With the huge field in Event #4 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em), the field didn’t reach the final table until late Tuesday night, so it had to be bumped to Wednesday. That created a rare situation where there were three bracelets at stack in a single day. In addition to the Stimulus event, there was also Event #5 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha) and Event #6 ($10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud).
0The odds of an established pro like Steve Sung winning the Stimulus Event — Event #4 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em) — was extremely slim. With 6012 players, it was the fourth-largest field in live tournament history, surpassed only by the WSOP Main Event in 2006-2008.
1Barry Greenstein (left) is all in as the field approaches the final table of Event #8 (No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw). Vanessa Rousso (center) and David Grey (foreground, right) react to Greenstein’s survival when his opponent folds.
2Phil Ivey (right) and Eric Kesselman are among the final eight players as Event #8 (No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw) plays for seven seats at the final table. The bubble boy ended up being Layne Flack; both Ivey and Kesselman will return to play for the bracelet on Thursday.
3Craig Marquis (right), a member of last year’s “November Nine,” is interviewed by WSOP.com’s Christina Lindley early on Day 8 of the WSOP. Producer Joy Miller (left) is secretly trying to sneak smiles at the camera whenever possible.
4At the final table of Event #5 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha), Matt Giannetti (right) is eliminated in fourth place by chipleader Jason Mercier (left). Giannetti earned $66,544, while first place is worth $237,462.
5Steven Buckholder (left) and Jason Mercier (right) battle for the bracelet in Event #5 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha).
6French poker reporter Benjamin “Benjo” Gallen (foreground, left) takes notes on Jason Mercier (center) during the heads-up battle in Event #5 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha. Gallen has been covering poker tournaments since 2005, and the World Series of Poker every year since 2006.
In addition to live coverage, Gallen writes magazine articles and occasionally provides French-language commentary for episodes of EPT Live. A fun fact that Gallen shared about Mercier: his European Poker Tour victory in San Remo, Italy in 2008 was the fastest final table in EPT history, playing from eight players to a winner in less than three hours — including breaks.
7In the final hand of Event #5 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha, Steven Buckholder (left) stares down Jason Mercier (not shown) after betting a flop of Jh-Js-6d. Mercier thought for a while before moving all in, and Buckholder called with Ad-Ah-Jc-7d (trip jacks, ace kicker). Mercier showed Qc-Jd-8d-2s (trip jacks, queen kicker).
But the Qd on the turn gave Mercier a full house (jacks full of queens) to win the pot — and the coveted bracelet. Eliminated on a bad beat, Buckholder received some comfort from his girlfriend Allison Verblow (center, right).
8For most WSOP victory photos, the tournament director and the dealer loosely stack the chips in front of the final board for the standard victory photos. But Jason Mercier takes more pride than that in his chip stacks, so he’s building this stack himself. (Check the Photo Blog for WSOP Day 6 to see more of Mercier’s chip-stacking skills.) This is 22-year-old Mercier’s first bracelet, and his first major victory on his home soil in the U.S. after much success in Europe.
9The new presenting sponsor for the WSOP is Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, which some in the poker media mocked when the deal was first announced. But Jack Link’s is providing free product in the media room, as well as to final tablists. Yes, it sounds humorous and unusual, but their marketing tactics seem to be working.
Not only are a lot of people trying their products for the first time, but many of them are quickly becoming fans. While the dried meats aren’t free for all the players or fans, there are Jack Link’s display cases outside the gift shop (as seen here) as well as in the Poker Kitchen.
10With the final board showing Kc-Jd-3c-5s-6h, Larry Sidebotham (right) bets 400,000, and Steve Sung thinks for nearly five minutes before he folds. With seven players remaining in Event #4 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em), Sung was second-to-last in chips. But that wouldn’t last long.
11Freddie Ellis, a 74-year-old real estate broker from Brooklyn, New York, wins a hand early on at the final table of Event #6 ($10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud). This is the first WSOP event that Ellis has ever entered, and he’s making the most of it.
