- Andrew Feldman, ESPN.com
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For the second time at the 2011 World Series of Poker, Phil Hellmuth fell just short of his 12th bracelet. In a dominating final table performance, Eric Rodawig defeated Hellmuth to win his first bracelet in the $10,000 seven-card stud high-low split eight-or-better world championship.
Rodawig entered the final day of play with a significant chip lead and he would never relinquish that position. Despite being at a final table that included Hellmuth, 2010 WSOP main event runner-up John Racener, David Benyamine, five-time WSOP bracelet winner Ted Forrest, Ali Eslami and Joe Tehan, Rodawig may have been the favorite given his experience in this game. After playing and practicing online, Rodawig even became an instructor for CardRunners and produced educational videos assisting poker enthusiasts with their seven-card stud high-low split strategy.
Playing in the $10,000 events is usually left up to the pros, but that wasn't the case for the 26-year-old Rodawig. Instead, the man who defeated this incredibly tough-fielded event is a banker. The Arlington, Va., resident earned $442,183 for the victory. He has now cashed twice at the 2011 WSOP and three times in his career, with his two previous cashes coming in HORSE and razz events. Needless to say, he's in his comfort zone when playing games other than no-limit hold 'em. Because of that, he felt that he had the edge over the 11-time bracelet winner when they were the final two remaining.
"Phil is, I think, the best no-limit hold 'em tournament player in the world," Rodawig said to PokerNews after his victory. "I would not want to be playing no-limit hold 'em across from him, but I guess in this game he was on my turf and I came out ahead."
For Hellmuth, this was another great run that produced a good amount of money, but not the bracelet he wants so badly. Counting his defeat to Johnny Chan during the WSOP Grudge matches, Hellmuth is now 0-3 in heads-up battles at the 2011 WSOP. Despite the shortcomings, he still remains focused on the bigger picture.
"Absolutely played my heart out, but fell short of the 12th bracelet one more time: 2nd place again. Not as depressed this time though," said Hellmuth to his fans on Twitter.
The second-place results in the two events came from two different directions. In Event 16, Hellmuth was in control for most of the final table. He played simply dominant Lowball and navigated his way through the competition to end up heads-up against John Juanda, a more experienced Lowball player. Juanda overcame the Hellmuth 3-to-1 chip lead and would win the bracelet. In this event, Hellmuth was never in control.
Once action began on Monday, Hellmuth chipped up to make the final table, but that was about it. His back was against the wall for the majority of the final table and he'd need to hit multiple cards on seventh street many times to manage a split pot and survive. It wasn't pretty, but Hellmuth got it done and really grinded his way to second place. When heads-up play began, Rodawig had the 7-to-1 chip lead and put Hellmuth away soon after.
Hellmuth was the most active player at the final table by far. Benyamine, Forrest and Mikhail Savinov sat back while Hellmuth got involved, and it ultimately led to their elimination. The patience caught up to each of the players as the limits increased quickly and significantly while their stacks slowly dwindled. Everyone at the table, except for Rodawig, were playing short stacks, so getting involved with one or two hands all the way to a showdown was ultimately very pricey. This was the first final table for Racener (third career), Forrest (fourth), Benyamine (fifth) Savinov (sixth) and Tehan (seventh) of the Series. Eslami finished in eighth and made his third final table and fourth cash of the 2011 WSOP.
After 33 events, Hellmuth is the current leader in the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year race. According to Bluff, there has never been a WSOP Player of the Year winner who has not won a bracelet as part of his accomplishments in Las Vegas.
Other notable finishers include Felipe Ramos (10th), Phil Laak (12th) and Erik Seidel (13th).
Below are the complete results of Event 33 at the 2011 World Series of Poker:
Event 33: Seven-card stud high-low split world championship
Prize pool: $1,579,200
Players in the money: 16
1. Eric Rodawig ($442,183)
2. Phil Hellmuth ($273,233)
3. John Racener ($171,122)
4. Ted Forrest ($123,904)
5. David Benyamine ($96,836)
6. Mikhail Savinov ($77,222)
7. Joe Tehan ($62,710)
8. Ali Eslami ($51,750)
9. Antony Lellouche ($43,317)
10. Felipe Ramos ($43,317)
11. Christopher George ($36,858)
12. Phil Laak ($36,858)
13. Erik Seidel ($32,057)
14. Bill Chen ($32,057)
15. Cyndy Violette ($27,888)
16. Chris Tryba ($27,888)
1dKevin Van Valkenburg