Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #6 Frank Kassela
I’m hesitant to call Frank Kassela’s 2010 a “breakout year” because as it turns out, he’s been playing solid poker since 2003. A regular at final tables in tournaments around the U.S. for the last 7 years, Kassela had his best professional year yet in 2010 and on the World’s biggest stage. The Tennessee native has been at the World Series of Poker a number of times in the past, and is no stranger to WSOP final tables. In fact in 2005, he shipped in pocket Aces with 4 players remaining in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event, and got a caller in Johnny Chan with Q-Q. But Chan spiked the Q, and found a way to use those chips to collect his 10th WSOP Bracelet as Kassela exited the tournament in 4th place. 5 years later, Kassela started the WSOP strong as he finising in 10th place in a $1,500 buy in Limit Hold’em event when his pocket tens failed to hold against Terrence Chan’s Ac-Jc. But the final table bubble was just a precursor to the best WSOP performance of the year, and an important stepping stone to becoming the 2010 World Series of Poker Player of the Year.
It turns out that having the pocket pair of tens turn into the worst hand may have been the most fortunate turn of events for Kassela. Were he to survive that hand, he probably wouldn’t have had time to play in Event #15, the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event. In fact, when play wrapped up to end Day 2, Kassela was running away with the chip lead. As the final table began, Kassela again found himself surrounded by an all-star poker cast including Italian star Dario Minieri, Full Tilt Poker Pro’s Jennifer Harman, John Juanda, and Steve Zolotow, Russian breakout star and WSOP Player of the year leader at that point Vladamir Schemelev, and a member of the Poker old guard in Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler. In all, there were 9 total bracelets at the table to accompany the millions in earnings making it a tough path to a bracelet.
While it certainly would have been easy to feel intimidated with that cast of pro’s, Kassela seemed to be right at home among them, first eliminating Minieri in 8th, and then getting the better of Schemelev who’d exit in 7th. Kirill Rabtsov was the next player to be victimized by the Kessler steamroller and found the rail in 6th place, creating a really fantastic final 5. Juanda would be the next player to exit, and Kassela again did the deed with as Juanda said “I think I got a scooper” turning over Kings up. But Kassela announced “Three aces” for the best hand and eliminated Juanda in 5th place.
Next it was Steve Zolotow’s turn, but he too would fall short against Kasella and exit in 4th place. Allen Kessler finally got into the party by knocking out Jennifer Harman, and place himself heads up with Kassela, but the battle wouldn’t last very long as Kassela dispatched of Chainsaw to claim his very first World Series of Poker Championship Bracelet in Event #15.
A few weeks later, Kassela found himself again surviving to the second day of a tournament, but this time very short in chips. When day 1 of event #40, the $2,500 Razz event came to a close, Kassela bagged up a total of 5,100 chips, good for 105th most of the 105 remaining players. But Kassela caught fire on Day 2 and found himself sitting at his second WSOP final table of the year, this time 3rd in chips. There were some very familiar faces as Jennifer Harman would exit in 6th place, and then Vladimir Schemelev would go bust in 4th place, leaving Kassela 3-handed for a shot at becoming the first dual bracelet winner of 2010, and he wouldn’t disappoint. Maxwell Troy eliminated Melville Lewis in 3rd place and when the heads up battle began, Troy held a 2 to 1 chip advantage over Kasella who simply had making history on his mind. After trading a few pots early in the battle, Kassela just took charge and ran over his opponent, cruising to a win and earning his 2nd bracelet of the series.
After a min-cash in the $2,500 8-game mixed event, Kassela found himself at a 3rd final table at the 2010 World Series of Poker. This time, it was in the $25,000 buy in 6-max event. But lady luck would not be on his side when he got his Q-3 into the middle in a giant pot vs. Shawn Buchanon who held 5-6. You might think that it was an odd hand to see that much action, except that board read Q-4-3-T giving Kassela two pair, and Buchanon an open ended straight draw. An 80% favorite to win the hand was all for not when the deuce of spades hit the river and Kassela was eliminated in 3rd place.
The win gave Kassela 285 points in the Player of Year race and placed him 60 points ahead of John Juanda virtually solidifying his hold on the coveted POY spot. While Michael Mizrachi could have tied Kassela (who also cashed in the Main Event) by winning the Main Event, it was Kassela who took home the honors when “The Grinder” ran into Jonathan Duhamel’s pocket Aces. The 2010 WSOP was worth more than $1.2 million in earnings for Kassela along with the prize of the top player of the series, and the only 2-time bracelet winner of the year. That alone makes him one of the top stories of 2010.