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The first World Series of Poker Europe event recently concluded at the Empire Casino in Leicester Square, London. The 3rd annual WSOP jaunt across the Atlantic began in a record breaking way. Although still minute compared to the many thousands who descend on the Las Vegas events, the 608 players who registered for Event #1 were taking part in the biggest poker tournament ever held in London.

The eventual winner, J.P. Kelly, is the first British player to win a WSOPE event and the first player this year to win both a WSOP and WSOP Europe title. Back in July he took down a $1.5k Pot Limit Hold ‘em event for his first career bracelet. The chances of the British breaking their 2-year drought looked pretty likely going into the final table, with 8 of the final 9 representing the home nation.

Although the WSOPE does not attract the hordes of amateur players mustered by its older brother, top pros from all around the world still turn out in force. Among those who lined up for the start of Event #1 were Phil Hellmuth, Roland de Wofle, Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott, Phil Ivey, and 2007 main event champ Annette Obrestad. Last year’s overall victor, John Juanda, got his 2009 effort off to a great start by cashing in 43rd place. Former WSOP main event winner Chris “Jesus” Ferguson also put in a strong showing, ending his run in 15th.

Despite the overwhelming British contingent at the final table, it was a Frenchman who held the chiplead. Fabien Dunlop threatened to spoil the national celebration when he advanced all the way to a heads up confrontation against Kelly. Despite a 3 – 1 chip deficit, John Paul later revealed that he had the utmost confidence in his ability. “I knew if I got heads-up with [Fabien] I would do well, as I am a better heads-up player,” he told journalists after his victory.

With Kelly clambering back to even, the pair engaged in a hand which would sway the encounter firmly in favor of the Englishman. Both players were all-in on diamond flush draws, with Fabien’s stack marginally covering his opponent. Kelly, however, was way ahead in the hand after a third diamond fell on the turn. His King-high flush crushed the Frenchman’s Jack-high offering. Fabien was soon all-in on the blind and could do nothing to stop Kelly’s Q-J trips with his 4-9 suited.

For vanquishing Britain’s traditional Gallic enemy (and winning the tournament), Kelly received £136,803. His defeated opponent picked up a very healthy £84,512.

WSOPE Event #2 is currently underway. The £2,500 half Pot Limit Hold ‘em, half Pot Limit Omaha event began with 158 runners, but is now down to 22. Only 18 places pay, so when the action resumes an edgy contest is expected. The quality of the remaining field is extremely high. Players still with chips include Hoyt Corkins, Men “The Master” Nguyen, Howard Lederer, Dario Alioto, and Vitaly Lunkin.