Kenneth Griffin, of Texas, battled to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em gold bracelet and $455,356 in Las Vegas last night when seeing off Frenchman Jean Luc Marais.
Griffin, who began the third and final day second in chips from the remaining 21 players of an event – #45 – that attracted 2,890 competitors, displayed serious aggression as he fought off challenges from the likes of day two chip leader Jonathan Driscoll, Andrew Teng, David Baker and Antonio Esfandiari.
The first 60 minutes in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino saw seven players crash out, with Griffin eliminating Nicolo Calia, of Italy, in 16th, while Iranian-born American Esfandiari – a one-time WSOP bracelet winner – struggled to gain any momentum to slip to just 200,000 chips.
Baker, meanwhile, had started the day as the short stack and, while the Los Angeles-based player battled hard, he was knocked out in 13th place.
Incredibly, by the time we had our final table, Esfandiari had taken the chip lead, with Griffin close behind. Pittsburgh’s Jeremiah Siegmund was the first to go out when down to the final table, to be followed soon after by Chicago’s Aaron Massey.
But Esfandiari lost a few big pots early in the final table, including when his A-8 ran into aces on an ace high board. He was out in seventh place soon after when he found K-10 to be faced by A-K.
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Lane was next out and was joined by London-based Andrew Teng at the rail shortly afterwards, although he did rack up his fourth 2011 WSOP cash and 12th overall cash finish at the series.
Eric Baudry, of Pasadena, had avoided getting involved in many pots for the majority of the day, but was knocked out in fourth for £143,991, while Germany’s Philip Hammerling – with his first WSOP cash – was out in third when his flopped trip sevens was outdrawn by Griffin’s flush.
Now down to heads-up play, it was clear that Griffin’s attacking style was causing Marais problems as he struggled to make any headway.
Griffin – a US Marine for over 10 years, including tours of Afghanistan and Iraq – appeared supremely relaxed, much to the annoyance of the Frenchman, who, after losing out on several huge pots, lost his cool when irately pushing his folded cards to the dealer.
It all became too much for Marais and he went all-in pre-flop while just holding Ks-6d in what was clearly an attempt to bluff Griffin.
Unfortunately, for the European, a triumphant Griffin – who still had five cards to see – revealed Ad-Ac to leave Marais as the massive underdog and the American’s supporters thrilled.
The flop came Js-3c-Qs and Griffin let out a sigh of relief, realising that just two more cards were to arrive.
The 8d came on the turn and that was it as Marais failed to claim an unmatched fourth WSOP bracelet for France, although he did leave with $282,676 for his runner-up spot, while Griffin ran to embrace his brother and friends.
The 9c arrived on the river to finish things off according to the rules, but Griffin – who only returned from Afghanistan seven days ago after an eight-month tour – couldn’t have been more uninterested as he celebrated the securing of his first gold bracelet.
Top 10 placings and payouts from the WSOP 2011 $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em event:
1. Kenneth Griffin (USA) – $455,356
2. Jean Luc Marais (France) – $282,676
3. Philip Hammerling (Germany) – $199,366
4. Eric Baudry (USA) – $143,991
5. Andrew Teng (UK) – $105,262
6. Jonathan Lane (USA) – $77,873
7. Antonia Esfandiari (USA) – $58,288
8. Aaron Massey (USA) – $44,138
9. Jeremiah Siegmund (USA) – $33,813
10. David Haiman (USA) – $26,192