Seven-Card Stud Championship Location:
Rio, Las VegasBuy-in:
$1,500Number of Entries:
473 Total Prize Money:
Some stories are almost too incredible to believe. Consider the case of a 39-year-old semi-retired stockbroker from New York named Cliff Jospehy -- a.k.a. "Bax."
Bax flew out to Las Vegas to play in two tournaments, both of the no-limit hold'em events held this week at the World Series. Unfortunately, the first tournament was a disaster. Bax was knocked out "by a horrible beat," as he puts it. The loss left him with nothing to do on Thursday afternoon.
There happened to be a $1,500 buy-in seven-card stud event beginning Thursday. There was only one problem -- Bax had never played in a stud tournament before. Wandering around the hallways at the Rio Pavilion, Bax ran into a couple of friends -- Scott Fischman and Brett Jungblut -- who have won three gold bracelets between them.
"I didn't even look at the stud event," Bax said later as the shining gold bracelet was snapped onto his left wrist. I came here to play hold'em, ran into [my friends], told them I wanted to play stud, and asked if they could give me some pointers. Each one gave me about five minutes, and the things they were telling me were not about playing my hand, but playing my opponent's hand - things like that."
Whatever Jungblut and Fischman (in addition to Mark Dickstein, Eric S. and an online player known simply as "Gigabet") said to Bax must have worked. He survived the first day, returned for Day Two, and sat down at the final table second in chips. Five hours later, he was a world champion.
There were 472 entries in this year's first seven-card stud event - each paying $1,500 to enter. The total prize pool amounted $651,360. Just before making it down to the final eight players, former top-ranked tennis pro Yevgeny Kafelnikov (winner of 26 singles titles in tennis, including over $26 million in lifetime prize money) busted out in 9th place. After retiring from tennis, Kafelnikov converted to playing poker professionally last year and is now showing he may have what it takes to win at the tables, just as he did on the court. The final table composition included one former gold bracelet winner (two-time winner Minh Nguyen). The early chip leader was Abe Almalhi. Players were eliminated as follows:
8th Place: Murray Reinhart, $17,585
Not much went right for Murray Reinhart once he sat down among the final eight. He was gone a short time into the finale. Reinhart is a Canadian-born businessman who now lives in Los Angeles.
7th Place: Minh Nguyen, $24,750
Two-time champ Minh Nguyen was never able to establish the kind of control he needed to pick up a gold bracelet trifecta. The Vietnamese-born poker pro now living in southern California exited in 7th place.
6th Place: Ardell Willis, $31,265
Ardell Willis is a 64-year-old retiree from Florida. He formally worked in the golf business and now plays poker. He busted out in 6th place.
5th Place: Abe Amalhi, $39,735
Adding to the international flavor of the final table, Jerusalem-born poker pro Abe Almalhi hoped to win his first WSOP title. He came up short, finishing 5th.
4th Place: Greg Mascio, $48,200
Greg Mascio, a professional poker player from Fullerton, CA, was a runner-up at the final table in the 2002 WSOP Omaha High-Low championship. The former sportswriter took 4th place in this event.
3rd Place: Dr. Mark Burtman, $63,180
Dr. Mark Burtman is a medical doctor from Mississippi. He is also a poker author ("A Girl in the Game") and writes regularly for pokerpages.com. Burtman took a small stack and survived several hours before finally expiring in 3rd place.
Runner up: Kirill Gerasimov, $108,775
Moscow, Russia native Kirill Gerasimov is accustomed to winning, not finishing second. He won the 2002 World Heads-Up Poker Championship. At one point, it looked as if the final table might be a party for two Russians - 9th-place finisher Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Gerasimov. (Gerasimov happens to be Kafelnikov's poker coach.)
But in the end, it was the coaching of Bax's friends that proved far more valuable. Gerasimov drew to within 2 to 1 in chips at one point, but from the start of the duel, Bax's chip lead was never seriously jeopardized. On the final hand of the night, Bax made two-pair (aces up) and dragged Gerasimov's final chip.
1st Place: Cliff Josephy, $192,150
Cliff "Bax" Josephy is a married father of three. He has done well enough in the stock market to take time off and devote himself to his latest passion - poker. Incredibly, Bax has only been playing poker seriously for 14 months. He plays mostly online, where he has enjoyed enormous success, particularly in tournaments and satellites.
"When I get passionate about something, I really devote myself to it," Bax said. "At least with this vice (poker), there is a chance for me to make money at it, as opposed to the other vices some people have."
Afterward, the reality of winning a World Series championship began to set in. "I never would have dreamed I could win this event," Bax said. "Stud is made up of good players. It's not like hold'em where you raise with all your chips and some donkey calls you down with a 10-3 of diamonds."
"People who enter stud tournaments - most of them know how to play...except me, of course."
View final results.
Tournament reporting by Nolan Dalla / worldseriesofpoker.com