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Friday, July 4, 2008 | Francis Lee


Event 53 at the World Series of Poker 2008 was the last event before the big one, the WSOP main event. This was a $1,500 limit hold’em shootout event. The event was meant to be limited to 720 entrants, but with a huge amount of players wanting to enter we ended up with a total of 823 players starting out. The tournament was scheduled to be played over two days, with round one to be played on the first day, round two to start on day one and be played to the finish on the second day, and the final nine players advancing from round two to fight out the final table positions. Every one of the 90 players who made it into round two cashed in.

There was a large number of well known pro’s in this field with quite a few falling at the first hurdle. These included the likes of Ram Vaswani, Chris Moneymaker, Berry Johnson, Chris Ferguson and Andy Bloch to name just a few. The day ended half way through round two with just 72 of the 90 remaining. It took quite a while for the second round to finish on day two and the nine finalist to progress was as follows.

Final Table

  • Seat 1 Jean-Robert Belland
  • Seat 2 Danny Wong
  • Seat 3 Spencer Lawrence
  • Seat 4 Matt Graham
  • Seat 5 Andrew Prock
  • Seat 6 Michael Kachan
  • Seat 7 Brandon Wong
  • Seat 8 John Kranyak
  • Seat 9 Joe De Niro

Michael Kachan was the first player out early on as he lost the majority of his chips to John Kranyak. Kachan’s pocket Aces were busted by Kranyak pocket eights hitting a set on the Flop. Danny Wong took the rest of his chips off him as his big slick paired an Ace on the Flop. Kachan took home $7,526 finishing in 9th place.

Andrew Prock was next to follow Kachan to the rail when his :as :qd was out gunned by Joe De Niro’s :ad :jd when De Niro paired a Jack on the Flop. No Queen on the Turn or River confirmed his elimination in 8th place. This was Prock’s fifth WSOP cash at this year’s series.

John Kranyak on his second final table this year was next to go just a few hands later as he was eliminated by Joe De Niro. This time the best hand won with :ac :qs beating :as :jh as a Queen fell on the River. Another player making his second final table appearance Spencer Lawrence was next to go as he push All In when short stacked with :kh :10h Jean-Robert Bellande made the call with :as :9h and won the hand pairing a Nine on the Flop, with Lawrence failing to improve down the board.

The next hour of play saw Jean-Robert Bellande and Danny Wong clash on numerous occasions and ended up with one of them being eliminated. Bellande won the first bout hitting top pair on the Flop when Wong just had middle pair. Wong won back most of his chips when forcing Bellande to fold after he led out after the River, but then Wong was crippled down to just $50,000 as Bellande hit a set of Eights on the Flop. Wong managed to treble soon after, but his come back was short lived as Bellande finished him off hitting a full house in the next hand of play.

Four handed play didn’t last very long as Brandon Wong got his short stack in with :as :2d and got two callers, Joe De Niro and Matt Graham. Graham bet out after the Flop forcing De Niro to fold tabling middle pair. Wong has flopped a pair of deuces and needed help. The rest of the board didn’t help him out and he was out in 4th place winning $69,088.

De Niro met his end when clashing with Bellande in the space of two hands. Bellande won the first hand hitting a runner - runner straight draw with :jd :9s On the next hand Bellande eliminated De Niro pairing an Ace on the River when behind against a pair of Jacks.

At the start of heads up Bellande held over double the chip stack of Graham with $1.9 million to $800,000. Bellande started a come back after loosing the first few hands, first drawing level and then taking the lead. The end came when Bellande moved all in with :7s :9s and was called with Graham holding :ad :jh Neither player hit any piece of the board and the Ace high was enough to win the pot and the event. Matt Graham picked up the $278,180 first place prize and the WSOP bracelet to go with it.

WSOP 2008 Event 53 Final Standings

  • 1st Matt Graham $278,180
  • 2nd Jean-Robert Bellande $173,564
  • 3rd Joe De Niro $107,845
  • 4th Brandon Wong $69,088
  • 5th Danny Wong $33,701
  • 6th Spencer Lawrence $20,221
  • 7th John Kranyak $13,480
  • 8th Andrew Prock $10,335
  • 9th Michael Kachan $7,526



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