Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #13 Phil Laak and Gus Hansen win bracelets
The World Series of Poker events in the month of September tend to get much less publicity than the events in June and July. It has much less to do with the fact that the September events take place in London than in Las Vegas, and everything to do with perception from poker players here in the U.S. Many devalue the tournament series of the WSOP-Europe because it’s an “extension” of the WSOP, and no the actual Series. But it doesn’t stop the series from dishing out their coveted bracelets, and the crème de la crème of poker turn out to play their events in stocked, albeit smaller fields. At the 2010 WSOP-E, there were two specific stories that emerged which stood out. Two individuals added to their already impressive poker resumes an achievement that every poker players aspires for and many were surprised that they had not yet achieved. Bracelet’s finally found their way to the wrist of Phil Laak and Gus Hansen.
The first event of the WSOP-E was a €2,650 buy-in 6-max event. The 244 players that entered the poker room weren’t an overwhelming number, especially considering the buy in amount. But the field had the best players in the British poker scene as well as an all-star cast of international poker stars. 24 players made the money, and with the short-handed tables, they began falling quickly. Liv Boeree exited in 19th place, followed by Chris Moorman in 12th and Praz Bansi in 11th. And when the play reached the final table, the 6 players combined for more than $10 million in tournament winnings, including a few bracelets already there with Chris Bjorin and Willie Tann both with some chips, and the chance to add to their hardware. Tann would make his exit in 6th, and Bjorin moved his last chips into the middle with 3 left holding pocket Queens. But Phil Laak called him up with a pocket pair of his own, and rolled over two kings for the eventual winning hand. This left Laak heads up for a bracelet for the second time in his career. The first time, Laak found himself heads up against the great Johnny Chan, and would finish runner up as Chan made history in earning his 10th WSOP Bracelet.
Laak was playing in the WSOP-E sporting a hard cast from a recent ATV accident that just a few months prior, and was riding a hot streak that carried into this event. Laak had cashed in 15th at the Partouche Poker Tour main event in Cannes finishing in 15th, and the scored an 18th place finish in the English Poker Open Main Event. But now he was heads up with Canadian Andrew Pantling, who had entered into the final table play as the chip leader. The pair battled back and for three hours until 1 big hand swung the tides in Laak’s direction. On a board of Tc-7c-6c-Ks, Laak bet 180k into the 50k pot, and Pantling moved the rest of his stack into the middle. Laak was covered but he made the call with 6h-7h for two pair, and Pantling showed the 6s-8c for straight and flush draws. But the river fell the Th giving Laak a more than 3 to 1 chip advantage where he’d cruise home for the win and his first career bracelet. It was a wonderful accomplishment for the longtime pro who had skipped the majority of the early events of the WSOP in Las Vegas in favor of pursuing the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest cash game ever. He took to twitter to send out this tweet “Maximum cheese shippage. €170,802 ($267,010). Plus some gold! Holla!!” and send out picture with his new jewelry.
As the events wore on, more recognizable pros continued to win and make final tables, including Jeffrey Lisandro in event #2, winning his 4th bracelet in 2 years, and then J.P. Kelly finally losing a WSOP Heads Up Match in Event #3. But it was in Event #4 that we enjoyed the first WSOP Bracelet of one Mr. Gustav Hansen of Denmark.
“The Great Dane” had a miserable draw in the €10,350 No Limit Hold’em High Roller Heads-Up event, drawing Phil Ivey in an early round. But Hansen admittedly used a little luck to get through, and advanced further into the heads up tournament all the way to the final 4. Hansen got the better of Englishman Andrew Feldman winning a flip when his K-J bested Feldman’s pocket tens, and Hansen was heads up for a WSOP Bracelet.
Despite incredible results across the globe throughout his career, Gus had never really found a great run at a WSOP before. In fact, his 5 cashes prior to 2009 had all come in the $10,000 Championship events, and his best results had been a 10th place finish in the WSOP-E Main Event in 2007, and a 10th place finish in the Mixed event in 2008. His first cash in a non $10k event was in the 2009 $50k HORSE event where Hansen finished in 9th place for $123k. But despite the lack of WSOP huge scores, Gus was a force at the tournament tables having been the first player to win 2 WPT Events, and also winning an Aussie Millions Main Event. The wins made him one of the most popular sponsored online poker pro’s with a deal as a member of Team Full Tilt. In all, Hansen’s tournament earnings heading into the 2010 WSOP-E accounted for more than $7.5 million.
Hansen found himself heads up with Jim Collopy for a bracelet in a best 2 out of 3 match. Hansen bullied his way to a win in the first matchup and took a 1-0 lead. But in the second matchup, Collopy turned the tables by spiking a set, getting in 9-9 versus Hansen’s Q-Q and hitting the 2-outter he’d need to take a commanding chip lead, and eventually claim the second match to even things up. The two matches combined with the earlier rounds had play going for 12 hours, and in the wee hours of the morning, the players decided to get some rest as they both intended to play in the Main Event the next day.
But when both Hansen and Collopy busted the Main Event, they were able to resume their final match the next day. Collopy jumped out to an early lead when his pocket aces held, but Hansen climbed back. With Hansen holding a 2 to 1 chip advantage, Collopy moved in for the last time with K-4, and Hansen made the call with pocket 4’s. When Collopy failed to improve, Hansen added to his list of tournament accomplishments the first WSOP Bracelet of his career.
A few days later, James Bord would win the WSOP-E Main Event, and end the series. But for me, the 2010 WSOP-E will simply be remembered as the year that both Phil Laak and Gus Hansen finally claimed a WSOP Bracelet.