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Albini earns first WSOP bracelet

18 June 2018

Steve Albini

Steve Albini (photo by WSOP)

Name: Steve Albini
Nationality: American
Birthplace: Pasadena, California
Current Residence: Chicago, Illinois
Age: 55
Profession: Recording engineer
Number of WSOP Cashes: 6
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 1
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 5
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 12th, 2013 WSOP Event #26: $1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold'em Championship ($40,694)
Total WSOP Earnings: $164,228
Personal Facts: Albini is married (to Heather) and owns a sound studio in Chicago. He also plays in a band, Shellac of North America, and returned from a European tour to play at the WSOP.

Chicago, Illinois' Steve Albini has earned his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet in the 2018 WSOP's Event #31, $1,500 Seven Card Stud. Albini's victory over a 310-entrant field was worth $105,629.

Albini, 55, a recording engineer from Chicago, pulled off an unusual double at the final table. Albini busted six-time bracelet winner Chris Ferguson in fourth, then outlasted another six-time bracelet winner, Jeff Lisandro, to seal the victory.

Albini's career-best payday more than doubled his previous lifetime WSOP earnings of $58,599, collected in five previous cashes.

Lisandro, 53, the veteran pro and Australian native who now lives in Salerno, Italy, collected $65,282 for the second-place run. Lisandro's 69th career WSOP cash pushed his Series lifetime earnings to more than $4.3 million.

Ft. Myers, Florida's Katherine Fleck finished third to earn $43,765. One of Fleck's two previous WSOP cashes was a fourth-place showing in this same event in 2016.

Ferguson's fourth-place finish was worth $29,999 and moved his career WSOP winnings to nearly $6.2 million. Colorado's Frankie O'Dell, owner of two WSOP bracelets himself, finished fifth for $21,035.

Albini began heads-up play against Lisandro with a narrow lead, but Lisandro soon moved ahead. On three different occasions, Lisandro gained more than a 2:1 edge, Albini climbed back each time, and on the third surge continued a long run of good cards that carried him to the win.

Time after time, as is often the norm in seven-card stud, Lisandro was forced to fold in the face of Albini's threatening board cards. The final hand found Lisandro's stack reduced to just a bring-in and a call of Albini's completion bet.

Leading that celebration was two-time bracelet winner Brandon Shack-Harris, whose early bustout gave him the chance to rail Albini's win. According to Albini, “I owe him an awful lot for my development as a player. I owe a lot of it to my peer group, my group of friends, who helped me learn and understand poker. Eric Rodawig, 'Little Pieces', he's been a great friend who helped me a lot. Matt Grapenthien, who's another Chicago player . . . all the people that I play with all the time in Chicago, they're all friendly people who are open with their knowledge.” Albini also thanked Matt Ashton for some stud-specific strategy.

“I also owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my wife, Heather. There was a lot of complicated stuff going on at home and she was gracious enough to say it would be OK if I came out here for this. I really appreciate her indulging me in my . . . hobby.” Albini had just returned from a European tour with his band, Shellac of North America, and squeezed the WSOP trip into his jam-packed schedule.

The recording-studio owner wasn't quite sure how to feel following the win. “I am ecstatic that a player as mediocre as me can outlast all of these better players and end up with a bracelet. There's still hope for everybody!” This belied his long experience in the game, which he's played since the '90s, and his learning sessions via playing many of Chicago's best mixed-games pros.

“This year the stud event occurred simultaneously with the Seniors Event, and simultaneously with the $50K [Poker Players Championship],” both of which included many talented seven-card stud players. “So the field for the stud tournament, I think, was kind of historically weak, which allowed a sucker like me to make it to the final table. With some prescient coaching from my friends and a good run of cards – I ran pretty fucking good as well. I hit a lot of hands early in the final table.”

Albini's path to victory opened up in large pot due to a huge hand against Ferguson that pushed Albini into the lead, and Ferguson on a slide that would send him out in fourth.

“It was kind of a cooler,” said Albini. “I had two pair going down [to the last streets] and he had a flush draw going down. My board ran out looking like a flush, and he made a dominant flush, like ace-king. There was a hand we played yesterday where he rivered aces full and I had been playing a two-pair hand pretty much the same way, with a board that was very similar. In that hand yesterday he whiffed the check-raise on the river; he made aces full on the river and whiffed the check-raise.

