The story of the $50,000 HORSE event should've been about the turnout. For the first time in its prestigious history, there were fewer than 100 players who bought in to the $50,000 Event 49. All had hopes of cementing themselves in poker history by winning the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy that is awarded to the champion, but many couldn't believe that so few would register.
As we reached Wednesday afternoon on the East Coast, the story of numbers dissipated and became one of amazement as the final table, which began at 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, was still being played out.
When the action finally stopped on ESPN360.com, 492 hands had been dealt and David Bach was left standing holding his first WSOP bracelet and the aforementioned trophy. After a seven-hour heads-up match with John Hanson, Bach, exhausted, was still thrilled about his first major tournament victory.
"It hasn't even sunken in yet," Bach said to the WSOP. "Especially this tournament. This is Chip Reese's tournament. I think this is the best tournament of the whole year. It means the world to win."
The 37-year-old professional poker player has been playing on the poker circuit for six years. Prior to poker, he was a professional bowler, but since transitioning, he's concentrated on lengthy sessions, which gave him the proper preparation for staying focused at the final table.
"In bowling, you have to control your body and your mind at the same time," he said. "In poker, you only have to control your mind. So, all that training of controlling the mind and body helps make the pressure of poker much easier.
"I said, just be a professional," Bach said on how he kept his concentration. "I kept looking at Chip Reese's name on that trophy and that's what he would do."
Just like Reese, Bach continued to grind during the entire final table. After being the short stack with five players left, he managed to win some key pots in Omaha high-low split that gave him some life and much-needed encouragement. He also had the support of his friends and family, whom he e-mailed Sunday night explaining to them that this was the tournament he would win.
"This is the tournament I want to win the most," he said, recalling what he wrote in his e-mail. "If I am going to break through and win, this is the right one."
Bach now has five WSOP final table appearances and 11 cashes for $2.4 million in career earnings. While Bach's accomplishment will forever be engraved on the trophy, Hanson's performance must not be forgotten. In 2007, Hanson took third in the event. With his runner-up finish this year, he has earned the recognition of the industry as one of the best HORSE players in the world.
Also at the final table were two players who were vying for player of the year honors. Vitaly Lunkin, who won the $40,000 no-limit hold 'em Event 2, finished in fourth while Ville Wahlbeck, winner of the $10,000 mixed game world championship, finished in sixth. Wahlbeck currently sits second on the player of the year leaderboard with finishes of first, second, third, sixth, 12th and 13th place in 2009.
Fan favorites Huck Seed, Erik Seidel and Chau Giang were also looking for gold, but all were eliminated nearly 10 hours before the tournament was complete.
Other notable finishers included Gus Hansen (ninth), David Chiu (12th) and 2007 world champion Freddy Deeb (14th).
Below are the complete results of Event 48:
Event 49: HORSE World Championship
Prize pool: $4,560,000
Players in the money: 16
1. David Bach ($1,276,802)
2. John Hanson ($789,199)
3. Erik Sagstrom ($522,394)
4. Vitaly Lunkin ($368,813)
5. Huck Seed ($276,610)
6. Ville Wahlbeck ($219,655)
7. Chau Giang ($184,087)
8. Erik Seidel ($162,382)
9. Gus Hansen ($123,895)
10. Mike Wattel ($123,895)
11. Ray Dehkharghani ($99,590)
12. David Chiu ($99,590)
13. Tony Guoga ($83,630)
14. Freddy Deeb ($83,630)
15. Steve Billirakis ($72,914)
16. John Kabbaj ($72,914)