German wins $10K PLO event, $661K at WSOP

25 June 2012

Jan-Peter Jachtman, a relatively unknown German poker player, beat the great Sammy Farha at his own game.

Jachtman managed to cross a vast ocean and travel a great distance in order to fulfill a dream. He spends the majority of his time promoting the game and its greatest players, but suddenly found himself in the unfamiliar role of poker champion.

The reason you now know Jachtmann’s name –- indeed, the entire reason you are reading this true tale now –- stems from a single moment, now frozen in the mind of the latest World Series of Poker gold bracelet champion.

Prior to this year, Jan-Peter Jachtmann had never cashed in any event held at the WSOP. The 44-year-old publisher and semi-pro poker player from Hamburg, Germany enjoyed a few prior tournament wins in Austria. Alas, Jachtmann had paid his dues many times over for more than 20 years as a dedicated semi-pro player, dating back to the game’s infancy in central Europe, when the most popular form of poker played in the few casinos that existed was seven card Stud.

Whatever Jachtmann accomplished as a player was certainly outdone by his role as a publisher and poker journalist. He founded, and still runs “POKERBLATT,” which is Germany’s largest poker magazine. No doubt, Jachtmann’s duties over the past year were made much easier by fellow-countryman Pius Heinz’s victory at the 2011 WSOP Main Event.

Several days ago, Jachtmann arrived in Las Vegas. He came as a player, not as a journalist. Jachtmann intended to play in just three gold bracelet events – all Pot-Limit Omaha tournaments. Jachtmann managed to cash in his very first attempt, coming in 43rd-place in the $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event. One-for-one. Not a bad way to start a WSOP career.

Jachtmann fell flat in his second tournament attempt. He was never a factor. That left Jachtmann with one last opportunity to make this WSOP visit something to remember.

Three days ago, when Jachtmann sat down amidst 293 of the world’s most grizzled Pot-Limit Omaha specialists, he was arguably one of the least-recognizable faces in the crowd. Every table was filled with poker superstars.

Former gold bracelet winner Robert Williamson III, with nine PLO cashes within the last 10 years (including a cash in this event) was at his table. So was Huck Seed, the 1996 world poker champion. Two-time gold bracelet winner Jason Mercier, joined the game -- who ended up final tabling this event, as well. Then, there was “the man.”

When it comes to Pot-Limit Omaha, “the man” is Sammy Farha.

The poker legend may be more famous for the match he lost (against Chris Moneymaker, in 2003) than the times he won. The man with three Omaha-related WSOP gold bracelet victories appeared to be on the verge of making another deep run, when he ended the second day’s action as one of the chip leaders.

On the third and final day, with only 11 players remaining, there’s no way Farha could have foreseen that the turning point was about to occur. Farha probably didn’t even know the opponent's name who was about to end his tournament life. It would be quick. It would be shocking. And, it almost didn’t happen.

Farha was sitting comfortably on over a million in chips when the average stack was just half that. One of the few players in the tournament with more chips was Jan-Peter Jachtmann.

The hand that ultimately determined the destiny of both players, and propelled the winner onto victory was the classic trap hand, so often seen in Pot-Limit Omaha. The cards and suits won’t be recounted here. Let’s just say Jachtmann held a straight and was staring coldly into a paired board.

A paired board is a land mine in pot-limit Omaha. It’s potentially explosive. One misstep, and a tournament life is blown away. Suddenly, there is an empty seat and a new chip leader. That’s the paired board trap in pot-limit Omaha.

Gazing into that ugly paired board, Jachtmann knew he had a nine-high straight. He watched in anguish as the Omaha master Farha paused and then slowly shoved virtually all of his stack toward the center of the table. Farha was close to being all-in. It was decision time.

Faced with the prospect of being left with having almost nothing left, or catapulting into the chip lead if his hand was good, Jachtmann went into the tank. He thought about his decision. If Jachtmann guessed wrong in the very last WSOP event of the year he would play, within 24 hours he’d be back on a plane to Germany, albeit with an interesting story or two. But if he guessed right, the possibility to a gold bracelet would very much be within reach.

Jachtmann decided to shove and take his chances that his hand was good. Farha -- with one of the paired board cards in his hand still had outs -- was pot-committed. He called. A blank hit on the river, a nail in the legend's coffin, as well as a temporary proxy of a far more precious metal amulet that was to come a short time later.
Farha’s tournament life was over. Meanwhile, there was a new chip leader who never lost his momentum from that point forward.

“If I would have won that hand, I would have won the tournament,” Farha quietly and confidently said later. “I had reads on every player at my table. There’s no way I would not have won it.”

Ironically, Jachtmann had knocked out one of the players he admires most.

“The crazy thing is Sammy Farha is one of my absolute idols,” Jachtmann revealed afterward. “I didn’t tell him before, but I wanted to tell him later. You don’t just go up and say ‘Hey, you’re my idol,’ and then he starts playing differently against you. When I was watching poker on television, I saw Sammy Farha and I was like ‘Wow, he’s a cool guy.”

With Farha’s former chips as his own, there was absolutely no stopping the Jachtmann express. He arrived at the final table as the chip leader. During the final ordeal, Jachtmann was never in serious danger of elimination, although former gold bracelet winner Andrew Brown did his best to put up some kind of road block to derail the roaring German freight train.

Indeed, it was full steam ahead at a final table that went a lightening-quick four hours.

With his victory, Jan-Peter Jachtmann became the first German player to win a WSOP gold bracelet since Pius Heinz won last year's Main Event. Interestingly, this now places two German players in the reigning hierarchy of poker's two most popular games -- Heinz as the undisputed no-Limit Hold'em heavyweight king, and Jachtmann as the new pot-limit Omaha world champion.

Jachtmann collected the astronomical sum of $661,000 in prize money, plus his first WSOP gold bracelet. Brown, who won his gold bracelet in 2008 playing in the $2,000 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split event, claimed $408,393, while Steven Silverman was $299,960 for third. Micah Smith was fourth for $222,044, Andy Seth was fifth for $165,665, and Benjamin Sage was sixth for $124,600. Nikolai Yakovenko (seventh), Jason Mercier (eighth) and Joe Kushner (ninth) also made the final table.

The top-36 players finished in the money. Notable players who cashed but did not make the final table included: Ville Wahlbeck (10th), Farha (11th), Allen Cunningham (17th), Joe Beevers (19th), Hasan Habib (21st), Ted Lawson (22nd), Bryn Kenney (23rd), Naoya Kihara (25th), Michael Binger (28th), Robert Williamson III (34th), and Nenad Medic (36th).

Last year, this event drew 361 players. This year's draw of 293 represented an 18.8 percent drop from last year.

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

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