This was the first time he had reached the final stages of a tournament in Europe, however, completing a unique set of finals. And although it awarded him the relatively meagre €70,324 in prize money, it also might now be his favorite venue.
Ausmus has just won his first WSOP bracelet.
“Everyone wants a bracelet and I’ve had a few cracks at it recently,” he said, finally posing beside poker’s most sought after jewellery. “I’ve been here a few times and didn’t win it, and that made it a bit sweeter…All the pros know, it’s hard to do.”
In order to wrap up victory, Ausmus had to overcome Juha Helppi, another player at his fourth WSOP final table. The two of them played a long heads up duel, and Ausmus would have to double up numerous times. Indeed the final hand was all but a double up too: both players had flopped the world when they got their almost even stacks in the middle. But Ausmus turned his into a winner.
All the money went in on a flop of T [10h] 4. Ausmus had A Q T 8, Helppi had A T 7 2, and they could both have expected a lock on the hand. But Ausmus also had a flush draw and then the 8 came on the turn giving Ausmus the boat. And with it, he was sailing down the Seine to victory.
“I’ve just felt really good about my tournament game for three years now,” he said, adding that with two young children at home, he was undecided about even coming to France. “It’s hard for me to travel right now. I’m actually surprised I’m here.”
It was worth the trip.
The tournament resumed six handed after yesterday’s action trimmed the field far more than had first been planned. The final table also got under way only about 30 minutes after its scheduled 2pm start time — immediately following the conclusion of the €5,300 Mixed Max — which is about as prompt as major-league poker ever gets.
“We’ve got the cream of the cream here for this final table today,” said Lucille Denos, of Casinos Barriere, introducing the line-up stocked with bracelet winners, a November Niner (Ausmus) and one of the best European players without either of those accolades. The small crowd, which included David Benefield, Scott Clements and the recently defeated Dan O’Brien, all rooting for Jason Mercier, offered polite applause.
The line up at the start of play looked like this:
Seat 1: Jason Mercier, USA, 81,500
Seat 2: Jeremy Ausmus, USA, 203,000
Seat 3: Jan-Peter Jachtmann, Germany, 149,000
Seat 4: Juha Helppi, Finland, 227,500
Seat 5: Michael Schwartz, USA, 39,500
Seat 6: Martin Kozlov, Australia, 127,500
The early skirmishes were largely with technology, as the players came to grips with the requirements of the RFID (radio-frequency identification) system in place to track the cards. In order for the final table to be streamed online cards up, players needed to place them on the tracking panels embedded in the felt. It’s easy for Hold’em but harder for Omaha. It meant organising them into a square — two on two — for at least a few seconds before they clutched them in the more familiar fan.
The short stacked Schwartz was the first to get all his chips in the middle, and he was the first to be eliminated. Omaha can be a pretty gross game sometimes, and although Schwartz started the hand way ahead, with A A 4 4 he was actually behind Jeremy Ausmus’s T 9 4 3 when they got all the money in on a flop of T 9 2.
The 5 gave Schwartz all kinds of outs, but the 9 river sealed it for Ausmus, sending him into the chip lead and Schwarz looking for his €13,077 check.
Schwartz’s elimination left Mercier on the short stack — not much more than 13 big blinds — but he had better fortune when he got his chips in pre-flop and was called by Martin Kozlov. Mercier had Q Q T 3 and was up against A J J T in Kozlov’s hand.
The flop was unkind to Mercier. It came A 9 3, and elimination threatened. But the 3 turned, putting Mercier back in the lead, and the 9 on the river was a blank. “That was a good turn card,” drawled Mercier to O’Brien on the rail, but the celebrations did not get any more exuberant than that.
Kozlov was now up against it and the Australian had dwindled to about 100,000. But even that was more than Juha Helppi, whose day-start chip lead had been eroded by a series of small pots going to his opponents. Helppi needed to find a double up to stay back in it, and his timing turned out to be excellent.
With A K T 2 he had plenty of equity on a flop of J 9 3, even if he was behind Ausmus’s Q T 9 3. The 3 on the turn brought more draws and the Q river brought the flush for Helppi.
That pot was crucial in many ways, not least because it then allowed Helppi to begin picking off the short stacks, in short order eliminating Kozlov in fifth and Mercier in fourth.
Kozlov got his money in on a flop of 4 J 3 but his A 8 7 5 was behind Helppi’s A K Q J, even if the Australian had some straight and backdoor flush draws. But the 3 turn and Q river both missed, and Kozlov was out. Helppi had gone from big stack to short stack to chip leader again.
Mercier’s massive freeroll then ended, costing Phil Ivey “only” €23,036. That was Mercier’s prize for fourth — secured when his A A J 8 was outdrawn by Helppi’s K Q T 9; they got it in on a flop of Q 2 2 but the K turned — but it was doubled courtesy of Ivey owing to the players’ cross-booking agreed on Day 1.
Everything at the start of three-handed play centred on Helppi. He doubled up Ausmus first, when the American hit a gutshot, then did it again, when they both had a flush draw but Ausmus also had a pair of sevens.
A friend came down to the theater and broke the silence, asking: “Hey Helppi, you gonna take this one down?” Helppi looked at his stack and said, “I don’t think so.”
But the Finn continued to do his job, even as the three players’ stacks evened out. It meant that when Jan-Peter Jachtmann’s turn came to get his chips over the line — again with aces — Helppi was on hand to crack them.
Jachtmann, who won the $10,000 PLO event at the World Series in the summer, had played a patient game at this final. But when his whole stack did find its way over the line, his A A T 8 had been overtaken by Helppi’s Q Q 7 6 on a flop of 6 7 2. The turn and river bricked.
Jachtmann earned €31,367 and it left Helppi to do battle with Ausmus, with a two-to-one chip advantage, but both stacks exceptionally shallow for this stage in a marathon tournament. Helppi chipped away in the small pots, but when all the chips were over the line, Ausmus tended to have it.
“I don’t know his PLO experience, but it’s probably more than mine,” Ausmus said of his Finnish opponent. “The shorter the stacks, it felt like the better off it was for me.”
Helppi has a fourth, a third and a second-place finish from World Series finals, but he couldn’t add the coveted title when Ausmus hit that turn.
Ausmus is the latest champion, the first from the United States of this festival, and after eight cashes this year alone, let’s say he deserves it.
1 – Jeremy Ausmus, USA, €70,324
2 – Juha Helppi, Finland, €43,441
3 – Jan-Peter Jachtmann, Germany, €31,367
4 – Jason Mercier, USA, €23,036
5 – Martin Kozlov, Australia, €17,210
6 – Michael Schwartz, USA, €13,077
7 – Jonathan Little, USA, €10,102
8 – Yohann Aube, France, €7,933
9 – Ryan Chapman, USA, €6,335
10 – Claude Marbleu, France, €5,131
11 – Dan Kelly, USA, €5,131
12 – Philippe Jouveau, France, €5,131
13 – Tommy Vedes, USA, €4,225
14 – Mohsin Charania, USA, €4,225
15 – Casey Kastle, Slovenia, €4,225
16 – Benjamin Souriau, France, €3,532
17 – Fabrice Soulier, France, €3,532
18 – Sylvain Esposito, France, €3,532
19 – Gjergj Sinishtaj, USA, €2,997
20 – Stanislav Parkhomenko, Russia, €2,997
21 – Max Pescatori, Italy, €2,997
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