TOURNAMENT HEADLINES

Pakistan’s Prince of Poker

Owais Ahmed Wins First Gold Bracelet at 2011 WSOP

Amateur Poker Player Wins $2,500 Buy-in Mixed High-Low Split Championship

Ahmed Rakes-In $255,959 Pot

Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi Finishes as Runner-Up

Full House at the 2011 WSOP -- Tournament Attendance Shows No Signs of Slowing

47 Gold Bracelets Won – 11 More Events Still to Go

OVERVIEW

Every successful poker player has at least one career defining moment.

For Owais Ahmed, that special moment took place between 1:30 and 3:00 a.m., during the early morning hours of June 30th.

Ahmed, a relatively unknown amateur poker player – albeit with a strong pedigree of previous tournament accomplishments -- faced one of poker’s most formidable foes.  Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi, the decorated $4 million man from last year’s WSOP and a living legend of the modern era, who was but a few hands away from winning what would have been his second career gold bracelet.

Everything pointed to a Mizrachi victory.  He enjoyed a 3-to-1 chip lead playing a limit format.  He had his entire family on the rail cheering.  And, truth be told – it was Mizrachi who had loads of experience in high-pressure tournament situations, playing for world titles.

But something unprecedented happened on the way to the Mizrachi’s victory celebration.  The grind came to a screeching halt.

Indeed, Ahmed seemed to scoop every key pot played during the final 90 minutes.  When Mizrachi would get dealt two big pair, Ahmed ended up with three-of-a-kind.  When Mizrachi seemed to have an emergency low to stop the siphoning of chips, the determined Ahmed would manage to catch a better low and scoop the pot.

In short, the poles of a poker tournament shifted – day spun into night for Mizrachi, while Ahmed basked in the glory at the dawn of an ever-apparent victory that was soon to come.

“Actually, when we started the match, it was like a 50-to-1 crowd advantage for Mizrachi,” Ahmed recalled afterward.  “I had a chip disadvantage.  The whole room felt really small, and it felt like it was me against the world….I meditated a little bit, and I said, you know -- I am just going to come out and play my A-game, and that is going to win me that bracelet.  The crowd doesn’t matter.  I put my glasses on, I was in my zone, and when I do that, I am as good as anyone in the world.”

Ahmed proved it.  He ended up winning the Mixed High-Low Split championship, which is a combination of two popular forms of poker – Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split and Omaha High-Low Split.

Ahmed collected $255,959 for first place.  He was also presented with his first WSOP gold bracelet.  It was an overwhelming experience for Ahmed, who is originally from Pakistan and now resides in Orange County, CA.

“I can’t believe it’s real right now,” Ahmed said.  “I played my heart out.  I played my A-game and in the end, it all worked out for me.  I’m ecstatic.”

Ahmed is a 27-year-old data warehouse analyst and a supply chain manager.  He holds a college degree from UC-Irvine.  He also attended film school at UCLA. 

For Ahmed, being born in Pakistan was an extra source of pride.  He noted that Pakistan has produced several champions in other forms of sport.  But he also acknowledged that poker has not become a part of Pakistani culture the way it has for other countries, at least not yet.

Alas, Pakistan is normally not a nation one associates with poker.  To be fair, the nation has produced some very fine poker players, most notably former gold bracelet winner Hasan Habib.

And so, in what may have been the very first WSOP heads-up duel in history between two poker players with roots linked back to the Middle East, Ahmed prevailed in a wildly entertaining match that was everything a great poker showdown should be – both memorable and historic.

Postscript to this story:  On Thursday afternoon, poker champion Owais Ahmed will take the WSOP main stage for his gold bracelet ceremony.  He will join another WSOP winner from a previous event, named Ken Griffin -- who happens to be a former U.S. Marine.  Griffin served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Illustrating that poker is a game that brings people together from all cultures and different backgrounds, the WSOP hopes to serve as a shining example of all the good things that are possible.

For a comprehensive recap of Event #47, please visit the WSOP.com tournament portal page HERE.

EVENT #47 CHAMPION – OWAIS AHMED

The 2011 World Series of Poker $2,500 buy-in Mixed High-Low Split (Seven-Card Stud/Omaha) champion is Owais Ahmed, from Irvine, CA.

Ahmed is a 27-year-old data warehouse analyst and supply chain project manager.

Ahmed was born in Karachi, Pakistan.

