Juanda prevails at record-breaking WSOPE Main Event
By Gary Trask
It took two years, seven events and a record-breaking Main Event to get it done, but the American jinx at the World Series of Poker Europe is over.
John Juanda became the first U.S. player to win a WSOP bracelet on foreign soil when he outlasted a strong field of 362 at the World Series of Poker Europe's £10,000 Main Event in London at the Casino at the Empire.
The event's final table began play on Thursday afternoon at 1:32 p.m. and nearly 22 hours later at 10:32 a.m. Friday morning, Juanda was crowned the new champ. The 19 hours and 10 minutes of actual play shattered the previous record – set at the $1,500 Razz championship in 2005 – for the longest event in WSOP history by three hours and 10 minutes.
The length of play also exceeded the longest Hold'em final table in history by about 4 ½ hours and also set a new record for the amount of hands played at a WSOP final table with 484. The previous record of 354 hands was set during the legendary duel between the late Chip Reese and Andy Bloch at the 2006 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship where 354 hands were dealt.
For Juanda the grueling final table was well worth the wait. The 37-year-old pro from Las Vegas not only collected a first-place-prize of £868,800 ($1,598,587 in U.S. dollars), but he also won his fourth-career bracelet and first since 2003. Juanda, who was born in Indonesia before moving to the U.S. as a teenager, now has 45-career WSOP cashes and 23 final table appearances.
Juanda, who was drinking English breakfast tea for nearly the entire evening/morning, arrived at the final table as the chip leader. He lost the lead a few times and at one point was down by a 7-to-1 margin during heads-up play before coming back to knock out Stanislav Alekhin, the Russian who at 23 years old was the youngest player at the final table.
Coming in third place was Ivan Demidov, another Russian player who just by making the final table had already landed himself in the WSOP record books. Demidov is one of the "November Nine" who will return to Las Vegas on Nov. 9 for the final table of the WSOP and this week became the first player to make the final table at both WSOP Main Events. When the 27-year-old lands in Las Vegas in five weeks he will begin play second on the chip leader board. Other November Nine members to play in London included Peter Eastgate, Kelly Kim, Craig Marquis, Scott Montgomery and David "Chino" Rheem.
Sweden's Bengt Sonnert finished fourth (£271,500) followed by Americans Daniel Negreanu (5th place, £217,200) and Scott Fischman (6th place, £171,950). England's Robin Keston earned £135,750 with his seventh place finish, which put him ahead of eighth-place Finland's Toni Hiltunen, who earned £108,600, and Scotland's Chris Elliott, who took home £81,450.
WSOP organizers were pleased with the field for this year's Main Event in London that drew 41 former bracelet winners and six former Main Event champions -- Doyle Brunson (1976/1977), Phil Hellmuth (1989), Scotty Nguyen (1998), Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (2000), Carlos Mortensen (2001) and Joe Hachem (2005).
Three of the nine players at the final table were former WSOP gold bracelet winners, who collectively held nine previous titles. By contrast, last year's WSOPE finale had no previous winners. And although the numerical turnout at the WSOPE Main Event was nearly identical to last year, the top prize of £1,598,587 was slightly lower than last year's first-place payout. This was due to an adjustment to the payout structure that gave lower finishers a greater percentage of the total prize pool.