Internet poker player Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond is richer by $817 781 this week as a result of his victory over a stellar final table in Event 28 of the 39th World Series of Poker – the $5 000 Pot-Limit Omaha with Rebuys competition.
Galfond had to fight his way through an entry field of 152 top notch players for his victory. It included names like Patrik Antonius, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Robert Williamson III – at one stage providing the star-power of 30 previous bracelets playing on the same table!
Continual fast action and a great deal of banter made the tournament a thoroughly entertaining experience, with 483 re-buys by the time the re-buy window closed on Day 1, boosting the prize-pool to a very substantial $3 million.
By the end of Day 1 only 54 players remained in contention, but many of the big names were still active. And when the final table formed, there were still 28 bracelets facing Galfond around the table in the form of John Juanda, Phil Hellmuth, David Benyamine, Kirill Gerasimov, Daniel Negreanu, Brian Rast, Adam Hourani and Johnny Chan. Nevertheless, it was Galfond who held the chip lead, and give or take a few ups and downs he was to retain it through to the end.
Las Vegas pro Rast was the first to fall, eliminated by Chan and pocketing $84 863 for his ninth-place finish. Hellmuth, who had started the game short-stacked fell next after tangling with Benyamine and leaving in eighth place with the first of the six figure payouts of $100 292.
Negreanu had been crippled on an earlier hand, and Galfond despatched him in seventh place for $ 123 437, and that was followed shortly after by the elimination Juanda in sixth place for $154 296, taken out by Chan. All the way from Moscow, the Russian player Gerasimov was next to go, shown the exit in fifth place for $192 870 by chip leader Galfond.
Chan's bracelet ambitions came to an end next as he left the table in fourth position for $246 874, eliminated by Benyamine.
Three handed play saw Galfond still leading by almost a million in chips against Benyamine's 2 155 000 and Adam Hourani with just over a million. However, Hourani fought back convincingly to reach equal standing with Benyamine, and subsequently sent him home in third place with a $316 307 check.
Going into the heads up, Galfond had a 3 to 2 chip advantage, and he made sure it remained that way, eventually taking Hourani down to a half million chips after over an hour's play. A further hour was to pass before Galfond was finally able to despatch his tenacious and clever opponent from Michigan, sending him home with a second place payout of $493 748.
With the bracelet and $817 781in the bank, Galfond had created a noteworthy victory for himself despite the intense and very talented competition, and was sufficiently confident to tell reporters that at no time did he feel outmatched or intimidated. "I felt blessed to be here, but I didn't feel outmatched. I wasn't afraid. I just wanted to play my best game," he said.
The other big winner in Las Vegas was Russian player Vitaly Lunkin, who took down Event 27 – the $1 500 No-Limit Hold'em contest. It was a bracelet first for the Russian player, who has previously cashed in ten previous European tournaments, and went into the final with a solid chip lead.
Lunkin ended up outlasting a massive starting field of 2 706 players to take the bracelet and a main prize of $628 417 top prize after a heads up against Brett Kimes, who's second placing earned him $387 837.
Recognisable names in the starting field included Phil Hellmuth, Bernard Lee, Philip Yeh, Phil Laak, Joe Sebok, "The Master" Nguyen, Beth Shak, Jeff Madsen, Greg Raymer, JJ Liu, John Phan and Hevad Khan, many of whom suffered early elimination.