George Danzer now ties with Max Pescatori for the most World Series of Poker bracelet victories in Europe after coming back from the jaws of defeat in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Split-8 or Better.
Justin Bonomo rises to his feet. He stuffs his left hand deep into his pocket. His right grips the hand of the man who, in a few hands time, will steal his dream. A look of abject failure breaks out beneath his flamingo pink hair. In contrast, George Danzer rises to his feet. An all too familiar smile breaks out beneath a perfectly coiffed mohawk. He shakes Bonomo’s hand. Sits down looks into the eyes of Randy Ohel. The smile vanishes.
Why do some players always seem to win, and others always seem to lose? Why is it that those particular hands appear to fall in that particular order at that particular time? Why does the deck love some and hate others?
Is it karmic?
Is Elon Musk right? Are we nothing but characters in a game lorded over by supernatural beings in the same way Zeus and the rest of the Greek God posse played with Perseus? And when we do good things in life these Poker Gods reward us with gold, and when we do bad things, they deliver the pain of being within touching distance.
And there is a pain.
I saw it on the face of Justin Bonomo
It’s what makes competitive sport and gaming so alluring. It’s an addiction. The need to win. The need to prove yourself to the world. The need to create a legacy. The need to look in the mirror and believe for at least one single day that you are not fake.
That’s why the WSOP is like Christmas for poker players. It’s a promiscuous poker party that lasts 69 events. It’s the never ending story. You eat, sleep, and shit poker chips. You fail today; you try again tomorrow. It’s all silk cushions, satin sheets, and silent screams.
Age is no barrier either. The old feel these emotions just as readily as the young. The thick hides and dried aged meat of the stalwarts of the game never turns. As pink hair was meeting crazy mohawk in one act, David Pham, TJ Cloutier, and Donnacha O’Dea were stepping out from behind the curtain in another.
The three wise old men were heading into the penultimate day of the $1,500 MONSTER stack. 19 players remain from a field of 2,076 dreamers. One of them will win a poker tournament and earn over a million bucks in the process. What a story it would be if one of them manages to rise to the top at just the right time? Wham, bam, thank you, Pham, currently has the chip lead.
Loren Klein is hoping to go wire-to-wire in the $1,500 Mixed No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha event. He was the overnight chip leader after Day 1. At the end of Day 2, there he remains, solid, statuesque, surreal. Craig Varnell is hoping to make his second final table of the summer. Kyle Bowker is also in the mix. 15 players remain. The winner gets $241,427 and the bracelet.
Jonathan Dimmig knows what it’s like to have your dreams play out in HD. In 2014, he managed to wade his way through 7,977 entrants in the Millionaire Maker on his way to a $1.3m score, and he has that familiar feeling again. Dimmig leads the final 308 players in the $1,500 BOUNTY No-Limit Hold’em event. 2,158 players entered; small fry for Dimmig. The former WSOP Main Event Champion Martin Jacobson has a decent stack in that one.
49 events have either ended or are in full swing. Time is running out for the bracelet hunters. The men and women who have fallen for the authoritative aphrodisiac of that sliver of gold need their luck to turn, and not like milk.
Over in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Split-8 or Better, there are three of them who have been there, done that, and bought the ‘I won a WSOP bracelet t-shirt,’ but one of them has been the bruised and battered bridesmaid more than most.
Justin Bonomo has one gold bracelet win locked into his memory. A synaptic surge that is fading over time. What doesn’t fade is the pain of defeat. With only three players remaining in the competition, it’s the young man who cut his teeth playing Magic The Gathering who would dye his hair green in return for a spell that would turn the deck in his favour.
2007 WSOP: $2,000 NLHE – 4th.
2008 WSOP: $5,000 LH/NLHE – 2nd.
2009 WSOP: $40,000 NLHE – 5th.
2011 WSOP: $2,500 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw – 2nd.
2013 WSOP: $10,000 NLHE HU – 4th.
2014 WSOP: $10,000 Limit Triple Draw – 2nd.
2015 WSOP: $10,000 LH – 3rd.
2016 WSOP: $1,500 H.O.R.S.E – 2nd.
2016 WSOP: $10,000 NLHE 6-Max – 3rd.
And now, 2016 WSOP: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better?
Bonomo could have been one an all-time WSOP great with double-digit bracelets covering his hairy arms, but he’s not, and only the deck knows why.
The line in poker is very fine indeed.
We are at three-handed play.
Randy Ohel is the bring in with the [8s], Danzer comes into the pot with the [Ts], Bonomo raises with the [Qd], and Ohel folds to leave Bonomo to play the hand heads-up against Danzer.
Bonomo gets a [Ks] and bets, Danzer calls with the [Jh] in front of him. On fifth street, both players are handed a six, Bonomo bets, Danzer raises, Bonomo moves all-in, and Danzer calls.
Danzer turns over [Jd] [Js] for trips.
All Bonomo can say is “Jesus,” but Chris Ferguson can’t help him now. Bonomo turns over [As] [6h] for a pair of sixes and only one out for Broadway. It doesn’t come. We get that picture. Bonomo feels that all too familiar feeling.
Danzer: [Jd] [Js] / [Ts] [Jh] [6d] [Ah] / [9h]
Bonomo: [As] [6h] / [Qd] [Ks] [6c] [Tc] / [4h]
Poker is a funny old game.
A few hands earlier, and Danzer only had two big blinds. A triple up with a two outer brought him back into contention and now he was facing Randy Ohel heads-up for the bracelet he won in 2014.
Both players had pretty even chip stacks with Danzer holding a fractional advantage. Danzer had been in this position five previous times. He failed to cross the finishing line the first time in 2012; he hasn’t lost a WSOP heads-up title confrontation since.
For Ohel, it was the third time he had played for the bracelet. He won one in a Triple Draw event in 2012 but lost to Chris Wallace in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E in 2014.
The two players were experiencing a WSOP high. Danzer was cashing for the fourth time, and making his second final table. Ohel was cashing for the fifth time, and experiencing his third final table – all five of his cashes were Top 10 finishes.
It was a brief heads-up affair.
Danzer took a commanding lead when he got paid heaps for trip sevens. And then it was time for the curtain raiser.
Ohel is the bring in with the [3s], and Danzer calls with the [4c]. Ohel bets again, and Danzer calls. Ohel is then dealt the [Kh] and checks. Danzer, who is handed the [4c,], bets and Ohel calls. Ohel is dealt the [2c] on the fifth street and bets, Danzer raises behind the [2s], Ohel moves all-in, and Danzer calls.
Ohel: [6s] [4d] / [3s] [Kh] [2c]
Danzer: [Jc] [4s] / [4c] [2s] [Td]
Danzer is ahead with a pair of fours, and Ohel is chasing the straight, and can win with a higher pair. The dealer gives Danzer the [2d] for two pairs, and Ohel hits thin air with his [Jd]. The [8d] completes Danzer’s hand, and two pairs will have to do. It’s good, as Ohel is handed the [Qd], and the German wins his fourth bracelet and now ties with Max Pescatori as the winningest European player in WSOP history regarding bracelets won. Ohel, like Bonomo, goes to bed, thinking about the finest of lines between winning and losing on the grandest stage of them all.