Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Puppet Master" Brian Yoon Dominates WSOP Eight-handed, Takes Home $633,341

With the Dan Smith vs. Mustapha Kanit matchup dominating the early final table action, ultimately the tournament comes under the control of Southern California poker pro Brian Yoon, who conceals a varied and complex game behind an ultra-mild demeanor. Yoon first broke through on the live poker scene in 2011, cashing for $130,000 with a 58th place finish in the WSOP Main Event. Last year he bested a field of 4,756, taking home $663,727 at the WSOP $1,111 Little One for One Drop

Having eliminated the relentless Mustapha Kanit with a sick read of a huge bluff, Yoon holds a dominating 3.6 million stack going into four-handed play. Puerto Rico’s top-rated player Josh Arieh sits on 2 million chips and announces proudly that he is the first from the island territory to make a WSOP final table. The announcer calling the action asks me if Arieh's last name should be pronounced “Air-ea” or “Ah-ria.” I say it’s 50-50––my gut instinct is “Airea” but he is wearing a black Aria golf shirt to go with the stylized A of his Angels cap. In third with 1.7 million chips is Josh Bergman, who earned $50,000 with a 2013 Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure victory. 

Arieh, Kurshimi,Yoon

Ardit Kurshimi, full of East Coast swagger, sits on a short stack of 350,000. He has gotten into Twitter flame wars with Italian supporters of Mustapha Kanit, who were crestfallen to see their hero depart. The offending Tweets turn out to be from an Italian fan. The first reads “Mustapha, he’s one of the best Italian players in the world.” The second, rather more cryptically, reads “In short stack, exit from the tournament, prepare.” Kurshimi has taken this to mean “I’ll be waiting for you outside of the tournament," which his rail cautions him is “a very loose interpretation.” Kurshimi half-agrees, while reserving judgement–– “it’s a very polarizing statement.” He vows to wear the jersey of Italy's World Cup opponent in the next tourney he plays, while noting "I'm a big Italy fan actually, we're neighbors, Albania." His mind onto more serious matters, Kurshimi notes that "no matter what happens, in fourth I catch up with child support payments." He does find a way to survive as a dog pre flop, A-9 vs. Yoon’s J-J. He hits an "ace on the turn, as predicted."

Bergman counts his chips while short-stack Kurshimi jaws the rail.

Kurshimi “it’s a very polarizing statement.” 

Arieh also doubles up through Yoon, getting his pocket queens in good against pocket eights. With Yoon down to 3 million and Arieh up to nearly 2.5 million, there is a fairly tight race for tournament lead. A few hands later, Arieh has Kurshimi dominated A-Q vs. A-10, with the flop coming out 9-8-Q and another Q peeling on the turn. Primed to vault into first place, Arieh is devastated to see a jack came out, giving Kurshimi  a straight. His rail erupting, Kurshimi is stone silent––amazing how short stack antics give way to an “in the hunt” mentality when the cards fall your way.

Meanwhile, Yoon steadily increases his lead through cool, collected play and chips up to 4.3 million. In one hand he calls off a significant Kurshimi river bet holding third pair, with his paired four turning out to beat Kurshimi's pocket threes. I ask Yoon about his call after the tournament and he says, “the way Kurshimi threw out the bet and stared me down was intimidating, like he had decided ‘this is the time I’m going to bluff.” Yoon noted that Kurshimi was the only amateur among three seasoned professionals and that this is a fairly common play among less experienced players––they sometimes take what has happened in past hands personally. On a downward slide, Kurshimi is soon busted holding 4-4,  getting it all in preflop versus Arieh’s A-Q. Down to 1.1 million, Bergman is next to go, shoving his last 20 blinds with Q-10 on the button and getting looked up by Arieh's A-J. He takes home $246,000––ample payment for his consistent, non-Hollywood efforts. 

Yoon against Arieh, Puerto Rico's number one

With Arieh in the lead heads up, 4.7 million to 3.5 million, Yoon methodically takes his opponent apart, chipping up to a nearly even stack. He is propelled into a convincing lead when he calls down Arieh’s bet on a Q-6-Q board with 6-4 suited. Back-dooring his way into a baby flush, he bets out 275,000 on the river and Arieh calls and mucks. The tournament ends when Yoon calls Arieh’s opening bet of 100,000 with 8-2 suited diamonds. The flop comes 6-7-9 all diamonds and Yoon check-raises Arieh’s 75,000 continuation bet to 240,000. Holding an A-2, with the nut diamond draw, Arie is going nowhere. When an ace peels on the river Arieh pushes all in and is called down by Yoon, whose flush holds up, securing him a $633,341 victory. Standard shove and call, given the stacks and player dynamics heads up.


Comparing this victory with last year’s Little One for One Drop win, Yoon notes that the field, although much smaller, was far more difficult. With a $5,000 buy-in, most of the players are professionals adept at reading complex situations. Having observed Yoon for several hours, I can say that he plays a style of poker that is not necessarily the most exciting to watch, but deadly effective in picking apart less patient players.

Meanwhile, a number of respected players are still in the hunt in the Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, including chip leader George Danzer, Ted Forrest, and the inimitable Norm Chad.

George "fear the mohawk" Danzer 

The inimitable Norm Chad

No comments:

Post a Comment