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Experience Pays Off for World Series of Poker Stud Circuit Event

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tournament Highlights:

The Winner

• The 2009 World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in Seven-Card Stud champion is Freddie Ellis, from Brooklyn, NY. He is the new Seven-Card Stud World Champion.

The World Series of Poker is the biggest poker event of the year.
The World Series of Poker is the biggest poker event of the year.
  Freddie Ellis is a 74-year-old real estate broker. He is originally from Miami, FL.

• Ellis has lived a fascinating life. He moved to New York City during the 1950s to pursue a career as a singer. Ellis sang in many popular nightclubs. He mostly sang show tunes, and popular music. Ellis even cut a number of records on the Decca music label. His dream to become a popular singer ended when he married his wife Barbara (now deceased). He was not thrilled with traveling around the country and living the life of a struggling musician. So instead, he decided to invest in New York real estate – which turned out to be a wise decision.

• Ellis made a fortune in the New York real estate market. He is semi-retired now. However, he continues to pursue deals and is a regular poker player in Atlantic City on weekends.

• Ellis usually plays in the $600-$1,200 limit "Mixed Game," at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. The typical game is an odd mix of Seven-Card Stud, Eight-or-Better, and No-Limit Hold'em.

• Ellis was exhausted immediately following his victory. Visibly worn-out from the 13-hour final table, he took only a few questions in a post-tournament interview.

• There is something that is very difficult for me to talk about," Ellis said. "You see, my wife would always go with me when I would go somewhere and play poker – whether it was Atlantic City or Las Vegas or wherever. She just died two years ago. And I now I could not….." Note: Ellis had to stop the interview and take a break from the emotion of the moment as he was unable to speak about his wife without coming to tears.

• "Her name was Barbara Ellis," Ellis said choking back tears. "You see, if I talk about her….I still haven't gotten over it."

• "I'm a singer and I first came to New York to go into show business," Ellis stated. "I then got into real estate starting in 1967 and have been very active in that."

• "I worked in clubs, but with a family it was hard," Ellis said. "So, that is why I got into real estate and settled down."

• "I started playing poker just to do something different," he stated. "I only started playing in the casino when Atlantic first legalized poker in (1993). My wife would come down with me on weekends, just to be with me."

• Ellis has two grown children – a son and daughter.

• This was the first WSOP event Ellis had ever entered.

• "This is the main reason I came to Las Vegas, to play in the World Championship of Seven-Card Stud."

• Ellis collected $373,751 for first place. He was also awarded his first WSOP gold bracelet.

The Players

• The final table was comprised of three former WSOP gold bracelet winners – Max Pescatori, Hasan Habib, and Jeffrey Lisandro.

• The runner up was Eric Drache, from Las Vegas, NV. Drache is well-known as a Seven-Card Stud specialist.

• It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find two more compelling people to cheer for when the match became heads-up. Both players attracted large galleries of fans and well-wishers. The two finalists did not disappoint their supporters, playing two-handed see-saw battle for more than four hours.

• Eric Drache is a living legend. He served as the WSOP Tournament Director from the mid-1970s until 1987. His contributions both to the WSOP and to poker have been immeasurable. Drache was the first poker manager to create satellites, which allowed more players to qualify to major poker tournaments. He introduced satellite tournaments at the 1982 WSOP and revolutionized the game. For the first time, casual fans could come to the WSOP and have a chance to play.

• Drache's poker stories have achieved an almost mythological status. He rivals his contemporaries -- including Doyle Brunson, "Amarillo Slim" Preston, Puggy Pearson, and few others -- as one of the game's most colorful personalities.

• Drache developed a well-deserved reputation as a fearless, yet reckless poker player and gambler. One legendary story goes that Drache was once the ninth best poker player in the world. The trouble for Drache was, he would always insist on playing with the eight players who were better than him.

• For many years, Drache played in a regular Seven-Card Stud game in Los Angeles which included porno king and freedom of speech advocate Larry Flynt.

• The match between Ellis and Drache attracted parade of "Who's Who" in poker. Just about every well-known poker player at the Rio stopped by to check out the action at various stages. Ellis certainly had his supporters. But Drache at age 66, playing for what would have been his first WSOP gold bracelet, received an outpouring of crowd empathy.

