Even though he has had a very successful poker career thus far, Friedman is most well-known in the poker world as the red-headed guy from 2005 Main Event that ran the second nut flush into the nut flush and broke down emotionally. Now he can be remembered for his WSOP hardware.
“It’s taken a long time (to get here),” said Friedman. “Looking back in 2005, I guess in No Limit it has really evolved in the past several years, but I really felt back then that people didn’t always know what to do back in 2005. But my game has improved immensely over the years. I’m just really fortunate the cards came my way tonight.”
Even though Friedman took home the bracelet and Brunson took home runner-up money, John Monnette had a reason to celebrate his third place finish. With his showing in the event, Monnette overtook the top spot in the WSOP Player of the Year race.
The final table started with Bryn Kenney on the short stack and it didn’t take long for him to have a walk to the cashier’s cage to pick up his eighth place prize money. Kenney got all of his chips in the middle against Monnette on fifth street. Monnette showed his rolled up sevens that he started with and Kenney revealed concealed eights and needed a lot of help to stay alive. Kenney didn’t get the help he needed and Monnette added to his stack.
Kenney’s departure from the final table left Phil Ivey as the short stack. He was towards the bottom of the chip counts at the start of the final table and he was card dead at the final table, which made it tough for him to ever get any momentum. Ivey got all of his chips in the middle against Brunson on fifth street. Ivey had a pair of sevens and Brunson already had made a low. Brunson improved to a pair of eights on sixth street and Ivey was now behind. When the river card when the river card was dealt, Brunson improved to a wheel and left Ivey drawing dead.
Zimnan Ziyard was the next players to really put his chips to work, before ultimately being the next player to have the long walk to the cashier’s cage. Ziyard scored a double up through Monnette when he had a flush and made a low to scoop against a pair of aces. A few orbits later, he won a pot without showdown from Nikolai Yakovenko, and was right back in the thick of the chip counts. As blinds escalated and a few pots didn’t go his way, Ziyard found all of his chips in the middle against Brunson on sixth street. Brunson’s board read 7554 and Ziyard’s was 5779. After the river card was dealt, Brunson showed 36J and his straight was good to scoop the pot and eliminate Ziyard.
Five-handed play lasted for almost 90 minutes before they lost another player. During that time frame, Friedman started to pull away from the rest of the field. He was the first player to crack the 1 million chip mark and had at least a 2:1 chip lead on every other player at the table.
Friedman extended his chip lead when he took a big chunk out of Sven Arntzen’s stack. Arntzen called bets from Friedman on fourth, fifth, and sixth street before mucking to Friedman’s trip sevens. A few hands later, Arntzen ran into two pair from Friedman. Friedman check-called a bet on fourth street before betting every street after that and getting called down by Arntzen. With Friedman’s board reading 9Q55, he showed a queen in the hole, giving him queens and fives and scooping a pot from Arntzen. Arntzen was left with just 5,000 and was all in the next hand with the ante and was eliminated by Yakovenko.
After Arntzen was eliminated, the last four players went on a dinner break and Friedman was the chip leader. After coming back from dinner, Yakovenko was the next player to be sent to the rail. The limits were raised to 25,000-50,000 and Yakovenko was hovering around 400,000, which was just eight big bets in his stack. Yakovenko’s stack was seriously crippled after playing a pot with John Monnette. There were bets going in on almost every street and Monnette rivered kings and queens to leave Yakovenko with just 67,000 left. He was eliminated shortly after by Friedman when the two got all the chips in the middle on third street. Friedman had a pair of aces against Yakovenko’s pair of nines. Friedman improved to two pair and Yakovenko could never make better than a pair of nines and was eliminated in fourth.
Three-handed play was longer than four-handed play with chips changing hands between Brunson, Friedman, and Monnette for over two hours before the crowd saw another player eliminated. At the beginning of three-handed play, it seemed like it was the Monnette/Brunson show. Those two seemed to be playing most pots against each other while Friedman could be found texting on his phone near the rail. After Friedman started to lose some ground and slide back near even with the other two players, he began to get involved in some more pots.
As Friedman became a little more active, Monnette’s stack began a downward spiral from its peak of 1 million. Brunson made a full house and got calls from both players on sixth and only a call from Friedman on seventh. That put Brunson up to 1.4 million, Friedman down to 1 million, and Monnette slipped back down to 750,000. Brunson also got the best of Monnette when there was betting all the way down to seventh street and then both players checked. Brunson’s board read 97TQ and Monnette’s board showed J6A9. Brunson could only show a pair of nines and Monnette muttered some expletives as he mucked his hand.
Monnette was finished off by Friedman when Monnette’s concealed aces on third were outrun by Friedman’s pair of fours which made trips on fourth. All the money went in on fourth and Friedman just rolled his eyes and found a floor person to get his money and head home.
Even though Friedman had scored the last of Monnette’s stack, Brunson still had a 2:1 chip lead. They exchanged small pots back and forth before Friedman scored the first real blow of the match. With Brunson’s board being king-high with three diamonds, he bet the river. Friedman just called and showed an eight-high straight. That was good for the whole pot since Brunson just had a pair of kings and put Friedman at a slight chip advantage.
Brunson started to scoop the majority of the pots and start to take a significant chip lead. Brunson won a lot of the pots without going to showdown and then put Friedman under the million mark by making nines and sixes against Friedman’s smaller two pair.
Brunson couldn’t find a way to put Friedman away though. Friedman was able to scoop a few pots with two pair and then win a few other hands at showdown with just one pair. With the limits getting sky high and less than 20 big bets in play, any pot won was a substantial pot. After a flurry of hands that Friedman scooped, Friedman had found himself a commanding chip lead in a heads-up match that had lasted almost four hours.
Friedman was able to put Brunson away when they got the last of Brunson’s chips in the middle on fifth street. Brunson held a pair of tens while Friedman tabled a pair of jacks. Friedman improved to two pair, Brunson was unable to improve, and Friedman denied Brunson his second bracelet.
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