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Alex Epstein has won his first bracelet and $296,277 after defeating a 114-entrant field in the first-ever $10,000 Short Deck Event at the WSOP.
Epstein was responsible for the last three eliminations at the final table, including three-time bracelet-winner Chance Kornuth in fourth, before sending both Anson Tsang and Thai Ha to the rail in the same hand to clinch victory.
Final Table Results
|1||Alex Epstein||United States||$296,227|
|2||Thai Ha||United States||$183,081|
|3||Anson Tsang||Hong Kong||$130,482|
|4||Chance Kornuth||United States||$93,593|
|5||Rene van Krevelen||Netherlands||$67,566|
|7||Andrew Robl||United States||$35,907|
From PLO to Short Deck
To paraphrase New York Times bestselling author John Green, Epstein won this tournament "slowly, then all at once." Coming into the final day second in chips, he bided his time before a pivotal hand against start-of-day chip leader Kornuth vaulted him into a chip lead he never relinquished.
"Walking to the Rio today, I was thinking that I just wanted to enjoy the experience," Epstein told PokerNews shortly after winning the tournament. "I knew that the other good players at the final table were shorter stacks so I had a very good chance if things broke my way."
Epstein's previous experience of short deck hold'em came at previous Run It Up Reno events, and said that after running "far below EV" at PLO so far this summer, he "decided to play a game with higher variance than that."
In the end, it's worked out for Epstein who wins his first WSOP bracelet and almost $300,000 in prize money.
Final Day Recap
Seven-handed at the start of the day, it took just four hands to find the first elimination, with start-of-day short stack Andrew Robl sent packing by Anson Tsang after the latter turned a flush.
Thai Ha would double five times at the final table on his way to a runner-up finish, with his first coming when he picked up kings midway through the first level of the day to double through Tsang, and his second coming shortly thereafter when his ace-jack bested the ten-nine of chip leader Chance Kornuth
His third came through Alex Epstein who by this stage had moved into the chip lead. Despite these three doubles, Ha remained short.
Both Epstein and Kornuth would trade the chip lead before Yong Wang was eliminated in sixth place. His jacks were cracked by the ace-king of Tsang who added his second elimination of the day.
Tight at the Top
Tsang now joined both Epstein and Kornuth as a contender for the chip lead five-handed and moved into the overall lead for a spell.
Ha would double for a fourth time before Dutchman Rene van Krevelen did the same, both through Epstein who had stumbled onto rocky ground. It was then Epstein's turn to double, getting it in with trips against a flopped full house of Tsang, the Hong Kong player looked destined to send a third player in a row to the rail. However, a miracle river kept Epstein alive and he moved back to the top of the pile.
The fifth double for Ha would leave Van Krevelen short before the break, and although a double saw him threaten to make a comeback, he was eliminated in fifth place.
Kornuth and Epstein Clash
Big WSOP final tables sometimes demand big final table moments, and this was no different. After Kornuth check-called Epstein on a queen-high rainbow flop, the pair checked the turn. The river completed a backdoor flush draw and Kornuth bet, was raised and then moved all in.
"Like most of the other professionals," said Epstein, reflecting on the hand afterward. "When they see me and the way that I table talk and set myself up, they think they have a post-flop edge in a game where they definitely don't have a post-flop edge."
Epstein took his time before calling. He was shown a single pair by Kornuth, with Epstein's straight good enough to secure a massive double.
"I was relieved, for sure. He could have lucked into backdoor hearts there, which happens in poker. And if he does he gets paid. The only reason I took so long is because it's a huge spot and I had the time bank chips. If I had lost, it is what it is."
According to the stream, Epstein and Kornuth both exchanged words after Epstein scooped a massive pot.
"I'm sure Chance is a very nice guy. He made it very clear that he felt that he had an edge without any realization that that is purely because of the way I present myself to him. On one hand, that's a great thing because it sets up moments like this but on the other hand, it's a little annoying when people feel the need to comment on that."
The Final Hand
With one hand on the bracelet, Epstein started to push ahead. Shoving at several opportunities before the final hand. Tsang shoved as the short stack, with Ha reshoving as the middle stack. Epstein was in position and called.
After flopping a straight, the outs Epstein had to dodge were numerous. The turn was a brick, and the rail of Epstein's friends gathered under the WSOP Thunderdome took a moment after the river was dealt before erupting with delight. Epstein's straight had held, sending two players to the rail and securing his victory.
Hand #125: Anson Tsang moved all in for 890,000 from the first position. Thai Ha then moved all in for 1,220,000 from the next position.
Alex Epstein called on the button putting both players at risk with a chance of winning the tournament outright!
