Saturday’s WSOPE H.O.R.S.E final was a marathon of poker. The field had dwindled from 105 runners from the kick-off (including a staggering 98 WSOP bracelets among the numbers) on Thursday to the heads-up duel between German Thomas Bihl and Jennifer Harman. The inaugural event of the inaugural WSOPE was an emotional rollercoaster for both the players and the fans.
Harmon was the early favourite, with a significant chip lead. It looked like short heads-up play for Bihl, and a new gold bracelet for Harman. Bihl, who later noted that his aggressive style came into its own when he started drawing decent cards, began to chip away at Harman’s lead. Little by little, chunk by chunk, the quiet German put the woman who many credit as one of the best players in the world, to the test.
By the fans polarised and both Harman and Bihl had an engaged group of supporters. Whilst Bihl’s fans were getting more and more energetic as Bihl’s stack grew, Harman relied on the support of seasoned pros, including husband Marco Traniello and Kid Poker, Daniel Negreanu, who had just flown in from Barcelona.
The hours passed, and the marathon began to draw to a close. After hours of gruelling battle, tiredness effected players, fan and casino personnel. Jennifer donned two coats to keep warm, fans ordered food and drink to sustain them, the hour approached four, but Bihl kept the pressure on Harman, vying for her 3rd WSOP bracelet.
In the end, Bihl proved the victor. At , Bihl took Harmon’s final chips in a round of Hold ‘em. His 8-9 bested Harman’s 10-x with a board of K-7-7-10-6 and the straight was enough to take down the title.
Harman exited the room quietly, accompanied by Traniello and Negreanu, leaving Bihl to enjoy his moment of glory. ‘The Buzzer’ was honoured by Jeffery Pollack, WSOP Chairman, who congratulated him on his bracelet and his “permanently etched” position in the poker hall of fame as the first person to win a bracelet event held outside of Las Vegas. Bihl’s fans erupted in celebration, but the emotionally invested crowd of onlookers didn’t forget Bihl’s worthy opponent, and, even in her absence, gave a thundering round of applause for the ever-popular Jennifer Harman.
Bihl said shortly afterwards:
“I was happy with the whole tournament. I didn’t get into real stack problems and the structure was really fantastic, I was able to play a patient game. I played premium hands mostly and I got paid off!
“There were a lot of threats. Kirk Morrison looked in total control for much of that final table. To be fair, any one of us 4 [remaining players Chris Ferguson, Jennifer Harman, Morrison, Bihl] could have won it though.
“I’ve won a ranking event in Lithuania, but this is my biggest win by far. I’m over the moon!”