Phil Laak has done just about everything in poker.
He's won major tournaments. He cashed numerous times. He played in high-stakes games on television. He's traveled around the world playing. He become famous. He dates a moviestar. He's even set a world record for the most consecutive hours spent playing poker (115). The one thing Phil Laak had not done, was to win a WSOP gold bracelet.
Laak, a.k.a. the "Unabomber" achieved a breakthrough victory in the ₤2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em championship (Event #1), which is the first of five events scheduled at this year’s tournament series played at London’s Casino at the Empire. The Las Vegas resident and poker pro collected ₤170,802 for first place, which is the equivalent of about $270,000 (USD).
Laak overcame a strong showing by Andrew Pantling, from Malta by way of Toronto, Canada. Pantling dominated play during most of the three-day tournament. He seized the chip lead late on Day One. He continued to hold the lead throughout Day Two and arrived at the final table way ahead in chips by nearly a 2 to 1 margin over his closest rival. Once the final table began, Pantling was never in serious danger of relinquishing his advantage until he became embattled in a heads-up duel with Laak. It was Laak who was the recipent of a fortuitous flurry of good fortune en route to a thrilling first-ever gold bracelet victory.
The win was particularly pleasing to Laak at this moment, given his history. Laak finished second five years ago in a heads-up match against Johnny Chan when he won his then-record tenth gold bracelet. He came to the final table with his right arm in a cast and sling, the result of a serious accident on an ATV last month. Laak, who was cheered on to victory by his biggest fan -- Hollywood actress and former gold bracelet winner Jennifer Tilly -- seemed far more serious than his usual unpredicatable persona. While he talked throughout the finale, wild antics that usually accompany a high-profile finale were missing.
The final table included two former WSOP gold bracelet winners – Chris Bjorin (London, UK) and Willie Tann (London, UK). Also present were Rouah Ilan (Strasburg, France), Andrew Pantling (Malta), and David Peters (Toledo, OH USA).
The tournament was a complete sell out, attracting a capacity crowd totaling 244 entries. The prize pool amounted to ₤610,000. The top 24 finishers collected prize money. Among those who cashed was John Tabatabai (Cardiff, UK), who was the runner up to Annette Obrestad when she won the inaugural WSOP Europe championship held in 2007.
With yet another impressive third-place finish, two-time former gold bracelet winner Chris Bjorin now has five WSOP Europe cashes and three final table appearances -- the most by any player. Since this was only the 12th gold bracelet presented in Europe, that means Bjorin has cashed in 42 percent of events and final tabled one quarter of all tournaments played in London.
To see the official final results, please click HERE.