Brian Rast has taken the closest thing the World Series of Poker has to the decathlon, the Poker Players’ Championship. Winning Event #55 requires competitors to display their skills in eight variations of poker, and the $50k buy-in attracts only those with some serious poker chops (or extremely reckless financial backers). Over the course of five days, the 128-strong field narrowed to an elite eight, including 2011 bracelet winners Ben Lamb and Owais Ahmed, plus 11-time bracelet winner (and two-time 2011 runner-up) Phil Hellmuth.
When heads-up action commenced, the Poker Brat held a chip edge of about 1m, a gap he proceeded to stretch to almost 13m, putting Rast on the brink of elimination. But Rast clawed back, doubling up twice in quick succession to pull even with Hellmuth, before delivering the coup de grace after Hellmuth went all-in. Despite having now finished second three times at this year’s WSOP, Hellmuth was histrionics-free in defeat, no doubt assisted by the knowledge that he’d made his biggest career tournament cash at $1.063m. Rast earned $1.72m, a swanky trophy and his second bracelet of 2011 (the only double-gold winner thus far). The rest of the eight cashed as follows: Minh Ly ($665k); Owais Ahmed ($482k); Matt Glantz ($376k); George Lind ($300k); Scott Seiver ($244k) and Ben Lamb ($201k).
In slightly less dramatic fashion, Maxim Lykov has taken Event #54, the final $1k NLHE event of 2011. The 23-year-old Russian pro outlasted a field of 2,644, personally eliminating five of his eight final table opponents, to take his first bracelet and just shy of $649k, bringing his lifetime tournament winnings over $2.5m ($1.5m of which has come this year). Dror Michaelo earned $400k for finishing second. In typical Russian fashion, Lykov was matter of fact about his triumph. “I have more money, but now I need to win the Main Event.”
Ah, yes… The $10k Main Event kicked off on Thursday, with none other than Doyle Brunson doing the ‘shuffle up and deal’ honors before taking his seat at the featured table. Earlier in the week, Brunson had claimed he was skipping this year’s ME, but must have woken up in a particularly good mood or something (although he’s since busted out, so kiss that good mood goodbye). So far, WSOP organizers are saying over 3,200 players have registered for the 2011 ME, with just under 900 of those taking their seats on Day 1A (compared to 1,125 last year) including Jason ‘Costanza’ Alexander. Serenity, now!