James Schaaf has a day job in Torrance, California that seems him working on databases and computer code to build navigational software. That expertise came in handy Monday night and early Tuesday morning as he navigated his way through the final table of Event #51 ($1,500 H.O.R.S.E.) on his way to a gold World Series of Poker bracelet and $256,412 in prize money.
At a final table that included Phil Hellmuth going for his record-breaking 12th bracelet and the requisite camera crews that follow him Schaaf wasn’t fazed at all.
“Once the cards were in the air, I was just focused on the cards,” said Schaaf. “He’s a great player, but his antics didn’t bother me in the least.”
Hellmuth started the final table with the second largest chip stack. With ESPN cameras on hand just in case Hellmuth began an assault on the stacks of other players. As the night progressed though it wasn’t Hellmuth grabbing control, rather it was Tommy Hang.
The 28-year-old eliminated Matt Grapenthien in eighth place before Schaaf sent Victor Ramdin to the rail in 7th. After Sam Silverman busted in 6th, Hang then eliminated Jason Dollinger in 5th spot. Hellmuth then took the role of executioner sending Ester Rossi home in 4th.
That’s when Hang put an end to Hellmuth’s quest for a dozen bracelets during a hand of Omaha Eight-or-better. Hang’s aggression provided him with a 2:1 chip lead when heads-up play began but over the 59 hands that Hang and Schaaf tangled in, Schaaf found himself on the winning end more often than not.
“I got lucky,” reflected Schaaf. “I was definitely the aggressor and he trapped me in some pretty big hands and I just drew out on him.”
“I don’t think I played all that well in the middle of the heads-up.” But Schaaf understood what it meant to be resilient at the table. During the first day of play he found himself left with only 200 chips after suffering a crippling blow.
“It was poor timing on a bluff so I was down to 200. I was there for a while,” said Schaaf. “Eventually I went in with a J-8-7 in Razz and got lucky, tripled up. It happens really quickly, you double up again and suddenly you’re back in the running.”
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