Ahmed is a graduate of the University of California at Irvine where he earned a degree in computer science.  He also attended film school at UCLA.

Ahmed has attended the WSOP during each of the past four years. 

For this victory, Ahmed collected $255,959 for first place.

According to official records, Ahmed now has 1 win, 2 final table appearances and 6 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP.

Ahmed currently has $318,539 in career WSOP winnings.

This marks Ahmed’s fourth time to cash this year.

Ahmed is to be classified as an amateur poker player (in WSOP records and stats), since he has a full-time job in another career.

The only other known WSOP gold bracelet winner to have been born in Pakistan is Hasan Habib, who is also originally from Karachi.

WINNER INTERVIEW

How do you feel winning your first gold bracelet?

“I can’t believe it’s real right now.  I played my heart out. I played my A-game and in the end, it all worked out for me.  I’m ecstatic.”

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the Final Table when you reached it?  Who was on it?

“The Final Table started with Mike Mizrachi – ‘The Grinder.’  He had a third of the chips in play.  We had Scotty Nguyen, Abe Mosseri, another online player, a lot of really, really good players.  And I just played my hands, I picked my spots.  And I waited it out until I got heads-up and Grinder had like a 3-1 chip lead heads-up, and you know, I just grinded through it.  I just played my A-game, picked my spots, flustered him a few times, and got some hands.”

 

Can you run over your final hand and how it went down?

“Well, we were playing Omaha Hi-Low.  Grinder raised.  He only had three and a half big bets and I had Queen—Ten—Three--Five, double suited.  Flop came Eight, Jack, Four.  I have a double gutter for a wheel draw and a Broadway.  So we just got it in and I hit a low and flush.”

 

Obviously it’s unusual to have a Pakistani player.  Tell us more about that.

“I spent a lot of time in America, but my family is from Pakistan.  I’m just representing Pakistan in the World Series of Poker.  It’s a great honor.  Growing up, I watched Pakistan win the Field Hockey World Cup, the Cricket World Cup, and now…Pakistan has a World Series of Poker champion.  And that is a great honor for me.”


When you started the heads-up match, you were down more than 2-1.  It seemed like the crowd was all friends and family of Mizrachi.  Can you tell us how you kept your focus?

“Actually, when we started the match, it was like a 50-1 crowd advantage for Mizrachi.  And, you know, I had a chip disadvantage.  And the whole room felt really small, and it felt like it was me against the world.  And then we played for about 20 minutes, then we had a break.  And during break, I went and washed my face.  I meditated a little bit, and I said, you know, I am just going to come out and play my A-game, and that is going to win me that bracelet.  The crowd doesn’t matter.  I put my glasses on, I was in my zone, and when I do that, I am as good as anyone in the world.”

THE FINAL TABLE

The official final table was comprised of the top eight finishers. 

The final table contained three former gold bracelet winners – Scotty Nguyen, Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi, and Abe Mosseri.

Only one nation was represented at the final table – the United States (8 players).  However, the winner was born in Pakistan and will be classified as being from that nation, per his request.

The runner up was former gold bracelet winner, Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi.  He won his first WSOP gold bracelet last year, in the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship.  That victory paid $1,559,046.  He went on to cash a total of five times over the entire series, making an unfathomable four final table appearances.  Most impressive of all, was his astounding run in the 2010 Main Event Championship – where he outlasted 7,315 players and ultimately finished in fifth place.  That paid another $2,332,992.  Mizrachi’s financial take from last year’s WSOP amounted to more than $4 million.  He added another $158,148 to his wallet, but no second gold bracelet.

Final table play began Wednesday at 9 p.m.  Played concluded a bit more than six hours later (playing time wise) at 3:15 a.m.

The final table was played on ESPN’s secondary stage.  The main state hosted the finals of the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament.  The new final table set this year is getting raves in terms of design and appearance.  No stage in the history of poker has ever looked as spectacular.  Viewers will be able to see ESPN’s coverage again once the WSOP Main Event begins in July.

Action was streamed live over WSOP.com.  Viewers can tune in and watch most of this year’s final tables.  Although hole cards are not shown, viewers can follow an overhead camera as well as a pan-shot of the table.  The floor announcer provides an official account of the action. 

OTHER IN-THE-MONEY FINISHERS

The top 48 finishers collected prize money.  Fourteen of the players who cashed were previous gold bracelet winners.

