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Best of Vin Narayanan
Wolpert, Tran and Mueller earn WSOP bracelets18 June 2009
Wolpert beat European Poker Tour co-founder John Duthie to win the $10,000 Head-up No-Limit Hold'em tournament (Event #29). The Syracuse native lost the first match in his best-of-three showdown against Duthie. But he settled down to win the next two matches and take home the $625,682 first prize.
"I was steaming a little bit (after losing the first match to Duthie). I'm not going to lie," said Wolpert. "I just decided I have to grind back and get the best two out of three. So, I stayed calm and remembered there was another match coming up. And hopefully I could run a little better the next time. I would not say it strengthened my resolve. I would say I was already pretty resolute (to win)."
While his resolute approach helped in the final, it was his simple approach that helped Wolpert get there.
"I tried not to play any huge pots without the goods," Wolpert said when asked to explain his heads-up strategy.
Wolpert used to play poker professionally. Now he plays to pay his way through law school.
"The University of Virginia is a top-ten school. I had a big score last year, so that has been helping to finance my education," Wolpert added.
"I just finished my first year at law school this spring. Actually, I have to go back home and check my grades. They are posted up now, so I have to see what I got."
While Wolpert was celebrating his first bracelet, Tran was busy winning his second in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha tournament (Event #30). The poker pro from Sacramento took home $235,685 for his first-place finish. And he really likes the fact that he won a non-Hold'em tournament.
"It means a lot (to win at Pot-Limit-Omaha)," Tran said after his win. "I learned to play PLO less than two years ago. I play the biggest stakes. I had some swings. PLO is the kind of game where you always have room to learn."
"Even after I win this bracelet, I still feel I have a lot to learn," Tran added. "Being able to win a non-Hold'em event -- most of my victories are in Hold'em, and I have never even won any tournament outside of Hold'em, – it goes to show that I can play a game outside of Hold'em. I would like to learn mixed games in the future, as I know how to play them, but I do not know enough to sit down in a big buy-in game. But this helps."
Tran also said that winning a bracelet last year made this victory easier.
"The win last year meant the pressure was off," Tran said. "I was more comfortable and more relaxed when I cam in. My head was clear. I was not too worried about trying to win. (I) just played poker and let it come to me, instead of forcing it. And, it came to me."
Unlike Tran, Mueller felt the pressure when he beat Pat Pezzin to win the $10,000 Limit Hold'em world championship (Event #33).
"It's like huge weight lifted off my shoulders," said Mueller, who picked up his first bracelet after six final table appearances and two second-place finishes at the WSOP in the last three years. "I was starting to think I was a second-place pony there for a while. I had nightmares, even heads-up. When he won a pot against me, I thought, 'My God, this could be the biggest choke ever.' But, it feels unbelievable and I am so happy right now."
Mueller, a Canadian who played professional hockey in Europe for several years, won $460,841 for finishing in first place. And like a true hockey player, Mueller drew on the Stanley Cup, which was in the Amazon Room for as part of a bracelet presentation, for some extra inspiration.
"To be real honest, when they did this – seeing the NHL players and seeing the Cup and hearing the anthem, I had goose bumps. I was so jacked you know because of the anthems and the hockey," said Mueller. "I saw the Stanley Cup and I said to myself, 'Maybe this is destiny. Maybe this is my night."
And like a good hockey player, Mueller kept things simple at the final table.
"I never panicked once. I was just really disciplined. I was really confident," Mueller said. "My chips were never in jeopardy. I was never really low. I had a good table image. I stole when I had to steal. It's weird. This was like the least-stressful final table I have ever been at, but it might have been the toughest."
Best of Vin Narayanan