It’s been said you discover real friends when times are the toughest. Any human card rack on a monster run can attract a rail full of gawking well-wishers. But go without cashing for months at a time and keep missing final tables and wins by the smallest of margins, and you gradually come to the realization that support and encouragement are priceless commodities that mean far more than what can be measured in a prize pool. While 57 gold bracelet winners are born out of this year’s World Series of Poker, the aspirations of tens of thousands more evaporate like teardrops out in the Las Vegas summer heat.
A year ago, Chris Bell was running bad. Really bad. He admits he was broke. Try carrying that burden and playing tournament poker full-time. Bell began questioning himself and even began to contemplate his future in the game. The married father of two children had to make some brutally tough decisions about his prospects for success in a game that has clearly become more challenging in recent years. Not just his future, but the futures of those around him depended on his decision.
When Bell needed the support of a friend the most – he got it. In fact, he got it in the ace spades. It came from none other than Erick Lindgren who has quietly become something like the pied piper of tournament poker. Lindgren gave Bell not only the financial backing he desperately needed to bridge the tournament poker playing psyche-wrecker called variance, he also provided Bell with something far more meaningful and everlasting. Lindgren gave Bell self-confidence.
Fast forward one year later. Chris Bell was the winner of the $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split championship at the 2010 World Series of Poker. Was it karma? Was it justice? Was it just the mathematics of poker finally kicking in, that if you somehow try hard enough and play long enough you will eventually reach the promised land? This marked Bell's first career WSOP gold bracelet victory, following several noteworthy wins and cashes in other major tournaments – as well as brutally disappointing stretches of failure. Bell earned a well-deserved and long overdue victory, for which he collected $327,040 in prize money.
“I want to thank Erick Lindgren. I would not be in Las Vegas right now if it weren’t for Erick," Bell stated afterward. "A lot of people had given up on me the last year or so. But Erick didn’t. He’s never told me ‘no.’ He will beg and borrow for his friends. I appreciate him giving me this opportunity. Without a friend like him, I would not be here right now.”
THE CHAMPION – CHRIS BELL
The $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split champion (Event #46) is Chris Bell, from Raleigh, NC.
Bell is married. They have twin girls. Bell and his wife had three children, but sadly lost their boy about a year ago.
Bell graduated from North Carolina State University with a Business Degree, in 1994.
Bell invested and sold real estate for a number of years.
Bell collected $327,040 for first place. He was presented with his first WSOP gold bracelet.
According to official records, Bell now has one win, four final table appearances, and 14 cashes at the WSOP. His career WSOP earnings now total $759,183.
With this win, Bell now has in excess of $2.5 million in overall tournament career winnings.
On (close friend) Gavin Smith’s win, which took place the previous day: “I wanted Gavin to win more than anybody. This is something we can talk about the rest of our lives. We will always be friends. When I was playing the other day, I almost could not concentrate because I was paying attention to what Gavin was doing. I know how bad he wanted it. He is such a good guy.”
On experiencing some tough times in poker: “Last year, I was broke. That was a pretty low moment. That’s another thing Gavin and I had in common. We stayed broke together for the last year.”
On the challenge of making it as a tournament pro: “Tournaments are very tough. Everybody plays good now.”
On his feelings coming into this tournament: “I was excited about the WSOP. I play a lot of Pot-Limit Omaha back home.”
On playing heads-up versus Daniel Shak: “When you gets heads up and you are playing this high, a lot of it just depends on who runs better. I think I just ran better. When the limits got higher, I just ran better than he did. When we were heads up I ran better than him and I got lucky on one hand. But Dan Shak will get here.”
On the impact of his win: “I think this will give a lot of poker players hope out there. (Laughing) If Gavin won one and I won one, then they can win one, too.”
On the people who helped him win: “I want to thank Erick Lindgren. I would not be in Las Vegas right now, if it weren’t for Erick. A lot of people had given up on me the last year or so. But Erick didn’t. He’s never told me ‘no.’ He will beg and borrow for his friends. I appreciate him giving me this opportunity. Without a friend like him, I would not be here right now.”