“The way it played out was almost identical [to yesterday]. My board looked like a flush; in fact I had a two-pair hand. His board was kind of indiscriminate, broken, it could've been a flush, could've been a straight, but he had an ace onboard and was showing a pair.

“I made queens full on the river. He led into me on the river, I raised with queens full, and he three-bet showing a pair and an ace. The situation was almost identical to yesterday, and I'm certain he remembered, having whiffed the check-raise on the river to three-bet if he made aces full this time.” Albini then just called, fearing another aces-full hand for Ferguson, but he ended up dragging the huge pot anyway, for roughly a third of the chips in play. The hand recast the entire shape of the final table, paving the way to Albini's win.

Nine players returned on Saturday for the finale of this seven-card stud event, led by prior bracelet winner Michael Moore's 485,000 stack. Nearly two hours later, Steven Rivers busted to bubble the official final table.

First out from the eight-player final was Las Vegas's Esther Rossi, who busted in a hand against Ferguson. Rossi was all in by fourth street. Ferguson's early pair of queens never improved further but still held up for the knockout, sending Rossi to the rail for $8,355 in eighth-place money.

Out next was Moore, who never recaptured his Day 2 run-good and busted in seventh for $11,095. Moore was down to his last 140,000 and gave it a go with a diamond flush, betting fourth, fifth, and then sixth street to be all in. Katherine Fleck called Moore's bets all the way and ended up with the winning two pair when Moore's fifth diamond never came.

Henderon, Nevada's Paul Sexton's deep Event #31 run ended soon after. Sexton was down to just 21,000 in chips, and was forced to play. Albini completed, as the other players got out of the way, and ended up with just a pair of eights. Yet that was still better than Sexton's hand, which mustered just a pair of fours. Sexton mucked his last card unseen, then headed off to collect the $15,096 payday.

Two-time bracelet winner Frankie O'Dell exited next. Colorado's O'Dell finished second in Event #12: $1,500 Dealers Choice 6-Handed less than two weeks ago, and logged another near-miss here. O'Dell survived several all-ins before Ferguson ended his run. O'Dell committed his last chips on fourth street, but never made a pair while Ferguson sent him to rail my making queens up to take the pot.

Ferguson had the lead at this stage and appeared on his way to the win until he and Albini tangled in a giant pot that saw Albini make a full house, queens over sevens, while Ferguson missed his own draw to aces full but still ended up with a club flush. The hand pushed Albini into the lead and started Ferguson's downturn.

Ferguson busted over an hour later after his stack continued to shrink, with Albini picking up the knockout. Reduced to less than a single small bet, Ferguson was forced to bring in Albini completed. Lisandro and Fleck folded out of the hand, and Ferguson showed a split pair of deuces to Albini's ace-high. Albini paired his seven on fifth street to move ahead, but then Ferguson caught an ace to make a second pair. Albini needed the case ace or another seven, and he caught that seven with his own sixth-street card. Both players blanked on seventh, leaving Ferguson to exit in fourth.

Fleck had also been short-stacked for several laps, and she soon followed Ferguson to the cashier. Fleck made her last stand with a split pair of fives but ran into Lisandro's split pair of tens, with the last of her remaining 190,000 in chips in the pot on fifth street. Neither Fleck's nor Lisandro's hand significantly improved. Fleck's exit brought on the heads-up duel between Lisandro and Albini, with Albini holding that slim edge as action resumed.

Event #31, $1,500 Seven Card Stud, attracted 310 entrants and created a prize pool of $418,500. 47 players cashed, with a min-cash worth $2,250.

Other notables
Among those cashing in Event #31 were Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier (11th, $5,110), Jameson Painter (14th, $4,155), Julien Martini (17th, $2,982), Perry Friedman (21st, $2,982), Ashton Griffin (27th, $2,635), Mark Radoja (28th, $2,635), David Levi (38th, $2,398), Ben Yu (45th, $2,250), and Adam Friedman (47th, $2,250).

Final table payouts (POY points in parentheses)
1st: Steve Albini, $105,629 (896.83)
2nd: Jeff Lisandro, $65,282 (448.42)
3rd: Katherine Fleck, $43,765 (403.58)
4th: Chris Ferguson, $29,999 (358.73)
5th: Frankie O'Dell, $21,035 (336.31)
6th: Paul Sexton, $15,096 (313.89)
7th: Michael Moore, $11,095 (269.05)
8th: Esther Rossi, $8,355 (246.63)

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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