- Andrew Feldman, ESPN.com
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Steve Billirakis may have been the among the first players to truly give poker fans around the world a wakeup call regarding the next generation of poker players. Only 10 days past his 21st birthday, Billirakis claimed his first WSOP bracelet in Event 1 of the 2007 WSOP. The victory in the $5,000 mixed hold 'em event, broadcast on ESPN, put Billirakis in the spotlight and his five cashes during the 2007 put him on the map as a player to follow.
Over the past few years, the Las Vegas native and professional poker player maintained his status as one of poker's elite with over $2 million in live tournament earnings and hundreds of thousands more made online under the alias "MrSmokey1." After coming close to WSOP gold with a third-place finish in the $10,000 Omaha high-low world championship earlier this year, Billirakis headed to Cannes, France, and defeated a field of 180 players to earn his second WSOP bracelet.
"I am happy that I did this," he said. "Five years went by without winning, which is a long time. Back then, you don't know as much and you think you are going to win the very next tournament that you play. But then as you go on you realize it's tough and you even begin to wonder if you are ever going to win one of these again. I now realize that I can win, if I am dedicated enough and put in enough effort."
Billirakis earned 238,140 euros for the title, the second-largest score of his career. Two of his three largest cashes have come in Omaha events.
"I am definitely a better player now than I was back then," he admitted after his win. "I really did not know what I was doing at the time, compared to now -- especially in [pot-limit Omaha] and some other games that I am doing well in. I did not have much fear back then. Now, my all-around game is definitely much better than it was. But I am not as fearless as I once was, either."
The multiple key hands for Billirakis during the final table all seemed to come against Jerome Bradpiece. Billirakis' first key double up (holding A-A-10-7 against Bradpiece's 6-6-2-2) got him moving upward in the chip counts, then he eliminated Bradpiece in fifth by making a flush on the river. Billirakis took the lead four-handed and never lost it after that.
British superstar Sam Trickett entered the final table (the third of his career) with the chip lead, but once again fell short of the win. Trickett earned 57,912 euros for the fourth-place finish, giving him more than $3.3 million in tournament earnings on the year. That number could significantly increase in November when final table action resumes at the Partouche Poker Tour main event.
For the second straight year in this event, a November Niner made an appearance at the final table (John Racener finished fifth in 2010). Eoghan O'Dea came into the final table short-stacked and despite hopes of becoming the first November Niner to win a WSOP Europe bracelet, he would be eliminated by Trickett in ninth place. O'Dea's father, Donnacha, captured his pot-limit Omaha bracelet in 1998.
Through three events, attendance at the 2011 WSOP Europe is up 38 percent compared to 2010.
Other notable finishers included Oleksii Kovalchuk (10th), Jason Mercier (12th) and Shawn Buchanan (14th).
Below are the complete results of WSOPE Event 3:
Event 3: Pot-limit Omaha
Buy-in: 5,000 euros
Prize pool: 882,000 euros
Players in the money: 18
1. Steve Billirakis (238,140 euros)
2. Michele Di Lauro (147,171)
3. Ramzi Jelassi (105,937)
4. Sam Trickett (77,642)
5. Jerome Bradpiece (57,912)
6. Konstantin Uspenskiy (43,950)
7. Erich Kollmann (33,922)
8. Sam Chartier (26,610)
9. Eoghan O'Dea (21,221)
10. Oleksii Kovalchuk (17,190)
11. David Callaghan (17,190)
12. Jason Mercier (17,190)
13. Michel Abecassis (14,147)
14. Shawn Buchanan (14,147)
15. Sean Dempsey (14,147)
16. Dimitry Motorov (11,828)
17. Elie Payan (11,828)
18. David Benyamine (11,828)
19hEthan Sherwood Strauss