The venue was intimate enough and the atmosphere amongst the remaining nine contestants was a mixture of being subdued, but with just a touch of nerves as the final day of the World Series of Poker Europe got underway at the Casino at the Empire about as central as you can get in London, Leicester Square. When it was all done though, there was a distinctly London-feel as Stanmore native James Bord walked away with the bracelet and cash that come with a WSOPE victory.
As a surrounding themselves, the Casino at the Empire is all you need from a WSOPE venue. It has a stage, more slot machines than you can shake a stick at, a waffle parlour complete with Belgian charm, and, of course, a bar right by where the play is taking place.
The audience for the tournament, still reeling after the specially constructed unveiling pulpit for Isildur1 will be gathering dust until next year after Viktor Blom was yesterday eliminated, along with Phil Ivey, today included THE OFFICIAL JAMES BORD FAN CLUB, numbering around five or six depending on which angle you looked at it from, at least double the amount of fans anyone else had, and vocal enough to suggest they may well have already been enjoying a Vod bull or 12.
Elsewhere Nicolas Levi, who, if you didn’t know, is French and partial to the odd hat, and I’m not talking about a beret. Rumours will be abound that his significant other does in fact choose his headwear, as at one point she pulled out a tower of hats from her bag, and at my second count there was at least eight or nine of them, and I’m not including the matching set they had one or the novelty hat they’d given the Casino’s WSOPE coverage man. Nico’s pretty darn good at poker, but what is it about the French?
To say that the field was mildly inexperienced, and lacking a real big, BIG name was one of the understatements of the day, but what it lost in fame it more than made up for in competitiveness. Dan Fleyshman entered the day as chip leader on almost 2,000,000 and had the swagger of a champion in wait as he joked around with the other competitors, most of them looking as though they’d not had anywhere near enough beauty sleep last night, or they’ve just got no time for Mr Fleyshman.
It only seemed like we’d been going a couple of minutes before we were down by two players – you know, like when you wait for a bus and then two come along at once (never thought I’d stoop that low to use that analogy, but there you go). Marc Inizan never picked it up from being in ninth, and Brian Powell followed shortly after as the field was already down to seven before it felt like we’d broken into a walk.
This put the calm and collected Roland Lee in front, a man that if he were a super hero would have the unflinching ability to…never flinch! It was rumoured at the break in play someone had approached Fleyshman and given him some food for thought, quite literally. Victory Poker’s CEO returned with soup, bread, and a chicken Caesar salad, however, it didn’t have the desired effect.
Bord’s support continued to show their partisan support towards the local, and what a story it would be if the stocky Londoner were to capture his first ever bracelet. Lee looked increasingly strong as the minutes ticked by though, making his pot wins count as he racked up the stack, as did the other Englishman in the field Roland de Wolfe. Levi, though, looked like he may be the next one to be thrown off the cliff d’poker, going all in with his stack of around 399,000 against Lee but coming out the other side fighting. The hat rides again!
If that wasn’t enough, next up we had the excitement we’d all been waiting for – a capitulation of mammoth proportions. Fleyshman up till now was sitting rather pretty – a stack of around 2,000,000, second place, food fit for a…poker player, but that was until he decided to take a few calculated risks and they backfired – majorly.
In a matter of minutes he was down to 230,000, and only a few hands after the second break he was gone to Lee.
A glut of outs followed the next break and we were down to three as Lee, Antonio Baldassari, and Bord battled out for that huge pile of cash and a bracelet. This came down to a further two as Lee was perhaps a surprise to be eliminated, and the throng of Bord followers could be heard deep into the night as he beat out competition from the Italian to win his first bracelet.