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Money bubble gets weird at the WSOP Players Championship

4 July 2013

LAS VEGAS -- The money bubble in any poker tournament is a bizarre scene. Poker players -- who believe that their success is dependent on the ability to play the cards in front of them, read the board and a little bit of variance -- are suddenly aware their fates are not their own anymore. They know whether or not they make money in a poker tournament is intimately and intricately tied to bets, wagers and cards at other tables.

As a result, players on the bubble become stack watchers, actively rooting for the players with the fewest chips to bust out before they do. After the hand they're involved in is completed, they wander around to the other tables looking for short stacks, trying to figure out how long they can tread water before the short stacks bust out. A game full of risk takers suddenly finds caution.

All of this is normal on the money bubble. But what happened Wednesday evening on the money bubble of the $50,000 Players Championship at the World Series of Poker was hardly normal.

2010 WSOP Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel is trying to become the second player to win both the Main Event and The Players Championship

2010 WSOP Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel is trying to become the second player to win both the Main Event and The Players Championship (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

When hand-for-hand play began on the money bubble, all eyes were on two players -- Gary Benson and Troy Burkholder. They were the two short stacks by a wide margin. Benson had 193,000 in chips and Burkholder had 254,000. Just ahead of them were Joe Cassidy with 411,000 and Tommy Hang with 412,000.

As bubble play began, Burkholder's stack took a big hit when his pair of kings was no good against Huck Seed's two pair (aces and tens). Burkholder's stack dipped below 100,000 and sharks were in the water.

Benson, who was the short stack before Burkholder started descending into chip and a chair territory, was not seated at Burkholder's table. But Burkholder's chip stack was in Benson's direct line of sight, so Benson quickly realized all he had to do was hold on to reach the money. From that point on, Benson folded almost every hand and became a frequent visitor to Burkholder's table. Benson's visits didn't go unnoticed. Soon, Benson's table was joining him in between hands, as was the second of the three tables in play.

As the game switched to Limit Hold'em at Burkholder's table, the calculations were underway at Benson's table. The consensus was Burkholder wouldn't last the round. The visits from the 17 players left in the tournament grew more frequent while Burkholder maintained a brave front and looked for a spot to make his stand.

Burkholder found his spot when he picked up ace-queen offsuit. After a three-bet from John Hennigan, Burkholder went all in. His stack of 91,000 chips was at risk against Hennigan's As-2s.

A queen on the flop gave Burkholder the lead in the hand. And he dodged Hennigan's wheel draw on the river to double up.

Burkholder's double up put Hang on the hot seat.

Hang was easily the most active of the short stacks. And it cost him as he dropped to around 110,000. But he managed to get all the money in pre-flop on a Limit Hold'em hand with pocket queens. "I'm playing this tournament to win," Hang said after his pocket queens held up. "I'm not here just to cash."

With Hang and Burkholder temporarily out of danger, the pressure was back on Benson, who was once again the short stack.

In Pot-Limit Omaha, Benson made his move with Ah-As-2h-6d. He bet 46,000 preflop and found two callers -- George Danzer and Kevin Song. After a Kh-Qh-10c flop, all three players checked. The turn was the five of clubs, and Song checked again. That's when things became crazy. Benson moved all in for his remaining 26,000. Danzer then raised to 90,000, prompting Song to fold. Danzer showed Kd-Kc-Qc-8h. The jack of clubs on the river gave Danzer the flush and knocked Benson out of the tournament.

Benson's elimination happened while Cassidy and Huck Seed were engaged in a high-stakes hand of Stud-8. Cassidy and Seed were in the middle of betting on action of fifth street when Benson busted out of the tournament. After both players checked on fourth street, and Seed checked fifth street, Cassidy bet out. Seed wasn't sure what to do and started thinking about his hand. While Seed was thinking, Benson was eliminated from the tournament.

With a 2h-Jc-Kc showing, Seed eventually raised Cassidy. At this point all Cassidy had to do to cash was fold. Instead, with a 6h-2c-4d-Kh showing, he went all in and Seed called.

Cassidy showed the 6d-4c for two pair. Seed showed pocket aces. Seed picked up a six on seventh street for a better two pair while Cassidy bricked on seventh street and exited the tournament.

Benson had no idea Seed and Cassidy were going at it when he was eliminated.

"I thought I'd lost," Benson told Casino City. "I was on my way out when someone said, 'Wait, someone else is all in.'" Benson acknowledged he didn't play many hands on the bubble, but said he had to play the last one. "I had pocket aces," Benson said. "If I fold there, I have no business playing in this tournament."

Benson and Cassidy chopped the 16th prize money, with each taking home nearly $56,000. Burkholder busted right after the bubble burst to finish in 15th. He won $111,893.

Song was the next to exit the tournament. He collected $128,620 for finishing in 14th. Hang finished 13th and won $128,620. Bryn Kenney finished in 12th while Seed busted out in 11th. Both won $147,882.

Michael Glick exited the tournament in 10th place and won $173,796. And Mike Gorodinsky finished in ninth. He too won $173,796.

Eight players will return Thursday afternoon to vie for The Players Championship. Don Nguyen leads the field with 5.068 million in chips. Matthew Ashton is second with 2.996 million. Danzer (2.868 million), David Benyamine (2.709 million), Minh Ly (2.307 million), Jonathan Duhamel (1.627 million), John Hennigan (1.412 million) and Mike Wattel (810,000).
Money bubble gets weird at the WSOP Players Championship is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.