Yesterday it was Let’s Get it Started, but Sunday as the Day 1b players made their way into the Amazon Room it was Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music White Boy that greeted the 1,882 of the 1,883 players. Phil Hellmuth, as has become his tradition, arrived late and missed out on the funky entrance music. The “Poker Brat” eventually showed wearing his now famous NASCAR racing suit complete with logos.
Jerry Yang made an appearance and was very gracious towards Harrah’s and WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack with a few brief words before belting out “shuffle up and deal”. Reports indicate that Yang will be playing a light schedule as his year as World Champion comes to an end but he is playing the Main Event.
There were a number of celebrities and professional athletes in play during the day. ER’s Mekhi Phifer found himself seated with Hellmuth before they both busted out. Jeremy Roenick, of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, and Travis Green, who most recently played in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs were check-raising instead of bodychecking. Green survived the day while “JR” was sent to the rail. And the tallest player of the day was Miami Heat center Earl Barron. At 7 feet tall he was easy to spot from anywhere in the room.
While Day 1b of second event played down to 222 players the big story of the day was Nenad Medic. The Canadian poker pro entered the final table second in chips behind Andy Bloch. After some huge hands the two wound up heads-up for the bracelet. The key hand though probably came three-handed. From the official updates on WorldSeriesofPoker.com:
“Nenad Medic has the button in Seat 8. He raises to 300,000, Kathy Liebert moves all in for 850,000, Andy Bloch re-pots to 2,800,000, and Medic moves all in. Bloch has both Liebert and Medic covered. And the crowd gets on their feet as the cards are turned over... Bloch: 9s 9h Medic: Qc Qh Liebert: 6s 6d. The flop is Ah Qs 2c and the crowd goes nuts as Medic flops a set of queens. The turn is the 4c and both Liebert and Bloch are drawing dead. The river is the 5c, and Kathy Liebert is our third-place finisher. She'll take home $306,064 and waves in appreciation to the crowd, who honors her finish with a standing ovation”
Not only did the hand eliminate Liebert, but it also gave Medic an overwhelming chip lead for the heads-up battle. Medic eventually eliminated Bloch who was celebrating his 39th birthday. Medic is considered by many top players to be one of the best cash game players in the world and despite his stoic image during final table play it was obvious he was overwhelmed with the notion of being a bracelet wearing World Champion.
The star-studded final table also brought with it a star-studded audience. Linda Johnson
, the first lady of poker, was in the audience watching good friend Mike Sexton
finish fourth. Medic had a strong contingent of friends as well including David Williams
, Michael Mizrachi
and Eugene Todd
. During the heads-up battle the audience got into it with one half supporting Medic and the other half getting behind Bloch.
Bloch has now finished as a runner-up in three high profile tournaments in the past 24 months. In 2006 he finished 2nd to the late Chip Reese
in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E.
event, this past March he finished 2nd to Chris Ferguson
in the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championships
. Many pros have said they’d rather bust out early in Day 1 than suffer the emotional letdown of coming so close to one of those highly coveted bracelets. When asked what he thought Bloch smiled and delivered and emphatic response that can’t be printed here.