Epstein flopped a straight on the flop but would need to dodge a myriad of outs, with Tsang flopping a flush draw and a bigger straight draw. The turn was the which changed nothing, and there was a moment of silence after the came on the river, before Epstein's rail celebrated as he eliminated two players at once to win the tournament.
Hand #121: Alex Epstein raised preflop all in for effectively 1,570,000 covering both his opponents. Neither of them called.
Hand #122: Anson Tsang called and Thai Ha raised to 250,000 from the cutoff. Button Epstein called. Tsang folded so they went heads-up to the flop.
The flop fell and Ha checked. Epstein put him all in for effectively 1,280,000 and Ha got out of the way.
Hand #123: Ha folded and Epstein put Tsang all in. Tsang got out of the way.
Hand #124: Epstein folded and Tsang put Ha all in. Ha folded his hand. Tsang still is the short stack of the tournament with 890,000.
Hand #114: Thai Ha limp-folded to a raise to 175,000 from Alex Epstein.
Hand #115: Alex Epstein moved all in first to act and took down the pot.
Hand #116: Epstein received a walk.
Hand #117: Ha folded and Epstein moved all in. Anson Tsang folded the button.
Hand #118: Ha received a walk.
Hand #119: Epstein received a walk.
Hand #120: Ha limped and Epstein folded. Tsang checked his button and the flop came and Ha bet 60,000. Tsang folded.
Hand #113: Chance Kornuth put his last 120,000 in the middle from the cutoff with and he was called by Alex Epstein on the button with .
The flop came out of the deck and both players hit something. The turn was the and Kornuth was in the lead. The river fell the and that meant the elimination of Kornuth in 4th place. He cashed for $93,593.
Epstein now has a commanding lead with more chips than both his opponents.
Hand #110: Chance Kornuth put his last 70,000 in the middle and Anson Tsang put him at risk. Kornuth was playing while Tsang put him at risk with .
The dealer spread out the flop and Kornuth was ahead. The turn was the and the river was the .
Kornuth stayed alive for a little longer in the tournament.
Hand #111: Tsang called from the cutoff and button Thai Ha checked.
The flop fell and they both checked again. They also checked on the turn to see the river. They both checked and Ha took the pot down.
Hand #112: Tsang limped and so did Ha. Kornuth checked from the button. The flop was and Tsang bet 60,000. Ha called but short stack Kornuth folded.
The turn was the and Tsang checked this time. Ha bet 125,000 and that won him the pot when Tsang folded.
Hand #107: Chance Kornuth limped first to act, as did Anson Tsang before Thai Ha checked his button. The flop was Kornuth bet 85,000 and Tsang folded before Ha raised to 275,000. Kornuth called.
The turn was the and Kornuth checked. Ha moved all in for 760,000 and Kornuth folded.
Hand #108: Alex Epstein raised to 175,000 Kornuth called on the button. The pair checked down the board and Epstein won the pot with
Hand #109: Kornuth limped and Epstein checked the button. The flop was and Kornuth check-called 60,000. The pair checked the turn and Kornuth bet 120,000 on the river. Epstein raised to 375,000 and Kornuth then three-bet all in for 1,880,000.
Epstein used a time extension before calling.
Kornuth showed for a pair of sixes with Epstein showing for a jack-high straight to double up and leave Kornuth with 70,000 in chips.
Hand #102: Thai Ha called from early position and Chance Kornuth called as well. Alex Epstein folded the cutoff and button Anson Tsang checked.
The flop came down and Ha checked as first to act. Kornuth bet 90,000 and both of his opponents folded.
Hand #103: Kornuth raised to 150,000 from early position and Ha called on the button.
The dealer put the flop on the table and Kornuth put in a continuation-bet of 115,000. Ha called and the turn was the . Kornuth slowed down on the turn when he checked to Ha. Ha checked behind and the river card completed the board.
Kornuth bet 245,000 on the river and Ha quickly folded.
Hand #104: Tsang called 20,000 and Ha raised all in for 1,020,000. All his opponents got out the way.
Hand #105: Kornuth raised to 175,000 from the cutoff and button Epstein called.
The flop fell and Kornuth continued with a bet of 250,000. Epstein folded and the pot was pushed to Kornuth.
Hand #106: Kornuth called 20,000 in the hijack and Epstein upped it to 195,000 in the cutoff. Tsang folded his button and Kornuth folded as well.
Hand #99: Alex Epstein raised and took down the pot.
Hand #100: Thai Ha limped and Chance Kornuth raised to 200,000. Ha then re-raised all in for 1,270,000 and Kornuth called.
The flop was and the improved Ha to a flush draw. The river was the and the pair chopped the pot.
Hand #101: Ha and Kornuth limped and Alex Epstein checked his button. The flop was and it checked to Kornuth who bet 85,000. Epstein folded and Ha called.
The river was the and the pair chopped it up again.