The $10,000 Lowball World Championship always features one of the toughest fields during the WSOP. The game isn't played by the masses; at this level, it's simply a pro's game. The field was loaded and on a night when it seemed Phil Hellmuth was primed to capture his 12th WSOP bracelet, John Juanda made a big heads-up comeback to steal the victory and bracelet from his grasp.
"Tonight there were a lot of great players," said Juanda. "It's tough to post a $10,000 buy-in tournament, especially in a game like no-limit 2-7, so, I didn't expect it to be easy. I actually started today as the shortest stack and obviously had to catch some cards. You know, I just took it one hand at a time."
John Juanda isn't an amateur to the 2-7 Lowball discipline. With back-to-back fourth-place finishes in this event the past two years, Juanda had the much-needed experience to keep his focus and find a way to win his fifth WSOP bracelet and $367,170. This was Juanda's 56th WSOP cash and his first bracelet since his WSOP Europe main event win in 2008.
In 2010, Juanda had one of the most impressive WSOP runs without earning a title. He made four final tables including a fourth-place finish in the $50,000 Players' Championship. He also tacked on a small cash in a $1,500 event late in the Series. This was his first cash of the 2011 WSOP.
Entering heads-up play, Hellmuth was in control with nearly a 3:1 chip lead. As Juanda began to chip away, Hellmuth's posture and disposition at the table changed. No longer stoic, the "Poker Brat" looked frustrated and searched for a solution to Juanda's aggression. Unfortunately for Hellmuth, he was unable to break through and would finish in second after a dominating performance throughout the entire final table. He earned $226,907.
"Hellmuth actually played pretty good," said Juanda. "I was impressed with the way that he played. He made one really great play against Joe (Cassidy), who had the winning hand and he became the chip leader after that. So, overall I was very impressed with the way he played. You know, a lot of people said he couldn't play anything besides hold 'em, but tonight he played really well. If the cards would have fallen his way he could be standing here doing the interview instead of me."
This was Hellmuth's first cash of the 2011 WSOP and his 80th in his career. He not only holds record for WSOP bracelets, but most times in the money as well. Despite all of his previous WSOP accomplishments, Hellmuth has never won an event in a discipline besides hold 'em. He now has two runner-up finishes and a fourth-place finish in lowball events at the WSOP throughout his career.
Hellmuth entered Day 3 in seventh place out of the nine that remained. The final eight then consolidated for the unofficial final table after the quick elimination of 2004 WSOP main event champion Greg Raymer in ninth. Even at those early stages of play, Hellmuth had chipped up slightly, but it was when Hellmuth eliminated Joe Cassidy in eighth place that he would really take control.
During that critical hand, Hellmuth called the four-bet all-in of Cassidy holding a 10-9 pat. Cassidy, who was last to act, debated, then finally released one card, stating he was breaking up a 9-8. Cassidy paired up and shipped his sizable stack to Hellmuth who would surge into first place. With that newly-increased stack, Hellmuth pressured his opponents with pre-draw raises, then adjusted and made some tough decisions to force his opponents to hit their draws.
Hellmuth had nearly two-third of the chips in play when action was three handed and entered heads-up play against Juanda with a substantial chip lead. Juanda would never let up though and ultimately, hit one final draw to eliminate Hellmuth.
This year's Lowball World Championship attracted a field of 126 players, an increase of 25 from a year ago. The best hand in this version of poker is 2-3-4-5-7. There is one more Lowball event on the schedule, the $2,500 2-7 triple draw, Event 49, which begins on June 28th.
Other notable finishers included Bertrand Grospellier (11th), Johnny Chan (12th) and Chino Rheem (14th).
Below are the complete results of Event 16 at the 2011 World Series of Poker:
Event 16: Lowball World Championship
Prize pool: $1,184,400
Players in the money: 14
1. John Juanda ($367,170)
2. Phil Hellmuth ($226,907)
3. Richard Ashby ($143,833)
4. Steve Sung ($97,416)
5. Nick Schulman ($69,216)
6. David "Bakes" Baker ($51,485)
7. Hasan Habib ($40,020)
8. Joe Cassidy ($32,440)
9. Greg Raymer ($27,928)
10. Benjamin Parker ($27,928)
11. Bertrand Grospellier ($27,928)
12. Johnny Chan ($24,043)
13. Brandon Cantu ($24,043)
14. Chino Rheem ($24,043)