Matt Grapenthien, a.k.a. “Grapes” won the $10,000 buy-in Seven-Card Stud Championship at the 2014 World Series of Poker. The poker pro who primarily specializes in online play locked down $268,473 for first place. He was also presented with the first gold bracelet of his career. Grapenthien may be a new name to some, but he’s posted numerous live tournament cashes dating back to 2004. He’s also one of the most respected online cash game grinders, having supported himself exclusively by playing as a pro for nearly a decade. Indeed, Grapenthien’s real forte is Razz and other Stud-related cash games. Accordingly, his victory in this, the highest buy-in Seven-Card Stud event at this year’s series comes as little surprise. What may have actually been a surprise were the group of players he faced and who he defeated heads up for the title.“There was a moment when we were heads-up and the gold bracelet was sitting there. I got emotional just looking at the bracelet,” Grapenthein said. “I didn’t want to see it. I almost asked for them to take it away.of course, they wouldn’t have done that. I just didn’t want to think about it, especially once I got [heads-up against Todd Brunson].”Throughout the nine-hour finale, Grapenthien overcame multiple chip disadvantages, including being down to the venerable poker pro Todd Brunson by more than 3 to 1 at one point as the duo battled back and forth for more than three hours. Grapenthiem's depth of experience proved to be a virtue, not only winning the biggest prize of his career, but catapulting himself into the public consciousness for the first time as a WSOP winner.“It feels amazing to win. I’m almost speechless right now,” Grapenthiem said. “I had so many people caring for me and cheering for me.” Since online poker isn’t much of an option living in Chicago where Grapenthien resides, he instead spends much of his time in Canada, where he plays mostly Seven-Card Stud-related games on the Internet. When Grapenthien does play in live tournaments, he’s often decked out in his NHL Chicago Blackhawks jersey, which has become his trademark. Seven-Card Stud has been a staple on the WSOP schedule since 1973. While predominantly looked upon as an East Coast game, the variant is played by virtually all the top tournament and cash game players. However, Seven-Card Stud’s popularity in cardrooms has seen a steady decline in the last decade, despite the WSOP’s best intentions to keep bolster its relevance as an official gold bracelet event.
“I started playing poker professionally when I was in my early 20’s. Back then, poker was 60 percent Hold’em and 30 percent Stud, and the rest was everything else,” Grapenthein said. “I started playing Stud, and then it started dying out. So, this field became really strong with the best players. I’d never even cashed in this event before. It’s a big buy-in. It’s always been my favorite game.”
With this victory, Grapenthiem now has 11 cashes at the WSOP, including three final table appearances. His best previous showing was in 2010 when he finished seventh. This three-day tournament attracted a virtual “Who’s Who” of poker. Dozens of gold bracelet winners, Poker Hall of Fame inductees, and living legends comprised the stacked field. No one was more respectful of those players and the traditions they’ve left the game than the winner, Grapenthein. The final table featured three gold bracelet winners. Poker icon Phil Hellmuth competed for what could have been a record-extending 14th career victory. That didn't happen, as Hellmuth went out in fifth place. Meanwhile, Brunson hoped to revisit the top spot at the WSOP for the first time since 2005, which was the occasion of his last victory. Yet, the cards didn’t cooperate for Brunson, although he came close. Poker Hall of Fame inductee Henry Orenstein, still going strong and playing well at age 90, cashed for the first time at the WSOP since 1996. He finished in eighth place, becoming the oldest player to cash at this year's series, so far. The finale also included the 2011 runner-up in this event, Steve Landfish. Also featured were two up and comers, Ben Yu and Australia’s James Obst. This was Obst’s first final table at the WSOP, while Yu was appearing at his third career WSOP final table.The $10,000 buy-in Seven-Card Stud Championship drew a field of 102 players, generating a prize pool of $958,800. The top 16 finishers made the money. Some of the notables who cashed but missed the final table include “Miami John” Cernuto (16th), Barry Greenstein (13th), Richard Ashby (10th), and final table bubble boy Jesse Martin (9th). Remarkably, of the 16 players who cashed in this event, three were Poker Hall of Famers: Greenstein, inventor of the hole card camera Henry Orenstein (8th), and Hellmuth (6th).Here are the final table results from the $10,000 buy-in Seven-Card Stud Championship:1st: Matt Grapenthien - $268,4732nd: Todd Brunson - $165,8913rd: James Obst - $103,8954th: Ben Yu - $75,2275th: Steve Landfish - $58,7936th: Phil Hellmuth - $46,8857th: Henrick Hecklen - $38,0738th: Henry Orenstein - $31,419