Around the WSOP: Galfond takes down star-studded final table to win WSOP bracelet

17 June 2008

Go ahead and score one in the win column for the Internet poker player generation.

In a high-profile event that resulted in a final table with players who have won a combined 27 World Series of Poker bracelets, two players who honed their skills online make it to the head-up portion. And that's where Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond won what many feel may be the first of many WSOP gold bracelets as he took out fellow online sensation Adam "the_houdini" Hourani to win the $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha with Re-buys.

phil_galfond

Online poker player sensation Phil Galfond captured his first WSOP bracelet and he did it against a star-studded final table. (photo by IMPDI for the 2008 WSOP)

"[Winning a WSOP gold bracelet] commands respect from your peers," said Galfond, who took home a payday of $817,781 with the victory, the second-highest top prize ever paid to the winner of a Pot-Limit Omaha tournament. "It was such a tough final table lineup. That's what makes winning this so much better."

Galfond, who took over the top spot on the 2008 WSOP earnings list by a slight margin heading into Tuesday's action, came into the final table as the chip leader with 1,393,000, but was being chased by a group of players that boasted impressive credentials. Not only was there 11-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, Jr. and 10-time bracelet winner Johnny Chan, but Daniel Negreanu and John Juanda were also seated at the table. That's four players with who have combined for more than 100 WSOP cashes in their storied careers.

When the final table got underway, however, the big names slowly began to fall. Hellmuth, the all-time leader in WSOP cashes with 64, finished eighth without the benefit of any re-buys. On the other side of the token there was Negreanu, who had more than $85,000 at stake after making 16 re-buys and finished seventh. Juanda, who has more WSOP in-the-money finishes than any other player since 2000 with 41, finished sixth and picked up $154,296 while Chan was fourth and Benyamine took third.

When heads-up play began, Galfond was still very much in control with a 4.1 million-2.1 million chip lead. But the two online players battled long and hard for more than 100 hands when Galfond's two pair prevailed over Hourani's pair of aces.

"I had a big chip lead and I did not want to blow it," Galfond said afterward. "So, the first thing I feel is relief that I did not blow the lead."

Galfond is a 23-year-old native of Wisconsin who now has five WSOP cashes, including a 45th-place finish in the $10,000 World Championship Heads-Up No Limit event where he won $14,438. He studied philosophy at the University of Wisconsin in Madison for more than two years before dropping out to focus on poker about three years ago.

His best finish previous to winning his first bracelet came at the 2007 WSOP when he was 18th in the $5,000 No Limit Hold'em Six-Handed event. This past April, he cashed in for $39,570 with a 70th-place finish in the $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour No Limit Hold'em Championship Event.

This was also the best WSOP finish for Hourani, an East Lansing, Mich. native whose previous best was a 23rd in last year's $2,500 No Limit Hold'em Six-Handed event.

This year's $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournament attracted a star-studded field of 152 entries. In addition to the final table big names, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson finished on the bubble in 10th place. This marked Ferguson's 54th career WSOP cash, which ranks fourth all-time – just one behind T.J. Cloutier.

Other former WSOP gold bracelet winners who cashed in this event included David Williams (16th), Ted Lawson (17th) and Eli Elezra (18th). Also in the field were bracelet winners Robert Williamson, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Phil Ivey, Daniel Alaei and Alexander Kravchenko.

A total of 483 re-buys increased the total prize pool to $3,085,930. The top 18 finishers (final two tables) collected prize money.


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