Photo Caption: Steve Billirakis (pictured center) playing in the most recent WSOP Europe event at Cannes, France. The 25-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas won his second career WSOP gold bracelet in the Pot-Limit Omaha championship.
Cannes, France (12 October 2011) – Pot-Limit Omaha’s origins may very well be in the American Midwest, but there’s little doubt the game has become a favorite pastime for many European poker players.
Indeed, Europeans tend dominate many international Pot-Limit poker tournaments, wherever they are held. This includes the World Series of Poker -- in both Las Vegas and WSOP Europe.
Consider the list of Pot-Limit Omaha WSOP gold bracelet champions from the past:
Elie Payan (France)
Max Pescatori (Italy)
Peter Smurfit (Ireland)
Donnacha O’Dea (Ireland)
Chris Bjorin (U.K.)
Matthias Rohnacher (Germany)
Jeffrey Lisandro (Italy)
Jani Vilmunen (Finland)
Theo Jorgensen (Denmark)
Dario Alioto (Italy)
Nonetheless, it was an American player that sat down at the most recent WSOP Europe finale table and ruined the Euro-party. Steve Billirakis, a professional poker player from Las Vegas, NV won the 5,000 (Euro) buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha championship played in Cannes, France. He collected €238,140 for first place, equal to about $324,580 (USD). Billirakis was also presented with his second WSOP gold bracelet.
Billirakis first career victory took place back in 2007, in what was the first ESPN –televised tournament of the year. At the time, he was the youngest WSOP gold bracelet winner of all-time, until later in the year when Annette Obrestad broke his age-record at WSOP Europe in London.
Among those conquered by Billirakis was Eoghan O’Dea, from Dublin, Ireland. O’Dea is one of this year’s WSOP Main Event finalists, otherwise known as the “November Nine.” He will return to Las Vegas early next month with the goal of winning the 2011 world poker championship. O’Dea finished in ninth place.
An interesting sidebar to Eoghan O’Dea’s final table appearance was the prior achievement of his father, Donnacha O’Dea. The elder O’Dea won a WSOP gold bracelet in this same game, Pot-Limit Omaha back in 1998. Had the younger O’Dea managed to win, they would have become the first and only father-son duo to win gold bracelets in the same game. Doyle and Todd Brunson remain as the only father-son duo to win WSOP gold bracelets.
This event tied the record for the most international final table in WSOP history. Players from eight different nations were represented among the nine finalists, once again proving that this game attracts the very best poker players in just about every nation.
Oddly enough, the host nation of France did not have a single player at the final table. Although French players won four gold bracelets this year at the WSOP, none has come close to achieving a victory here in Cannes. The current trend mirrors the unexpected early results of WSOP Europe when it first arrived in London, England. A native champion was not crowned by the host nation until the third year of WSOP Europe, when J.P. Kelly won the opener in 2009. Not to fret, however. French poker players still have four more events to win a gold bracelet and make poker history.
Attendance at 2011 WSOP Europe continues to smash previous records. Through the conclusion of the first three events, overall attendance is up a whopping 38 percent over the first three events held last year, in London. Pot-Limit Omaha attendance increased by 33 percent over the same event, held in 2010. The previous tournament obliterated the record for the largest turnout ever in the five-year history of World Series of Poker Europe. The 771-player turnout for Event #2 represented a 27-percent increase over the old high mark. No doubt, wherever it’s held -- the WSOP continues to surpass all expectations and overcome every challenge, no matter how daunting.
The Pot-Limit Omaha tournament was played over three consecutive days and nights, ending on a warm and breezy Wednesday evening along the Mediterranean Sea.
There’s still a lot more to come. The world’s most exciting and prestigious poker series has four WSOP gold bracelet events remaining, including the internationally-televised Main Event Championship, which runs 15-20 October at the Hotel Majestic Barriere, in Cannes.
A full report from EVENT #3, including winner quotes and tournament notes will be available shortly.