Gertzwiller wins a WSOP title for the USA

9 June 2011

If American Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere were still alive today, he might very likely relocate his famous midnight ride from the streets of Boston to the modern-day Las Vegas Strip. In light of what's happening at this year's World Series of Poker, his message would remain the same: “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

After two British players won WSOP gold bracelets the previous week, one American finally stepped forward and had one word to say, “Enough.”

Sean Getzwiller, from Las Vegas, Nev., won the $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Wednesday. In doing so, he blockaded Sadan Turker from joining his union-jacked mates, Jake Cody and Matt Perrins, as WSOP gold bracelet winners.

Getzwiller won an epic heads-up match that lasted more than four hours. He collected a
whopping $611,185 in prize money and a WSOP gold bracelet. This marked his ninth time to cash at the WSOP in the last four years. His best previous showing was a 10th-place finish in an Omaha High-Low event, held in 2009.

“I feel amazing," said Getziller. "I mean, I won a bracelet in a 4,000-player event. How much better can I feel? I ran really well. I won a great tournament. If you’re going to win a 4,000-player event you’ve got to feel really good and run really well. I’m just happy that I’m here.”

As for Getzwiller’s victory, there was at least one cantankerous bystander in the crowd, cheering on the American. Even though he did not personally know the eventual winner, longtime poker veteran Padraig Parkinson – who is originally from Dublin, Ireland -- was thrilled to see a non-Brit finally win the title.

“Every time I hear them play ‘God Save the Queen’ at the bracelet ceremony, I have to leave the room,” he snapped. “I’ve never gotten so much exercise.”

Indeed, Getzwiller’s victory came against a very determined British opponent and he seemed to have the perfect fashion accessory on what turned out to be his winning day. Emblazoned across the front of Getzwiller’s black t-shirt were the words, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” reminiscent of an arduous battle cry a few hundred years ago – with a similar outcome.

The shirt was not meant as an affront to British players, who have been dominating the headlines during the first week of results. However, the shirt and phrase were ironic since Getzwiller ended up beating an English opponent in a brutally tough heads-up match that lasted more than four hours.

Getzwiller is 33-years-old. Born in Tucson, Getzwiller grew up on a ranch in Arizona, and graduated from the University of Arizona. He worked in real estate for several years, but in the midst of the economic downturn, he began playing poker during his free time. Getzwiller developed skill and eventually became a professional poker player. He moved to Las Vegas about one month before this year’s WSOP began with the intent to play in more cash games and tournaments, including the WSOP.

Turker, a 22-year-old student and semi-pro poker player from London, began playing poker about five years ago. Turker is primarily an online player. He barely missed winning his first WSOP title, but did manage to collect a nice consolation prize of $377,411.

The British invasion is just as much about age as country. Through the completion of the first nine events at the 2011 WSOP there have been six British poker players under the age of 24 who have appeared at final tables.

Last year, poker players from Great Britain won five WSOP events played in Las Vegas. No doubt, the English contingent now threatens to obliterate that mark and hopes to establish a new record for the most WSOP wins by a country (other than the U.S.) which is shared by both Great Britain and Canada (at 5).

The two finalists each had a cheering section sitting to the player’s backside. The long match involved nearly a dozen chip-lead changes. Each time the momentum shifted, one side of the arena became visibly more excited in anticipation of victory. But emotions were deflated several times since the short stack won every conceivable confrontation until the conclusion. By the end of the match just about everyone in the crowd was exhausted.

Late in the match, one of the floor men who was watching the long finale barked, “Don’t worry, everyone, this tournament will be over before the Main Event starts.” The Main Event is scheduled to begin July 7.

Getzwiller’s winning hand was pocket fives, which made a set when a five came on the flop. Turker was left drawing dead on the turn.

The third-place finisher was Jon “Pearljammer” Turner, from Henderson, Nev. He is a 29-year-old professional poker player. This was Turner’s highest WSOP finish, to date – which now includes five final table appearances and 15 in-the-money finishes. Turner is a graduate of North Carolina State. He is known as “Pearljammer,” and has authored two poker books in a popular series called, “Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time.” The third book in the trilogy is expected to be released soon.

Max Weinberg, a 21-year-old poker pro from Northbook, Ill., was fourth. This is the first year Weinberg has played at the WSOP, following two big cashes in previous tournaments held at the Caribbean Adventure and the Heartland Poker Tour.

Stefan Raffay, a 23-year-old Danish citizen currently living in Sweden, was fifth. Raffay was once a highly-competitive table tennis player and was on the Danish National Team. He has also enjoyed success in poker, winning the Danish National Championship in 2006 and finishing ninth in 2009.

Gary (a.k.a. Lawrence) Riley, a 73-year-old retiree from Lancaster, Calif., was sixth, while Hunter Frey, a 25-year-old poker pro from Houston, Texas, was seventh. Frey took third place in a WSOP event in 2007 and now has 12 WSOP cashes. With online play, he has earned more than $3 million in poker tournaments overall.

Daniel Haglund, a 21-year-old poker pro from Tibro, Sweden, finished eighth, and Odette Tremblay, from Mesa, Ariz., was ninth.

The final table began on Tuesday at midnight, ending for the day at 4 a.m. Final table action was suspended when play reached three-handed, due to the late hour. This year for the first time, all tournament play runs a maximum of 10 levels. The total duration of the final table lasted about 10 hours. Nearly half of that was played heads-up.

The top 423 finishers collected prize money. This was the largest number of players paid for any event played so far in 2011. Some of the former WSOP gold bracelet winners who cashed in this event included – Peter Gelencser (57th), Layne Flack (95th), Dao Bac (142nd), Vitaly Lunkin (183rd), Kathy Liebert (204th), Dan Heimiller (392nd), and John Hom (398th).

Tom McCormick, a.k.a. “The Shamrock Kid” added to his impressive/dubious record as the player ranked second in history with cashes, but no gold bracelet. He cashed for the second time this year and now has 36 in-the-money finishes ($450,000 in prize money), albeit no jewelry. Only Tony Cousineau has more, with 46.

Tournament recap provided by Nolan Dalla, WSOP Media Director, by permission.

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