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Best of Aaron Todd
Top-10 moments from the WSOP Main Event26 July 2010
By Aaron Todd, Vin Narayanan, and Dan Igo
10. The death of the Pavilion
When Day 3 began, the Pavilion at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino was packed with more than a thousand poker players, dealers, and spectators. When it finally ended, there were only about a dozen tables and barely over 100 players remaining. The 55,488-square-foot room gave WSOP officials the space they needed to make sure that everyone who wanted to play in the Main Event would have a seat. By the end of Day 3, it was like an empty cavern, and the difference was quite striking.
-- Aaron Todd
9. Ury's remarkable run
Ninety-seven-year-old Jack Ury made history at this year's Main Event when he became the oldest participant to compete in the tournament. He made history again later that day when he became the oldest player to survive Day 1. He made history again a few days later when he became the oldest player to survive Day 2. The Terre Haute, Ind., resident needed some assistance during play, and players obliged by helping him with his blinds and antes. Ury's grandson was also there to help stack his chips if he won a pot. Unfortunately, Ury was a no-show on Day 3, and his 8,100 chips were blinded and anted off.
-- Dan Igo
8. Kopp eliminated
Billy Kopp is quickly becoming a tragic figure at the World Series of Poker Main Event. Last year, the popular online pro was on the verge of reaching the final table with a dominant chip stack when he melted down against eventual runner-up Darvin Moon. This year, Kopp's tournament came to a stunning end again.
Kopp and the other big stack at the table, Nicolas Babel, traded pre-flop raises before the flop, when the dealer turned over 8s-8d-4c. Both players checked. An ace hit on the turn and Kopp checked. Babel fired out a good-sized bet, Kopp check-raised all-in. Babel called instantly, and Kopp turned over pocket aces for a full house -- aces full of eights. Babel turned over quad eights and an ashen Kopp knew the end was near. The river was a king, and Kopp exited the tournament for the second-straight year with a massive stack yanked from him in dramatic fashion.
Annie Duke, Kopp's fellow UB pro, walked over from the adjacent table to watch the hand and couldn't believe what she saw. "That's sick. That's just so sick," Duke said.
-- Vin Narayanan
7. Cheong handles a bad beat in stride
Joseph Cheong started Day 8 as the chip leader as the field would be whittled from 27 to the November Nine. When Filippo Candio called Cheong's all-in bet on a board of 5-6-6, Cheong was an 87 percent favorite to have twice as many chips as the rest of the field, holding pocket aces vs. Candio's 7-5. But when Candio hit a runner-runner straight, Candio became a chip leader, and Cheong fell to an average stack. Both players made it through the day and could clash again at the final table in November.
-- Aaron Todd
6. The Caped Crusader
Nobody knew Phil Dwek's name was before the Main Event. No one will know his name after the Main Event. But people will remember the Canadian resident, simply because he was the only player dressed as Batman. The 25-year-old Toronto native wore a costume complete with a cape, pointed ears and padded six-pack. The "Caped Crusader" played next to former Main Event champion Dan Harrington during Day 1B, and managed to make it to the featured ESPN TV table that day as well. He survived to Day 2B, but busted shortly after the dinner break. "Truth and Justice" will have to be served next year.
-- Dan Igo
5. Chan eliminated
The biggest story at the Main Event this year was one that ended well before the final table was set. Two-time Main Event champion and 10-time bracelet winner Johnny Chan was dominating the field for several days. He entered Day 6 of the Main Event in ninth place with 2.559 million in chips. But two hands in the span of an hour sent the Orient Express to the rail in 156th place.
On his first hand after moving to a new table, Chan and Robert Pisano fired out a series of pre-flop bets that ended with Chan calling Pisano's all-in move for a total of 2.19 million. Chan turned over kings. Pisano turned over aces, and the aces held up. About an hour later, Chan pushed all in with jacks and was called by Jonathan Driscoll, who held pocket aces. Driscoll's aces held up and Chan was out of the tournament.
It was a lightning fast end to a brilliant tournament run. But Chan managed to look at the positive as he walked to pick up his prize money. "Of course I wanted to go further," Chan said. "But this is the furthest I've been in 20 years. Maybe next year I can improve on that."