12Greg “FBT” Mueller (left) receives some love from the balcony in the form of a sign made by Tiffany Michelle, the deepest-finishing female in the 2008 WSOP Main Event. The sign reads, “Greg = Stud. 1st Place, One Time. (2nd Can Suck It!)” Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that well for Mueller, who finished Event #6 ($10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud) in seventh place, earning $53,885.
13The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Wednesday night.
14Emily Jillette is heads up in a $175 satellite in the Brasilia Room at the World Series of Poker. Jillette plans to play in a WSOP event next week, and entered a satellite with her friend Jen Creason (former Pokerwire girl/founder, and the best chip counter in the world) to try to get in at a discount.
Jillette is the wife of Penn Jillette, the taller, talking member of Penn & Teller — the headlining act here at the Rio Casino. Last year’s WSOP Main Event final table (the “November Nine”) was held in the Penn & Teller theater.
15In the span of one 60-minute level, Steve Sung built up his short stack from 915,000 all the way up to 6.4 million — and the chip lead.
16Eric Drache (left) and Freddie Ellis battle for the bracelet in Event #6 ($10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud). While Ellis is at his first WSOP at the age of 74, Drache has close ties to the world’s largest poker tournament.
Drache served as the WSOP Tournament Director from the mid-1970s until 1987, and one of his greatest contributions may be the introduction of satellite tournaments, effectively lowering the buy in and allowing more players to participate. (Which directly led to the huge fields of recent years.)
17The only final tables that have bundles of money on them are those that are filmed for TV by ESPN. But the bracelet is placed on the table when the final two players are heads up, reminding them of what it is they’re playing for — a place in poker history.
An interesting side note about this final table is the combined age of the two finalists adds up to 140 years (74 for Freddie Ellis, and 66 for Eric Drache). That is particularly remarkable in the current era of young online players.
18In one of the most dramatic moments of the night, Nathan Mullen was all in preflop with Jc-10c against Steve Sung’s Ah-7s. Mullen took the lead by pairing his jack on a flop of Ks-Qh-Jd — but the 10s on the river gave Sung the pot with an ace-high straight. Sung’s friends on the river reacting to the three-outer, from left to right: Elia Ahmadian, Danny Wong, Denny Hong (black shirt) and Kyu Cho.
19After eliminating Nathan Mullen with a ten on the river, Steve Sung’s chipstack collapses under its own weight. At the time this photo was taken, Sung had about 60% of all the chips in play with four players remaining.
20There were plenty of pros in the stands to cheer for Steve Sung, and during a break in the action they let off some steam with a prop bet. Erick Lindgren offered $1,000 to Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi if he could do 50 push-ups in five minutes, with resting allowed.
Mizrachi got down on the ground next to the final table stage and quickly knocked out 40 push-ups. The next ten weren’t so easy, as Mizrachi did two or three at a time, with his friends arguing that some didn’t count. Mizrachi ultimately finished the push-ups in about two minutes, collecting the money.
Lindgren immediately repeated the offer if Mizrachi could knock out another 50 in the next five minutes, and Mizrachi just laughed at him. Some of the players sweating Steve Sung until the end: Erick Lindgren, Chris Bell, J.C. Tran (not pictured), Nam Le (not pictured), Tommy Le (not pictured), Danny Wong, Kyu Cho, Denny Hong, Michael Mizrachi, Erik Mizrachi, Ray Henson, Daniel Alaei, and Tommy Hang.
21While his friends cut loose with some push-up prop bets, Steve Sung quietly relaxes behind media row listening to his iPod under the hood to mask outside noises. He was so focused that he missed the announcement that the cards were back in the air, and one of his friends had to tap him on the shoulder to let him know that play had resumed.
22Steve Sung (left) is heads up against Peter “The Greek” Vilandos in Event #4 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em). Vilandos would win this pot in a showdown as he tries to eat into Sung’s chip lead.
23In the final hand of Event #4 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em), Steve Sung four-bet all in with pocket kings, and Peter “The Greek” Vilandos called with pocket eights. The kings held up for Sung, giving him, the pot, the tournament, $771,106, and his first WSOP bracelet.
24The final table of Event #4 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em) was broadcast live over the web on ESPN’s 360 service. After his victory, Steve Sung dons a headset microphone to conduct a remote interview.