WSOPE: Helppi heads PLO; Ivey boosts Mercier; Konopelko leads

Andrei Konopelko

Andrei Konopelko bagging the biggest stack in Event 5 was the final highlight on a packed day at the WSOPE

Wednesday at the 2013 World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) in Enghien-les-Bains felt a little like Christmas Eve. Preparations were well underway for tomorrow’s big show, when two bracelets will be awarded to winners in the €5,300 Mixed Max and the €1,650 Pot Limit Omaha, but there was still a lot of organising to do.

Principally they had to figure out the final guest list. Who from two returning fields would push into the latest stages? Candidates included Jason Mercier, Phil Ivey, Dan O’Brien, Jonathan Little, Noah Schwartz, Mark Newhouse, Marc McLaughlin, Mike Watson and Dan Kelly. And there were sub-plots aplenty among them.

Just when it seemed everyone was on top of things, another truck load of faces showed up to play the €2,200 No Limit Hold’em and it all got confusing again. So, here’s what happened today, one event at a time…

Event 3 – €5,300 Mixed Max

Certain media outlets are reporting tonight that Dan O’Brien is set to claim his first WSOP bracelet tomorrow when the final stages of the €5,300 Mixed Max take place in Casino Barriere d’Enghien-les-Bains. He only has to overcome one more opponent — the little-known Croatian player Darko Stojanovic — and the bracelet will be his.

However the poker press has short memories. This time last year, O’Brien was heads up for a bracelet against Giovanni Rosadoni, a player with a total €9,000 tournament winnings to his name. But Rosadoni prevailed, leaving O’Brien still searching for that silverware, and he couldn’t make good on all his promise in Las Vegas in the summer.

O’Brien will, however, be hot favourite when they resume in the Casino Theater at noon tomorrow. O’Brien has 1,594,000 chips to Stojanovic’s 507,000, accumulated over the past three days of nine-handed, six-handed, four-handed and then heads up play.

The last two phases played out this afternoon and, as Tim Fiorvanti reported earlier, they flew to a final four, discarding the likes of Ivey, James Dempsey, Shannon Shorr and two of the November Nine (Newhouse and McLaughlin) leaving an experienced American in each of the heads up brackets.

The idea had initially been to play all the heads up matches tomorrow — the semi-finals and the final — but they instead decided to reach a final tonight. It proved to be the right decision as both heads-up matches finished in double-quick time.

Stojanovic took only one hand to book his place in the final, moving all in from the button after receiving his first two cards. Noah Schwarz, who had a marginal chip-deficit, peered down at 9 9 and made the call.

Stojanovic had A 5 but an ace flopped and Schwartz was out. Stojanovic will play for gold tomorrow.

O’Brien took a relatively sluggish 20-or-so minutes to see off Jason Mann, eventually finding pocket kings when Mann shoved into him with Q 2. “So much for my live tell on Dan O’B lol” tweeted Mann afterwards, before hopping into Event 7.

So it’s O’Brien v Stojanovic and the former with a three-to-one chip lead. The winner will take €188,160 and the bracelet. The runner up will have to settle for €116,280.

Event 4 – €1,650 Pot Limit Omaha

Day 1 of the first PLO tournament of the week had been destructive, leaving only 23 players from the starting 184. And trimming them to fit a final table went so swiftly during Day 2 that organisers agreed to play down to six instead of the nine they had originally intended.

When they bagged for the night, the ice-cold Finn Juha Helppi led a final table that looks 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

Phil Ivey is evidently not among them, but his shadow looms over this one. He and Jason Mercier agreed a bet yesterday afternoon, when Ivey was still going strong in the Mixed Max and David Benefield was also in the PLO, to further sweeten the tournaments’ respective prize pools.

Ivey said he would pay €60,000 if Mercier won the tournament, while Mercier would have to pay Ivey €50,000 if Benefield won. Mercier and Ivey also then cross-booked their tournaments, meaning that whichever of them finished deepest in his tournament won double his official prize, the additional money paid by the loser.

Benefield was eliminated from the PLO last night, meaning Mercier couldn’t lose that section of the bet. (He would still have to win the tournament to collect the €60,000 from Ivey.) Ivey busted the Mix Max in 10th meaning Mercier only had to better than result to start the cash coming in from Ivey.

Should Mercier win this event tomorrow, he’ll get the €70,324 first place money, an additional €60,000 from the Mercier/Benefield bet and another €70,324 from the cross-book. Mercier is therefore looking at a potential €200,648 first prize, which is only €70,000 less than the entire prize pool of this €1,650 buy in event.

Ivey’s prize of €14,905 has never looked more meagre.

But Mercier will not have it all his own way tomorrow, especially with a short-ish stack, despite his almost peerless record in PLO tournaments. Jan-Peter Jachtmann is another PLO specialist, who won the $10,000 PLO event at the World Series last summer; Martin Kozlov just finished ninth at EPT London and is in good form and Juha Helppi has a fourth, third and second place finish from World Series events on his resume. There’s only one missing.

Notable finishers: Jonathan Little (7th, €10,102) Dan Kelly (12th, €5,131), Tommy Vedes (13th, €4,225), Mohsin Charania (14th €4,225), Fabrice Soulier (17th, €3,532), Max Pescatori (21st, €2,997).

Final table payouts:

1 – €70,324
2 – €43,441
3 – €31,367
4 – €23,036
5 – €17,210
6 – €13,077

Event 5 – €2,200 No Limit Hold’em

There’s nothing like a big hold’em event to get the crowds in and Day 1 of Event 5 attracted 337 players. This tournament essentially replaced the shootout they played last year in Cannes, where 141 players showed up for a €3,250 event. This time, the first prize will be €148,820.

As ever, some big names came and went. Daniel Negreanu and Loni Harwood, currently second and third in the WSOP Player of the Year race, were both eliminated before the end of play.

Antonio Esfandiari was overheard asking Jack Effel for directions back into the center of Paris before the dinner break. Jay Farber, ElkY, Shawn Buchanan, Ivey, Dan Shak, Ludovic Lacay, and Nacho Barbero are also long gone.

At the end of the night, 102 players remained, led by Andrei Konopelko, with 78,375. Konopelko, from Belarus, made the final table of Event 2 here this week, and has now bludgeoned his way into a good spot to make another charge.

There are, however, also notable stacks in front of the following: Jonathan Little (64,775), James Dempsey (58,275), Sam Greenwood (55,375), Jason Mann (51,600), Jeff Rossiter (39,775), Laurent Polito (35,225), Erik Seidel (29,400).

Other notables include: Faraz Jaka (23,600), Phil Hellmuth (20,850), Mohsin Charania (20,350), Jackie Glazier (16,750), Roger Hairabedian (8,025), Jonathan Duhamel (11,500), Liv Boeree (8,000), Andy Frankenberger (13,275), Michael Mizrachi (10,100) and Steven Silverman (13,050).

Looking Ahead…

It’s finals day tomorrow, with both the £5,300 Mix Max and the €1,650 PLO playing to a winner. The former starts at noon CET (5am ET) and the latter at 2pm, both on the television set in the casino theater.

Back in the main tournament room, a combination of both those events will be getting started. Event 6 is a €3,250 PLO Mixed Max and they’ll be playing eight handed tomorrow.

It will also be Day 2 of the €2,200 No Limit Hold’em, when they will attempt to fill a final table.

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