As reported yesterday, a lot of buzz has generated around Phil Ivey and his ridiculous bracelet prop bets. A unknown sum of people have bet vast sums of money against the 33 year old, in the hopes that he wouldn’t pick up his 6th career bracelet this year. Those folks are likely to be displeased this morning, but the rest of the poker world was celebrating the triumph of arguably the greatest player in the game today.
WSOP Event #8 was a $2,500 buy-in No Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball tournament. Although still very much a niche game, it has grown in prominence in recent years. Many of the pros consider it the most skillful iteration of poker, and the well known faces packing the field certainly seemed to confirm that.
Among the 147 entrants were Vanessa Rousso, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, Robert Mizrachi, Jon Turner, Huck Seed, Nikolay Evdakov, Andy Black, Mike Caro, Jennifer Harman, Erick Lindgren, Greg Raymer, Gavin Smith, Freddy Deeb, Barry Greenstein, David “Chino” Rheem, David Singer, and Scotty Nguyen. All these great players made an incredibly tough field for a prize pool of only $338,100.
2-7 lowball is a game in which you are looking for the lowest possible hand. Pairs, straights, and flushes count against you and Aces are high. This means that the best possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2, all not of the same suit. A number of other interesting twists were added to this event. Firstly it was single draw – rather than the slightly more common triple draw – meaning that each player had one chance to swap up to 5 cards, with a round of betting either side. Also, a player entering the pot must make a raise – i.e. he cannot just call. The tournament began with both blinds and antes and was a triple chance event – meaning that every player could add-on twice at any point during the first 3 levels.
Only two rounds of betting, coupled with skillful players, meant that it took 3 days to get down to a final table of 7. At the start of play on the final day the chip stacks looked like this:
Raphael Zimmerman – 238,000
Eric Kesselman – 119,400
John Monnette – 259,000
Rodeen Talebi – 94,500
Yan Chen – 159,000
Elia Ahmadian – 136,900
Phil Ivey – 106,300
Surprisingly things got off to an electric start, with experienced cash game player Yan Chen setting the early pace. After raises pre-draw, Elia Ahmadian stood pat and Chen swapped one. Chen then pushed all-in and was instantly called by the unfortunate Ahmadian. The 10-low he was dealt was just outdone by Chen’s 9-8-4-3-2.
Before the final table started almost all the focus was on Phil Ivey. Although his final table assault got off to a bumpy start thanks to Raphael Zimmerman. The pair tangled a number of times, with Ivey taking the worst of it early on. Before long however he was fighting his way back and in a pivotal hand found Zimmerman all-in pre-draw. Ivey stood pat and his opponent was left to draw one in hope. He clearly did not find it, as after Ivey showed a very strong 8-7-5-4-3 he mucked and left the tournament in 6th.
Less than 10 minutes after that the early short stack Rodeen Talebi pushed all-in and was called by Yan Chen. Neither player elected to draw any cards, and Talebi was left trailing, with a J-T low against a 9-8 low.
Next it was big stack John Monnette’s turn to eliminate an opponent. Ivey opened proceedings with a 15,000 raise and Kesselman wasted no time pushing all-in for 80,500. Monnette made the call and Ivey got out of the way. Both stood pat and Monnette revealed that he had been dealt the nuts: 7-5-4-3-2.
After that surprisingly intense period things began to settle down, with a final three of Ivey, Chen, and Monnette ducking it out for over 3 hours before the next elimination. The chip lead proved to be a slippery commodity, with each player holding and losing it at some point. Eventually Yan Chen pushed his last 139,000 in the middle and was called by Phil Ivey. Chen stood pat and Ivey took one card. Chen’s J-low stood no chance against Ivey’s 9-5-4-3-2 and he was out in 3rd.
When heads up began Ivey’s stack stood at 481,000, while John Monnette boasted 615,000. Heads up play would go on for 3 hours and 12 minutes, with many people both backing and pulling for Ivey to take it down. Things began well for Phil’s supporters, as he quickly grabbed the chip lead off his opponent. However, just as things started to look promising, Monnette made a massive surge. He doubled up twice through his opponent, putting him in a commanding 4-1 chip advantage.
Phil Ivey is undoubtedly one of the greatest poker players ever to have played the game, and his fight back from the brink of defeat is sure to swell his already burgeoning reputation. The grind back to the chip lead was composed mainly of small victories, but took immense ability. The final hand eventually came when Monnette opened with a raise and Ivey put him to a decision for all his chips. He made the call and both players elected to draw one card. The hands were flipped over to show that Ivey had the advantage with 7-6-4-2 against Monnette’s 9-7-5-2. Monnette drew first and disastrously paired his 7, guaranteeing Phil the victory and making his low-completing 5 a formality.
Exact figures are hard to come by, but the amount wagered on Ivey’s bracelet is undoubtedly considerably higher than the $96,361 he received for first place. John Monnette reportedly asked Phil how much the difference was between first and last during their mammoth heads up battle. Phil’s suggestion of around $3 million is at the lower end of estimates, but we may never know the true figure. What is more certain is that Ivey will be a force to be reckoned with for the remainder of the World Series.