Cassidy defeats Scotty Nguyen to win first WSOP bracelet, baby!

18 June 2012

When Phil Ivey wins a poker tournament, the headline always reads – PHIL IVEY WINS! When someone else wins, the headline all too often reads – PHIL IVEY LOSES!

On Thursday afternoon, in the midst of the 2012 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, a first-time gold bracelet winner managed to write his own headline in bold block letters – JOE CASSIDY WINS A GOLD BRACELET!

Phil Ivey was nowhere in sight.

Also out of sight was the ultimate runner-up, another mega-superstar, Scotty Nguyen -- who proved to be no match for Cassidy in the final heads-up match.

In what was unquestionably the brassiest of all final tables played so far this year, Cassidy demolished a playing session that included not only Phil Ivey and Scotty Nguyen, but also Meng La (fourth), Gregory Jamison (fifth), Elie Doft (sixth), Bart Hanson (seventh), Mike Matusow (eighth), and Ryan Lenaghan (ninth). Cassidy claimed $294,777 for first.

"It’s great to play with players like that," said Cassidy. "You learn a lot watching them and seeing some of the little things they do in hands and things that you might not think to do in tournaments. Just a great experience as a poker player."

No doubt, Ivey’s third final table appearance within a six-day window was the talk of the WSOP when cards initially flew into the air at the start of the third day of competition. By that stage of the tournament, the initial field size of 256 players -- each posting the $5,000 entry fee in order to play in the biggest buy-in Omaha High-Low Split tournament of the year -- had been reduced to a small cast of supremely skilled characters, with Ivey unquestionably playing the starring role.

The final table area was filled to capacity and standing-room only during much of the day and night, despite a playing session that dragged out until 3 a.m. late on Wednesday night. The match went so long, that once Ivey bit the dust in third place, the two finalists agreed to postpone the ultimate showdown for an unscheduled fourth day, which took place on Thursday.

It’s inconceivable to think of a scenario where either Nguyen (owner of five gold bracelets, including the 1998 Main Event) or Mike “the Mouth” Matusow (owner of three gold bracelets) ever would be overshadowed at any final table. But that’s precisely what happened when Ivey strolled quietly and confidently into his all-too familiar kingdom and took his seat, determined to toss the disappointment of two previous crash and burns onto the ash heap of public consciousness and win what he hoped would be a ninth gold bracelet, thus moving him into a tie with late great poker legend Johnny Moss.

No doubt, the runner-up had something to prove as well. Still stung somewhat by what many in poker considered to be a tainted victory that happened four years ago in the ultra-prestigious 2008 Poker Players Championship, when Scotty Nguyen won his biggest cash prize of his life and achieved his second-greatest career accolade –- a night marred by Nguyen’s boisterous and less-than-gentlemanly conduct –- the far more subdued Nguyen on this stage hoped to make a bold return to the winner’s circle in an event he had won two times previously.

But Joe Cassidy had something to prove, as well -- and he did just that. Cassidy proved once and for all that he could not only play with the very best under the pressure of the poker world’s eyes watching, he could also defeat the very best at their own game.

As things turned out, it was Ivey, Nguyen, Matusow, and many more who ended up as extras, mere footnotes in a grand show that had only one real star, and that was Joe Cassidy.

"To be able to look down and to see those guys and say that at least on one day you were able to beat them, that’s pretty amazing," said Cassidy.

Nguyen claimed $182,213 for second, while Ivey won $136,046 for third and La won $102,260 for fourth. The top-27 players finished in the money.

Modified from tournament notes provided by WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla.

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