Owners of a WSOP bracelet understand their place in the game. They're among the elite, and when they sit down at a table, all eyes should be on them, as that bracelet basically demands respect from their competition. But what happens when you're a bracelet winner at a WSOP final table and your bracelet is just one of the 25 owned by the players that surround you?
The final table of the $10,000 HORSE world championship was, by far, the most star-studded one at the 2012 WSOP thus far. Six of the eight players had captured WSOP gold, and the other two, well, they've dominated the tables in their own rights. Out of these elite eight, David "Bakes" Baker thrived to earn his second WSOP bracelet and $451,779.
Baker earned his first title in 2010 in the 2-7 draw lowball world championship. The 25-year-old professional poker player typically plays cash games against the best in the world and is used to tough competition. If defeating Erik Seidel, John Juanda and Daniel Negreanu for his first bracelet wasn't challenging enough, the Event 32 final table lineup was even stronger. The Michigan native denied Phil Ivey, John Monnette, Phil Hellmuth, Abe Mosseri and Dan Kelly in their quests for another WSOP title, and prevented Matt Waxman and Paul Sokoloff their first victory. Despite being under additional pressure as a result of his competition, the high stakes expert played a near-perfect game.
"The stage is packed, everyone is watching, and the two most famous players in the game are right there," Baker said of the experience. "So yeah, the spotlight is on and you don't want to make a bad play, you don't want to make a mistake, and the money adds to the pressure. Definitely a higher standard of play was required this time."
His tournament nearly came to an end early on, but a key card during six-handed play in seven-card stud high-low changed his destiny. Ivey put Baker all-in on sixth street, and as the cards were turned up, Baker had the low locked up with A-3-4-5-6 and was freerolling to catch a straight for the high as well. It was an ideal situation for Baker. Ivey, showing only his up cards of A-A-3-6, was astonished as Baker pulled the 7 and scooped the pot to double up. Ivey never rebounded after that beat and was eliminated in fifth in his fourth final table of the 2012 WSOP.
That hand gave Baker some key chips as the limits rapidly increased. He knocked out Mosseri in sixth in Omaha high-low split eight-or-better, then did most of the damage to Hellmuth's stack before Monnette eliminated him in fourth. Hellmuth earned $134,056 in his fifth cash of the 2012 WSOP. Sokoloff, the final bracelet-less competitor at the final table, was eliminated by Monnette in third, setting up a heads-up battle between two of the best mixed-game players in the world.
The storyline for a Monnette victory was already in place. The Event 10 champion was looking to become the first double-bracelet winner of the Series and had the lead to start the match. He finished first and third in his first two final table appearances, and no matter where he finished, he'd momentarily take the lead in the WSOP Player of the Year race.
From the first hand, Baker just stopped Monnette's rush cold. He grabbed the lead during the limit hold 'em round but gave most of it up by the time the razz round had finished. Once the stud games hit, Baker dominated. The lead grew from 2:1 to 4:1 and finally, after making trip sevens on seventh street against Monnette's pair of kings, Baker was the champion.
"The first one was nice, but it was only a 100-person tourney," Baker said, comparing his victories. "It was in a game that I have practiced, but people don't play as much. It didn't have as much prestige as this one. This one there were a lot of very good players at the final table that were on top of their game. This one feels like more of an accomplishment. Obviously the first time, you can never get over that. But this one feels probably a bit better now that I'm a little more seasoned."
It's rare that a 25-year-old has two bracelets in non-no-limit hold 'em events, but Baker says he enjoys the challenge of the mixed-game experience.
"When I started playing these games, no-limit was getting really stale for me and I didn't want to play it," he said. "Playing a bunch of different games keeps me fresh and keeps me interested in the game of poker. I'm happy that I was able to get to a high level at these games, but it was the same process that got me decent at no-limit hold 'em. So I just have a lot of fun with it playing the different games, and I'm happy that the practice has paid off."
Baker now has $1.3 million in WSOP earnings in 17 career cashes and hopes that his next big win can come in the eight-game $50,000 Poker Players championship later on this Series.
Other notable finishers included Mori Eskandani (ninth), Scott Clements (12th), John Hennigan (13th), David Bach (14th) and Bertrand Grospellier (16th).
Below are the complete results of Event 32 at the 2012 World Series of Poker:
Event 32: HORSE World Championship
Prize pool: $1,673,200
Players in the money: 24
1. David Baker ($451,779)
2. John Monnette ($279,206)
3. Paul Sokoloff ($183,784)
4. Phil Hellmuth ($134,056)
5. Phil Ivey ($99,739)
6. Abe Mosseri ($75,511)
7. Matt Waxman ($58,093)
8. Dan Kelly ($45,360)
9. Mori Eskandani ($35,923)
10. Brandon Shack-Harris ($35,923)
11. Andrew Brown ($28,862)
12. Scott Clements ($28,862)
13. John Hennigan ($23,525)
14. David Bach ($23,525)
15. Ralph Perry ($19,542)
16. Bertrand Grospellier ($19,542)
17. Eugene Katchalov ($16,246)
18. Joe Tehan ($16,246)
19. Owais Ahmed ($16,246)
20. Nick Schulman ($16,246)
21. Ognjen Sekularac ($16,246)
22. John D'Agostino ($16,246)
23. Steve Zolotow ($16,246)
24. Alex Dovzhenko ($16,246)