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Epstein wins inaugural Short Deck event at WSOP

5 Jun 2019

Alex Epstein

Alex Epstein (photo by WSOP)

Name: Alex Epstein
Nationality: American
Current Residence: Oakland, California
Age: 28
Profession: Commercial real-estate broker
Number of WSOP Cashes: 1
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 1
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 1
Total WSOP Earnings: $296,227

Oakland, California's Alex Epstein has triumphed in Event #8 at the 2019 World Series of Poker, $10,000 Short Deck No-Limit Hold'em. Epstein, 28, a commercial real estate broker, earned his first career WSOP gold bracelet and a $160,447 winner's payday.

Epstein's victory was also his first ever WSOP cash, as previous to this, he's been strictly a PLO (pot-limit Omaha) cash-game player.

Epstein triumphed in this event by flopping a straight in a hand that found each of the final three players all in before the flop. Epstein's straight held up to leave Factoryville, Pennsylvania's Thai Ha to collect $99,153 for second, while Hong Kong's Anson Tsang, a former bracelet winner who began the final hand with the shortest of the three stacks, earned $65,217 for third.

The win for Epstein came in a poker format making its debut as a WSOP bracelet event. Short deck mirrors regular no-limit hold'em but is dealt with a shortened deck of cards from which the deuces, threes, fours and fives have been removed. Those cards' removal also changes the odds of some made poker hands appearing, meaning that a flush is tougher to make than a full house and thus outranks it. Also, an ace is still a wrap-around card for a straight, meaning that A-6-7-8-9 is the lowest straight possible.

“I really wanted to enjoy the experience,” said Epstein, about his first trip to a major-event final table. “I thought that the other good players in the [final] had the shorter stacks, so I had a very good chance, if things broke my way."

Epstein admitted that having the chance to play perhaps 15,000 hands of short deck while at a major event in Reno sharpened his skills at the game. “I've gotten to play tournaments and cash games... enough to get a rough estimate of how the population plays. That seemed to help.”

It was only due to a downturn in his normal PLO cash-game fare, however, that prompted Epstein to play this event. “I ran so far below [expected value] in PLO this summer, that I decided to play an event with even higher variance than that thinking that I was just due.”

Epstein didn't want to chalk up the win to just variance, however, especially a key hand that pushed Epstein into the lead and left two-time bracelet winner Chance Kornuth, the early leader, with crumbs. “That wasn't variance,” he explained. “The big spot against Chance, like with most of the other professionals, when they see me and the way that I table-talk and set myself up, they think they have a post-flop edge in a game that they definitely don't, given the way the current high-level players are evaluating the game and thinking about post-flop equities and equity denial.

“I try very hard to table-talk and fake-talk strategy,” he added. “I think my image is a good one. Not any more, unfortunately!”

An unofficial final table of seven players returned on Tuesday to battle for the first short-deck bracelet in WSOP. That quickly became six when Andrew Robl was bounced just four hands in, losing the last of his chips to Tsang.

China's Yong Wang was the first to bust from the official final, after he moved all in and Tsang reraised all in. Theflop moved Tsang ahead, and the turn took outs away from Wang. The river was no good, and Wang was off to the cashier to collect $21,625 for sixth.

Five-handed play stretched over two hours before René van Krevelen exited in fifth. Crippled in an earlier hand against Ha, van Krevelen managed one double-up, but he lost his try at a second when his hand ran into Kornuth's. The board ran out, giving Kornuth the full house and the knockout, while van Krevelen earned $30,457 for fifth.

Kornuth, though, who began the day with the lead, then foundered in the huge hand against Epstein. The big hand saw some parrying before the river was dealt completing the board. Kornuth bet 120,000, Epstein raised to 375,000, and Kornuth then moved all in for 1,880,000.

Epstein took a time extension before calling, and when he did, it was good. Kornuth a pair of sixes, while Epstein showed a straight. Kornuth bowed out a few hands later, with Epstein claiming the official knockout.

Just 12 hands later, a three-way all-in ended play. Tsang moved all in for his last 890,000, Ha moved in as well, for 1,220,000, and Epstein, having both players well outchipped, called Ha's jam. The three opened their cards.

The flop came to give Epstein the made straight, but Tsang in particular had plenty of draws to a better had. The turn, though, changed nothing, and the river left Epstein's straight ahead for the win.

Event #8, $10,000 Short Deck No-Limit Hold'em, pulled in 114 entries and built a $1,071,600 prize pool. The top 18 players cashed, with each of them guaranteed a minimum $14,615 payday.

Other notables
Among those cashing in Event #8 were Robl (7th, $35,907), Galen Hall, (9th, $26,435), Justin Bonomo (11th, $19,591), and Alex Foxen (12th, $19,591).

Final-Table Payouts:
1st: Alex Epstein, $296,227
2nd: Thai Ha, $183,081
3rd: Anson Tsang, $130,482
4th: Chance Kornuth, $93,593
5th: René van Krevelen, $67,566
6th: Yong Wang, $49,095

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)
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