Las Vegan wins World Series of Poker gold bracelet

Las Vegas resident Matt Graham rallied from a 9-to-1 chip deficit to win a World Series of Poker gold bracelet early this morning.

The 25-year-old med school drop out defeated a field of 295 to win the $10,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha world championship at the Rio

It is the pro poker player's second gold bracelet. He rallied from an 8-to-1 chip deficit to win a gold bracelet last year.

“I was thinking I was just going to continue playing my best," said Graham of his deficit. "No matter how good you play, it was a long shot in that situation. So, you just have to do all that you can to come back and hope the cards cooperate.”


Official event report from the World Series of Poker
Total Net Prize Pool: $2,773,000
Number of Places Paid: 295
June 20-23, 2009

Tournament Highlights:

Event Headlines –

1. Matt Graham Wins His Second WSOP Gold Bracelet

2. Las Vegas Poker Pro Stages Incredible Heads-Up Comeback after Being Down 9 to 1 in Chips

3. Star-Studded Final Table Attracts Big Crowd – Five Former Gold Bracelet Winners Make the Top Nine

The Winner --

The 2009 World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha world champion is Matt Graham, from Las Vegas, NV.

Graham is a 25-year-old professional poker player. He was born and spent most of his life in New Orleans, LA before moving to Las Vegas prior to the start of last year’s WSOP.

Before he became a poker pro, Graham was a pre-med student. He dropped out of college to play poker and has enjoyed tremendous success on the tournament circuit and at the WSOP the past five years.

Among Graham’s successes have been a win at the World Poker Open and in a $5,000 buy-in event at the Bellagio.

Graham’s first WSOP gold bracelet came in last year’s $1,500 buy-in Limit Shootout event.

According to official records, Graham now has 2 wins, 2 final table appearances, and 7 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP.

With this victory, Graham became the 128th player in WSOP to earn in excess of $1 million in World Series winnings.

Graham may very well be poker’s new “Comeback Kid.” When he won his first gold bracelet last year, Graham overcame an 8 to 1 chip disadvantage against Jean-Robert Bellande. This year, Graham overcame a 9 to 1 chip disadvantage when playing heads-up against Vitaly Lunkin.

Winner Quotes (Matt Graham) –

On the excitement of one of this year’s best final tables: “It was both fun and stressful. It was very exciting and a dream, at the same time.’

On his roller coaster ride at the final table: “I was never too far behind before heads-up play started. I was not really in a rush. I am perfectly okay with someone else throwing in a few raises and busting a few people. I’m just going to sit there and wait. Wait until we get short-handed and then pick up the pace a little. I wasn’t worried about (being short) on chips.”

On winning a second gold bracelet and how the win compares to his first victory: “I think I feel better about this. I am more excited about this one. It’s really weird. But just the fact this was a $10,000 buy-in PLO and triple the prize money. This was more exciting.”

The Final Table --

The final table contained five former WSOP gold bracelet winners – Josh Arieh, Matt Graham, Vitaly Lunkin, Richard Austin, and Barry Greenstein.

There were players from five different nations represented at the final table – including Australia, England, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.

The runner up was Vitaly Lunkin, from Moscow Russia. Lunkin came extremely close to winning his third WSOP gold bracelet. He has an amazing record in WSOP play – with three final table appearances, ending up with two firsts and a second. At the 2008 WSOP, Lunkin won the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em championship (Event #39), where he pocketed $628,417. Earlier this year, he won the $40,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em championship, worth $1,891,012 in prize money.

The third-place finisher was Van Marcus, from Melbourne, Australia. He is a student and software engineer. Marcus has done well in many international tournaments, perhaps most notably final tabling the Asian-Pacific Poker Tour (PLO) Championship earlier this year. Third place paid $278,409.

The fourth-place finisher was Robin Keston, from London, England. He made it to the final table of last year’s WSOP-Europe championship, taking seventh place. Keston tended to be the tightest, but most selectively-aggressive player of the final nine. He played in few pots, but was a constant thorn in the chip leader’s (Lunkin’s) side most of the night. Keston ran out of chips about seven hours into the finale.

The fifth-place finisher was Ferit “Fear It” Gabriellson, from Huddinse, Sweden. He made the final table of this same event four years ago, finishing seventh in the 2005 PLO world championship. Gabriellson, who was the most aggressive player during his nine hours at the final table, is also the reigning Swedish No-Limit Hold’em champion.

The sixth-place finisher was Stefan Mattsson, from Stockholm Sweden. He ran into a big hand when chip leader Vitaly Lunkin had A-A-x-x double suited. Lunkin scooped the pot with two pair, knocking out Mattsson. The Swede went deep in two recent WSOP Main Events – finishing 57th in 2006 and 22nd in 2007.