Apart from the final table, former gold bracelet winners that cashed in this tournament included – Chris Bell (14th), Brent Carter (16th), Thomas “Thunder” Keller (17th), Barry Greenstein (19th), Richard Ashby (20th), Jerrod Ankenman (23rd), Perry Friedman (29th), Josh Arieh (36th), Peter Gelencser (38th), Mickey Appleman (40th) and Alexander Kravchenko (45th).

With his 19th place finish, Barry Greenstein now has 49 career cashes, which places him in a tie for 14th place on the all-time list.

Dr. Jerry Buss, majority owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and a longtime WSOP participant, finished in 25th place.  Buss first cashed at the WSOP back in 1991.

Tournament results are to be included in all official WSOP records.  Results are also to be included in the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” race.

“WSOP Player of the Year” standings can be found HERE.

ODDS AND ENDS

This tournament attracted 450 entries.

This is the 938th gold bracelet awarded in World Series of Poker history.  This figure includes every official WSOP event ever played, including tournaments during the early years when there were no actual gold bracelets awarded.  It also includes the 16 gold bracelets awarded to date at WSOP Europe (2007-2010).  Moreover for the first time ever, one gold bracelet was awarded for this year’s winner of the WSOP Circuit National Championship.

The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory (or some hours later when the tournament ends very late).  The ceremony takes place inside The Pavilion, which is the expansive main tournament room hosting all noon starts this year.  The ceremony begins at the conclusion of the first break of the noon tournament.  The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 p.m.  The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played.  The entire presentation is open to the public and media.  Video and photography is permitted by both the public and members of the media.

Ahmed’s gold bracelet ceremony is set to take place on Thursday, June 30th.  The national anthem of Pakistan will be played in honor of his victory. 

2011 WSOP STATISTICS

Through the conclusion of Event #47 (Event #46 has not yet ended) the 2011 WSOP has attracted 53,468 combined total entries.  $94,768,935 in prize money has been awarded to winners. 

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of nationality of gold bracelet winners has been:

United States (28)

Canada (5)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Ukraine (3)

Russia (2)

Brazil (1)

Pakistan (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has been:

United States (26)

Canada (5)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Russia (2)

Ukraine (1)

Israel (1)

Honduras (1)

Indonesia (1)

Germany (1)

Brazil (1)

Pakistan (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the home-states of (American) winners have been:

California (5)

Nevada (4)

New York (3)

Texas (3)

Illinois (2)

Florida (2)

Connecticut (2)

New Jersey (1)

Tennessee (1)

Indiana (1)

Maryland (1)

Virginia (1)

Michigan (1)

North Dakota (1)

Washington (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of professional poker players to semi-pros and amateurs who won gold bracelets has been:

Professional Players (35):  Jake Cody, Cheech Barbaro, Eugene Katchalov, Allen Bari, Harrison Wilder, Matt Perrins, Sean Getzwiller, Viacheslav Zhukov, David Diaz, Andrew Badecker, Tyler Bonkowski, Brian Rast, John Juanda, Aaron Steury, Darren Woods, Jason Somerville, Bertrand Grospellier, John Monnette, Elie Payan, Mark Radoja, Chris Viox, Dan Idema, Andy Frankenberger, Chris Lee, Sam Stein, Mark Schmid, Jason Mercier, Mikhail Lakhitov, Fabrice Soulier, Mitch Schock, Matt Jarvis, Justin Pechie, Ben Lamb, Rep Porter, Andre Akkari

Semi-Pros (5):  Sean R. Drake, Amir Lehavot, Oleksii Kovalchuk, Eric Rosawig, Arkadiy Tsinis

Amateurs (6):  Geffrey Klein, Foster Hays, James Hess, Kirk Caldwell, Ken Griffin, Owais Ahmed

Since tracking first started in 2005, this year’s WSOP has the greatest disparity of professionals winning over semi-pros and amateurs than any year recorded, so far – with 40 out of 46 (sans event #46) events being won by pros or semi-pros.

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the victories of nine of the 46 winners (20 percent) marked the first time the new champion had ever cashed at the WSOP.

Every WSOP held over the past 11 years has included at least one multiple gold bracelet champion (meaning two or more wins within the same year).  The last year the WSOP was comprised exclusively of single-event winners was back in 1999.  The record for most multiple gold bracelet winners within a single year was in 2009, when five players managed to win two or more titles.  So far this year, no player has yet won two gold bracelets.

