Las Vegas, NV (June 11, 2011) – If one tournament sums up how the 2011 World Series of Poker has gone this year, it would be the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Shootout, which was just completed at the Rio in Las Vegas.
Four former WSOP gold bracelet winners, with six combined career wins amongst them, sat down at the final table. each with shared visions of winning yet another WSOP title and throwing down the gauntlet on the flurry of first-time winners who have seemingly overpopulated this year’s tournament leader boards.
Looking at the formidable lineup of savvy bronzed and bejeweled veterans – which included Erik Cajelais, Dan Kelly, Vitaly Lunkin, and David Pham (all with combined $6.5 million in WSOP winnings) one might have expected a late-night star-stacked battle, and perhaps a repeat champion.
But the five lesser-known players had other ideas. One by one, the giants of WSOP yesteryear fell like wilting timber, thereby allowing yet another shiny new WSOP gold bracelet to be snatched up by a newcomer.
It all started just moments after final table play began when David Pham went down in ninth place. Next, Vitaly Lunkin hit the rail, finishing eighth. Then, it was Dan Kelly’s turn to exit in sixth place. Finally, Erik Cajelais was sweep away like morning garbage as the fifth-place finisher.
All of the remaining four were players who had never previously won anything resembling a gold bracelet.
Ultimately, Andrew Badecker triumphed in the changing of the guard, thus becoming the 13th-consecutive first-time gold bracelet winner at this year’s WSOP. He initially won two full-table matches and then obliterated a tough final table lineup, en route to his first WSOP victory.
Badecker is a 23-year-old poker pro, who now resides in Las Vegas. He recently moved from Connecticut, where he grew up. Badecker dropped out of Southern Connecticut State University in order to try playing full-time and now as the bankroll to follow his poker dreams. He earned $369,371 in prize money, plus the most coveted prize in poker -- the WSOP gold bracelet.
The three-day tournament began on Wednesday and ended late past midnight very early on Saturday morning. The field-size of 1,440 players represented one of the largest Shootout fields in poker history. The top 160 finishers collected prize money.
Several former WSOP gold bracelet winners cashed in this event – including those who made it to the final table. They were officially listed as Amir Lehavot 21st), Eric Baldwin (42nd), Scott Montgomery (46th), Blair Hinkle (56th), Daniel Negreanu (59th), Max Pescatori (64th), Brandon Cantu (82nd), Scott Seiver (97th), Greg Raymer (109th), Jennifer Tilly (131st), and Matt Matros (133rd).
Shootouts emphasize short-handed poker skills. This generally requires competitors to play cards out of the standard range of starting-hand requirements. It also makes post-flop skill paramount to victory. In a sense, each round is a “final table” for all the competitors since the objective is to accumulate chips and eliminate opponents.
A shootout tournament means players advance based on winning a series of table matches. The shootout format is single elimination. The number of matches depends on the number of tournament entries. In this event, the winner was required to win each in a series of consecutive matches. The first match included nine players. The second match included ten players. The last day included two tables of 16 players playing down to the winner.
As for explanations as to why so many relatively unknown players are crashing the WSOP party this year, there's at least one plausible theory. Perhaps the influx of stellar talent that has descended upon Las Vegas was caused, in part, by the events of what has been called "Black Friday."
Thinking about it, everything makes perfect sense.
Perhaps the next 45 or so events will ultimately determine if this is merely an anomaly (the old guard hopes) of is indeed the dawning of a new era and age in high-stakes tournament poker when an entire generation of young twenty-somethings is stepping out of the shadows of the online world for the first time and stepping into the luminescence of the bright lights at the WSOP and being exposed as superior talent.
Only time will tell.
The full Official Report of this tournament with more about the winner will be posted shortly to WSOP.com.