One of the storylines of the 2008 World Series of Poker thus far has been the monster fields in some events. Event #2 set a record as the largest non-Main Event poker tournament in history (3,929 players) and already six tournaments have attracted 1,000 players or more. But Event #18 ($5,000 No Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball w/ rebuys), on the other hand, was not one for the masses. The obscurity of the game and the big buy-in brought in an elite field of 85 players, including Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, and even more of the world's best.
The field made 272 rebuys and add-ons, building a massive prize pool of $1,735,020, more than half-a-million of which was set aside for the winner.
After two days of play the seven player final table was set, and to nobody's surprise the roster was filled with familiar names: Erick Lindgren, Jeffrey Lisandro, Barry Greenstein, Mike Matusow, Tom Schneider, Tony G and David Benyamine.
The final table players’ WSOP career statistics were impressive: 112 cashes, 43 final tables, 8 bracelets and almost $7 million in earnings.
The final table began with Lindgren holding the chip lead and it didn't take long for him to add to it by eliminating Benyamine in 7th, ending the French cash game specialist's bid for his first WSOP bracelet. Tony G and 2007 WSOP Player-of-the-Year Schneider were the next to hit the rail, after which the final four were moved to the Milwaukee’s Best Light No Limit Lounge. Lindgren, looking for his second WSOP bracelet of the week, was the next to go after watching his chip lead deteriorate and eventually moving all-in with 7-6-3-2 and getting unlucky against Matasow's 8-7-4. Matusow drew two great cards in a 6 and a 2, meaning Lindgren needed an 8, 5 or 4 to stay alive and double up. Lindgren turned over a 2 before casually throwing it into the muck and making his exit.
With the table three-handed Lisandro won several big pots to take a big chip lead, amassing 2 million vs. Greenstein's 1.1 million and Matusow's 405,000. But in accordance with the nature of No Limit 2-7 Lowball, the chip lead changed hands several times and just when it looked like one player was down and out, they doubled up and get right back in it.
As the evening progressed the crowd grew larger, some fellow pros even showed up to sweat the action, including Chan, Hellmuth, Gavin Smith, Jean-Robert Bellande, Greg Mueller, Perry Friedman, Cyndy Violette and Joe Sebok.
The final three players traded chips back and forth for several hours until Greenstein, who was perhaps the quietest player at the final table, finally pushed all-in for his last five big blinds and was called by Lisandro. Greestein was in the lead when the hands were turned over, but his one card draw paired his hand and Lisandro won the pot when he dodged a pair of his own. Greenstein collected $225,552 for his third place finish.
The heads-up match between Lisandro and Matusow started with an all-in showdown on the first hand, much to the delight of the huge audience surrounding the final table. Lisandro was the dominant chip leader and Matusow moved all-in immediately, finding a call from Lisandro. Matusow had the best hand when the money went in and after each player drew one card, he clinched the hand by making a 10 low against Lisandro's pair. Matusow continued to battle back and won several consecutive pots to draw the chip count close to even.
"I like this 'win every pot' thing. I feel like “Durrr”," Matusow said, referring to Tom "Durrr" Dwan, the 21-year-old high stakes online pro who bubbled the final table of this event, finishing 8th.
Matusow continued to steamroll Lisandro's once robust stack, reducing the Australian-born pro to less than ten big blinds. Lisandro mounted one more comeback with another double up, but Matusow caught another streak of pat hands and backed Lisandro into a corner for the last time.
On the final hand Matusow raised all-in with Q-8-7-4-3 and Lisandro called with 9-6-5-3. Lisandro drew one card and after some thought Matusow decided to stay with his queen low. Lisandro needed a card lower than a queen that didn't pair his hand, but when he slowly lifted his card and revealed a queen, he simply shrugged to let Matusow know he'd beat one of the toughest fields of the year to win the bracelet.
Matusow ran and embraced his supporters, jumping and hollering as the crowd applauded his achievement.
"I never gave up, I played with the greatest patience I could. I'm really proud of myself," Matusow said afterwards.
Matusow banked $537,862 and his third WSOP bracelet, his first since the 2002 WSOP. Lisandro finished second for $347,004.
For a complete list of payouts from Event #18, check out the WSOP Results page.