The streak of consecutive male WSOP gold bracelet winners has now reached 205 consecutive events.  Aside from the annual Ladies Poker Championship, the last female player to win a WSOP tournament open to both sexes was Vanessa Selbst, in 2008.  The longest “cold” streak for female players occurred between years 1982 and 1996, when 221 consecutive open events passed without a female champion.

The highest finish by any female (open events) at this year’s WSOP was by two players.  Maria Ho finished second ($5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em).  Kim Nguyen also finished as the runner up ($1,500 buy-in Six-Handed Limit Hold’em).

The highest finish by any defending champion at this year’s WSOP was by David Baker, who after winning the previous $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball World Championship finished in sixth place in defense of his title.

Reigning world poker champions rarely perform well the following year after their victory.  Chris “Jesus” Ferguson was the last world champion to win a gold bracelet the next year, which happened in 2001.  Perhaps it’s due to the increasing size of the fields.  But there’s also great pressure on the champions to do well.  What follows is a list of the only world champions in history to win a gold bracelet after winning the championship during the previous year:

Johnny Moss (1975)

Doyle Brunson (1977)

Bobby Baldwin (1979)

Johnny Chan (1988)

Hamid Dastmalchi (1993)

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (2001)

By contrast, players who make it to the final table of the Main Event Championship (November Nine) one year tend to do quite well in subsequent WSOP years.  Consider that last year, three former Main Event finalists won gold bracelets – Eric Buchman, Tex Barch, and Scott Montgomery.  This year, Matt Jarvis won his first gold bracelet one year after making it to the November Nine in 2010.

New tournament records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

Biggest Heads-Up tournament prize pool in history ($3,040,000) – Event #2

Largest live Omaha High-Low Split Tournament in history (925 entries) – Event #3

Largest live Six-Handed tournament in poker history (1,920 entries) – Event #10

Biggest Deuce-to-Seven tournament prize pool in history ($1,184,400) – Event #16

Largest live $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3157 entries) – Event #18

Largest live $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3175 entries) – Event #20

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,332 entries) – Event #18 and Event #20

Largest live Pot-Limit Omaha tournament in poker history (1,071 entries) – Event #22

Largest Mixed-Game (Eight-Game Mix) in poker history (489 entries) – Event #23

Largest Seniors tournament in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Biggest Seniors No-Limit Hold’em championship prize pool in history ($3,376,800) – Event #30

Largest single-day live tournament start in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,580 entries) – Event #30/Event #32 (broke Event #18/Event #20 record from earlier in 2011 WSOP)

Largest four-consecutive days field sizes in poker history (2,500+3,752+2,828+3,144 =12,224 entries) -- Events 28, 30, 32, 34, June 16-19, 2011

Largest Mixed Pot-Limit tournament in history (606 entries) – Event #39

Biggest Pot-Limit Omaha prize pool in live poker history ($3,393,400) – Event #42

New player records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

The 35-year span between Artie Cobb’s first cash in this event (1976) and most recent cash in the same event (2011) represents the longest time span in WSOP history.  He accomplished this in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split (Event #25).

Phil Hellmuth Jr. added to his record as the individual all-time leader in cashes (83) and final table appearances (42).

RAISING AWARENESS:  BAD BEAT ON CANCER AND THE WSOP

Bad Beat on Cancer was created in 2003 by Phil Gordon and Rafe Furst as an easy and fun way for poker players to donate to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.  It all began when Chris Moneymaker pledged 1 percent of his 2003 Main Event winnings and went on to capture the championship, contributing $25,000 when he was awarded the $2.500,000 first- place prize.  By taking the pledge, wearing the patch, and joining ‘Team 1%’, players can feel good supporting a cause that only benefits when they win.  As the official charity of the WSOP, pledges simply indicate to the payouts staff that they are donating 1 percent of their winnings, and the funds are automatically withheld.  A tax receipt is generated and sent to their mailing address.  Several high profile professionals have made ‘life pledges’ of 1 percent of all their winnings -- including Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Lee Childs, Paul Wasicka, Andy Bloch, Dennis Phillips, and others.  Since 2003, the initiative has raised over $3,500,000 for cancer prevention research, education, and community outreach programs.  Players can pick up a patch and join Team 1% by stopping by the Bad Beat on Cancer booth, located at the 2011 WSOP opposite the Amazon Room in the concourse.  The Nevada Cancer Institute based in Las Vegas is a benefiting charity from the Bad Beat on Cancer.