PHAN-demonium Strikes Again

This time last year John Phan had the reputation of being a guy who couldn’t close a tournament down. But his 2008 World Series of Poker performance has changed that perception forever. With a dominating performance in Event #40 ($2,500 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball) Phan bagged his second bracelet in a week and buried any previous perception poker fans and players may have had of him.

“Going into a World Series, I don’t expect to win a bracelet, but it would be nice to win one,” said Phan. “The first (bracelet), I didn’t really care that much. But (winning) the second one is so difficult.”

That difficulty that Phan spoke of was in part due to the field he beat. The final table of six players included noted poker author David Sklansky, two bracelet winners from 2007 in Robert Mizrachi and Ben Ponzio, Shun Uchida, who has cashed twice already this year in $10,000 buy-in events, and Gioi Luong, who was looking for his first bracelet.

The first to go was Sklansky who had entered the day as the short stack. He was eliminated only 40 minutes into play by Mizrachi after he couldn’t beat the 8-7-5-3-2 of the 2007 Pot Limit Omaha World Champion. His 6th place finish was good enough for $20,528.

Almost one hour later it was Ponzio hitting the rail in 5th place. He started the final table barely ahead of Sklansky in chips and was unable to duplicate his bracelet-winning performance from last year. The advertising sales manager from Chicago earned $28,739.

By the time that Mizrachi was eliminated in fourth place it almost seemed inevitable. After fighting to stay alive for just over three hours Mizrachi was finally eliminated at the hands of Luong’s 10-6-5-4-2. Drawing one and needing a nine, seven, five or three Mizrachi found himself a jack and was sent to the cashier’s cage to cash out his $41,055 in winnings.

Once three-handed play began the real fireworks started and a new rivalry was born. After Luong attempted to retrieve one of his discarded cards during a hand Phan, who had folded and was no longer in the hand, jumped out of his chair and called for the floor. Phan felt Luong was angle shooting, attempting to either change one of his discards or change the number of cards he had discarded.

“That guy takes so many shots. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing against me, I will protect any player at the table.“ said Phan, who was happy with the floor’s ruling that the original three cards needed to be discarded. “In poker, it’s all about karma.”

That karma would eventually come back to haunt Luong as he busted in third place on a hand that gave Phan the chip lead he never relinquished. Once heads-up play began, Phan and Uchida engaged in some trash talk before even a single card was dealt. But it didn’t matter. By this point Phan was on his game and refused to give Uchida an inch.

After 45 minutes of the aggressive play from Phan the tournament was over and the railbirds there to support Phan were feasting on the 20 Coronas he had ordered. Uchida’s second place finish, his third cash of 2008, pocketed the cash game player $95,795.

Phan earned $151,896 for his win, pushing his 2008 WSOP winnings to $605,999. He also moves into third place in the Player-of-the-Year race behind Jacobo Fernandez and David Benyamine.

For complete results from this event check out the WSOP results page.