The $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event made its debut in 2006. Top professional players wanted a tournament that would test their skills across a variety of disciplines, with a buy-in to ensure that only the most skilled players could afford to enter. The inaugural event was won by mixed game specialist and poker legend Chip Reese. After his untimely passing the following year, a special commemorative trophy was created to be awarded to every subsequent winner of the event.
This year’s version was certainly one for the record books. The number of entrants dropped below 100 for the first time, with only 95 players electing to enter. It was also one of the longest tournaments ever held at the World Series. After 4 days of deep-stacked high-quality play, the final table would take over 18 hours to complete. The only WSOP final table to have run longer was at the WSOP Europe main event last year.
A who’s who of poker lined up and fell by the wayside until only 8 men remained. Many of the final eight were lesser known pros, but they were all highly skilled players. The most recognizable names at the final table were undoubtedly 8 time bracelet winner Erik Seidel and 4 time bracelet winner Huck Seed. Fan favorite Gus Hanson just missed out on the final table in 9th, but returned a few hours into proceedings to act as guest announcer. The table also featured Vitaly Lunkin, one of this series’ breakout players. After triumphing in the $40k anniversary event the Russian was going for a unique double – attempting to win the two highest buy-in events in one series.
Action got underway at 10am PT with the chip stacks at:
Seat 1: Ville Wahlbeck – 645,000
Seat 2: Erik Sagstrom – 3,675,000
Seat 3: John Hanson – 1,700,000
Seat 4: Huck Seed – 1,380,000
Seat 5: Vitaly Lunkin – 2,490,000
Seat 6: David Bach – 2,345,000
Seat 7: Erik Seidel – 965,000
Seat 8: Chau Giang – 1,075,000
Fifty-Five WSOP cashes weren’t enough to keep Erik Seidel in the tournament, after he got himself embroiled in a three way pot with David Bach and Vitaly Lunkin. The game was Stud Hi/Lo and after the river card Lunkin took the low with [3c-4c]3h-As-Jd-7s[2s] and Bach the high with [8d-8h]8c-Qc-6h-5d[10c]. Seidel mucked his hand and left the tournament in 8th.
The next elimination followed unusually quickly, with Chau Giang running into Erik Sangstrom – better known as Erik123 online. Sangstrom is renowned as a Limit Hold ‘em specialist, and seemed to be involved in nearly every hold ‘em hand. Before the flop Giang called a three-bet from Erik and watched an Ac-Qs-5d flop come down. Erik lead out and was raised by Giang, who immediately faced another re-raise. Giang reacted by pushing his last few chips all-in, with Erik making a simple call. Giang found himself way behind with Qd-9d against Ah-Qh. A 10d on the turn provided a glimmer of hope, but a 4h on the river sealed deal and eliminated Gian in 7th.
Ville Wahlbeck has been making a name for himself this year. The Finn has racked up a bracelet and 4 final tables, to leave him just behind triple bracelet winner Jeff Lisandro in the Player of the Year race. His preflop raise in an Omaha Hi/Lo hand was called by David Bach. The flop came Jh-4h-3s and Wahlbeck called Bach’s check-raise. A Kd on the turn prompted a bet from Bach and an all-in raise from Ville. Bach called and flipped up As-Jc-4d-3h to face off against Ville’s 7d-5c-3d-2c. A 4s landed on the river to give Bach a full house and eliminate Ville Wahlbeck in 6th.
Huck Seed stood little chance of surviving after he tossed his final few chips into a four way Hold ‘em pot with Vitaly Lunkin, Erik Sagstrom, and John Hanson. All four of them made it to the river and Hanson’s A-J won with top pair.
Vitaly Lunkin was next to fall in a hand of Stud Hi/Lo. He later revealed that at the final table he was still “unsure of the rules of Stud.” To have made the last four of a tournament where you spend 40% of the time playing a game you don’t fully understand is fairly spectacular. In the end he would be eliminated by Erik Sagstrom when his trip 8s were outdone by his opponent’s rolled up aces.
Another 2 hours would pass before Erik123 would bow out in 3rd. He had held the chiplead for much of the final table, but began to fade once the marathon session past its middle stages. In a pot of Omaha Hi/Lo all three players made it to a 7h-6s-Kc flop. Hanson bet, Bach called and Erik moved over the top all-in. A King fell on the river and both Bach and Hanson checked, with the latter showing two pair to take the pot.
The real test of endurance would now begin, with John Hanson and David Bach facing off for almost 7 hours. They began with even chip stacks, but it was David Bach who (relatively) quickly asserted his dominance. Hanson would not be beaten easily however, and fought back from a 4-1 chip deficit an incredible five times. At one point Bach held 12,000,000 to Hanson’s 1,000,000, but Hanson would ever so slowly recover to retake the chip lead.
In the end, Bach beat down his opponent one last time and ended the tournament in a hand of Razz. Hanson had the bring-in with a 9 and Bach completed with a 6. Hanson raised and then called a re-raise from Bach. On 4th street Bach picked up a dangerous looking Ace, while Hanson welcomed an unhelpful Jack. Bach led out and Hanson put his remaining chips in the middle for the call. 5th street brought a Queen for Bach and Hanson paired his 5. Bach’s final hand was a 9-7-6-4-A nine-low, leaving Hanson to draw a 2 on the river for 9-8-6-5-2.
After 480 hands over 18 hours and 44 minutes of play, Event #49 finally came to an end at 9:57 am PT. David Bach walked away with his first ever bracelet, the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy and $1.2 million in prize money. Bach, a former pro bowler, said afterward that he drew inspiration from Chip to help him make it through the marathon final table. “I was looking at Chip Reese’s name on that trophy and that’s what he would do.”
Final table payouts were as follows:
David Bach – $1,276,802
John Hanson – $789,199
Eric Sagstrom – $522,394
Vitaly Lunkin – $368,813
Huck Seed – $276,610
Ville Wahlbeck – $219,655
Chau Giang – $184,087
Erik Seidel – $162,382