-- Vin Narayanan
4. Hellmuth makes his entrance
Phil Hellmuth continued his annual tradition of arriving at the Main Event loud and late on Day 1C when he entered dressed up as an MMA fighter, complete with robe, gloves and 11 ring girls. The ring girls each held a "title belt" that represented one of Hellmuth's 11 WSOP bracelets. The scene around Hellmuth was hectic, to say the least. He was introduced outside by ring announcer Bruce Buffer, and by the time he made it inside the Rio, over 100 fans and media members were trying to get a picture of the "Poker Brat." The crowd around the rail of the secondary featured TV table was five deep when he finally took his seat, still wearing the robe and gloves. He was eliminated shortly after the dinner break, and the entire Amazon Room cheered after it was announced on the PA system that he busted.
--- Dan Igo
3. Gary Kostiuk's amazing run
Gary Kostiuk, a 49-year-old optometrist from Grande Prairie, Alberta, lived every amateur poker player's dream, turning a $350 satellite win into $79,806 with an 85th-place finish in the Main Event. But Gary isn't just any old amateur player. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago, and now sits at the poker table in a wheelchair.
"This is special," Ryan said, of his father's participation. Their relationship is even more special.
-- Aaron Todd
2. Dinner with Dovzhenko
Dinner breaks are an odd thing at the World Series of Poker Main Event. Some players return to their room where friends and family are waiting with meals for a quick bite and nap. Some make dinner reservations at nearby restaurants so they can hustle to the restaurant, eat a nice meal, and hustle back to the Rio within the 90 minutes tournament officials have given them to eat. And others race to restaurants within the Rio and try and get seated before the crowd arrives.
But for players who don't have friends and family in Vegas -- and who might not have that much cash to drop on a meal -- the Poker Kitchen is the place to eat.
The Poker Kitchen -- which stood about 100 yards away from the Amazon Room -- featured several different varieties of fast food and limited seating capacity. As a result, people eating sat wherever there was a free seat. And some normally shy poker players were forced to interact with real people.
I was eating dinner and browsing through ESPN's mobile Web site on my Blackberry when I heard someone with a Russian accent ask me if he could sit at my table. I had three free seats available and no reasonable cause to object (though I wanted to) and asked him to join me.
Alexander Dovzhenko had some sort of salad on his plate, which made me feel guilty about my cheese quesadilla with jalapenos, and we ate in silence for a few moments. Then my journalistic nature -- and human nature I suppose -- got the better of me and I struck up a conversation. Dovzhenko was cautious at first. But eventually he came out of his shell, and I'm glad he did.
It turns out that Dovzhenko isn't a big fan of hold'em (Amen, brother). He only plays it because "all the younger people play it." Dovzhenko started his poker career in his native Kiev as a stud player. And I learned his favorite game is stud high-low.
Dovzhenko wasn't happy with his World Series when he sat down and ate dinner with me. "I only cashed in three events," Dovzhenko said. "And I bubble one other."
"I had a really bad beat against Barry Greenstein in Omaha High-Low," Dovzhenko added. "I could have won (that) tournament." Instead, Dovzhenko finished 16th and won $9,433 in the $1,500 event.
He also finished 39th in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud tournament for $2,985 and 37th in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em event for $3,992.
"I have many chips now in Main Event," Dovzhenko said as he rose to empty his tray and head back to the Amazon Room. "We'll see."
Dovzhenko finished in 198th place at the Main Event and won $48,847.
I hope he enjoyed his trip to Vegas.
-- Vin Narayanan
1. Matt Affleck's ultimate bad beat
Matt Affleck was near the top of the chip counts for most of Day 5, 6, 7 and 8. And after last year's 80th-place finish in the Main Event, it looked like he was a serious contender to make it to the November Nine.
When Jonathan Duhamel thought for a long time before finally calling his all-in bet with 15 players remaining, Affleck said he "100 percent knew I was good." And he was. When Duhamel called, he showed pocket jacks with an open-ended straight draw, meaning Affleck's pocket aces needed to fade 10 outs.
"I was (thinking to myself), 'I'm going to be chip leader at the final table. I'm going to have 40 million chips and I'm going to win this tournament.'"
When an eight came on the river, giving Duhamel a straight, Affleck's head dropped, and he buried his head in his hat. Visibly emotional, it took Affleck a few moments to fully process what happened and leave the table.
It was a striking visual of just how heart-breaking the WSOP can be. Even if you play perfectly, you still have to get lucky to win. I'll be rooting for Affleck to have better luck next year.
-- Aaron Todd