Freddy Deeb. See?
The Lebanese-born Deeb survived a 15-hour marathon of a final table in which he more than once peered over Bustout Cliff into the Gaping Maw of Elimination. (Whoa, sorry about that. Didn’t mean to go all John Bunyan there. I was up all night, too, ya know.)
There was one stretch yesterday when they were five-handed -- this was around 5 p.m. Vegas time, or approximately three hours into play -- when Deeb was all-in three times within nine hands (Hand #101, Hand #107, and Hand #109). The first time he got quartered in an Omaha/8 hand. The second time he doubled up with quads in another O/8 hand. Then he tripled up in a big Razz hand in which he made a 7-5 (a hand Kenny Tran appears to have botched somewhat).
When they began three-handed play (a bit after 10 p.m. Vegas time), Frenchman Bruno Fitoussi had what appeared a commanding chip lead. Fitoussi had over 10 million in chips, while Freddy Deeb and John Hanson each had a little over 2 million. I seriously thought proceedings would be coming to a close fairly quickly at that point. They were at Level 65, Stud/8, when the antes and bring-ins were 30,000, it was 120,000 to complete, and betting limits were 120,000/240,000. Meaning if either Deeb or Hanson found himself betting a hand down to 7th street, he’d have to commit something like three-fourths of his stack to do so.
Both the short stacks would battle back, though, and some five hours later the trio would still be there, each sitting with about 5 million in chips.
Then came an interesting Razz hand (Hand #305) which might arguably have been the turning point of the final table. This was Level 73, where the ante was 50,000, the bring-in 70,000, the completion a whopping 250,000, and the betting limits 250,000/500,000. The hand began thusly: Fitoussi was dealt a 5, Deeb a J, and Hanson an A. With the jack, Deeb brought it in for 70K, Hanson raised it up with his ace, Fitoussi got out, and Deeb called.
Now that’s an expensive call with a jack showing and your opponent having the ace as his door card. Have to think Deeb is pretty darn good underneath, right? On fourth street, Hanson got a 9 and Deeb an 8. Hanson made the 250,000 bet, and Deeb called. Now on fifth street, Deeb picked up a 2 while Hanson got a 10. Limits increase on fifth, so Hanson bet 500,000. This time Deeb raises to 1,000,000. That deuce must have been good for him, perhaps giving him a low draw to the 8.
When Deeb made the 1,000,000-chip bet, Andy Bloch (doing audio commentary for WSOP/Bluff Radio) remarked that it might have been the first time in WSOP history there had ever been a million-chip bet in a limit tourney. And it was a bold move, in my opinion. Deeb, the longtime pro, was forcing Hanson -- whose previous biggest cash was for $12,000, not even a fourth of the buy-in for Event No. 39 -- to a critical decision. While Hanson might have been ahead of Deeb at the moment, he was at best drawing to a 9-low, meaning if Deeb caught on sixth and Hanson didn’t, the less experienced player would be in a tough spot.
B.J. Nemeth’s report tells us Hanson thought for a full minute and then made the call. Sixth street brought Hanson an 8. Deeb picked up an A. So their boards read:
Hanson checked and Deeb fired out the required 500,000. With Deeb’s bet, the pot was up to 3.5 million. Whatever Hanson had underneath, he decided he could no longer proceed with the hand and folded, at which point Deeb decided to show everyone he had another ace underneath. As Bloch pointed out in his commentary, for Deeb to have paired his ace there on sixth street wasn’t all that surprising -- he had to have been pretty good to have called with his jack on third street.
Hanson failed to make the read, though, and when the hand was over he was down to 3 million or so while Deeb had moved up closer to 7 million.
Deeb would never relinquish that lead, helped in large measure by picking up a wheel and a big pot on Hand #311. Hanson would go out on Hand #315. When heads-up began, Deeb had over two-thirds of the chips -- 10.8 million to Fitoussi’s 4 million. They went for a while (26 hands), although Fitoussi never did make any substantial gains. Deeb finally took it down during Level 75 (Stud 8/b), claiming the bracelet and a cool $2,276,832 -- easily the largest cash prize for any non-Main Event WSOP tournament.
The pros who so value the $50K H.O.R.S.E. event are probably smiling a lot more today than they would have been had Hanson won. And not just because pronouncing Deeb’s name forces upwards the corners of one’s mouth. Had Hanson slipped through and taken the bracelet this morning, there would have been even louder complaints about the fast structure having taken the “skill” out of this year’s tourney, making it a crapshoot that a relative unknown could win. Would have been a lot of applesauce, of course, but I promise that’s what we’d have heard.
With Deeb’s victory, the complainants will be marginally less indignant, I think. Hard to whine with that big smile on yr face, anyway.
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