With the obligatory opening hold ’em event out of the way it was time for the big guns to make their way to the Empire Casino in Leicester Square for the WSOPE £2,500 H.O.R.S.E tournament. The ultimate mixed game format is well known for attracting the best of the best and keeping away the amateurs intimidated by the prospect of playing 6 different games over the course of one tournament.
The field was an understandably modest 110 players, but included the likes of Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negraenu, John Juanda, Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth (who was late again). The high concentration of stellar talent was most evident at the start of the tournament, as one of the tables featured Erick Lindgren, Mickey Wernick, Joe Beevers, Daniel Negraenu, Bruno Fitoussi and Barry Greenstein. A prize pool of £275,000 gave them all plenty to play for.
Phils Ivey and Hellmuth may share a Christian name, but their temperaments couldn’t be more distinct. One thing they did have in common however, was their position at the top of the Day 1 leaderboard. Earlier in the week both men had competed in a special Full Tilt Million Dollar Cash Game, held in London to coincide with the WSOPE. Playing along side fellow pros such as Mike Matusow and Patrick Antonius, Ivey was reported to be up over $500,000. By all accounts, Hellmuth was less significantly successful.
Ivey may have maintained his high position on the leaderboard during day 2, but it was Phil Hellmuth’s catastrophic collapse that would be the talk of the casino floor. The slow decline of his chip stack was accompanied by the berating of players and staff. At one point he even reduced a dealer at his table to tears, prompting the tournament director to intervene and issue him with an official warning. Moments before the end of the 14 hour day his tournament would come to and end.
Another player who just missed out on making the final day was “Kid Poker”, Daniel Negraenu. After sitting on Day 1’s table of death he may have been cursing his luck to find himself beside Joe Beevers, David Williams, Woody Deck, Patrick Antonius, Robert Williamson III and, November Nine member, Kelly Kim. Although he would survive that killer table he found himself unable to topple Phil Ivey when the two locked horns. Another poker great was at the top of the chip count when play was called to a halt on Day 2, Howard Lederer, staking his claim to the WSOPE’s first ever American bracelet winner.
The final day began with 11 still remaining and took yet another 14 hours to come to a close. Lederer didn’t waste time narrowing the field, eliminating the short stack in the very first hand. Before long the last 8 were ready to begin the final table. The chip stacks going in were:
Seat 1: Sherkhan Farnood 88,000
Seat 2: Phil Ivey 139,000
Seat 3: Spencer Lawrence 113,500
Seat 4: Jeffrey Lisandro 165,000
Seat 5: Ivo Donev 65,000
Seat 6: Jeff Duvall 136,000
Seat 7: Howard Lederer 283,500
Seat 8: Mark Gregorich 104,000
Spencer Lawrence would make an early exit during Stud Hi/Lo after finding himself all-in against Jeff Duvall, Howard Lederer and Phil Ivey. Although Ivey was out of the hand before the final street, Lawrence’s 9’s and 3’s were not enough to beat the higher two pair of Duvall. With no qualifying low, Duvall scooped the pot and eliminated Lawrence in 8th.
Aussie bracelet holder Jeff Lisandro entered the final table second in chips, but he would end his tournament in 7th place. He moved all-in against the chip leader Lederer in a hand of hold ’em where the board read 6-4-K-8. Howard revealed 7-5 for the turned straight, way ahead of Lisandro’s pocket Jacks. An Ace on the river helped no one and put Jeff out of the event.
The player with the best form, and the biggest reputation, coming into Day 3 was undoubtedly Phil Ivey. Alas, his run at the bracelet came to an abrupt halt after a hand of 7 Card Stud against Mark Gregorich. Ivey was showing 10-K-8-2, compared to the 10-6-6-9 of Gregorich. Betting in the dark before seventh street enticed Ivey into calling for all his chips, but he was helpless against the Queens Gregorich was hiding in the hole to accompany his 6’s up.
Despite this success it was Gregorich who would be the very next player eliminated. Afghan Sherkhan Farnood showed remarkable ability to call Gregorich’s all-in on the turn with only pocket 5’s – despite their being 3 overcards on the board. What could have been a disaster turned out to be a brilliant play as Gregorich was forced to reveal that he was holding only Ace high. A blank river meant that his gamble had cost him the tournament.
Following shortly after this was the elimination of Jeff Duvall, during a level of Omaha hi/lo. All three of Duvall, Sherkhan and Lederer saw the flop of Kd-Jc-7c and all three checked the 2s that arrived on the turn. A 6d on the river brought the threat of the flush and Lederer lead out with confidence. Farnood got out of the way as Duvall called all-in for his last few chips. Lederer flipped up Ad-5d-4c-9h to show that he did in fact have the nut flush, as well as a 7 low. Duvall mucked and exited in 4th place.
The craft and guile of the final three was evident as they tussled for over 3 hours following Duvall’s elimination. With Howard Lederer the final big name remaining many might have picked him to take the title, but as is so often the way it was not to be. He finally relinquished the chip lead to Donev and took a further hit against Farnood while playing Stud. Despite the fact that neither player was showing many dangerous cards there was betting on every street up until the final card. Farnood again showing his ability to predict his opponents weakness, revelead two 8’s in the hole for a single pair that was enough to take down the pot. This left Lederer extremely low and he was out in 3rd just a few hands later.
Despite having taken that large pot just previously, Farnood found himself trailing by a substantial margin as the players entered heads up. He wasted no time in making up the difference, winning a big hand of Razz. Once the final cards had been dealt, Donev revealed a J-7 low to put him marginally behind Farnood’s J-6 low. His ability to predict the cards of his opponent may have taken a back seat to luck, although with his previous performance in mind you would not put it past him to have known the outcome.
With the chip lead in hand the bracelet was almost in Farnood’s grasp, and from then on in it seemed a foregone conclusion. The final hand came in seven card stud as Donev drew hopelessly for the flush draw that would put him back in the game. The club he was looking for failed to materialize and Farnood took the pot and the title with two pair Queens and Eights.
What may be most astounding about the victory is that he is not a professional poker player. Overcoming one of the toughest fields ever assembled as an amateur player surely makes him fulling deserving of the £76,999 top prize for WSOPE Event #2.
The final table cashes were:
1. Sherkhan Farnood £76,999
2. Ivo Donev £48,125
3. Howard Lederer £30,250
4. Jeff Duvall £22,000
5. Mark Gregorich £17,188
6. Phil Ivey £13,750
7. Jeffrey Lisandro £11,000
8. Spencer Lawrence £8,938