The World Series of Poker Europe 2008 came to a fitting climax this week with John Juanda emerging as the champion in the GBP 10 000 buy-in NLHE Main Event.
It was a tough contest with an initial entry field of 362 players, many of them top names in the international game, generating a prize pool worth GBP 3.62 million, and a star-studded final table that ground on for an exhausting 22 hours and 484 hands.
In the end, a methodical and skilled John Juanda met Stanislav Alekhin in the heads up and truimphed after 242 hands and nearly eight hours of play, winning his fourth WSOP bracelet and a bank-booster main prize of GBP 868 800. Alekhin took home a well deserved GBP 533 950 second place purse.
"It's been so long ago since I won my last bracelet, I can't remember. It's embarrassing," said a modest Juanda, referring to his last bracelet win in Las Vegas in 2003. Exhibiting good sportsmanship, he said reading his youthful opponent in the heads up had been almost impossible, and he also paid tribute to the skill of third finisher, Ivan Demidov.
"Today there are so many young excellent tournament players from all over the world. Like the two young Russians and the Scandis. Much more than it used to be, " Juanda said.
His reference to Demidov was an appropriate salute to the remarkable young Russian player, who was one of the outstanding players at the final table and made it to a third place finish and a pay check of GBP 334 850.
Last year Demidov used the WSOP Europe to get up to speed for the WSOP Vegas event, and made the final table. In Vegas he went on to finish one position back from the chip leader among the WSOP final nine who are yet to play for poker's biggest prizes on November 9th.
Demidov is the first player to final-table both Main Events in Europe and the US with his third-place finish in London.
To say the overall main event field in this year's London spectacular was impressive is an understatement. Starting fields included names like 2007 WSOPE Main Event Champion Annette Obrestad, 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Doyle Brunson, 2008 WSOP HORSE winner Scotty Nguyen and 2008 WSOPE PLO Champion Theo Jorgensen.
Then there was Phil Laak, Chris Ferguson, David Ulliott, Antonio Esfandiari, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Marco Traniello, Nenad Medic, Jennifer Tilly, Gus Hansen, David "Chino" Rheem, Roland de Wolfe, Juha Helppi, Allen Cunningham and Daniel Negreanu.
The nine final-table competitors were a mix of grizzled WSOP veterans and new kids on the block with Daniel Negreanu, Scott Fischman and John Juanda combined holding nine prior WSOP bracelets, and newcomers Chris Elliott, Toni Hiltunen and Stanislav Alekhin making their first WSOP final tables.
All but one of the nine final tablers picked up six figure pound sterling checks, with the big money list after Juanda, Alekhin and Demidov featuring fourth placed Bengt Sonnert on GBP 271 500; Daniel Negreanu in fifth place for GBP 217 200; sixth placed Scott Fischman on GBP 171 950; Robin Keston in 7th place with GBP 135 750 followed by Toni Hiltunen in the number 8 spot for a worthwhile GBP 108 600 and 9th placed Chris Elliott who took home GBP 81 450.
Other events in this year's WSOP Europe, and the winners were:
GBP 1 500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em taken by Jesper Hougaard, who collected GBP 144 218 for his first placing.
GBP 2 500 buy-in H.O.R.S.E., won by Sherkhan Farnood for GBP 76 999.
GBP 5 000 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha, where the victor was Theo Jorgensen who's winning check was GBP 218 626.