One of the most anticipated final tables of the 2016 World Series of Poker, thus far, was played out at the Rio in Las Vegas.
While the grand finale was stacked with poker greatness in just about every chair, much of the poker world’s attention was focused on the player positioned in Seat 5. That seat was occupied by Jason Mercier.
To say Mercier has enjoyed an epic WSOP, particularly over the last ten days, would be an understatement. The South Florida poker pro has set the world afire with his blazing tournament heater, winning two gold bracelets and then coming in second-place in another tournament that was stocked with many of the world’s best players.
On the crest of all the recent tournament success and adulation, Mercier found himself at yet another final table in this event, this time playing for gold bracelet win number three this year, and number six overall. Hoping to join the exalted ranks of those who have won three titles within a single year, Mercier instead found himself stuck in first gear during his relatively short stay at this final table. He was short-stacked for the full 90 minutes and unlike previous deep runs, wasn’t able to push his opponents around in the high-low split game. Mercier ended up exiting in eighth place, which resulted in another temporary sigh of relief in some quarters – financially speaking.
[SIDE NOTE: However, storm clouds remain on the horizon: Mercier still has about half of the 2016 WSOP schedule remaining to accomplish his feat. According to reports, there’s much more than just poker history on the line. Mercier stands to win a substantial side bet, close to $2 million by some accounts, should he do the unthinkable and win three gold amulets.]
Meanwhile, Benny Glaser, a poker pro from Southampton, UK managed to overshadow all the Mercier fanfare, particularly since this was his second victory at this year’s series. Remarkably, he became the third player with two wins already in 2016, joining Mercier and Ian Johns in the duel bracelet club.
This time around, Glaser won the $10,000 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split tournament, which was played over four days and three nights and just concluded on the ESPN main stage at the Rio in Las Vegas. Glaser collected $407,194 in prize money.
As expected, once again there were few soft spots in the tournament and especially among those who cashed. Defending champion Daniel Alaei, seeking his sixth career win, was eliminated in 12th place. Eli Elezra, looking for this fourth win, busted out in 10th place, which set up the official finale table. From there, things didn’t get any easier.
Glaser won his victory by coming out on top at a final table loaded with just as much talent and experience. Todd Brunson, seeking his first WSOP win in ten years, led the pack as chip leader. However, he wasn’t able to maintain his position and ended up busting out in the middle of Day Three in seventh place.
Six hours of play whittled the field down to the final three, who were forced to return for an unscheduled fourth day of play. Benny Glaser had a slight chip lead over Doug “Skippy” Lorgeree, while Matt Glantz stubbornly held on in third place. It took nearly two more hours to determine the winner.
Glantz busted out in third place, doing more with less chips than anyone at any final table, so far. He never was in good chip position, but still managed to hold on much longer than anyone expected. Glantz still remains, at least for the time being, as one of the undisputed best players in poker history without a WSOP victory.
The ultimate moment of triumph came when Glaser scooped the final pot of the tournament against Lorgeree, who finished as the runner up. This Chicago poker player’s consolation prize amounted to a quarter of a million dollars – but not gold bracelet.
Glaser’s victory now gives him two wins for the series in Omaha High-Low Split. He previously won the $1,500 buy-in event, which concluded a week earlier. Glaser joined Tom Schneider (HORSE) and Greg Mueller (Limit Hold’em).
“It’s surprising that I would win two gold bracelets, at all,” Glaser confided. “But if I was going to win, it would have been in this game since this is my best game and the one I have played the most online.”
When asked about what makes Omaha his best game, Glaser replied: “I think it’s the one game that plays closest to a cash game as a tournament. Definitely, some adjustments need to be made. But these limit games are more like I am used to in day to day.”
As for Mercier’s influence on the final table, Glaser stated he gave some consideration to the fact that his opponent was more likely to be playing for first place, which meant he might take more chances at the final table in order to accumulate chips. Still, Glaser dismissed that as having much influence on his game.
“The stack sizes and situations pretty much played themselves, regardless,” Glaser said.
Incredibly, although Glaser has cashed just six times in WSOP events, all since the start of 2015 -- four of the six in-the-money finishes resulted in final table appearances. And, three of the six ended as victories. That’s as high a ratio as anyone with so few cashes and so many wins.
This tourney attracted 163 entrants which created a prize pool totaling $1,532,200. The top 25 finishers collected prize money.
Aside from the winner, here’s a brief report of the other top finishers who made the final table:
Second Place: Doug “Skippy” Lorgeree, a poker pro from Buffalo Grove, IL finished as the runner up. He was well-positioned to overtake the eventual winner Glaser a few times, but couldn’t catch the right cards nor scoop enough pots to put a dent in his opponent’s stack. Nonetheless, Lorgeree ended up with this biggest payout of his career, by far -- $251,194. This was his third time to cash in a WSOP event, including an 11th-place finish earlier this year in $10K HORSE.
Third Place: Matt Glantz, the amiable poker pro and host from the Philadelphia area, made another deep run, cashing for the 42nd time at the series, dating back to 2000. Glantz, who received $175,754, made his tenth final table appearance. He has more than $2.7 million in WSOP earnings and has accumulated more than $6 million if overall lifetime winnings.
Fourth Place: Grzegorz Trelski, from Middletown, CT was the last played eliminated on Day Three. He collected $125,125. This was Trellski’s fourth time to cash at the series and highest finish.
Fifth Place: Robert Campbell, a former standup comedian did draw many laughs while he had chips and posed a serious danger. However, Campbell ran out of material late and was bounced off the stage in fifth place, which paid $102,120. The poker player from Warragul, Australia has now posted four top-25 finishes at this year’s series, including two final table appearances.
Sixth Place: Per Hildebrand, from Marsta, Sweden cashed for the eighth time and made his third final table showing at the WSOP. Hildebrand pocketed $75,164 in prize money.
Seventh Place: Todd Brunson, from Las Vegas, won the $2,500 buy-in version of this event back in 2005. He’s come close several times to winning a second gold bracelet, but once again fell short of the prize. Brunson suffered a cruel run of cards in his final hour of play. He went from chip leader to the felt and had to settle for a payout totaling $56,073. This marked Brunson’s 49th time to cash at the series. He made at least one final table at the WSOP in each of the last five years.
Eighth Place: Jason Mercier, from Hollywood, FL wasn’t able to generate any momentum at the final table and remained short-stacked during his 90-minute stay under the bright lights. Nonetheless, Mercier comes off his fourth final table at this year’s series and is clearly in command of the “Player of the Year” points race at the moment. As for now, he remains stuck on five gold bracelets. His payout amounted to $42,405.
Ninth Place: Felipe Ramos, from Sao Paulo, Brazil was the first player eliminated from the finale. He came in short stacked and was cut loose by chip leader Todd Brunson. Ramos, who also made a deep run in the $10K Seven-Card Stud Championship, collected $32,514 for another fine performance.
This was the 32nd official event on this year’s schedule. This leaves 37 gold bracelet events still to go in what promises to be the biggest and most exciting WSOP ever.