's child was born that day.

2. Phil Ivey Wins His 8th Bracelet

Some people will be shocked that I list Phil Ivey's eighth WSOP bracelet as only the second biggest story of the week, but it's become almost predictable. If Ivey doesn't win any more bracelets this year, his career average will be one bracelet every 1.375 WSOPs (8 bracelets in 11 years). As Scott Huff said on our radio show, "Ivey won a bracelet. In other news, the sun rose this morning."

Not only that, but it's Ivey's next bracelet (if it comes before the end of 2012) that will mean the big $5 million payday in his bet with Howard Lederer. According to Barry Greenstein, the terms of the bet were two WSOP bracelets in three years (from 2010 to 2012), and WSOP Europe bracelets can force a draw but can't win the bet for Ivey.

Yes, this is big news, and yes it's historic that this 33-year-old player is the best in the world and the fastest since Johnny Moss to win eight bracelets. But what else can we say about Phil Ivey at this point? It's simply a question of when he will pass Phil Hellmuth for the most bracelets of all time as he continues to distance himself from the pack on the all-time money list.

3. Frank Kassela Survives a Blackout to Win His 2nd Bracelet

It seems like winning two bracelets in a single WSOP should be a rare and difficult feat, but there has been at least one multiple-bracelet winner in each of the last 11 WSOPs (2000-2010). This year, the first player to do it was Frank Kassela, who won Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo) and Event #40 ($2,500 Seven Card Razz). Kassela had to battle some familiar faces -- both final tables included Jennifer Harman and Vladimir Schemelev, and both times, Kassela came out on top.

Two things made this final table notable -- other than the fact that it was razz. (There is only one razz event each year.) With seven players remaining, six of them wanted to delay the final table so they could play in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship. Harrah's refused to reschedule the table, so a few players started talking about a potential deal. But Jennifer Harman said, "I don't buy bracelets; I win them." (She's the only woman in history with two WSOP bracelets in open events.) For his part, Kassela said he wouldn't deal either, because he had a shot to become the first multiple-bracelet winner of 2010, and he wouldn't want a deal to compromise the validity of his accomplishment.

The other notable thing? The Razz Final Table was in action when the power went out at the Rio. (And reportedly, along a large portion of the Las Vegas Strip.) The lights were out (complete darkness except for cellphones) for a good 10 seconds before they came back on. With about five minutes left in the level, the tournament director had the four remaining players at the Razz final table play in the dim light, and they would sort out the situation at the break. The TD's iPhone served as the tournament clock since the computers were down. When the final four players came back from break, they were moved to the main ESPN stage (which had full lighting) to finish their final table.

Kassela was short-stacked when the lights went out (and when they came back on), but he credits the blackout with helping him to refocus his efforts, buckle down, and win his second WSOP bracelet of the Series.

* * *

Event #32, $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Six-Handed
568 players (last year: 928)
Winner: Jeffrey Papola, $667,433

Event #33, $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha
482 players (last year: 453)
Winner: Jose-Luis Velador, $260,552

Event #34, $1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold'em
3,142 players (last year: 2,707)
Winner: Harold Angle, $487,994

Event #35, $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em
256 players (last year: 256)
Winner: Ayaz Mahmood, $625,682

Event #36, $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
3,102 players (last year: 6,012)
Winner: Scott Montgomery, $481,760

Event #37, $3,000 H.O.R.S.E.
478 players (last year: 452)
Winner: Phil Ivey, $329,840

Event #38, $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em
268 players (last year: 275)
Winner: Valdemar Kwaysser, $617,214

Event #39, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout
1,397 players (last year: 999)
Winner: Steven Kelly, $381,927

Event #40, $2,500 Seven Card Razz
365 players (last year: 315)
Winner: Frank Kassela, $214,085

Event #41, $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
847 players (last year: 762)
Winner: Steve Jelinek, $245,871

Event #42, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
2,521 players (last year: 2,715)
Winner: Dean Hamrick, $604,222

Event #43, $10,000 H.O.R.S.E.
241 players (last year: 194 for $10K 8-Game Mix)
Winner: Ian Gordon, $611,666

