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Seasoned pro scores fourth WSOP bracelet

13 June 2018

Brian Rast

Brian Rast (photo by WSOP)

Name: Brian Rast
Nationality: American
Birthplace: Denver, CO
Current Residence: Las Vegas, NV
Age: 36
Profession: Professional poker player
Number of WSOP Cashes: 33
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 4
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 1st in 2016 $50,000 Poker Players Championship
Total WSOP Earnings: $5,862,659

In what will inevitably go down as one of the most historic final tables in the history of the World Series of Poker, it was Brian Rast who reigned supreme.

Rast won his fourth bracelet in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the $10,000 no-limit 2-7 single draw championship event. He bested 95 entries and earned $259,670 for his efforts, but this tournament will forever be remembered as Doyle Brunson’s final appearance at the World Series of Poker.

Brunson registered for this event at the last possible second, at the start of Day 2, and announced on Twitter it would be the last WSOP event that he will ever play. To the dismay of poker fans around the globe, the 10-time bracelet winner was eliminated in sixth place, which made Rast’s victory just a bit more special.

“It did. You know, in the last couple years, I’ve started playing with Doyle a lot,” said Rast after his win. “So, in that respect, it was, you know, just another day playing with Doyle, but I could still take a step back and appreciate, like from the poker world’s poker world’s perspective … he has a history of back-to-back and the 10-two named after him because he won the back-to-back championships and he’s won a lot of bracelets . . . He’s a legend.”

The 36-year-old poker pro obviously came to the final table with hopes of winning. However, if he didn’t take home WSOP gold, he was rooting for Brunson to leave the game on top.

“I could really appreciate from that perspective how special it was that Doyle came, he actually played a tournament this year and final tabled it,” said Rast. “And you know everyone was pulling for Doyle and I can understand that. And you know, outside of me, I was pulling for Doyle too.”

This is Rast’s fourth bracelet, which puts him just shy of $6 million in WSOP earnings alone. However he is not a tournament pro. Rast is used to playing in the biggest cash games in Las Vegas. He’s a regular in the famed ‘Bobby’s Room’ games, as well as nosebleed stakes big-bet mixed games around town.

He’s used to playing against and beating some of the best players in the world during his normal cash game grind. When you look at his tournament results, with two $50,000 Poker Players Championship titles, and now a $10,000 buy-in bracelet, it’s clear that he’s comfortable playing against anybody in the world.

“I only play against the best players in the world anymore,” said Rast. “I don’t really play any small cash games or even small buy-in tournaments anymore . . . So, I mean, a lot of the people who are playing those games there, the big, big cash games are the best players in the world . . . Those are the situations I’m in.”

The Denver native broke into the high-stakes poker world pretty much from the moment he turned pro about 13 years ago. He started out as just a no-limit hold’em player and eventually decided to learn mixed games after the nosebleed-stakes big-bet games started to dry up.

“I had been playing in Macau and had been getting to play in, you know, some games that were maybe a little softer here and that kind of went away and Macau stopped being as good and I stopped wanting to go over there because of my family,” said Rast. “And I’m like ‘Well, I’m going to try to learn mixed games.”

He is used to playing cash games as big as $2,000/$4,000 limit mixed games. The swings in those games can be much bigger than what most of the final table made. Aside from the money, playing a WSOP final table still gets his heart pumping.

Playing all the way down until one player is left and the camaraderie it generates among the high-stakes community is what makes these experiences special to him.

“Poker is not always all about the money,” said Rast. “You know, I mean, the money is obviously really important. Like, you know, if you’re doing this for your job it’s kind of the most important thing. But there is something cool about just being at this final table. Friends, family, other people in the poker world who are texting you stuff and it’s like a cool thing where you get to share your career with friends and family.

“This element gives everyone who you normally play with something to talk about, something to share, something that bonds you a little bit, which as the years go by is nice.”

One of the most impressive stats about Rast’s career is his lack of a runner-up finish at a WSOP final table. In an era where the debate between Lebron James and Michael Jordan is seemingly centered around production on basketball’s grandest stage, Rast quietly put up a 4-0 record in heads-up matches with a bracelet on the line.

“Don’t jinx me like that,” said Rast with a laugh. “I’m aware of this, but you can’t jinx it, okay? You know, I have some thoughts about that I’m going to keep to myself, but I feel like I’ve been in some good situations. I’ve also gotten lucky, you know. Whether or not I have some kind of small edge or not when it comes down to heads-up, the fact that basically by and large, in a lot of big spots, I haven’t come in second, there is some good luck to that and I’m very fortunate, very pleased.”

The final 11 players returned for the tournament’s final day with all eyes fixated on the 10-time bracelet winner and the possibility of finishing his career with his 11th.

The field lost three players in the first 40 minutes of play, including Doyle’s son and bracelet winner Todd. The final eight players took their seat at the unofficial final table and it took nearly three hours before Farzad Bonyadi was eliminated by James Alexander to leave the final seven at the final table.

Another hour passed before John Hennigan hit the rail in seventh place at the hands of Rast. The four-time bracelet winner got all in before the draw and drew one drawing to an eight-low. Rast also drew one drawing to a nine. Variance took over and Rast made a 10-low, while Hennigan caught a queen.

The next elimination was the one everybody was dreading. Brunson hit the rail for the last time in sixth place. He was all in before the draw against James Alexander. They each drew one with Brunson drawing to an eight-low and Alexander looking to make a 10-low.

Once again, the worse draw drew better. Alexander made his 10-low and Brunson drew a king, sending the legend home in sixth place. Everybody in the Amazon room got out of their chairs and gave the man known as Dolly a standing ovation.

“He’s played the highest stakes for 60 years,” said Rast about Brunson. “Longer than anyone and I think that’s what really he is legendary for.”

Brunson gave a tip of his cowboy hat to the crowd, grabbed his crutch, got on his scooter and headed out of the Amazon room to collect his final World Series of Poker cash. After watching Brunson’s iconic exit, the final five players took a short impromptu break.

They returned composed and ready to start five-handed play, which lasted for about an hour before Shawn Sheikhan was eliminated in fifth by Dario Sammartino.

Sheikhan, a well-known high-stakes gambler, shoved all in after both players drew one. Sammartino called with a 10-low, which was good against Sheikhan’s king-low.

That gave Sammartino a sizable chip lead, but that was when Rast really began to take over the table. He picked off bluffs from multiple players and then eliminated Alexander. Rast was dealt a pat 10-low and Alexander was drawing two with a 6x 3x 2x in his hand. He ended up with an ace-low and was gone in fourth.

Alexander’s elimination gave Rast the chip lead for good. He slowly extended it and then eliminated Sammartino in third when his pat jack-nine held up against Sammartino’s one-card draw to a nine-low.

Sammartino’s departure left Rast battling Mike Wattel heads-up, who was in search of his third bracelet. Rast started out the match with nearly a 4-to-1 chip lead, but the battle between the final two players lasted for about three hours before Rast finally clinched the title.

Both players were dealt pat hands and got all in before the draw. After both players stood pat, Wattel tabled a 10-7 low and Rast won the pot with a nine-low to end one of the most memorable final tables in poker history.

Final table results
1st: Brian Rast - $259,670
2nd: Mike Wattel - $160,489
3rd: Dario Sammartino - $114,023
4th: James Alexander - $81,986
5th: Shawn Sheikhan - $59,669
6th: Doyle Brunson - $43,963
7th: John Hennigan - $32,796

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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Seasoned pro scores fourth WSOP bracelet is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.