When the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event was added to the World Series of Poker schedule in 2006, players instantly dubbed it the “player’s championship”. The steepest buy-in in WSOP history combined with the skill requirement of being able to play five games well meant the tournament was special. The initial event was won by Chip Reese, a man many consider to be the best player of all time.
When Reese passed away in December of 2007, the poker community looked for a way to honor him. To that end, the WSOP and the WSOP Players Advisory Committee decided to award the winner of the H.O.R.S.E. event the bracelet, the money and a trophy named in Reese’s honor. It only served to up the prestige of the tournament and make the world’s best players, many of whom considered Reese a friend, play even harder.
And the performance put on early Monday morning by two of poker’s biggest superstars – and a player who may be destined for that same accolade – honored both Reese and the game. But long before Scotty Nguyen, Erick Lindgren and upstart Michael DeMichele played three-handed poker for the title, five other well-rounded players had to be sent packing.
The table started with only a little bit of international flavor, but lost it on the 10th hand when Frenchman Patrick Bueno was eliminated by Lindgren. On the third hand of Razz Bueno completed Lyle Berman’s bring-in and then called Lindgren’s raise. But making two pair on sixth street with had Bueno drawing dead with a king-high. Lindgren took down the pot and increased his chip lead.
It took a while for the next elimination to come about. Former World Champion Huck Seed fell victim to a DeMichele scoop in a Stud Eight-or-better hand. It was Seed’s first final table appearance since 2004 and his second largest cash after his $1 million take from winning the 1996 Main Event championship.
Coming into the day, Barry Greenstein was third in chips but remained mostly inactive during the first three hours of play. During a rotation of Stud Eight-or-better Greenstein ran his pair of aces into the rolled up sevens of Nguyen. Greenstein’s sixth cash of the 2008 WSOP pocketed him $355,200 and temporarily moved him into first place in the pursuit of the Milwaukee’s Best Light Player-of the-Year award.
Following the dinner break the five players returned to action, but the return was short-lived for Berman. DeMichele claimed his second victim, Berman, during a Razz hand in a three-way pot with Nguyen also involved. When seventh street hit both Nguyen and Berman mucked and Berman hit the rail $444,000 richer.
Having already made a final table this year in Event #8 ($10,000 Mixed Game), Matt Glantz had proven that he’s capable of playing various forms of poker. And after arriving at the final table fourth in chips that’s exactly where he finished – this time a victim of Nguyen, who had clearly gained momentum. After a flop of Qd-6c-5h on a round of Omaha Eight-or-better, the last of Glantz’s chips went into the middle and Nguyen called. Glantz held Kd-Jd-10d-10h while Nguyen was on a draw with Ah-2c-7d-Kc
The Ac on the turn put Nguyen ahead and allowed him to scoop the pot and send Glantz to the rail. Only weeks after his $184,992 score and 3rd place finish in Event #8, Glantz banked $568,320 for his fourth place performance.
That’s when the marathon portion of poker’s pentathlon took over. The first five players were eliminated in a little less than six hours – the final two eliminations didn’t come for another five hours and 45 minutes. In that time the three players combined to play 178 hands.
During those 178 hands a number of storylines developed. When three-handed play began Nguyen held 7 million chips, DeMichele held 6.8 million and Lindgren brought up the rear with only 1 million. But Lindgren, who had been amongst the shortest throughout much of Day 3, battled back to 1.56 million and then 4.4 million at a time in the tournament when stacks had begun to even out.
But it wasn’t meant to be for Lindgren. Moments after finally winning his first bracelet in Event #4 ($10,000 Mixed Hold’em) Lindgren talked about how having a good WSOP was his way of honoring his hero, Chip Reese. But the chance to honor the man he called his poker hero, was snuffed out by Nguyen in a Stud hand. The third place finish was worth $781,440 and while he was certainly disappointed to not win the event, Lindgren will wake up sometime Monday afternoon and find his name atop the Player-of-the-Year standings, ahead of Greenstein’s.
If the H.O.R.S.E. event has any sort of legend built around it after only three years of play, it’s that it’s known for epic heads-up matches. And after six hours of three-handed play, it appeared as though a long heads-up session was in order. That wasn’t the case this time as DeMichele was the final cast-off in Nguyen’s nearly $2 million victory.
After his win the father of eight was presented with his fifth WSOP bracelet and the Chip Reese trophy.
“Thank you Chip Reese,” said Nguyen after Pollack had presented him with the trophy, causing tears to flow. “This was my dream, to win this tournament.” Nguyen’s victory was worth $1,989,120 while DeMichele took home$1,243,200 as the runner-up. For a complete breakdown of all payouts for this event visit the WSOP results