Event #74 on the extensive calendar of the 52nd annual WSOP was one of the more imaginative tournaments. A mix of poker variants were selected, all commonly played with either a pot-limit or no-limit betting structure — hence “big bet.”
The resulting poker smorgasbord featured pot-limit Omaha hi-lo eight-or-better and its five-card cousin, Big O, no-limit Hold’em. Also on the roster were no-limit 2-7 lowball draw, no-limit five-card draw high, pot-limit Omaha, and pot-limit 2-7 lowball triple draw. The games rotated every six hands, ensuring that even with excessive tanking it was difficult for the players to get bored.
The eclectic blend of games attracted 212 players, creating a prize pool of $471,700. After three days of play, it was Denis Strebkov of Russia who outlasted the field, taking home the gold bracelet and the first prize of $117,898.
In the winner’s photo, it is unclear whether the “V-signs” flashed by Strebkov and his friend are indicating V-for-victory, or celebrating the fact that this is Strebkov’s second WSOP title. (The Russian won the $3k H.O.R.S.E. event at the series in 2019.) It does appear, however, that neither gentleman has spent any time in London, where making this gesture to a police officer is liable to get you arrested.
Final table action
The final table began with Strebkov holding a commanding chip lead, with almost twice the stack of Jerry Wong in second. Richard Bai brought himself into the leader mix, winning a substantial Big O pot that eliminated Hooman Nizid in seventh.
In the following round of no-limit Hold’em, Strebkov quickly countered. Facing an all-in preflop shove from the short-stacked Ciklamini, Strebkov called with AQs. Ciklamini tabled A8s and Strebkov’s dominating hand survived the run-out.
Next to fall was Shanmukha Meruga. Losing a no-limit 2-7 triple draw pot left Meruga with a single big blind in the PLO8 round. The board came high only and Meruga was eliminated by Bai’s full house.
Jerry Wong now turned up the heat, first crippling Pearce Arnold, then sending Bai to the rail in fourth. Strebkov mopped up Arnold’s remaining chips to take the match heads-up.
The contest between the final two was brief, largely because of a huge pot in the first no-limit hold’em round. Holding a slight chip lead, Wong took an aggressive line with a one-card backdoor flush draw, jamming the end when the fourth club failed to fall. Unfortunately for Wong, the third board club had given Strebkov a baby flush, and he called the river bluff.
Wong hung around through a couple of double-ups, but at a 20-to-1 chip disadvantage the damage had already been done. The contest ended in a PLO8 round when, on a high-only board, Strebkov scooped with trip eights.
Final table pay-outs
- Denis Strebkov: $117,898
- Jerry Wong: $72,868
- Pearce Arnold: $48,864
- Richard Bai: $33,583
- Shanmukha Meruga: $23,670
- Patrik Ciklamini: $17,119
- Hooman Nizad: $12,715
Featured image source: Alec Rome/Twitter