THE FINAL TABLE
The final table included four former WSOP gold bracelet winners – including Erik Seidel (8 wins), Perry Green (3 wins), Rob Hollink (1 win), and David “Devilfish” Ulliott (1 win).
The final table began nine-handed.
The final table included players from three different nations – Great Britain (1 player), The Netherlands (1 player), and the United States (7 players).
The runner up was Dan Shak, from Bryn Mawr, PA. He has been playing poker seriously for about six years. He has 34 overall cashes in major poker tournaments, which includes three victories. Shak’s biggest victory took place earlier this year when he won the Aussie Millions Championship. Shak is also fondly remembered as the co-winner of the inaugural Ante-Up for Africa charity tournament. In 2007, Shak and his co-champ Brandon Moran collectively donated the entire cash prize for first and second place to the international relief effort in Darfur. The contribution amounted to a whopping $386,738. As the runner up, Shak pocketed a nice consolation prize amounting to $202,142.
The third-place finisher was English poker star Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott, from Hull, England. This was Devilfish’s best finish in three years. He now has 30 WSOP cashes. His win took place back in 1997. Devilfish was one of the first bona fide poker celebrities in Great Britain. His finish in this tournament was worth $150,925.
The fourth-place finisher was Joe Ritze, from Hamilton, OH. This was his second time to cash at the WSOP and was his best showing to date, which paid $113,444.
The fifth-place finisher was eight-time gold bracelet winner Erik Seidel, from Las Vegas, NV. His bid for career victory number 9 fell short by four spots. Seidel now has more than $4.3 million in WSOP earnings after collecting $85,800 in this tournament.
The sixth-place finisher was Leif Force, from Tallahassee, FL. This marked his seventh time to cash at the WSOP. Force had one of the more impressive back-to-back years in the history of the WSOP Main Event when he finished 11th in 2006 (with 8,773 players) and then finished 392nd in 2007 (with 6,358 players). Force pocketed $65,311 in this tournament, which now gives him in excess of $1.2 million in WSOP earnings.
The seventh-place finisher was former gold bracelet winner Rob Hollink, from Groningen, Holland. Hollink won the $10,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em World Championship in 2008. In doing so, he became the first player from Holland ever to win a WSOP gold bracelet. Hollink put forth another fine effort in this tournament, going out in seventh place, which paid $50,014.
The eighth-place finisher was Perry Green, from Anchorage, AK. A little extra time and space is justified in order to give Green his proper due. This was Green’s first time to cash at the WSOP in four years. It was his first final table appearance in 13 years. The three-time WSOP gold bracelet winner earned his titles in 1976, 1977, and 1979. Had Green somehow won this tournament, he would have shattered the record for longest gap between WSOP wins – at 31 years. Green is a retired fur trapper who is a poker pioneer in his home state of Alaska. He finished second to poker legend Stu Ungar in the 1981 WSOP Main Event. Many poker fans were happy to see Green’s name back on the cash out list. His win in this tournament amounted to $38,549.
The ninth-place finisher was Jeremy Harkin, from Troutdale, OR. This was his third time to cash at the WSOP and marked his first final table appearance. Ninth place paid $29,886.
The final table began at 8:45 pm and ended at 5:45 am, a duration of about nine hours.
OTHER IN-THE-MONEY FINISHERS
The top 27 finishers collected prize money. Aside from those who made the final table, former WSOP gold bracelet finishers who cashed in this event included – “Miami” John Cernuto (12th), Dan Heimiller (19th), and Barry Greenstein (24th).
Erik Seidel now has 60 career cashes. This currently ranks fifth on the all-time WSOP cashes list.
Dan Heimiller cashed for the sixth time this year.
Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler cashed for the seventh time at this year’s WSOP. He is now in serious contention to challenge Nikolay Evdakov’s record set in 2008 for most cashes in a single year – at 10. Nine more open events remain on the schedule, with five more gold bracelet events scheduled for WSOP Europe (which count towards all WSOP records).
The defending champion was Roland de Wolfe, from London, England. De Wolfe entered this year’s tournament but did not finish in-the-money.
