The first-ever World Series of Poker Dealer's Choice event certainly has a memorable winner, as Robert Mizrachi of Miami, Florida picked up his second gold bracelet in the inaugural event. He collected $147,092 in prize money, plus his second career gold bracelet. Mizrachi's first bracelet came in a Pot Limit Omaha event back in 2007.
Mizrachi's victory wasn't entirely surprising, considering the intense demands on players to master the widest array of poker games ever assembled for a single poker tournament. Playing in the event required a working knowledge of 16 variations of poker. Mizrachi with 32 career cashes dating all the way back to 2003, certainly had the pedigree of experience, and as the event played down to an intense conclusion, he didn't disappoint his gallery of fans who assembled on a Saturday night at the Rio in Las Vegas to witness the victory. Mizrachi continues the trend of repeat bracelet winners this year, bringing the total to 15.
"It's tough to win. The players are getting tougher," Mizrachi replied when asked about the seven-year lapse between bracelets. "There's definitely a lot of pride in winning this event. It's a very skilled event. You not only have to know all the games, but you have to pick the games that your opponent's don't play as well."
The win didn't come easily. A relative newcomer named Aaron Schaff seemed headed for what would have been his first career victory. The 25-year-old poker pro from from New Brunswick, NJ arrived at the final table as chip leader, holding twice as many chips as his nearest rival when the final six players took their seats. Schaff gradually pulled away from his opponents, but Mizrachi staged a late comeback that took more than two hours to complete, with several key pots reversing the momentum and ultimately resulting in a hugely-satisfying win by the journeyman pro.
Another factor that proved to be a difference maker was the choice games picked by players. Mizarchi identified games he thought his opponent was weakest in. Meanwhile, Schaff often picked Pot Limit Omaha when the duo were playing heads-up. "Pot Limit Omaha is one of my best games," Mizrachi confided.
With this victory, Mizrachi is now close to $2 million in WSOP earnings. He's part of a highly-accomplished family, with four brothers who have all cashed at the WSOP. Mizrachi was actually the first of the famous poker family to win his gold bracelet. However, since then, brother Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi has won three WSOP titles.
"We have played together before on the same final tables," Mizrachi recalled, referring to a 2010 Poker Player's Championship event where he faced his brother Michael in the finale. "We play hard when we're at the table, but we also pull for each other when we are not competing. We all grew up together, and that's the way we have always been."
The final table featured four players with a combined seven bracelets. Bill Chen, Daniel Idema and the 2010 WSOP Player of the Year Frank Kassela each had two bracelets to their name, while Mizrachi had one. Schaff was making his final table debut, along with Shane Abbott, who finished third.
The event drew high praise from most who participated. For one thing, there was much more conversation and socializing than normal. Many players noted that the format seemed to foster a home game experience, exactly what organizers initially had in mind when the tournament was created.
"It would be nice if the $50K [Poker Players Championship] was exactly the same way as this, because you can guarantee all the players would still play it, and the skill really shows," Mizrachi said. "I think this would be good for a $10,000 buy-in, or maybe a $25,000 buy-in, but we should still keep this one because you want to introduce players to the game."
This was the first year for the new $1,500 Dealer’s Choice event. The tournament allowed the player on the button to choose from one of 16 different games, including some never before spread at the WSOP like Badeucey, Badacey, and Pot Limit Five Card Draw. In fact, Five-Card Draw had not been played in any fashion at the WSOP since 1982. There were 419 players who took part in the event. The tournament generated a $565,650 prize pool and paid the top 42 places. A number of notables cashed, including Brian Rast (41st), recent bracelet winner Calvin Anderson (31st), Gavin Smith (25th), Perry Green (17th), Jennifer Harman (10th), and bracelet winner Marco Johnson, who bubbled the final table in seventh place.
It is worth noting that female players had an exceptionally strong showing in this tournament with four ladies finishing in the top 15. Melissa Burr, who already has two final table appearances this summer, was the top female finisher, taking ninth place.
Here are the final table results for the $1,500 Dealer’s Choice event:
1st: Robert Mizrachi - $147,092
2nd: Aaron Schaff - $90,854
3rd: Shane Abbott - $58,414
4th: Bill Chen - $38,735
5th: Daniel Idema - $26,444
6th: Frank Kassela - $18,575