Event #44, $2,500 Mixed Hold'em
507 players (last year: 527)
Winner: Gavin Smith, $268,238

Event #45, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
3,097 players (last year: 2,781)
Winner: Jesse Rockowitz, $721,373

Event #46, $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
284 players (last year: 198)
Winner: Chris Bell, $327,040
* * *

United States: 31
Great Britain: 5
Canada: 5
Hungary: 2
New Zealand: 1
France: 1
Russia: 1
Entering the final week of the WSOP preliminary events, there are 23 players who are within a bracelet victory (100 points) of POY points-leader John Juanda. Here's a look at the top 13:
1. John Juanda: 225 pts
1. Frank Kassela: 225 pts
3. Vladimir Schemelev: 210 pts
4. Dan Heimiller: 200 pts
5. Michael Mizrachi: 190 pts
5. Men Nguyen: 180 pts
5. Richard Ashby: 180 pts
5. Jeffrey Papola: 180 pts
5. James Dempsey: 180 pts
10. David "Bakes" Baker: 170 pts
10. David Chiu: 170 pts
10. Michael Chow: 170 pts
10. Allen Kessler: 170 pts
A few of the other notables within a bracelet of the lead are Dave "Not Bakes" Baker (150 pts) and Phil Ivey (130 pts).

Keep in mind that the Main Event also awards POY points, and Ivey has a history of doing pretty well in that one -- he has reached the final three tables 50% of the time in the last eight years (23rd in 2002, 10th in 2003, 20th in 2005, and 7th in 2009).

Shawn Buchanan and Allen Kessler lead the WSOP this year with seven cashes each. Kessler, who is known as a min-cash grinder, has been going deep, with only one of his cashes being for the minimum. Is Kessler riding a lucky streak, or has his career turned the corner?

There are also five players with six cashes each: Pat Pezzin, Dan Heimiller, Tad Jurgens, Amnon Filippi, and Michael Glasser.

In recent years, the most cashes in a single WSOP have belonged to Daniel Negreanu (2009: 8 cashes), Nikolay Evdakov (2008: 10 cashes), Michael Binger (2007: 8 cashes), and Chad Brown (2007: 8 cashes). (Note: These figures do not include cashes in the WSOP Europe -- WSOP-E would give Negreanu 9 cashes in 2009.)

We've now had six women who have reached final tables -- an improvement over last year, but anything less than a bracelet in an open event is a bit below expectations -- women have won 14 non-ladies event bracelets in the last 14 years. The media is already shopping around for a new "Year of the Blank" headline.

Here are the six women who have reached final tables:
J.J. Liu: 3rd place, $86,512
Event #9 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em)

Jennifer Harman: 3rd place, $173,159
Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)

Christine Pietsch: 2nd place, $86,756
Event #21 ($1,500 Seven Card Stud)

Karina Jett: 4th place, $60,588
Event #27 ($1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)

Mandy Thomas: 6th place, $40,169
Event #41 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo)

Jennifer Harman: 6th place, $33,890
Event #40 ($2,500 Seven Card Razz)
Annette Obrestad just missed her first WSOP final table in Las Vegas, making it to the third round of Event #39 ($1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout), but busting in 11th place. It's not officially a final table, but reaching the third and final round of a shootout should be enough to quiet most of the critics (like me) who were saying that Annette wasn't living up to (unfairly high) expectations.

Vanessa Rousso finished fifth in Event #35 ($10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em). While that would count as a final table in any other hold'em event, I've had discussions in the past with other tournament reporters, and decided that players need to make the Final Four in a heads-up event to get credit for a final table. (At the WSOP, it's also literally true, as two matches are played side-by-side on a single table.)

Twenty-eight players have made multiple WSOP final tables so far this year, and five have made three or even four final tables.
John Juanda
4th in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
5th in Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)
4th in Event #19 ($10,000 2-7 No-Limit Draw)
3rd in Event #37 ($3,000 2-7 H.O.R.S.E.)