ODDS AND ENDS
This is the 874th gold bracelet event in World Series of Poker history. Note: This figure includes every official WSOP event played, including tournaments during the early years when there were no actual gold bracelets awarded. It also includes the 11 gold bracelets awarded to date at WSOP Europe.
The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory (or some hours later when the tournament runs past midnight). The ceremony takes place inside The Pavilion, which is the expansive main tournament room hosting all noon starts this year. The ceremony begins at the conclusion of the first break of the noon tournament, usually around 2:20 pm. The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played. The entire presentation is open to public and media. Video and photography are permitted by both public and members of the media.
Bell requested that the national anthem of the United States be played at his WSOP gold bracelet ceremony, held Tuesday June 30th, 2010.
Omaha High-Low Split has predominantly been a limit game since it was first introduced into cardrooms in the early 1980s. However, about five years ago some online poker sites began offering Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split, which fueled greater interest in the game. Pot-Limit Omaha High-Slow Split made its debut at the 2007 WSOP.
During the first two years, the Pot-Limit Omaha High-Slow Split tournament had a buy-in of $1,500. A $5,000 buy-in level tournament was added to last year’s schedule for the first time and was played for the second time in 2010.
There are two Pot-Limit Omaha High-Slow Split tournaments on the 2010 WSOP schedule – one at the $1,500 buy-in level and this event, which had a $5,000 buy-in.
The previous Pot-Limit Omaha High-Slow Split tournament (Event #41) was won by Steve Jelinek, from Birmingham, England.
The tournament was played over three consecutive days, from June 25-27, 2010.
There were 284 entries. The total prize pool amounted to $1,334,800. The top 27 finishers collected prize money.
Attendance increased significantly – about 50 percent – over last year, when there were 198 entrants. This indicates a bright future ahead for Pot-Limit Omaha High-Slow Split tournaments.
Bell overcame a 2.5-to-1 chip deficit when he was heads-up against Dan Shak. The final duel lasted about 90 minutes.
2010 WSOP STATISTICS
Tournament attendance is up significantly from this same point last year. Last year, through 46 events, there were 43,749 entries. Thus far this year, there have been 51,329 total entries, an increase of 17.3 percent.
Prize money is also up from last year’s figures. Last year, through 46 events, the total prize money paid was $88,428,594. This year’s prize money currently stands at $89,844,665.
Through the conclusion of Event #46, the nationalities of gold bracelet winners have been:
United States (31)
Great Britain (5)
New Zealand (1)
Through the conclusion of Event #46, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has been:
United States (24)
Great Britain (5)
New Zealand (1)
Through the conclusion of Event #46, the breakdown of professional poker players to semi-pros and amateurs who won gold bracelets is as follows:
Professional Players (33): Michael Chow, Michael Mizrachi, Praz Bansi, Josh Tieman, Peter Gelencser, James Dempsey, Men “the Master” Nguyen, Matt Matros, Yan R. Chen, Steve Gee, Carter Phillips, Jason DeWitt, Eric Buchman, David Baker, Richard Ashby, Dutch Boyd, Sammy Farha, David Warga, Will Haydon, Matt Keikoan, Mike Ellis, Luis Velador, Ayaz Mahmood, Phil Ivey, Luigi Kwaysser, Scott Montgomery, Steven Kelly, Steve Jelinek, Dean Hamrick, Ian Gordon, Gavin Smith, Jesse Rockowitz, Chris Bell
Semi-Pros (5): Frank Kassela, Tex Barch, Miguel Proulx, Jeffrey Papola, Frank Kassela
Amateurs (8): Duc Pham, Aadam Daya, Pascal LeFrancois, Simon Watt, Vanessa Hellebuyck, Jeff Tebben, Konstantin Puchkov, Harold Angle
Through the conclusion of Event #46, here is the list of repeat WSOP gold bracelet winners:
Men “the Master” Nguyen
Russ “Dutch” Boyd
David Warga (* his first WSOP win was in a non-open event)
Frank Kassela (two wins this year)
Through the conclusion of 2010 World Series of Poker -- Event #46:
Youngest Winner – Steven Kelly (21)
Oldest Winner – Harold Angle (78)
Female Winners (open events) – None
Multiple-Event Winners (this year) – Frank Kassela