If you haven’t heard by now, Jonathan Duhamel is the newest World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event champion. Having attended the final table over the weekend, I came away with some great stories from the floor. The first one actually comes from the day before the November Nine played, when I was able to meet up with Jason Senti and Duhamel.
Both of these players are sponsored by PokerStars and were polar opposites in terms of chip stacks, as Senti was the shortest and Duhamel the chip leader. Both were in great moods and said they had slept well. Both had great attitudes and confidence going into the big dance.
The next day, I arrived at the Penn and Teller Theater at the Rio and the line was already around the corner, filled with fans hoping to get in to watch the action. Once the press was admitted, I was stuck sitting up in the press box literally five stories high in the air. The lights in the box were off and the air was set to freezing cold. Not a great time, but the place was packed, so I didn’t complain. Fortunately, I had someone pull some strings for me and got the uber-upgrade to sit in the orchestra setting. To say this changed the experience would be a massive understatement.
First, I have to say that I liked the new introductions. It was reminiscent of WrestleMania: each of the players came out to their own theme music escorted by a ring girl holding a giant sign with their name and seat number. Like I mentioned to a few in press row, I went to WrestleMania and a poker game broke out.
Many of us expected a couple of eliminations early, then none for a while, then a few here and there, and the last two to happen rather quickly. For the most part, that’s exactly what happened over the next 15 hours. Yes, that’s right: the few hours of coverage you see on television are condensed quite a bit.
We had a few sick suckouts early that made for great TV and our first elimination came when Soi Nguyen received the boot. Then, Matt Jarvis got a bit of a raw deal, taking a bad beat on the river to be eliminated next. His press conference exiting the WSOP Main Event was very emotional, as ESPN covered his father’s grave illness and his attendance along the way to the final table. When his fans came to the press conference and chanted his name while he answered reporters’ questions, he became quite emotional.
Taking seventh was a sentimental favorite of mine, Senti. I had railed him during play on Days 7 and 8 of the Main Event back in July and got to know his wife and best friend. He did a great job lasting as long as he did and finished very respectably considering his short starting stack. However, he lost a big flip; that’s the way it goes in poker.
The sixth place elimination was a bit of a surprise in John Dolan, who had chipped to take second in the standings when November Nine play began. However, he just couldn’t get anything going and suffered a serious setback in a hand against Joseph Cheong. In the end, he did the best he could have given the hands he was dealt. Dolan took his exit very well and if he keeps an even head, he’ll be heard from again.
Full Tilt Poker pro Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi easily had the largest entourage in the house that took up about 75% of the stage, which some players weren’t happy about. Some will question Mizrachi getting into a couple of big hands where he doubled up Duhamel and John Racener, but there’s no doubting that Mizrachi played to win.
There was no European champion in the Main Event this year after Italy’s Filippo Candio was taken out in fourth place. His play was a little inconsistent, as he battled in big hands with Mizrachi early and showed a couple of huge bluffs. He was able to double through Duhamel with A-A versus A-K, but when play got to five, he totally shut down.
The final elimination of Saturday’s play was absolutely shocking. Before third place was determined, Duhamel and Cheong accounted for almost 200 million in chips, while Racener had about 36 million. It seemed logical for the big stacks to lean on the small stack and stay out of each other’s way, but Duhamel and Cheong were aggressive and wanted a piece of each other.
For years, Cheong’s 6bet shove with A-7 will be debated, but in the end, Duhamel crippled him after his pocket queens held up. Cheong mounted a mini-comeback, which lasted three hands before he lost out to Duhamel. In his exit interview, Cheong seemed a little shocked, but made no apologies for the way he played or was eliminated from the tournament.
Duhamel and Racener took the big stage on Monday night at 8:00pm and both decided to play post-flop poker instead of the pre-flop all-in shove-fest that some of us expected. Racener made one ill-time move that crippled him from 42 million to 18 million. Then, Racener went all-in with K-8 suited against Duhamel’s ace-high hand. Duhamel held up and was crowned the 2010 Main Event champion; the Canadian took home the gold bracelet and an $8.9 million first place prize. Racener took home a very healthy consolation prize of $5.55 million.