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Chalk another one up for the newbies at WSOP

11 June 2011

If one tournament sums up how the 2011 World Series of Poker has gone this year, it would be the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Shootout. Facing four former WSOP gold bracelet winners with six combined career wins amongst them, Andrew Badecker slayed the field at the final table, claiming $369,371 in prize money and becoming the 13th first-time bracelet winner in 13 events.

Looking at the formidable lineup of savvy bronzed and bejeweled veterans – which included Erik Cajelais, Dan Kelly, Vitaly Lunkin, and David Pham (all with combined $6.5 million in WSOP winnings) one might have expected a late-night star-stacked battle, and perhaps a repeat champion.

But Badecker, and four other lesser-known players, had other ideas. One by one, the giants of WSOP yesteryear fell like wilting timber, thereby allowing yet another shiny new WSOP gold bracelet to be snatched up by a newcomer. It all started just moments after final table play began when Pham went down in ninth place. Then Lunkin hit the rail, finishing seventh. Then, it was Kelly’s turn to exit in sixth place. Finally, Cajelais was sweep away like morning garbage as the fifth-place finisher. All of the remaining four were players who had never previously won anything resembling a gold bracelet.

Badecker is a 23-year-old poker pro, who now resides in Las Vegas. He recently moved from Connecticut, where he grew up. Badecker dropped out of Southern Connecticut State University in order to try playing full-time and now has the bankroll to follow his poker dreams.

The runner up was Robbie Verspui, from Gibraltar. He collected a nice consolation prize amounting to $228,334. Verspui’s finish in this tournament is the highest in history by any player from the small British supervised territory of Gibraltar.

Daniel Makowsky, an online poker tournament specialist from Tel Aviv, Israel, finished third to win $151,379, while Jonathan Spinks, from Exeter, U.K., finished fourth to became the second player at this year’s WSOP to make two final table appearances. Spinks, who won $108,358 in this event, also finished fourth in the $1,500 buy-in Seven-Card Stud competition.

Erik Cajelais, a Montreal native who won the Mixed Pot-Limit Championship at WSOP Europe in London last year, finished fifth, and Dan Kelly, a 22-year old poker pro from Potomac, Md., who won the $25,000 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em Championship last year, was sixth.

Lunkin, a 40-year old poker pro from Moscow, Russia, who was playing for his third WSOP bracelet, was seventh, and Joseph Webber, a 42-year-old engineer from Bryan, Ohio, was eighth. David “the Dragon” Pham, a 44-year-old poker pro from Cerritos, Calif., also a two-time bracelet winner, was ninth.

In addition to the four who made the final table, several other former WSOP gold bracelet winners cashed in this event. Amir Lehavot, Eric Baldwin, Scott Montgomery, Blair Hinkle, Daniel Negreanu, Max Pescatori, Brandon Cantu, Scott Seiver, Greg Raymer, Jennifer Tilly and Matt Matros all beat the opponents at the first table to advance to round 2. The top-16 players won an additional table to advance to the final grouping.

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

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