Brandon Shack-Harris only picked up poker as a way to fit in with the other members of his band back in Chicago.
Even though his band didn’t work out, his poker career is peaking as he won his first career bracelet and $205,634 as he topped the $1,000 Pot Limit Omaha event at the 2014 World Series of Poker on Friday evening. His win came in the biggest non-hold’em event in WSOP history as he topped a field of 1,128 players to earn the title.
As a youngster, Shack-Harris bounced around the United States with his family before finally taking off on his own to pursue a music career in Chicago. A few of his fellow band members had started playing poker and Shack-Harris figured it would be an easy way to get along with the rest of the group if he started playing.
“They showed me the rules while we were exchanging life stories or whatever,” said Shack-Harris. “I figured I would go home and learn poker as like a bonding aesthetic. I didn’t want to be the odd piece out. [The band] fell through and 10 years ago or so, I didn’t take it so well. I was super bummed out and I was like ‘Eff music. I’ll just work on poker for a bit’ because I was making more money doing that than I was waiting tables.”
To the casual poker fan, Shack-Harris has flown under the radar. But he has the respect of a lot of high-profile, world-class players, most of whom stopped by his final table to check on his progress. Scott Seiver, Owais, Ahmed, and Eric Crain all were on his rail or stopped by. Vanessa Selbst even checked in on him after winning her bracelet.
“Vanessa and I played a stud/8 tournament together and during the break we talked a little bit about stud/8 and we just got along really well,” said Shack-Harris. “Right before the World Series started, we got together for a week and prepped for this. I was in Brooklyn for like a week and was studying all this stuff with her. We were going over strategies for baduecey and badacey and stuff. ”
Even though he has been able to keep a relatively low profile, he is enjoying the idea of having more people recognize him after his bracelet win.
“I’m fortunate to have the respect of a lot of people that I respect. I’m fortunate to have the respect of a lot of people around me to talk strategy with,” said Shack-Harris. “I won’t lie. There is a little part of me that wants a little justice for the work I’ve put in. But you get your justice in different ways and it’s always nice to be acknowledged now and again.”
The first elimination of the day was actually the fourth of the final table. The players reached the final nine players on Thursday night before the scheduled amount of levels were played. The players agreed to play out the last level of the day and they lost three players in that time span. Nick Guagneti, Loren Klein, and Patrick Arena were eliminated in ninth, eighth, and seventh place, respectively, which left the final day of the event with just six players.
Robert Paddock was the first player eliminated on the final day and it didn’t take long for it to happen. Just two orbits into the final day, Paddock was at risk against Steve Billirakis. With blinds at 8,000/16,000, Paddock got his last 175,000 into the middle on a flop of KQ4. Paddock tabled AJT3, giving him a wrap and the nut flush draw, and was up against Billirakis’ KQ94, giving him top two pair. The turn was the 6 and the river was the 7 to send Paddock home in sixth place. Billirakis was the first player to move over the million chip mark and extend his chip lead with the elimination.
After Paddock’s elimination, Matthew Ryan was left as the short stack of the table and was the next player to be sent to the rail. 25 hands after Paddock left the final table area, Ryan got his last 12 big blinds all in preflop against Morgan Popham.
Popham showed KK76 and was up against Ryan’s QJ96. Ryan never had much of a sweat as the board ran out 54423. Ryan was drawing dead on the turn and took home $42,658 for his fifth place finish.
During four-handed play, action slowed down and there weren’t many showdowns. Billirakis, who was searching for his third bracelet and started the day as the chip leader, began to lose traction, and chips along with it. Without ever really playing a big pot, Billirakis had lost half of his stack and ended up being the fourth place finisher.
Billirakis raised and then called a three-bet from Shack-Harris. They saw a flop of A95 and Billirakis got the rest of his stack into the middle. Shack-Harris showed AAKT, good for top set, and Billirakis tabled a wrap with his 8764. The 3 on the turn gave Billirakis some more outs, but the 3 on the river gave Shack-Harris a full house and the pot.
The elimination gave Shack-Harris a commanding lead over his other two opponents as he crossed over the the two million chip mark and had more than three times his closest competitor.
Iori Yogo and Popham were the two short stacks and they ended up clashing in a hand that left Yogo with just one big blind. Yogo and Popham got al in preflop with Popham holding the best hand. Popham tabled AKQ5 and was up against Yogo’s KQJ8. Neither player made a pair as the board ran out 76463 and Popham scooped the pot with ace high. Yogo was eliminated on the next hand after he was all in for his last big blind.
Popham doubled up through Yogo, but was still at a huge chip disadvantage against Shack-Harris as heads-up play began. Shack-Harris held an almost 6:1 chip advantage with 2,800,000 in chips against Popham’s 590,000.
The huge chip disadvantage seemed to be too much for Popham to overcome. Shack-Harris extended his lead a little bit more before Popham scored a double up, but he was back at risk again when the final two players got all in preflop with Popham holding the best hand.
Popham tabled AAT5 and was in the lead against Shack-Harris’ AKK5. The flop was Q86, which kept Popham in the lead. The J fell on the turn and Shack-Harris picked up a straight draw. The T peeled off on the river and Shack-Harris made his straight to earn his first career bracelet.
Here are a look at the results:
- Brandon Shack-Harris – $205,634
- Morgan Popham – $127,245
- Iori Yogo – $79,611
- Steve Billirakis – $57,785
- Matthew Ryan – $42,658
- Robert Paddock – $31,978
- Patrick Arena – $24,324
- Loren Klein – $18,750
- Nick Guagneti – $14,648
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