Rob Hollink may not be familiar to poker enthusiasts state-side, but in his home country of the Netherlands the 46-year-old poker pro is one of the most celebrated players. On Wednesday night a group of his fellow countrymen, comprising what seemed like more than half the audience at the Milwaukee’s Best Light No Limit Lounge, cheered enthusiastically as Hollink was crowned the 2008 World Champion of Limit Hold 'em, a title that comes along with his first WSOP bracelet and nearly half a million bucks.
Hollink first put his name on the international poker map back in 2005 when he won the first running of the prestigious European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Weeks later Hollink made it to the final table of the $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship, pushing his tournament earnings to well over $1 million for the month. Despite his success in other tournaments - he has more than a dozen wins on European soil - Hollink has attended the WSOP for seven years and until Wednesday had been unable to put up anything better than a sixth place finish.
Hollink came into the final table of Event #30 ($10,000 Limit Hold 'em World Championship) with the second largest chip stack behind only Aaron Katz, a high stakes cash game player from Seattle who won a WSOP bracelet in Limit Hold 'em in 2004. The table started with short stacked Chris Vitch busting early after getting the last of his money in pre-flop with Q-9 and losing to Katz, who was priced-in holding 8-3. After a few of the short stacks had doubled up to get back in contention, South African journalist-turned-poker pro Cy Jassinowsky busted when his A-2 was unable to overtake 28-year-old Tommy Hang's pocket queens.
Next to go was Andy Bloch, who was making his second World Championship final table appearance of the 2008 WSOP. Bloch was in for his last bet before the flop with J-3 but Hollink's 9-8 made a pair on the river to eliminate the 39-year-old pro from his ninth WSOP final table.
Online specialist Brock "t_soprano" Parker finished in 6th place when his Q-8 lost out to the A-9 of Jerrod Ankenman, a 31-year-old from Connecticut who co-authored 'Mathematics of Poker' with double bracelet winner Bill Chen. Parker collects $102,460, more than doubling his career WSOP earnings.
Busting in 5th place was J.C. Tran, one of the most consistently successful tournament players over the past few years. Tran was involved in a hand with Hollink in which the board was showing Q-7-3-K, all spades. Tran threw in the remainder of his chips and when the king of diamonds fell on the river, Hollink showed the jack of spades for a flush and Tran mucked his hand, earning $128,075 for his final table finish.
Katz was the next to depart, risking his last few chips and mucking his cards when Ankenman showed queen high on a 4-A-10-5-J board. Katz, the only bracelet holder at the table, was eliminated in 4th for $158,813.
The final three battled for almost 50 hands before Hang was finally reduced to his last few chips and eliminated by Hollink in third place. Hang, 28, is a cash game pro from Seattle with six previous cashes at the WSOP, half of them coming in Limit Hold 'em. His third place finish in Event #30 earns him $194,674.
The final table had been going spectacularly for Hollink up to this point. The Dutchman had never let his chip stack sink into the danger zone and he began the heads-up match with a comfortable lead. Early in the match Ankenman doubled up after flopping two pair, but Hollink gained control once again with a series of medium sized pots. Ankenman was eventually running on fumes and put his chips in with 10-7 before the flop. He was up against Hollink's A-5 and when the flop came 4-A-5, Hollink's huge group of supporters went crazy, knowing Ankenman would have to go runner-runner to stay alive. The turn 3 gave Ankenman a gutshot straight draw, but a queen on the river sealed the deal, sending Ankenman out in second place with a $307,380 consolation prize.
"I've been coming here since 2001 and . . . played 80 or 90 events and always done pretty bad," said Hollink who banked $496,931 and a gold bracelet. "[Winning] feels very good. The longer you wait the better it feels, I guess."
Hollink joins a select group of players with WSOP bracelets and EPT titles, and also becomes the first Dutch player to ever win a WSOP bracelet.
For complete Event #30 results, see the WSOP Results page.