Vladimir Schmelev
2nd in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
7th in Event #10 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud)
7th in Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)
4th in Event #40 ($2,500 Seven Card Razz)

Michael Mizrachi
1st in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
6th in Event #10 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud)
8th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)

Jameson Painter
5th in Event #7 ($2,500 2-7 Triple Draw)
7th in Event #12 ($1,500 Limit Hold'em)
4th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)

David Chiu
4th in Event #7 ($2,500 2-7 Triple Draw)
9th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)
2nd in Event #33 ($2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha)
The following 23 players have made two final tables each: Frank Kassela, Dan Heimiller, Men Nguyen, Richard Ashby, Jeffrey Papola, James Dempsey, Michael Chow, David "Bakes" Baker, Dave Baker, Maxwell Troy, Al Barbieri, Matt Matros, Blair Rodman, Derric Haynie, Daniel Idema, Eugene Katchalov, Robert Mizrachi, Stuart Rutter, Jennifer Harman, Michael Michnik, Jarred Solomon, Erik Seidel, and Rob Hollink.

While Frank Kassela is the only player who has won two bracelets this year, he is one of six players who has two top-two finishes. The others are Men Nguyen (1st, 2nd), Richard Ashby (1st, 2nd), Jeffrey Papola (1st, 2nd), James Dempsey (1st, 2nd), and Maxwell Troy (2nd, 2nd).

Last week, I pointed out that the six players who have hired life coach Sam Chauhan were collectively having a disappointing WSOP. (The six players are Phil Hellmuth, Gavin Smith, Antonio Esfandiari, Josh Arieh, Paul Wasicka, and David Williams.) But that all changed on Saturday night when Gavin Smith won his first WSOP bracelet.

It's impossible to determine how Chauhan's coaching contributed to Gavin's victory, but it's worth noting that Gavin didn't mention the life coach at all during his post-victory interview. I'll be asking Gavin specifically about this in the next week, to see whether or not he feels Chauhan's influence was a major factor.

As for me, I'm still skeptical. Whether or not Gavin credits Chauhan with an assist, most of us expected Gavin to win his first WSOP bracelet any year now.

Justin Bonomo laid 10-to-1 odds (he put up $10,000 to anyone else's $1,000) that one of the 68 players who lives in Panorama Towers would win a bracelet this year. To see all the names, check out Justin Bonomo's post in the 2+2 thread by clicking here.

Bonomo has already won this bet, due to the victory by David "Bakes" Baker in Event #19. But worth tracking Panorama's results to help set a proper line for next year's bet. (Bonomo offered the same bet last year with 7-to-1 odds, and won with a Greg "FBT" Mueller bracelet.)

There have been eight final table appearances by Panorama players so far: David "Bakes" Baker (1st, 6th), Ray Coburn (2nd), Nick Binger (3rd), Nenad Medic (4th), Brock Parker (5th), Ben Lamb (5th), and David "Doc" Sands (8th).

* * *

There's your recap for the fourth week of the 2010 WSOP, with one week to go until the start of the WSOP Main Event. Thanks again to Pauly for letting me get my geek on and run down the stats and the big stories. This summer I'm working for Greasie Wheels, which is providing the official WSOP photography for Harrah's. Check out my official WSOP Photo Blog on I'm also recording the award-winning "Poker Beat" podcast for

Check out previous installments of The BJ Report... Week 1 and Week 2 and Week 3.


  1. any clue why the 5k 6-handed NLH had such a dramatic drop? It's the only one that stands out as really different numbers-wise, save for 1ks. 

  2. BJ Nemeth2:26 PM

    I haven't had a chance to talk to any of the players, and that number surprised me as well. I don't think the presence of the $25,000 6-handed NLHE event should be much of a factor -- people who can afford to play in that one would likely be able to play both. (Or, if forced to choose, the cheaper one.)

    My guess is that the difference in turnout is schedule related, because last year's $5,000 6-handed NLHE event was the last preliminary event on the schedule before the Main Event. So there were likely far more people in town for the big one who decided to play the last prelim event as a warmup. To confirm this theory, I should go back and check turnout for the last few prelim events from earlier years and see if there is a similar spike in field sizes.