The seventh-place finisher was Josh Arieh, from Atlanta, GA. He is a two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner. Arieh also finished third in the 2004 WSOP Main Event (won by Greg “Fossilman” Raymer). He also won the $2,000 level Pot-Limit Omaha event in 2006.

The eighth-place finisher was Richard Austin, from Jeffersonville, IN. He won a gold bracelet in the $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha event, which ended three days ago. He is the only player to make the final table of both of the largest PLO events on this year’s schedule.

The ninth-place finisher was Barry Greenstein, from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Greenstein was a 2 to 1 favorite when all his chips went into the pot, but lost the huge hand to Vitaly Lunkin and became the first player eliminated. Greenstein has won three WSOP gold bracelets, and cashed for the fifth time at this year’s World Series.

In-the-Money Finishers --

Former WSOP gold bracelet finishers who cashed in this event included – Barry Greenstein, Josh Arieh, David Williams, Richard Austin, Chau Giang, Howard Lederer, Vitaly Lunkin, Erick Lindgren, and Matthew Graham.

With his ninth-place finish, Barry Greenstein cashed for the 42nd time at the WSOP. This currently ranks 16th on the all-time cashes list.

Chau Giang cashed for the 16th time in a Pot-Limit Omaha event, the most by any player in WSOP history.

Tony Cousineau continues to add to his distinctive record. He holds the record as the player with the most cashes in WSOP history, without ever winning a gold bracelet. Cousineau cashed again in this event, his 40th career in-the-money finish. This was also his sixth cash this year, which places him in a tie for the lead.

The defending champion from 2008 was Nenad Medic, from Niagara Falls, ON (Canada). He entered this event but did not cash.

Odds and Ends --

The $10,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha world championship was the opening event at last year’s WSOP. This year, the tournament was moved to the middle of the WSOP schedule.

The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory. The ceremony takes place on at center stage of the main tournament room and begins during the break of the noon tournament. The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 pm. The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played. The entire presentation is open to public and media. Video and photography is permitted by both media and the public.

Pot-Limit Omaha Leaders (WSOP History) --

The players with the most WSOP gold bracelets (wins) in Omaha events (all variations) are – T.J. Cloutier, Scotty Nguyen, and Phil Ivey (tie), currently with 3.

The player with the most lifetime WSOP cashes in Omaha events (all variations) is Brent Carter, currently with 21.

The players with the most WSOP gold bracelets (wins) in Pot-Limit Omaha are – “Amarillo Slim” Preston, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey (tie), currently with 2.

The player with the most lifetime WSOP cashes in Pot-Limit Omaha is Chau Giang, currently 16.

The Event --

The $10,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha world championship attracted 295 entries. The total prize pool amounted to $2,773,000. The top 27 finishers collected prize money.

The tournament was played over three consecutive days.

At the end of Day One, the chip leader was Nate Lindsay, from San Francisco, CA. He ended up finishing in 17th place.

The chip leader at the start of the final table was Matt Graham. He ended up winning the tournament.

The final table chip distribution was one of the most even of any finale played this year. It took nearly three hours to bust out the first player. Furthermore, during the first five hours of play, players were separated by small margins. Vitaly Lunkin’s elimination of Barry Greenstein gave him the chip lead, which he held during the majority of play.

The heads-up match between Vitaly Lunkin and Matt Graham was as entertaining as any finale played at this year’s WSOP. Lunkin had his opponent on the ropes several times, but was never quite able to put Graham away with a knockout punch. The American managed to overcome the feisty Russian’s 9 to 1 chip lead and staged a dramatic comeback. In the midst of doubling up three times and taking a slight chip lead, Graham won every hand of consequence during the final 45 minutes of play. The key hand of the match took place on the final hand of the tournament when Graham’s flopped set of tens held up against Lunkin, who missed a flush draw with two cards to be dealt. Two blanks on the turn and river gave Graham his second WSOP victory and the title, “2009 Pot-Limit Omaha World Champion.”

The final table lasted about ten hours.

WSOP Statistics –

Through the conclusion of Event #40, the 2009 WSOP has attracted 39,915 entries. $80,600,582 in total prize money has been awarded to winners.

Through Event #40 – the nationalities of WSOP gold bracelet winners reads as follows:

United States – 27
United Kingdom – 2
Canada – 2
Russian Federation – 1
Finland – 1
Australia – 1
Sweden – 1
Mexico – 1
Italy – 1
Holland – 1