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Barbaro wins largest Omaha high-low event in history at WSOP

4 June 2011

Francesco "Cheech" Barbaro won the largest live Omaha high-low tournament in history, topping a field of 925 players to win the $1,500 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split Championship at the 2011 World Series of Poker to win $252,283 in prize money.

The 925 entries beat the all-time record, set in 2009 when 918 Omaha fanatics jammed the Rio in search of victory. Last year, the tournament drew 818 players.

A 37-year-old poker pro from Chicago, Barbaro has been playing full-time for about two years. Remarkably, this was the first WSOP tournament Barbaro had ever entered. He mostly recently worked as a bartender before taking up poker as a full-time occupation.

Barbaro’s breakthrough victory in tournament poker took place at last year’s WSOP Circuit series, held at the Hammond Horseshoe, located across the border from Chicago, in Indiana. Barbaro won the $350 buy-in HORSE tournament for $16,431 and a gold ring.

"The win at the Horseshoe in Indiana really helped me here," said Barbaro. "I was not nervous. I was actually more nervous before this all started. But once I sat down to play, I started feeling really comfortable."

Barbaro is one of only three players in history to win both a WSOP Circuit gold ring and a WSOP gold bracelet within the same season. The other two players are Chris Bell (2010) and Chris Reslock (2007).

Kostas Kalathakis, a 28-year old businessman from Port Richey, Fla., finished second to win $161.675. Matt Waxman, a professional player from Parkland, Fla., won $104,770 for his third-place finish and ran his career tournament earnings to $1.3 million.

Bradley Helm, a casino host from Scottsdale, Ariz., was fourth, and Michael DeVeronica, from West Park, Fla., was fifth.

Popular Costa Rica poker pro Humberto Brenes, who is among the all-time leaders in
multiple WSOP categories, finished sixth. This was Brenes’ 59th career cash, which places him in sixth place on the all-time cashes list. He is now one in-the-money finish behind Erik Seidel.

Cam McKinley, from Vancouver, Wash., was seventh, Russian Vladimir Shchemelev was eighth, and Travis Pearson, from Las Vegas, Nev., was ninth.

Several former WSOP gold bracelet winners cashed in this event. Two-time gold bracelet winner Scott Clements finished 21st. He won his first WSOP title in 2006 in the $3,000 buy-in Omaha high-low event, and arguably holds the most impressive Omaha resume of any player over the past five years. He’s won one event, made five final tables (including second- and third-place finishes), and cashed six times in 16 tournaments.

Five-time gold bracelet winner Allen Cunningham finished in 26th place. Seven-time gold bracelet winner Men “the Master” Nguyen finished in 27th place. He now has 71 WSOP cashes, which ranks second all-time. Nguyen is eight cashes behind the leader, Phil Hellmuth – with 79. Three-time gold bracelet winner Chau Giang finished 29th. He now has 57 cashes, which ranks in a tie with T.J. Cloutier for eighth-place all-time.

Eight-time gold bracelet winner Erik Seidel finished in 32nd place. Seidel was schedule to play in an exhibition rematch of his classic 1989 heads-up confrontation against Johnny Chan which would have been televised. But he had to miss the duel since he ran deep in this tournament and could not play in both. Seidel now has 61 WSOP cashes, which ranks in a tie with Berry Johnston, for fourth place.

Three-time gold bracelet winner Barry Greenstein finished 36th. James Bord, the defending WSOP Europe Main Event Champion (2010), from London took 42nd place.
Other former gold bracelet winners who cashed included – Mary Jones, Ted Lawson, Dario Alioto, and “Minneapolis Jim” Meehan.

Tournament summary by Nolan Dalla, WSOP Media Director, reprinted by permission.

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