• Ellis (at age 74) and Drache (at age 66) meant the total ages of the two finalists was a combined 140 years. That is believed to be the most senior heads-up match in WSOP history for any open event (the Seniors Championship, not included).

• Ville Wahlbeck, from Helsinki, Finland finished in third place.

• Fourth place went to Max Pescatori, a.k.a. "The Italian Pirate." Pescatori, who holds two WSOP gold bracelets (2006 and 2008) is originally from Milan, Italy. He won his first gold bracelet on the day his beloved home country of Italy on the 2006 World Cup (soccer).

• Another popular poker pro, Hasan Habib (Downey, CA) finished in fifth place. Habib was determined to win his second gold bracelet, but came up short. Habib was once a tennis champion in his native country of Pakistan.

• The sixth-place finisher was Ivan A. Schertzer, from North Miami Beach, FL. He is an attorney.

• Seventh place went to Greg "FBT" Mueller, the former pro hockey player from Vancouver, BC (Canada). This was Mueller's seventh WSOP final table appearance. He has finished as high as second place two times. Mueller started playing poker when traveling between hockey games as a player.

• Tim Phan, from Westminster, CA finished eighth.

• Cosmopolitan former WSOP gold bracelet winner and 2006 WSOP Circuit champion at Lake Tahoe Jeffrey Lisandro (who was born in Italy, lived in Australia, and now tours mostly in the US) finished ninth.

• Popular poker pro Daniel Negreanu finished in tenth place.

• Former WSOP gold bracelet winner Mel Judah, from London, England finished 12th.

• The defending champion (2008 winner) was Eric Brooks, from Bryn Mawr, PA. He made it into the money as the 13th place finisher. An Interesting Side Note: Two defending champions have already cashed this year, with one (Thang Luu) actually winning the event over two consecutive years. At last years WSOP, in 55 events – only one former winner managed to cash as the defending champion.

Odds and Ends

• This was designated as a "World Championship" event. While all WSOP gold bracelet events are "championships," the "World Championship" designation goes only to the $10,000 and up buy-in events.

• Ten years ago, Seven-Card Stud was the most popular game in casinos on the East Coast, primarily in big markets including Atlantic City and Foxwoods. In fact, Seven-Card Stud games outnumbered hold'em games several times over. Some East Coast casinos did not even spread Hold'em, since Seven-Card Stud was the game of choice. But everything in changed in 2003, most crediting (or blaming) the cosmic shift on Chris Moneymaker's victory, which instantly created millions of new player curious about No-Limit Hold'em. Seven-Card stud has been steadily declining in popularity since then. However, it remains popular enough to merit inclusion on the WSOP schedule. It's cousin – Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split, a.k.a. Eight-or-Better, is actually more popular now as a tournament game.

• This tournament ended on Wednesday, June 3, 2009. On this day, there were seven WSOP tournaments being played simultaneously. This was the first time in history this has ever happened. Last year, there were many days when six tournaments were played. But seven live tournaments taking place in one day – all starting on time and without incident -- is a testament to the extraordinary planning and execution of WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel and his staff.

• Freddie Ellis, the new champion, is African-American. He became the fifth African-American in WSOP history to win a gold bracelet -- joining Walter Smiley, Carolyn Gardener, Phil Ivey, and David Williams. What is relevant about cultural heritage is that all of these champions won their WSOP gold bracelets in Seven-Card Stud events (Note: Ivey actually has five WSOP titles, but one came in Seven-Card Stud, another came in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split, and another came in a Mixed game with Seven-Card Stud). Smiley won the Seven-Card Stud title in 1976. Gardener won the Seven-Card Stud championship in 1982. Williams won his gold bracelet in Seven Card Stud in 2006.

The Event

• The $10,000 buy-in Seven-Card Stud World Championship event attracted 142 entrants. This created a prize pool totaling $1,134,800. The top 16 finishers (two tables) collected prize money.

• The tournament was played over a three-day period. The final table was played on ESPN's Secondary Stage.

• The tournament officially began on Monday, June 1st, at 5:00 pm. The tournament officially ended on Thursday, June 4th.

WSOP Statistics

• Through the conclusion of Event #6, the 2009 WSOP has attracted 8,948 entries. $16,948,855 in prize money has been awarded to winners.


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