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| | World Series Of Poker 2006 Recap Event #21
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Event #21 ($2,500 NLHE Short Handed) - Recap
provided by - Nolan Dalla - WSOP Media Director
Short-Handed World Poker Championship
Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em
Number of Entries: 740
Total Prize Money: $1,702,000
Defending Champion (2005): Isaac Galazan
Chen Dynasty ?
Bill Chen Wins Second WSOP Gold Bracelet This Week
Math theorist wins yet another title and $442,511 more in prize money
View Final Results
Las Vegas, NV – It’s a peculiar thing that our culture gives far greater attention to the peripheral things than those which are genuine. We bestow our highest adulation on the rich, the famous, and the beautiful. Everywhere you look – be it magazines, newspapers, television, or the Internet – pop idols are the focus. It’s one reason why athletes and movie stars make hundreds of times more money than school teachers.
When surveys are taken and school children are asked who they most admire and respect – it’s usually a celebrity. Not a scientist, or an academic, or a philosopher. Can anyone name any of last year’s Nobel Prize winners? Probably not. But we certainly know all the latest celebrity gossip. Society’s warped sense of what constitutes “value” will almost certainly produce catastrophic consequences down the road. In the meantime, we must do what we can to recognize the real extraordinary talents amongst us who stand out above the rest in the ways that really matter.
If mental endowment was the sole basis for being rich and famous, then Bill Chen would be a combination of Donald Trump and Paris Hilton. The quantitative analyst for Susquehanna (a highly-successful financial services firm founded by poker players) holds a PhD in mathematics from Cal-Berkeley. With all respect to other scholarly powerhouses in the game of poker, such as Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (hold a PhD from UCLA) and Andy Bloch (a graduate of MIT and Harvard Law School), Chen may very well be the most brilliant mind in the game today.
And now, he is experiencing a huge personal breakthrough Most poker players would be thrilled to win a WSOP gold bracelet once in a lifetime. Bill Chen is currently winning two bracelets -- a week. Chen demolished a highly-competitive field of 740 players in the Short-Handed World Poker Championship. It came just seven days after he won his first gold bracelet in the $3,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em championship (good for $343,618).
Played six to a table, short-handed hold’em magnifies strengths and weaknesses. Simply put, there is no opportunity to sit around and wait for big cards and good hands. Short-handed poker forces the player into making more decisions, which are by circumstance tougher decisions. This format naturally favors those players with the best analytical abilities.
After 731 players were eliminated over the first two days of the tournament, Chen walked over the final table in a relatively swift four and a half hours – the quickest final table yet at this year’s World Series of Poker presented by Milwaukee’s Best Light. Chen made it look almost too easy.
Chen’s victory is even more remarkable for the fact that he was at a sizable chip disadvantage from the start – ranked fifth out of six finalists. The chip leader, Michael Guttman arrived fresh off his second-place finish in the Pot-Limit Omaha championship, held three days ago.
Name Chip Count Seat #
Bill Chen $175,000 1
Alex Diesel Bolotin $280,000 2
Harry Demetriou $378,000 3
Mike Guttmann $587,000 4
Nath Pizzolatto $102,000 5
Dan Hicks $321,000 6
The first player of the final six was eliminated when longtime tournament veteran Charidimos “Harry” Demetriou went out on a tough beat. Demetriou was dealt pocket jacks, normally a very strong hand in short-handed play. But not when the opponent holds pocket aces. Demetriou moved all-in after the flop and was quickly called by Alex Bolotin. The two aces held up and Demetriou finished in sixth place, which paid $58,719.
Next, Bolotin got a taste of his own medicine. About an hour after Demetriou’s exit, Bolotin was getting low on chips and lost with ace-queen to Nath Pizzolatto’s pocket eights. Bolotin, originally from Minsk, Belarus and now living in Brooklyn, took home $78,292.
Dan Hicks, who made it to the final table at the WSOP Circuit championship held at Caesar’s Palace earlier this year, could do no better than fourth place in this event. On his final hand of the tournament, Hicks was dealt ace-eight, which was dominated by Mike Guttman’s ace-jack. Neither player made a pair, but the jack played as a high card – putting Hicks out of the event. He received $107,226.
The next player to bust out was Mike Guttman. One of three players at this final table living abroad, the Australian went out holding ace-king against Bill Chen’s pocket jacks. Guttman’s “big slick” failed to pair up, resulting in a third-place finish. Guttman collected $139,564.
The heads-up match between Bill Chen and Nath Pizzolatto lasted just two hands. Chen held a slight chip lead when the astonishing hand that ended the tournament was dealt out. Chen raised pre-flop holding king-queen. Pizzolatto called the standard raise holding eight-six. On the turn, the board showed J-7-5-10 – giving both players had a straight draw. A nine on the river cemented a straight for both players – a dream for Chen and a nightmare for Pizzolatto. After Pizzolatto bet out, Chen raised all-in and Pizzolatto called. Chen tabled his king-high straight which flattened Pizzolatto’s jack-high straight.
The runner-up, Nath Pizzolatto received $238,280. Remarkably, this was the Houston-based poker player’s first time to ever play at the World Series of Poker. Pizzolatto became a serious poker player last year when he was hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Instead of lying immobile in his hospital bed, Pizzolatto started playing poker online. Eight months later, he was sitting at a WSOP final table and cashing out for nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
For all of his personal and professional success, both at the poker table and away, Bill Chen remains remarkably modest. He does not wear any jewelry. He does not even wear a wristwatch. Friends taunted Chen after he won his first WSOP gold bracelet, nicknaming the understated math wonk “Bling Bling.” There is currently some division as to whether Chen is now to be called “Bling Bling” or “Brains and Bling.”
“Math works,” Chen stated matter-of-factly as he posed for photographs in front of a pile of chips and money. “Math and poker do work. A lot of my play is not about reading my opponents. Sure, when I get a clear read on someone, I act on it. But that is rare. Most of my play in this event and in the limit event has been to balance my play, balance my bets and bluffs, and call with the right frequency. I try to gauge what my opponents range of starting hands is, and then devise my counterstrategy from that. It’s all part of game theory.”
Poker players everywhere will get a chance to learn more about Chen’s poker secrets in his new book, “The Mathematics of Poker,” co-written with Jerrod Ankenman. It’s scheduled to be released soon. If book sales might be helped by Chen’s win last week, they will certainly get an even bigger lift from this second win.
With two weeks still to go at this year’s World Series of Poker, the question everyone will be asking is, “Will Chen win gold bracelet Number Three? If so he would join the exalted ranks of Ted Forrest and Phil Ivey as the only trifecta winners in a single WSOP year.
The Chen Dynasty may have just begun.
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