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Former top online pro wins second WSOP bracelet

22 Jun 2018

Eric Baldwin

Eric Baldwin (photo by WSOP)

Name: Eric Baldwin
Nationality: American
Birthplace: Beaver Dam, WI
Current Residence: Las Vegas, NV
Age: 35
Profession: Professional poker player
Number of WSOP Cashes: 75
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 7
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 2
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 1st in 2009 $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em for $521,991
Total WSOP Earnings: $2,301,119

Eric Baldwin won his first bracelet nearly a decade ago. He won a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event in 2009 and won the same event nine years later for his second.

Baldwin topped a field of 1,330 entries to win his second bracelet and $319,580. As if the money and the title wasn’t enough, Baldwin’s mother came in from out of town to watch her son earn one of poker’s highest honors for the second time in his career.

“It’s surreal,” said Baldwin about the entire experience. “My mom came out and surprised me. I had no idea she was coming, so it ended up being a blessing that we didn’t end up finishing last night. It gave her a chance to come out here and see it and that is pretty cool.”

Baldwin and 2016 Nevada Online Player of the Year, Ian Steinman, came back for an unscheduled fourth day of action to finish their heads-up battle. It was the first time one of Baldwin’s parents was able to watch him close out a final table.

His father was in the stands to watch Baldwin finish second to Matthew Waxman in 2013 in a $1,000 no-limit hold’em event. He passed away three years ago, however, and Baldwin dedicated this win to him.

“He kept coming out and trying to catch me when I would make a final table,” said Baldwin as he fought back tears. “And I could never win one, including a grueling second place. In a lot of ways, this one is for him.”

The elder Baldwin was his son’s biggest fan and loved the game just as much as his son. According to Baldwin, his father would take shots at WSOP glory himself any time there was a seniors event running.

“He passed away three years ago,” said the Wisconsin native. “He always loved coming out here and playing the events. So, it was kind of cool that when this event started, the seniors events were going on because he absolutely loved those. So, that time of year, every year, a lot of memories come up. It’s pretty special.”

The former UW-Whitewater right fielder made a name for himself in the pre-Black Friday era of poker. He was sponsored by one of the majored sites and most people knew him by his online screen name, ‘Basebaldy.’

He won millions online even before his first bracelet in 2009. He was in his early 20s living the poker dream. Now, with a family to take care of, he takes a different approach to the game.

“It makes you treat it a lot more professionally,” said Baldwin about playing poker with a family counting on him. “We got real responsibility, now. It’s been an evolution and just the coolest thing in the world.”

With extra heads to feed, he relies on a strong family support system that he’s incredibly grateful to have.

“My wife, Mary, it’s her birthday today, it’s so cool about the timing,” said Baldwin. “She’s an absolute superhero. All of my support, I’ve been incredibly blessed. My mom, my sister, my grandma all still follow along. They are all super supportive and incredible people. My mother-in-law is always there for us, too. I’m incredibly lucky in more ways than just this.”

Having been in poker for as long as he has been, Baldwin’s witnessed the evolution of the game. From the early days of Moneymaker, to the online boom, to Black Friday, to today’s poker world where everybody is worried about playing ‘GTO.’

He doesn’t think the game has changed that much, though.

“It seems like a different lifetime ago because so much has happened between then and now,” said Baldwin looking back on his career thus far. “A lot has changed in the game, but at the same time, it’s the same game. You’re sitting at the table with other players trying to take each other’s chips.

“I think a lot of that advancement of strategy stuff can sometimes be taken too far and can sometimes seem intimidating to a recreational player. But there’s always trends and strategies and there are always people talking like they are super smart. Don’t be intimidated by something like that.”

The event’s scheduled final day kicked off at noon on Wednesday with 20 players still vying for a bracelet with the final nine players hitting the final table around four and a half hours into play with Jason Guarinello busting in 10th place and Aaron Massey holding a slight chip lead at the outset of the final table.

High-stakes cash game player Matthew Moore was the short stack, but despite an early double up was still the first casualty of the final table.

