Al-Keliddar earns first bracelet and $154,338
July 11, 2018 (Las Vegas, NV) - At
37 years old, Yaser Al-Keliddar has accomplished a lot. He graduated
from law school, practiced law, ran successful businesses, invested in
real estate, performed stand-up comedy, and became a winning poker
He added a big notch on
his poker resume on Wednesday evening by taking down the $3,000 limit
hold’em six-max event for his first World Series of Poker bracelet. The
DC area semi-professional poker player defeated 221 entries and earned
“I’m relieved because I
was tied for the chip lead heading into the day, so to have blown it
would have been rough,” said Al-Keliddar after his win. “I had a lot of
friends from back home who were really supportive, cheering me on, and
that helped a lot. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
Al-Keliddar started playing poker nearly two decades ago and earned his first WSOP cash in 2004 when he finished 126th in the Main Event for $15,000.
“I played the Main Event
in 2004, when I was a baby when I was 23-years-old,” said Al-Keliddar.
“I had Doyle Brunson at my table on Day 3. I made the money and that was
He took another shot at
the main in 2006 but failed to cash. After that, he was playing mostly
online poker and with all the other things he had going on in his life,
he didn’t have much time to make it back to Vegas.
“I started law school and
was kind of too busy to come out to the World Series,” he said. “I went
in 2006 and didn’t come back to Vegas ‘til 2016. I played only the Main
Event and played it again last summer.”
This summer was
different. He stopped practicing law and began spending more time in
poker rooms. He came back to the desert ready to grind and earned his
first cash in 14 years with a 52nd place finish in the $1,500 limit hold’em.
He wasn’t even planning
to play the six-max until his friend reminded him that there was another
limit hold’em event to be played before the end of the series. He
hopped in it, won it, and is heading back east on a high note.
“I wasn’t going to play
this thing until an hour and a half before,” said Al-Keliddar. “My
friend texted me and was like ‘Hey, you want to play this tournament?’
It wasn’t even on my radar, but I do play a lot of limit hold’em back
home, so I said ‘Sure, why not?’
Like many, Al-Keliddar
got his start in no-limit hold’em, but eventually made the transition to
limit games because of the pace of play and the lack of knowledge that
some players have about the game. With so much else going on in his
life, it’s quite the accomplishment that he was able to achieve such an
advanced knowledge of the game.
“I don’t know. It’s a
good question,” said Al-Keliddar about how he balances everything in his
life. “I don’t really do stand up comedy anymore. I opened for
‘Screech’ (Dustin Diamond) two months ago, but that was my first show in
four years. Stand-up comedy is something I was trying for fun.”
Of all the things he has done already, comedy gave him the skills most relatable to poker.
“If you make your
opponents laugh, that’s good,” he said. “It helps you get people to play
with you over and over again. It’s good to have the same crew coming
back to play every week and entertaining them is a big part of poker
pros, or semi-pros as I am.
“There are a lot of
grinders with their hoodies on, glasses and headphones and they don’t
say a word. They don’t realize how much it is affecting their bottom
line. You got to make people lose money to you and enjoy it while
they’re doing it.”
The final day of the
event got cards in the air at 2 p.m. with eight players remaining. It
didn’t take long to lose Joao Vieria in eighth-place and the final seven
players combined to the unofficial final table of seven with
Al-Keliddar holding the chip lead.
The seven players battled
for another 70 minutes before Won Lee busted in seventh and the final
six players were all credited with making the six-handed final table.
Just over an orbit into
the final table, one of poker’s most recognizable names hit the rail.
Barry Greenstein was all in preflop with pocket sixes against
Al-Keliddar’s pocket kings. The board ran out clean for Al-Keliddar
which eliminated the three-time bracelet winner in sixth-place.
At the start of the next
level, arguably the most accomplished limit hold’em player in the field
busted. Mike Schneider, who made a living for quite some time playing
high-stakes online limit hold’em, busted to Juha Helppi.
Schneider was on the
button and got in the last of his chips against Helppi in the big blind.
It was Helppi’s against Schneider’s . After a runout
of , it was Helppi that reigned supreme to send one
of two Minnesota players home in fifth.
“Schneids” earned $28,708 for his second WSOP final table of his career.
Four-handed play lasted
for about another level and a half with the chips starting to even out a
little bit before Andrew Yip began to slide down the leaderboard.
Just before the second
break of the day, Yip busted in fourth to the other Minnesota player at
the final table, Justin Thurlow. Thurlow raised on the button and Yip
was in the small blind. Yip three-bet, Thurlow four-bet and Yip called,
which committed the last of his chips preflop.
Yip was dominated with
his king-nine against Thurlow’s ace-king. The board didn’t change
anything, and Yip was eliminated in fourth-place for $41,665.
Thurlow won the pot but
didn’t keep those chips for long. Three-handed play lasted almost the
entire next level. Helppi doubled through Thurlow, which put him on the
short stack. He busted near the end of the level.
Helppi finished off
Thurlow when Thurlow got the last of his chips into the middle on a flop
of with against Helppi’s .
Thurlow was in the lead
but had a lot of cards to dodge. He faded the turn card, but the
on the river gave Helppi a bigger pair, the pot, and the knockout.
Thurlow earned $62,187 for his third-place finish, and Helppi went
heads-up with Al-Keliddar for the title.
heads-up play with the chip lead and only extended it throughout the
early segments of the heads-up battle. He quickly opened a sizable chip
lead and had Helppi down to his last couple of bets.
Eventually, Helppi was forced to put his last couple of chips into the middle with against Al-Keliddar’s pocket fours.
The board ran out
and Al-Keliddar’s pair held up to deny the Finnish
pro his first bracelet and send the DC native back to the nation’s
capital with some hardware.
Final Table Results:
1st: Yaser Al-Keliddar - $154,338
2nd: Juha Helppi - $95,380
3rd: Justin Thurlow - $62,187
4th: Andrew Yip - $41,665
5th: Mike Schneider - $28,708
6th: Barry Greenstein - $20,358
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