Sometimes, a story is so good, that you have a hard time believing it, even as it unfolds right before your own eyes. (Or, in this case, camera lens.) Brian Lemke, first cousin to the late, great Justin Shronk, not only made the final table of Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em), but he outlasted top pros David Pham, Isaac Baron, and Mike Sowers to win the bracelet in Shronk’s honor.
0Brian Lemke, first cousin to PokerRoad Radio producer Justin Shronk, wore a “Got Shronk?” t-shirt at the final table of Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em) in his honor. Shronk died unexpectedly in April at the age of 27 with a severe case of pancreatitis.
1Jeffrey Lisandro (left) and Rod Pardey, Sr. are heads-up at the final table of Event #16 ($1,500 Seven-Card Stud).
2Jeffrey Lisandro has a big chip lead during heads-up play in Event #16 ($1,500 Seven-Card Stud). He won his first WSOP bracelet in 2007, also in seven-card stud, and barely missed the final table earlier this Series in Event #6 ($10,000 World Championship Seven-Card Stud), finishing 10th.
3Rod Pardey, Sr. already has two WSOP bracelets in seven-card stud, from 1991 and 1994. But with just a handful of chips in front of him, it’ll take a heck of a hot streak for him to come back and win his third.
4Rod Pardey, Sr. (left) tries to fight back against the huge chip stack of Jeffrey Lisandro while his nephew Eric Pardey (standing, right) sweats the action. Eric Pardey was also at this final table, and he finished in sixth place. It is believed to be the first time a nephew-uncle combination played at the same WSOP final table.
5In the final hand of Event #16 ($1,500 Seven-Card Stud), Rod Pardey, Sr. (left) made a straight on seventh street, but he lost to Lisandro’s ace-high diamond flush. After a few hugs and cheers from his friends on the rail, Lisandro receives a congratulatory handshake from Pardey.
6Jeffrey Lisandro poses for his official winner’s photo, holding up fingers to indicate that it’s the second WSOP bracelet of his career, but his first of 2009. The official WSOP photography comes from Image Masters, with a team of photographers led by Eric Harkins (seen here). Not only have they been shooting the WSOP for years, but they photograph other poker events throughout the calendar year and know the players well.
7It’s Day 2 of Event #17 ($1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em), and reigning champion Svetlana Gromenkova is still alive with a healthy chip stack. Gromenkova would eventually finish in 57th place (out of 1,060 entrants), earning $2,864.
8Maria Ho was among the overnight chipleaders in Event #17 ($1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em), but ultimately finished in 97th place, earning $2,083.
9Lauren Kling made a deep run in Event #17 ($1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em), finishing in 23rd place for $5,556.
10Karina Jett final tabled the WSOP Ladies event in 2003 and 2004, but this year she came up just a little bit short, finishing in 21st place to earn $5,556.
11Lika Gerasimova wasn’t free to play in the Ladies event, because she was busy final tabling Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em). Here, the Russian-born Gerasimova is celebrating as she survives an all-in situation. She moved all in preflop with pocket kings, and Isaac Baron tanked for a while before calling with Q-J offsuit. Gerasimova flopped a set of kings to double up.
12Isaac Baron (online name: westmenloAA) turned 21 years old just a few days after the final Day 1 of last year’s WSOP Main Event — and had to wait an entire year to play his first WSOP event in Las Vegas. Now, in Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em), he has made his first WSOP final table. With a big chip stack at the start of play, many considered him to be the favorite.
13Bluff Media’s Nick Geber (left) does the play-by-play announcing for all the webcast final tables. For Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em) he’s joined by the always-entertaining Brian Micon of NeverwinPoker.com, who is providing commentary and analysis of the action.
14Mike Sowers (at right, online name: SowersUNCC) checks out the growing chip stack of Brian Lemke (online name: Ship the Perc) at the final table of Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em). Notice that both players are proudly wearing PokerRoad.com badges.
15Isaac Baron was crippled in a big pot against Brian Lemke when they both got it all in after a flop of A-8-2 rainbow. Lemke had A-Q, and Baron was dominated with A-J, which never caught up. Here, Baron moves all in under the gun, only to see three players call. They checked all the way to the river, and Fabian Quoss’s Q-10 paired the queen to win the pot with top pair. Isaac Baron, once the favorite to win this final table, was eliminated in seventh place, earning $88,784.