He got all in with pocket sixes against Enrico Rudelitz’s ace-jack suited and a jack on the flop sealed his fate. He busted in ninth place for $24,032.

A few hands later, the bustouts continued to pile up with Gilsoo Kim finishing in eighth place. He was on the wrong end of a cold deck running his pocket jacks into Robert Georato’s pocket kings. There was no help for Kim and he took home $31,290.

Georato scored his second consecutive knockout two orbits later when he sent Stephen Song home in sixth. Song was down to about eight big blinds and moved all in from the cutoff. He was called by Georato out of the big blind and couldn’t make a pair on the runout, which sent the chips to Georato.

After Georato busted, one of the key hands of the tournament took place with two of the chip leaders clashing. Baldwin raised preflop, bet the flop, turn and shoved river on the board. He was called on each street by Aaron Massey, who moved into the chip lead.

Massey showed his hand but was second best against Baldwin’s. Baldwin’s nut flush vaulted him into the chip lead and moved Massey near the bottom of the counts.

“That was an incredible runout for me, obviously,” said Baldwin. “Just a nasty cooler for him. It definitely propelled me and I believe it gave me the chip lead. Situationally, that had its advantages and I was able to take advantage of them.”

Six-handed play grinded along for several hours before Baldwin added more to his stack by eliminating Michael Finstein in sixth. It was a race situation with Baldwin’s pocket threes up against Finstein’s king-queen of clubs. Baldwin flopped a three and Finstein was drawing dead on the turn.

During five-handed play, it was Baldwin and Steinman pulling away from the pack, while Massey continued to battle to stay alive near the bottom of the counts.

Georato was the next to go, however, when he moved all in on the button and got action from Baldwin in the small blind. It was another race for Baldwin with his pocket nines and Georato’s king-ten. Just like his last race, Baldwin flopped a set and his opponent was dead on the turn.

A couple hands later, Massey couldn’t hold on any longer. He busted to Baldwin in a nearly identical situation to the last elimination. Massey moved all in with king-ten and was up against Baldwin’s pocket eights.

Baldwin didn’t make a set, but Massey never made a pair and he hit the rail in fourth place, giving Baldwin about two-thirds of the chips in play.

Steinman scored the final knockout of Wendesday’s action to send it to heads-up play when his pocket queens held up against Rudelitz’s ace-five.

Steinman started out as a 3-to-2 dog in the chip counts, but that quickly changed. Over the first seven hands of heads-up play, Steinman won nearly every pot and picked off a bluff to open up a 4-to-1 chip lead of his own.

“When we got heads-up, I ran into some headwinds in a hurry,” said Baldwin. “Heads-up did not start well. I ended up needing to get lucky all in one time and then built back up some momentum.”

Baldwin fought back and opened up about a 4-to-1 chip lead over his own by the time the end of the level, at which point they hit the hard stop and were offered a courtesy level since they were heads-up. Baldwin wanted to keep playing, but Steinman decided he wanted to get some rest.

They bagged up chips and came back at noon on Thursday to play down to a winner.

“We came back today and kind of couldn’t get anything going again,” said Baldwin. “So, persistence was a big thing. Just kind of staying with it. Just accepting whatever happens and kind of moving forward from there. Because these opportunities are so rare that it would be a shame to let that opportunity go to waste because you get in your own head.”

Baldwin stayed persistent and was lucky enough to accept a win as the outcome. Nearing the end of what was now the third hour of heads-up play, Baldwin and Steinman got all the chips into the pot preflop.

Baldwin showed ace-jack and needed help against Steinman’s pocket kings. The river was an ace to send the 2016 Nevada Online Player of the Year home in second-place, while Baldwin left with his second bracelet.

Final table results
1st: Eric Baldwin - $319,580
2nd: Ian Steinman - $197,461
3rd: Enrico Rudelitz - $140,957
4th: Aaron Massey - $101,819
5th: Robert Georato - $74,434
6th: Michael Finstein - $55,077
7th: Stephen Song - $41,257
8th: Gilsoo Kim - $31,290
9th: Matthew Moore - $24,032

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)
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