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Third time lucky for John Kabbaj at WSOP

John Kabbaj's win in Event #45 - the $10,000 buy-in World Championship Pot-Limit Hold'em competition at the World Series of Poker this week was a case of third time lucky - it was the third time the UK professional player had made it through to a WSOP final table. The difference was that this time he took home the bracelet (his first) and the main prize of $633,335.

The event started with an entry field of 275 hopefuls generating a prize pool of $2,585,000, and ended in an endurance test of a final table and a heads up between Kabbaj and runner-up Kirill Gerasimov, who took home $391,369 for his second place efforts.

By Day 3 the field was down to 14 players, but these were finally diluted down to a stellar final table of Internet and land pros that comprised 37-year-old Kabbaj holding the chip lead on 1,867,000, followed by Davidi Kitai (1,737,000), Isaac Haxton (1,139,000), Eric Baldwin (1,115,000), J.C. Alvarado (810,000), Kirill Gerasimov (621,000), Jason Lester (386,000), Eugene Todd (341,000) and Darryll Fish (241,000).

Kabbaj did not have it all his own way despite holding the chip lead going into the final table, and at one stage he had to fight back from a badly eroded chip stack to regain dominance and the eventual win.

Eric Baldwin's trip to the rail in third place for $259,534 cleared the decks for the Gerasimov vs. Kabbaj heads up, with the Russian holding the advantage. Kabbaj turned that around when he doubled up on a big showdown around hand 10 to even things up and then started to pull away from his opponent. This was the tipping point in the game, Kabbaj said afterwards; going forward from there he was confident and started playing more aggressively to finally prevail.

20 hands further on, the final hand was reached, with Kabbaj's pocket aces holding up against Gerasimov's kings, giving the Londoner the win and his first World Series of Poker bracelet.

Kabbaj is a Pot Limit specialist from London in the UK who has enjoyed 7 first placings in major tournaments and 57 cashes in a career that has brought him total winnings of almost $2 million. He also enjoys betting on sports, and is a passionate and knowledgable supporter of English football. He started playing poker as a teenager.

Event #46 - the $2,500 buy-in Omaha Hi/Lo Split 8 or Better, was entered by 425 players, building a prize pool of $977,500. By Day 3 the field was down to started 23 players including 'names' like Mark Tenner, two-time Omaha hi/lo bracelet winner Frankie O'Dell, Mike Matusow, Pat Poels, David Rabbi, CK Hua, Mark Gregorich and John Monnette.

The winner was 24-year-old Georgetown University finance and business management grad Derek Raymond from Portland, Maine, who boosted his career earnings to $244,725 in 7 live tournament cashes, and collected his first WSOP bracelet by disciplined and controlled poker throughout a 3 day contest and a gruelling 14 hour final day.

It all came down to a three hour endurance test of a heads up between Raymond and Mark Tenner, a slightly more experienced player from Northridge, California, with the latter looking strong but eventually overtaken in a series of hands where Raymond fully exploited some good cards and eventually sent his opponent to the exit. In addition to his first bracelet, Raymond collected a check for $229,192. Tenner received $141,647 for his second placing.

Event # 47 - the $2,500 buy-in Mixed Hold'em (Limit/No-Limit) also concluded, with Bahador Ahmadi taking the honours. The field of 527 players generated a prize pool of $1,212,100, which paid a main prize of $278,104. a second placing reward of $172,227 and a third place six-figure payday of $112,967.

Among the quality field were established names like Barry Greenstein, Matt Woodward, Karlo Lopez, Ylon Schwartz , Hasan Habib, Eli Elezra, Daniel Negreanu, Amnon Filippi and Andy Bloch, yet the 24-year-old player from Vancouver, Canada was the one to claim his first bracelet and the winner's check for $278,104 - his second cash in this year's World Series of Poker. Ahmadi came fourth for $139,934 in event 13, a NHLE contest.

When Ylon Schwartz went out in third place, the decider was in the hands of Ahmadi and John McGuiness, with the former holding a significant lead which enabled him to send McGuiness railwards after only one hand. McGuiness's runner-up reward was $172,227.

The win brings Ahmadi's career winnings to $419,143 in three cashes.

When InfoPowa went to press, there was some disquiet among both players and organisers over the poor turnout of 95 players for the mega-buy-in $50,000 H.O.R.S.E.competition. The decision by ESPN to drop the H.O.R.S.E. event from its television taping schedule for the 2009 WSOP after disappointing ratings the last two years appeared to have been vindicated, or was part of the problem, depending on who you talked to.

Some experts, among them Daniel Negreanu, said that in 2006 the event had a more attractive format that featured No-Limit Hold'em being played exclusively at the final table with the rest of the tournament using the H.O.R.S.E. mix. This was changed in 2007 and for the third year in a row the H.O.R.S.E. mix will be used all the way through the final table this year.

Negreanu's contention is that the 2006 format had greater television appeal. Mike Matusow and Andy Bloch appear to agree with the poker ace that the lack of television coverage was the probably cause for the sadly depleted field for this year's event.

Whatever the reason, the field this year was the smallest in the history of the event, which brought in 143 players in 2006 and 148 in 2007 and 2008.

Source: InfoPowa News