Jordan Smith's decision to drop out of junior college six years ago to pursue a career as a poker pro paid off early Sunday morning at the World Series of Poker.
Smith captured his first gold bracelet by winning the $2,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em championship and a first place prize of $586,212.
The 27-year-old from College Station, Texas, said he almost didn't make the trip to Las Vegas.
“I was not sure if I was going to come," Smith said. "I was pretty much broke. It’s been a rough year or so. I was looking for backers and people turned me down. Now, I guess they are not too happy about that.”
He now has one final table appearance and 13 in-the-money finishes at the World Series of Poker. He has $693,824 in career series winnings.
He just missed a final table appearance in 2007, finishing 10th in an event.
Official event report from the World Series of Poker
Total Net Prize Pool: $3,084,900
Number of Places Paid: 171
June 18-21, 2009
Event Headlines –
1. After Just One Female Final Table Player in First 35 Events (Annie Duke), Two Female Players Make the Finals of Event 36
2. Final Table Includes Chess Grandmaster and former European Champion Almira Skripchenko – Who Finishes Seventh
The Winner --
The 2009 World Series of Poker $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em champion is Jordan Smith, from College Station, TX.
Smith is a 27-year-old professional poker player.
Smith admits that his decision to play poker for a living caused some hardship, enduring virtually unavoidable financial pitfalls. Smith stated that each time he encountered difficulties, various backers (including his parents) were willing to help him out in times of need.
Smith was highly complimentary of his mother and father, who he noted “are the best parents in the world.” Smith stated that his parents have helped him at various times when he was down and have generally been very supportive of their son and his career as a poker player.
When age 21, Smith dropped out of junior college to play poker for a living. He has been playing since then full time. He mostly plays online.
Winner Quotes (Jordan Smith) –
On what it means to win a WSOP gold bracelet: “It’s the World Series of Poker….I play for living and I play for money. But so far as prestigious things go, winning the gold bracelet is the only goal to have.”
On his goals coming into this year’s WSOP: “I wanted to win a gold bracelet and make a million dollar score. So, I’m past half of that now.”
On whether or not the victory will change the direction of his poker career: “Maybe. But I’m still the same person.”
On his relationship with his parents and their reaction to his decision to play poker professionally: “They wanted me to stay in school. But after I had some success, they said – ‘if poker makes you happy, do it.”
On the ups and downs of playing poker for a living” “I’ve had some ups and downs. They (my parents) have really helped me when I was struggling. They helped me with moral support and financial support.”
On the timing of his victory: “This definitely came at the right time. I usually get blessed when I need it the most. I guess I am very fortunate."
On his views about poker in his home state of Texas: “I think poker definitely needs to be legalized and regulated. Legalize it. Tax it. Regulate it. I don’t think it’s the government’s job to tell me what to do or how to spend my money – even though they sure want a cut of this (taxes) whenever I win it.”
The Final Table --
The final table contained no former WSOP gold bracelet winners. This was the 12th of 36 finales held this year with no former winners -- which guaranteed a first-time champion.
The final table included nine players from five different nations – including Canada (2), England (2), France (1), Sweden (1), and the United States (3).
This was the first final table at this year’s WSOP with more than one female player. Laurence Grondin finished third and Almira Skripchenko finished seventh.
The runner up was Ken Lennaard, from Stockholm, Sweden. He is a wine merchant. In what was his ninth time to cash at the WSOP and best finish ever, Lennaard picked up $360,439 for second place.
The third-place finisher was Laurence Grondin, from Montreal, QB (Canada). She became the highest female finisher so far at this year’s WSOP. Grondin was convinced to play in this event at the last minute by some friends. That turned out to be a terrific investment as third place paid $237,537
The fourth-place finisher was Joe Morneau, from Candia, NH. This was his first time to cash at the WSOP.
The fifth-place finisher was Anthony Roux, from London, England. This was his fourth time to cash at the WSOP.
The sixth-place finisher was Patrick Atchison, from Fort Worth, TX. He has cashed in various WSOP Circuit events, in addition to the WSOP in Las Vegas.
The seventh-place finisher was Almira Skripchenko, from Paris, France. Skripchenko is a professional chess player. She is originally from Moldova and started competing in international chess matches as a teenager. Skripchenko has won several major chess titles, most notably the individual ladies European Championship in 2001. She was decorated with the “National Order of Merit” by her native country of Moldova for her accomplishments and continues to represent herself and her nation in international competition. This marked her first time to cash at the WSOP.
The eighth-place finisher was Andrew Seden, from London, England. This was his second cash within a week’s time, as he took 18th’s place in the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event.
The ninth-place finisher was Jonathan Plens, from Toronto, ON (Canada). He finished 42nd in last year’s WSOP Main Event.
In-the-Money Finishers --
Former WSOP gold bracelet finishers who cashed in this event included – Robert Cheung, Dick Carson, Hieu (Tony) Ma, and Rob Hollink.
David “Chino” Rheem, who finished seventh in the 2008 WSOP Main Event cashed for the first time at this year’s WSOP – finishing in 80th place.
The defending champion from 2008 was Alexandre Gomes, from Curitiba, Brazil. He entered this event but did not cash.
Odds and Ends --
Turnout for this year’s $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em championship was 1,695 players. By comparison, all of the $1,500 buy-in events this year have drawn in excess of 2,000 players. However, the higher buy-in for this event trims the field size down slightly.
The Event --
The chip leader coming into the final table was Pat Atchison. He ended up finishing sixth.
Winner Jordan Smith came into the final table ranked seventh out of nine players.
Play at the final table lasted about nine hours.
The final hand came when Jordan Smith flopped a diamond flush against Ken Lennaard, who flopped a higher-flush draw with top pair. Smith had 9-7 of diamonds. Lennaard had J-8 (jack of diamonds). The final board showed 8-4-3-3-6, with three diamonds. That meant Smith’s flush held up. He won the tournament.
The tournament officially began on Friday, June 19th, at 12 noon. The tournament officially ended on Sunday, June 21st, at 12:45 am.
WSOP Statistics –
Through the conclusion of Event #36, the 2009 WSOP has attracted 36,295 entries. $71,768,288 in total prize money has been awarded to winners.
Through Event #36 – the nationalities of WSOP gold bracelet winners reads as follows:
United States – 26
United Kingdom – 2
Canada – 2
Russian Federation – 1
Finland – 1
Australia – 1
Sweden – 1