Clearing the decks for the much anticipated 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event this week, the last of the preliminary events, the $1 500 buy-in Limit Hold'em Shootout at Event 53 – came to a close with Matt Graham and Jean-Robert Bellande (of ‘Survivor' fame) in an exciting but lengthy heads up.
The initial maximum player cap for the event had to be revised to accomodate demand, and 823 players finally took their seats in a bid to snare the last preliminary bracelet and a main prize of over a quarter million dollars.
By Day 2, there were still 72 players in contention, and it was late at night before the final table formed, consisting of Jean-Robert Bellande, Danny Wong, John Kranyak, Joe DeNiro, Mike Kachan, Brandon Wong, Andrew Prock, Spencer Lawrence and Matt Graham.
De Niro's departure in third place for $107 845 cleared the way for the heads up between Bellande, who had over a million more chips than his opponent Matt Graham. The action started almost immediately and was to last until 7am before the winner was decided, with continued aggressive play by Bellande, and equally determined resistance from Graham, who eventually pulled ahead. And that's how the match continued, with the chiplead changing several times until Graham was able to get the upper hand after a long, hard fought duel.
Graham's reward was the honour of claiming the last preliminary event bracelet and a first prize of $278 180, leaving ‘Survivor' Bellande with a second placing and a $173 564 payday.