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Al-Keliddar earns first WSOP bracelet

12 July 2018

Yaser Al-Keliddar

Yaser Al-Keliddar (photo by WSOP)

Name: Yaser Al-Keliddar
Nationality: American
Birthplace: England
Current Residence: Washington, DC
Age: 37
Profession: Real Estate investor
Number of WSOP Cashes: 3
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 1
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 52nd in 2018 $1,500 Limit Hold'em for $3,010
Total WSOP Earnings: $172,348

At 37 years old, Yaser Al-Keliddar has accomplished a lot. He graduated from law school, practiced law, ran successful businesses, invested in real estate, performed stand-up comedy and became a winning poker player.

He added a big notch on his poker resume on Wednesday evening by taking down the $3,000 limit hold’em six-max event for his first World Series of Poker bracelet. The DC area semi-professional poker player defeated 221 entries and earned $154,338.

“I’m relieved because I was tied for the chip lead heading into the day, so to have blown it would have been rough,” said Al-Keliddar after his win. “I had a lot of friends from back home who were really supportive, cheering me on, and that helped a lot. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”

Al-Keliddar started playing poker nearly two decades ago and earned his first WSOP cash in 2004 when he finished 126th in the Main Event for $15,000.

“I played the Main Event in 2004, when I was a baby when I was 23-years-old,” said Al-Keliddar. “I had Doyle Brunson at my table on Day 3. I made the money and that was exciting.”

He took another shot at the main in 2006 but failed to cash. After that, he was playing mostly online poker and with all the other things he had going on in his life, he didn’t have much time to make it back to Vegas.

“I started law school and was kind of too busy to come out to the World Series,” he said. “I went in 2006 and didn’t come back to Vegas ‘til 2016. I played only the Main Event and played it again last summer.”

This summer was different. He stopped practicing law and began spending more time in poker rooms. He came back to the desert ready to grind and earned his first cash in 14 years with a 52nd place finish in the $1,500 limit hold’em.

He wasn’t even planning to play the six-max until his friend reminded him that there was another limit hold’em event to be played before the end of the series. He hopped in it, won it, and is heading back east on a high note.

“I wasn’t going to play this thing until an hour and a half before,” said Al-Keliddar. “My friend texted me and was like ‘Hey, you want to play this tournament?’ It wasn’t even on my radar, but I do play a lot of limit hold’em back home, so I said ‘Sure, why not?’

Like many, Al-Keliddar got his start in no-limit hold’em, but eventually made the transition to limit games because of the pace of play and the lack of knowledge that some players have about the game. With so much else going on in his life, it’s quite the accomplishment that he was able to achieve such an advanced knowledge of the game.

“I don’t know. It’s a good question,” said Al-Keliddar about how he balances everything in his life. “I don’t really do stand-up comedy anymore. I opened for ‘Screech’ (Dustin Diamond) two months ago, but that was my first show in four years. Stand-up comedy is something I was trying for fun.”

Of all the things he has done already, comedy gave him the skills most relatable to poker.

“If you make your opponents laugh, that’s good,” he said. “It helps you get people to play with you over and over again. It’s good to have the same crew coming back to play every week and entertaining them is a big part of poker pros, or semi-pros as I am.

“There are a lot of grinders with their hoodies on, glasses and headphones and they don’t say a word. They don’t realize how much it is affecting their bottom line. You got to make people lose money to you and enjoy it while they’re doing it.”

The final day of the event got cards in the air at 2 p.m. with eight players remaining. It didn’t take long to lose Joao Vieria in eighth-place and the final seven players combined to the unofficial final table of seven with Al-Keliddar holding the chip lead.

The seven players battled for another 70 minutes before Won Lee busted in seventh and the final six players were all credited with making the six-handed final table.

Just over an orbit into the final table, one of poker’s most recognizable names hit the rail. Barry Greenstein was all in preflop with pocket sixes against Al-Keliddar’s pocket kings. The board ran out clean for Al-Keliddar which eliminated the three-time bracelet winner in sixth-place.

At the start of the next level, arguably the most accomplished limit hold’em player in the field busted. Mike Schneider, who made a living for quite some time playing high-stakes online limit hold’em, busted to Juha Helppi.

Schneider was on the button and got in the last of his chips against Helppi in the big blind. It was Helppiagainst Schneider. After the runout, it was Helppi that reigned supreme to send one of two Minnesota players home in fifth.

“Schneids” earned $28,708 for his second WSOP final table of his career.

Four-handed play lasted for about another level and a half with the chips starting to even out a little bit before Andrew Yip began to slide down the leaderboard.

Just before the second break of the day, Yip busted in fourth to the other Minnesota player at the final table, Justin Thurlow. Thurlow raised on the button and Yip was in the small blind. Yip three-bet, Thurlow four-bet and Yip called, which committed the last of his chips preflop.

Yip was dominated with his king-nine against Thurlow’s ace-king. The board didn’t change anything, and Yip was eliminated in fourth-place for $41,665.

Thurlow won the pot but didn’t keep those chips for long. Three-handed play lasted almost the entire next level. Helppi doubled through Thurlow, which put him on the short stack. He busted near the end of the level.

Helppi finished off Thurlow when Thurlow got the last of his chips into the middle on the flop against Helppi.

Thurlow was in the lead but had a lot of cards to dodge. He faded the turn card, but the eight of spades on the river gave Helppi a bigger pair, the pot, and the knockout. Thurlow earned $62,187 for his third-place finish, and Helppi went heads-up with Al-Keliddar for the title.

Al-Keliddar started heads-up play with the chip lead and only extended it throughout the early segments of the heads-up battle. He quickly opened a sizable chip lead and had Helppi down to his last couple of bets.

Eventually, Helppi was forced to put his last couple of chips into the middle against Al-Keliddar’s pocket fours.

The board ran out and Al-Keliddar’s pair held up to deny the Finnish pro his first bracelet and send the DC native back to the nation’s capital with some hardware.

Final table results
1st: Yaser Al-Keliddar - $154,338
2nd: Juha Helppi - $95,380
3rd: Justin Thurlow - $62,187
4th: Andrew Yip - $41,665
5th: Mike Schneider - $28,708
6th: Barry Greenstein - $20,358

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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