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The 2009 World Championship of Online Poker is on the cusp of its final weekend. Although all roads lead to the $5,000 Main Event, the action is still fierce in the preliminary tournaments. No more so than in Event #36, a $500 + $30 No Limit Hold ‘em 6-max tournament with rebuys. This lengthy event attracted only 1,030 entrants but still took nearly 16 hours to complete.

That was no doubt thanks to the 1000 rebuys and 722 add-ons these players contributed. The cash influx boosted the prize pool to a total of $1,376,000, easily covering the $1 million guarantee PokerStars had laid on for the event. The lengthy running time was also aided by the quality of the field. Masses of well known pros turned up for the event and, unlike many previous tournaments, put on a strong performance.

Among those notable names who made the money were: Hevad Khan (145th), James “mig.com” Mackey (149th), Jason “JasonGray” Gray (134th), Humberto Brenes (97th), Adam “Roothlus” Levy (78th), Sorel Mizzi (74th), Dan “Wretchy” Martin (41st), Cory “UGOTPZD” Carroll (32nd), Jason Mercier (26th), and Shaun Deeb (21st). The highest finishing pro of all was a Team PokerStars Pro member. Argentinean Leo Fernandez ended his run in 17th place for $11,558.40. Leo is a highly skilled chess player and, since taking up poker in 2004, has recorded 3 WSOP cashes – including a Main Event money finish.

Further along at the final table, the chip counts looked like this:

Seat 1: VLs85s (4,364,672 in chips)
Seat 2: djalminha (1,330,034 in chips)
Seat 3: GtRealGtOut (7,037,219 in chips)
Seat 4: Astrolux85 (5,670,990 in chips)
Seat 5: oncommand (2,111,695 in chips)
Seat 6: supadphat (1,930,390 in chips)

Shortly after the final table started, djalminha and oncommand got all their chips in before the flop. After oncommand responded to djalminha’s 137,000 bet with a 1.3 million push, dj called off his final 1 million. With the hands face up, djalminha held Ah-Jh against oncommand’s Ks-9s. The board ran out Qd-2c-4h-Jd-3h and djalminha scooped the pot with second pair. The damage was done and two hands later oncommand would exit the tournament in sixth. With just over $100k left he put his last chips in against Astrolux85 and VLs85s – who both checked down a board of J-8-2-10-3. After VLs85s showed his 9-8 for second pair everyone else mucked and oncommand was out in 6th.

As is the way with final tables, there followed a lull in the action while the players recovered from the quickfire elimination. Then, for no apparent reason, two players were out in the next six hands.

First up, former execution djalminha put his final 1.3 million in the middle and faced a call from supadphat. It was a straight coin flip between djalminha’s K-Q and supadphat’s pocket 9s. Nothing connected on the flop for djalminha and his tournament ended in 5th place. With djalminha eliminated it was GtRealGtOut’s turn to shove his in 1.4 million stack. After a call by Astrolux, GtRealGtOuts’s A-5 suited looked in good shape against his opponent’s K-Q, but a board of 4-K-2-9-6 soon changed that.

With the chance to go heads up for a WCOOP bracelet on the line, the three remaining players began a cagey exchange of chips. When the pivotal hand finally came it was sudaphat who suffered. After completing in the small blind, sudaphat responded to VLs85s 350,000 raise by pushing all-in for 3.4 million. VL made an easy call with K-K and had sudaphat’s K-Q severely dominated. The board fell 8-6-7-2-4, a million miles away from anyone’s cards, and sudaphat was out in 3rd.

As heads up play began VLs85s had the 14.2 million chip lead verses Astrolux85 with 8.1 million. With their opponents dispatched the pair began to discuss a chop. After some lengthy back and forth Astrolux negotiated a very healthy $190,000 for his half of the deal. Despite his sold chip lead, VLs85s agreed to sum of $192,480. That left a mandatory $20k and the WCOOP bracelet to play for.

The confrontation was nearly over when Astrolux85 committed all his chips with Ks-10s against A-9. A flop of As-Qc-3s put the chip leader firmly in the driving seat, but plenty of flush outs left Astrolux with a chance of recovery. A Kd on the turn added another layer of straight and two pair outs and sure enough, on the river, a Jc completed the straight and confirmed the double up.

Astrolux85 took a lead he would refuse to relinquish in an 8 million pot. With pocket 3’s in the hole, a board of 3-J-K-8-8 completed a boat. VLs85s then disastrously took matters into his own hands. Holding only 8-7 on a board of 10-5-5-Q-4 he fired bet after bet in a vain attempt to get his opponent to fold. Despite a number of scare cards, Astrolux85 could not be moved from his 10-9 and a made a number of excellent calls to win the 6 million pot.

With VLs85s on the ropes, the final hand was not too far off. After Astrolux completed from the small blind, VL put in a 960,000 raise. Astro called and saw a 2h-10h-5d flop hit the board. Two checks and a 9d turn later and Astro was leading out with a 7.2 million bet. VLs85s decided it was time to gamble and committed his last chips via a 6.7 million raise. Astrolux85 made the call and showed a Q-J straight draw to go up against his opponent’s A-2 bottom pair flush draw. An 8 on the river gave Astro the slice of luck he needed and confirmed him as WCOOP Event #36 Champion.

Final table payouts were:

1st place: Astrolux85 ($210,000.00)
2nd place: VLs85s ($192,480.00)
3rd place: supadphat ($130,720.00)
4th place: GtRealGtOut ($89,440.00)
5th place: djalminha ($58,617.60)
6th place: oncommand ($41,280.00)