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Best of Aaron Todd
LAS VEGAS – So much for modesty.
After winning the $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E. tournament in the wee hours of Friday morning, Freddy Deeb didn't hold anything back.
"I played great and I got what I deserve," Deeb told the crowd of nearly 100 observers who watched the tournament end at 5 a.m. -- 14 and 1/2 hours after the final table began.
"Sometimes when I play in these tournaments, I end up dumping off chips because I want to play in the cash games," Deeb said. "This time I was determined to play the best poker I've played in my life and I did."
"I have a very (loose) reputation as a poker player," Deeb added. "When I bet out, I know I am going to get called. So, I adjust my play and it works in my favor."
Deeb's victory over what could be the best poker field ever assembled easily ranks as his most important victory.
"When I won my first bracelet (Deuce-to Seven Lowball), I was mostly a cash game player so it didn't really matter that much to me," Deeb said. "But this one – it means everything to me. They are the toughest players in the world."
As well as Deeb was playing, it didn't look like he was going to win when play was three-handed. Frenchman Bruno Fitoussi had more than $11 million chips soon after knocking out Amnon Filippi in fourth. Deeb and John Hanson were both well behind with roughly $2 million.
But the trio battled for eight full levels, more than four hours of actual playing time and more than seven hours of real time, before Hanson finally bowed out in third.
It took four days to eliminate 140 players from the 148-player field, and the fourth-longest final table in WSOP history to determine a winner.
The heads up match took less than an hour, with Fitoussi forced to fold with just $190,000 chips when he missed a multitude of draws in Seven Stud Eight or Better.
He was all-in immediately in the next hand.
"Good luck," Deeb said to his friend.
"Thank you, I need it!" Fitoussi replied.
The good luck did not arrive, and the Frenchman was forced to settle for second place and $1.3 million. This is the second time Fitoussi has finished second at the WSOP.
Last year, Chip Reese won the title and took home $1.7 million. While Deeb didn't cash in last year's event, he did benefit, because the two have an arrangement in which they share five percent of their tournament winnings. Reese didn't cash this year, but will still enjoy five percent of the nearly $2.3 million first-place prize that Deeb won this year.
This year's final table, the fourth-longest in WSOP history, was two or three hours longer than last year's. But in terms of heads-up play, there's no comparison. Reese defeated Andy Bloch in an epic nine-hour heads-up match to claim the inaugural $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. title.
Reese, however, had to outdraw Bloch on several occasions to stay alive. He was quite humble after the tournament ended, knowing that he was lucky to pull out the win.
But there was no humble pie for Freddy, and maybe he didn't need it. After receiving his bracelet, Deeb asked: "You know what did it? The lucky shirt."