26-year-old Las Vegas professional player Eric Baldwin took home his first World Series of Poker bracelet and the main prize of $521 932 in Event 34 – the $1 500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em competition, besting an entry field of 2 095 players that included aces like the UK's Roland De Wolfe and Internet and live tournament star Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier. The prize pool for the event was $2 859 675.
In the end it was none of these whom Baldwin faced in the heads up, which saw him pitted against Jonas Klausen, a professional poker player from Denmark.
The departure of Young Phan engineered by Ben Scholl formed the final table, which featured Klausen with a clear chip lead on 2 535 000. His closest rivals were Baldwin on a chip count of 1 586 000 and Benjamin Scholl n 1 075 000, followed by Steven Bradbury (942 000), Andrew Youngblood (895 000), James Taylor (859 000), Martin Jacobson (686 000), Roland de Wolfe (419 000) and Eric DeFontes (385 000).
In the end, Baldwin and Klausen used their dominating stacks to dismiss the rest of the final table, leaving them in the heads up.
Klausen – an aggressive and highly successful Internet poker player, usually on Pokerstars, was a formidable opponent although Baldwin went into the heads up a little ahead on chips. The lead changed hands several times but the deciding hand was a real cooler which saw Klausen flop top two pair on a Q-10-4 board, only to find that Baldwin had pocket fours for bottom set and managed to fade queens and tens to double up and take a commanding 7 to 1 lead in the match. The game ended in a Baldwin victory a few hands later in a preflop race with Baldwin holding a pair of tens that held against Klausen's A-Q.
Jonas Klausen's second placing was worth $322 371.
A former college basketball player from Wisconsin, Baldwin may be young but he's no stranger to live tourney action, having previously cashed in the Venetian Deep Stack and Bellagio tournaments.
"I was coming out here [to Las Vegas] several times a year for some tournaments so I figured I would just buy a place out here," he said, explaining his move to Vegas. "Plus I hate shoveling snow!"
The win this week is his biggest poker achievement in terms of the gravitas of the competition, the quality of his opponents and the size of the paycheck.
"It's head over heels above anything else I've done in my life," a delighted Baldwin said. "The bracelet is the measuring stick that most people look to in judging poker players."