Around the WSOP: Germany's Ruthenberg stares down Jesus for first bracelet

20 June 2008

All things considered, there really isn't a better way to win your first World Series of Poker bracelet than the manner in which Germany's Sebastian Ruthenberg went about it in the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split World Championship.

First and foremost, this was one of the higher profile events of the Series thus far. Thanks to a field of 261 players a record prize pool of more than $1.2 million was created, making the event the most lucrative Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split tournament in poker history.

Secondly, there is the star-studded list of past winners of the event that Ruthenberg is now a part of, a group that includes such luminaries as Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, the late Chip Reese Mickey Appleman, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Max Stern, Men "the Master" Nguyen, Mike Sexton, Artie Cobb, Vince Burgio, Cyndy Violette and Rich Korbin.

On top of all of that, Ruthenberg, a 24-year-old who has been playing professionally for two years, prevailed in come-from-behind fashion in an event where he was a true underdog. He stared down a field that included Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, Chau Giang, Allen Cunningham and Barry Greenstein and a final table that lasted nine hours and had him seated next to the likes of Annie Duke and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.

Nonetheless, Ruthenberg battled through the marathon 29 levels of play and managed to cash in for $328,762, becoming the second German national to win at the WSOP this year. He also becomes only the fifth German to win a gold bracelet, following in the path of Matthias Rohnacher (1997), Eddy Scharf (2001 and 2003), Katja Thater (2007), and Jen Voertmann (2008).

The highlight of the event was the heads-up match between Ruthenberg and Ferguson. The two players went at it for nearly four hours. Ruthenberg faced a 2-to-1 deficit in chips as they entered heads-up play, and a couple of times he looked to be flat out beat. But the feisty German would not go away, and when he knocked of Ferguson in the final hand, a exhilarated group of more than 20 of his fellow countrymen erupted in a boisterous celebration as they waived the German flag and exulted in victory.

"(Ferguson) is the better player," admitted the newest WSOP champion following the event. "He really is a better player than me. I have only been playing this game for six months and he has played so much more than me."

Ferguson, meanwhile, seemed to take the defeat in stride. The five-time bracelet winner calmly walked away from the table after the final hand and immediately moved over to the $10,000 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split World Championship, which had already started. In fact, during breaks in his match with Ruthenberg, Ferguson rushed over to play in the Omaha tournament. He earned more than $200,000 for his 54th-career WSOP cash. He now ranks third on the all-time list, behind Hellmuth (65) and Men "the Master" Nguyen (57).

Duke cashed for the 35th time in her WSOP career after a fifth-place finish. Her brother, Lederer, cashed out in ninth place for his 37th WSOP cash. The Professor just missed making it to the final table along with Duke, which would have marked the third time the siblings sat at a finale together.

Veteran Velador wins coveted bracelet

In a true feel-good story, Luis Velador from Lake Elsinore, Calif. won his first-career bracelet Thursday night after taking home the $574,734 first-place prize in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event that drew a colossal field of 2,304 runners.

The 44-year-old Velador is a former tile setter who was born in Mexico and has been playing professionally for 11 years. He has only played in three WSOP events and has now cashed in all three with the other two coming in the 2006 and 2007 Main Events.

Typically, Velador concentrates on middle-limit cash games, ranging from $10-20 up to $40-80 limits. But he looked quite comfortable in this event as his performance was as dominant as any player thus far at the WSOP. From start to finish during the five-hour final table, Velador held at least a 2 to 1 chip advantage over his nearest competitors and most of the time he had every opponent at the table covered by a 5 to 1 margin.

"There is lot of dead money in these tournaments," Velador said. "Sure, there are many good players, too. But these (lower buy-in tournaments) are not like the big ones where all you see is pros."

As a contrast to Velador's 11 years as a pro, the second-place finisher was Anthony Signore, from Boynton Beach, Fla. who was playing in his first major poker tournament. Call it beginners luck if you like, but Signore collected $366,387.

News and notes from around the felt

The curse of the defending champion is alive and well. Through 33 events, the player looking to repeat as champion has yet to even cash, never mind make a final table or defend his or her title….Entering Friday's play, the player who has entered the most events is Tom McCormick, with 23 entries….. Fifteen players have made two final table appearances this year: Chris Bjorin, Andy Bloch, David Benyamine, Alex Bolotin, Scott Clements, Ferguson, Greenstein, Jacobo Fernandez, Fu Wong, Erick Lindgren, Minh Ly, Daniel Negreanu, David Singer, J.C. Tran and Theo Tran……The Day One chip leaders have gone on to cash 77 percent of the time. Eight of these same 31 chip leaders (26 percent) made it to the final table. There has been only one wire-to-wire winner and that was Vanessa Selbst in Event #19. In addition, 13 of the 30 chip leaders at the start of the final table (43 percent) went on to win the event. Nineteen of 30 chip leaders (65 percent) went on to finish in the top three spots.


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