WSOP Event #29: Premier and Hachem make bracelet run
There are a lot of people who will tell you that poker is an individual sport, that it's a lonely game in which success and failure are measured only in one's personal performance. Those assertions are true to a large extent. After all, it's one player to a hand, sir. What's more, when you're losing, poker can be among the most lonely endeavors you can imagine.
All of that said, though, I've recently witnessed a phenomenon that, while not entirely unique, is as uplifting as just about anything you'll find at the World Series of Poker. It's a camraderie that is so organic, its genesis is hard to define.
As I sat around the final table of the WSOP $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em event, I became acutely aware of some large-scale group-think, group-hug, group-game that I rarely see. Sitting in the most uncomfortable of bleachers were three groups of people who wanted more than anything on this day for their man to win. In one section sat a group of Aussies and Aussie friends, one with an Australian flag draped over his shoulders like some superhero patriot. In another section sat a group of Englishmen. In another section sat a group of rowdy, young, and insanely intelligent online poker players. Every word from their mouth, every pound of their fist, every jump to their feet bespoke the nearly insane desire for their competitor to win today's WSOP gold bracelet.
Today's table began with a number of familiar faces. Their faces had been on TV. Their names are known in both the live and online poker world. Among them were 2005 WSOP champion Joe Hachem, 2005 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Champion John Gale, and online poker phenomenon Maros "Premier" Lechman.
When the day began, Hachem and Premier's chances seemed slim. They both sat on relatively short-stacks. Anyone who might have been betting likely wouldn't have given either man much of a chance at winning. However as the afternoon and early evening progressed, it became clear both men would put up a fight worthy of a gold bracelet. (Live updates of the Event #29 final table action)
The action in the early going was so fast, it seemed the entire final table would be finished before the dinner break. What's more, it seemed suddenly that 2005 WSOP champ Joe Hachem had a chance at winning a bracelet again. It's only been a few weeks since he got heads-up for a bracelet and ended up losing to a three-outer and taking second place.
Today, his day ended much the same way. After surviving all the way to four-handed play, Hachem got his money in good. Holding K8 on a K349 board, Hachem got all his money in. John Gale called holding A3 and spiked an ace on the river to send Hachem out in fourth place.
Hachem in disbelief...again
It wasn't long before Premier found himself in an odd position. Thought he had been short-stacked all day long, he managed to double up twice, just in time for Gale to knock out Kevin Ho. Indeed, Premier, who just turned 21 years old three weeks ago, found himself heads-up for a WSOP bracelet.
Premier heads up with John Gale
Though I had seen the nationalistic spirit of the Aussies and the Brits, I found something even more interesting in the people sweating Premier. There is a clique of Supernova players running around here. They're all living together in Vegas this summer. It has to be among the most intelligent groups of poker thinkers around. Names like PBDrunks, Lurped, Hollingol, and SamENole sat in the stands with Gank and a host of other players and rooted on this youngster like he was their brother. It was camraderie that is born and bred in poker.
When it was all said and done, I found the action of heads-up play less interesting than the spirit of the sweaters. The Brits screamed for Gentleman John Gale. The Supernovas exploded for Premier. Although Premier was able to overcome a 5-1 disadvantage to take the lead, Gale fought back. In a back and forth battle that lasted for a good long while, Gale finally emerged victorious after catching a pair with K9 to Premier's A6.
Premier, looking for a miracle
Though I was rooting for Hachem and Premier tonight, I couldn't help but smile when Gale won. I was by John's side last year when he took second in a WSOP event. I knew how bad he wanted a bracelet. Tonight, he fought hard for the bracelet and deserved his victory.
In the end, Hachem won more than $90,000. Premier won nearly $200,000. Gale won nearly $375,000 for his victory.
I've covered a lot of poker and rarely am I sure of anything. Tonight, however, I am sure that I watched some very talented poker players at the table. What's more, I'm sure the support they received helped them along to path to their various successes. Ultimately, it proved to me that poker is not as solitary a sport as some people might say.
And that's reason enough for everyone to be happy when they wake up in Vegas in the morning.