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|Chip leader Phil Hellmuth is looking to become the second double-bracelet winner of 2012 on Thursday.|
There are two major differences between the WSOP Las Vegas and WSOP Europe. First, the fields are far smaller in Europe and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Second, the main event final tables at each of the locations consistently have a different composition. This year is no exception. The WSOP main event final table in Las Vegas contains nine players who, with all due respect, essentially nobody had heard of a year ago. At WSOPE, the final table includes multiple bracelet winners, a former Player of the Year and the most decorated player in WSOP history.
When the final table begins on Thursday at 8 a.m. ET on ESPN3.com and WatchESPN, all eyes will be on Phil Hellmuth as he goes for a record-extending 13th WSOP bracelet. Hellmuth's quest for No. 13 also includes an attempt at earning the WSOP Player of the Year award. In addition to winning Event 18 in Las Vegas earlier this year, Hellmuth also made two other final tables and recorded six total cashes in Vegas this summer. His play in Cannes has been equally outstanding, with three more cashes and now, a final table in the main event.
According to Bluff, if Hellmuth, who enters play as the chip leader with 3.4 million, wins the WSOP Europe main event, he will become the Player of the Year if Greg Merson does not win later on this month. If Hellmuth doesn't win, there's still a chance that he could earn the award, but it would greatly depend on Merson's finish. The current leader in the race is Antonio Esfandiari, and he can hold onto the honor if both Hellmuth and Merson finish outside of the top four at their respective final tables and Joseph Cheong does not win Thursday's final table.
The only player to overtake the chip lead from Hellmuth throughout the final table bubble was Ukrainian Sergii Baranov. Regardless of where he finishes, this is Baranov's largest career cash on the tournament felt. Baranov has two victories in smaller buy-in events on the EPT (in Vienna and Berlin) and has made six final tables on that tour over the past three years. He'll begin Thursday's action in second place with 3.3 million in chips.
Cheong's run at WSOP Europe and his appearance at this final table should be no surprise to anyone. Since his third-place finish in the 2009 WSOP main event, Cheong has remained one of the top players in the world. Earlier this year, Cheong was runner-up in the WSOP's Mix-Max event and 116th in the main event among his four WSOP cashes. He's earned more than half a million dollars on the tournament trail in 2012, but has yet to find the winner's circle. Cheong has 1.9 million in chips and a desire to remove his name from the best without a bracelet list. If Cheong wins and both Merson and Hellmuth fail to finish in the top three of their respective final tables, he will become the Player of the Year.
Stephane Albertini, currently in fourth place with 1.1 million in chips, is one of three French players at the final table. Throughout his career, which has primarily included a focus on cash games, Albertini has secured two six-figure cashes with the most recent coming in the 2011 WSOP main event when he finished in 46th place. He's made one EPT and WPT-National final table, further demonstrating his ability to succeed at any venue. Now he's at home and looking to become the third French champion of this year's WSOPE. Fellow Frenchman Paul Tedeschi is looking to accomplish the same thing. He enters the final table as the short stack with 543,000 in chips. Tedeschi is on quite a run as of late with a 13th-place finish at the Partouche Poker Tour main event and a quarterfinal elimination in the Mix-Max event earlier at WSOP Europe. Stephane Girault is the third Frenchman and is sixth with 664,000 in chips. His conservative play will be an interesting dynamic at this final table full of aggression.
For most of the final day, Britain's Christopher Brammer battled for his seat at the final table. After the elimination of 2012 WSOP bracelet winner Timothy Adams in ninth, Brammer chipped up to 851,000 to finish the day in fifth place. Brammer has earned nearly $2.5 million through online tournament play and at one point was ranked the No. 1 online poker player in the world by PocketFives. He fell short of his first bracelet this summer in dramatic fashion as he finished fifth in the $10,000-six-handed no-limit hold 'em event. Since 2008, Brammer has been traveling the tours in Europe and has earned wins on the EPT and UKIPT.
The joke of #whenwillitend for Jason Mercier might have found a semi-reality earlier this year. That semi-reality has disappeared as of late as Mercier will make his second WSOP Europe main event final table appearance on Thursday starting with 653,000 in chips. So far, 2012 hasn't been a year that Mercier would like to remember. After four consecutive years of earning seven figures in tournament play, Mercier entered the WSOP Europe main event with only $324,926 in cashes. While that might seem like an incredible amount to the public, Mercier's WSOP buy-ins from Vegas totaled $194,000, not including the $1 million buy-in for the Big One for One Drop. Mercier cashed seven times in Vegas, making one final table, and has added two more WSOP cashes and another final table at WSOPE. He also won the $10,300 buy-in eight-game event at the World Championships of Online poker two weeks ago for $253,425. Mercier is going for his third WSOP bracelet at this final table.
In addition to the bracelet, there's a good amount of money at stake. Here's a look at the payouts:
1. 1,022,376 euros
Small blinds: Gus Hansen was announced as a returning endorser for Full Tilt Poker. FTP is scheduled to re-open internationally during the first week of November. "maratik" defeated Ryan Carter to win the WCOOP main event. Ben Hamnett became the latest WPT Champion at the Borgata Poker Open. Hamnett defeated a final table that included Steve Brecher and David Diaz to win $818,847. Matthew Salsberg won the WPT Paris main event for 400,000 euros. The final table was filled with familiar faces including Theo Jorgensen, Phillip Gruissem, Fabian Quoss, Mohsin Charania and Timothy Adams. The 50,000 euro re-entry High Roller event at WSOPE (non-bracelet) attracted a field of 48 players. Greg Raymer won his second Heartland Poker Tour event earlier this week in St. Louis. PokerStars announced that the 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will offer 40 events including $100,000 Super High Roller and $25,000 High Roller events.