16Ivan Demidov (foreground, right) sweats the final table of Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em) in support of his girlfriend, Lika Gerasimova. Demidov is part of the WSOP’s original “November Nine,” and is the first player in history to final table both the WSOP Main Event and the WSOP Europe Main Event in the same year (he finished second and third, respectively).
17Mike Sowers (online name: SowersUNCC) at the final table of Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em). Sowers previously made a WSOP final table in 2008 in $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em, and is still looking for his first bracelet. Sowers eventually finished in fourth place, but returned to the final table to cheer for Brian Lemke.
18Sowers had quite a few players in the stands rooting for him, including (from left to right) Shannon Shorr, Adam Geyer, and Justin Young. Shorr has two WSOP final tables, more than $3.2 million in live career earnings, and recently final tabled the WPT World Championship. Geyer also has two WSOP final tables, and recently won the FTOPS XI main event at Full Tilt Poker — his third FTOPS title. Young is still looking for his first WSOP final table, but he won more than $1 million in the most recent season of the World Poker Tour, finishing second to Chino Rheem in December and just missing the WPT World Championship final table in April.
19Lika Gerasimova prays for help on the river as she is all in with Q-4 offsuit against the pocket tens of Fabian Quoss, with the support of her boyfriend Ivan Demidov (standing, far left). There were seven cards in the deck that could save her, but none of them came to her aid, and she was eliminated in fifth place, earning $142,688. Gerasimova was just the second female to make a WSOP final table so far in 2009.
20When play got down to the final few players, Brian Lemke (center) put on a t-shirt to honor his cousin, Justin Shronk, who died unexpectedly in April at the age of 27 with a severe case of pancreatitis. His death came as a shocking blow to his family and all his friends in the poker community, who knew him only by his last name — Shronk.
21When heads-up play began, Fabian Quoss had a 3.5-to-1 chip lead over Brian Lemke. Quoss, from Germany, had the momentum and seemed to be on his way to winning his first WSOP bracelet.
22Brian Lemke was playing for more than just the gold WSOP bracelet in the foreground (as seen on his t-shirt), and refused to give up.
23With the board showing 8d-3h-4d-Qh on the turn, Quoss bet, and Lemke fired back with a big raise. Quoss tanked for a while before rechecking his cards and folding. Lemke was slowly reducing Quoss’s chip lead.
24Brian Lemke moved all in preflop with Kh-10c, but he’d need to improve against the Ad-3s of Fabian Quoss. The flop brought three clubs, giving Lemke additional outs to a flush draw — which he hit on the turn. Lemke doubled up, and for the first time, the final two players were nearly even in chips. Lemke’s friends are on the left cheering, while Quoss’s friends are on the right — noticeably less pleased.
25In the final hand of Event #15 ($5,000 No-Limit Hold’em), Brian Lemke limp-reraised all in preflop with Ad-8c, but he found himself dominated by the As-Qd of Fabian Quoss. Both players picked up straight draws on a flop of J-10-9, but it was Lemke who completed his straight with a queen on the turn to win the pot, the tournament, and the WSOP bracelet. Joe Sebok, owner of PokerRoad.com and close friend of the late Justin Shronk, watches from the sideline, nearly as excited as Lemke.
26Brian Lemke poses for his winner photo on a night that he’ll never forget. In addition to the WSOP bracelet, Lemke won $692,690.
27Brian Lemke’s final hand was ace-eight, which is also known as “the dead man’s hand.” In 1876, Wild Bill Hickock was shot and murdered while playing poker, and he was holding two pair when it happened — aces and eights. On this night, “the dead mans hand” had a different meaning, as Lemke referred to his late cousin, Justin Shronk, when talking to reporters: “He was with me the whole time — the entire time. I know he brought that queen for me.”
28After his victory, Brian Lemke answers questions from reporters, telling them about his late cousin, Justin Shronk. “When he moved out here to Las Vegas to take the gig with Poker Road, he was going to show me around. But I never got to take advantage of that. I know he is up there looking down now. He should have been right here with me. … I miss him and that bracelet is dedicated to him, my family, my grandma, and his mom.” Brian Micon (right), also a friend of Shronks, had been commentating on the entire final table for the webcast, and he came to the final table area to congratulate Lemke in person.